The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful

The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful


Hey Thoughty2 here. On the 6th December 1966 four guys from Liverpool
stepped into Abbey Road Studios and began to record an album. 333 hours and many questionable substances
later, The Beatles had emerged having produced their eight album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It would go on to sell over 32 million copies
worldwide and be named the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine and
many other publications. It was highly experimental, using mould-breaking
techniques and a huge array of unusual instruments. The band had produced an emotional masterpiece
that epitomised the so called summer of love and was a true masterpiece of its time, yet
it remains just as relevant and powerful today. Fast forward 44 years to 2010 and Justin Bieber
released his hit single “Baby”, this is generally considered to be a bad move. So what went wrong? How did we go from Bob Dylan to Britney Spears,
from Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga and The Kinks to Katy Perry. But who am I to criticise the musical tastes
of the vast majority of today’s youth? Personally, my musical tastes are stuck in
middle of last century, but you may think that just makes me old fashioned, stuck in
the past and I should move with the times. But here’s the thing, there is far to this
than simple nostalgia and when your parents keep telling you that the music died long
ago, they may actually have a point, because it turns out science agrees with them. Over the past thirty-plus years researchers
have been studying how trends in music have changed. And a recent study in 2012 by the Spanish
National Research Council revealed that the suspicions of somewhat antiquated individuals
such as myself are very true, music IS getting worse every year. The researchers took around 500,000 recordings
from all genres of music from the period of 1955 to 2010 and they meticulously ran every
single song through a set of complex algorithms. These algorithms measured three distinct metrics
of each song, the harmonic complexity, timbral diversity and loudness. The most shocking result that the researchers
found was that over the past few decades, timbre in songs has dropped drastically. Timbre is the texture, colour and quality
of the sounds within the music, in other words, timbre is the song’s richness and depth of
sound. The researchers found that timbral variety
peaked in the 1960s and has since been steadily declining. The timbral palette has been homogenised,
meaning songs increasingly have less diversity with their instruments and recording techniques. This divide is clearly evident if we take
what is widely considered to be The Beatle’s masterpiece, A Day In The Life, which was
recorded using an orchestra of forty musicians. But this is not classical music, this is pop. The five minute piece contains violins, violas,
cellos, double bass, a harp, clarinets, an oboe, bassoons, flutes, french horns, trumpets,
trombones, a tuba and of course the four band members playing their usual instruments over
the top. In contrast Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines uses
but one instrument, a drum machine. And yes this a rather extreme example, a song
known for it’s one-dimensional but punchy baseline. But it represents an overall trend with modern
pop music that the researchers found in their data. Instead of experimenting with different musical
techniques and instruments, the vast majority of pop today is built using the exact same
combination of a keyboard, drum machine, sampler and computer software. This might be considered as progressive by
some, but in truth it sucks the creativity and originality out of music, making everything
sound somewhat similar. Do you ever flick through the radio and think
to yourself “all these songs sound the same?”. What the researchers found is that the melodies,
rhythms and even the vocals of popular music have become more and more similar to each
other since the sixties. One facet of this homogenisation of popular
music was pointed out by musical blogger Patrick Metzger. Metzger noticed that hundreds of pop artists
were using the exact same sequence of notes that alternate between the fifth and third
notes of a major scale. This is usually accompanied by a vocal “Wa-oh-wa-oh”
pattern. Metzger named this the “Millennial Whoop”
and it sounds like this. The Millennial Whoop can be found in hundreds
of chart-topping pop songs created over the past few years, and its usage is becoming
more frequent. From Katy Perry’s California Girls to Justin
Bieber’s baby, literally every single major pop star today has included the Millennial
Whoop in at least one of their songs. But why? Well, quite simply, familiarity. Our brain likes familiarity, the more we hear
the same sounds the more we enjoy them. The millennial whoop has become a powerful
and predictable way to subconsciously say to the masses, “hey listen to this new song,
it’s really cool, but don’t worry you will like it because it’s really familiar, you’ve
kind of heard it a hundred times before”. And in this wildly unpredictable world, this
makes us feel safe. Sticking to the same cookie-cutter formula
comforts people and that’s important. But what about lyrics? Well, I’m afraid it’s bad news there too. Another study examined the so called “Lyric
Intelligence” of hundreds of Billboard chart-topping songs over the past ten years. They used different metrics such as the Flesch–Kincaid
readability index, which indicates how difficult a piece of text is to understand and the quality
of the writing. This was the result, over the past ten years
the average lyric intelligence has dropped by a full grade. Lyrics are also getting shorter and tend to
repeat the same words more often. We’ve gone from the absolute poetic beauty
of Bob Dylan and Morrissey too well… this… and this… What if I also told you that the vast majority
of chart-topping music in the past 20 years was written by just two people. What do Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Ellie
Goulding, Robin Thicke, Jessie J, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake,
Maroon 5, Pink, Leona Lewis, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera, Kesha, The Backstreet
Boys, Westlife, NSYNC, Adam Lambert and Will.i.am all have in common? The answer: their songwriter. I’m not saying 100% of their songs, but a
good chunk of all of these artist’s songs were written by the same Swedish man, Mr.
Max Martin. This one man is singlehandedly responsible
for over two-dozen number one singles and thousands of songs in the top 100 charts over
the past decades. He has written universally recognisable tracks
such as “I kissed a girl”, “Baby one more time”, “Since u been gone”, “California Gurls”,
“Shake it off” and so, so many more. And if Max Martin didn’t write it American
signer-songwriter Lukasz Gottwald most probably did. Known professionally as “Dr. Luke”, together
with Max Martin, they account for the lyrics and melodies behind the vast majority of pop
music today. You’ve likely never heard of them and that
is very intentional. These two men are the hidden pop factories
behind virtually every single band that is played on the radio today and probably every
music act you grew up with, if you’re under thirty-years old. And you wondered why everything sounds the
same. There are still popular, chart-topping musicians
that write the entirety of their own music today, but you have to look really, really
hard. Research has also shown that the hook, the
part of the song that really grabs us and pulls us in, is occurring sooner in modern
songs and they happen more often. Researchers believe this is because when it
comes to music, our attention spans have drastically shortened, unless a song instantly grabs us
our brains tend to shut off and ignore it, often skipping to the next song. This shortened attention span is a trend amongst
people that has only occurred in the past ten years and it’s believed to have been caused
by the instant access to millions of songs at our fingertips. It used to be the case that if you wanted
to hear a song you had to go out and buy that one single or album, take it home and play
it. You would probably play it countless times
because you had spent so much money on so few songs. Over time you would learn to appreciate all
the subtle nuances throughout the album. And then the iPod happened granting access
to thousands of songs on one device, which eventually led to streaming. Today we flick through songs on Spotify without
much thought to each song’s subtleties and unique talents. This has caused musicians and record companies
to favour punchy bass lines that demand our attention and to stuff each song full of so
called “hooks” to instantly grab our attention and keep it for as long as possible. And they’ve been doing something else in recent
years to grab our attention, something subtle but very powerful, yet so very, very wrong. For the past twenty years music producers
have been engaged in a war. The “loudness war”. The aim of this war is to produce louder music
than your competitors. But how do you make music louder when the
listener is in control of the volume, not the producer? Well, they use compression. You may have heard of dynamic range compression,
it’s the process of boosting the volume of the quietest parts of a song so they match
the loudest parts, thus reducing the dynamic range, the distance between the loudest part
and quietest part. This makes the whole song sound much, much
louder than the un-compressed version, no matter what volume the listener has set their
device to. It’s like me standing in the middle of the
street and mumbling nonsense to myself, occasionally whispers and sometimes speaking a bit louder. A few people might notice and avoid me. But then if I were to compress my dynamic
range I would suddenly be bellowing out every single word at the top of my voice, loudly
and proudly. Suddenly everyone turns around to look at
the crazy man shouting in the street and the police would be called. But this is exactly why producers do it, as
the market has become increasingly crammed with similar sounding pop music, making your
song shout louder than all the others ensures it will be heard amongst all the competition. But there’s a big price to pay for loudness. Dynamic range compression, when abused, as
it often is today, is an absolute travesty when it comes to the art of creating music. Where physics is concerned, the rule is that
you can’t make a sound louder than the volume it was recorded at, without reducing its quality. Compressing a song’s dynamic range strips
away its timbral variety. It muddies the sound, subtle nuances that
would have before been very noticeable and could have been appreciated are now, no longer
nuanced, they sound exactly the same as the rest of the track. Listen to this short recording without any
compression. Now hear what happens when the dynamic range
is compressed to match that of modern pop music. Hear how everything sounds less punchy and
vibrant, the drum beats stand out less, everything just makes less of an impact. But there’s very real reason why popular musicians
and producers today don’t stray away from their safe-haven of repetitive, monotonous
drum machines, unimaginative, factory-produced lyrics, rhythms stolen then from the previous
popular song then chopped up and changed slightly and of course, their ever popular millennial
whoops. It all has to do with risk. In the fifties, sixties and seventies record
labels would receive hundreds of demo tapes from budding young artists every week. They would sift through them and the most
talented acts would be offered record contracts. Even if they weren’t that special it didn’t
matter too much, the record label would just through a few thousand pounds into marketing
and if the public liked their music they would gain traction organically and make it big,
if not, they would fade away into the night. And this is crucial because importantly, the
public were voting with their ears for the best, the most talented musicians, singers
and songwriters. We, the people were the final judge and jury,
the ultimate arbiter. And so musicians had to be really bloody talented
to impress us enough to stick around and make more music. But this was risky, because many times record
labels would pump thousands of pounds into an act that weren’t destined to be and their
gamble wouldn’t pay off, losing their investment. But when they signed the really big acts it
would balance the books. However today promoting a new band is more
expensive than ever. Over time the cost of breaking in a new artist
onto the global music scene has sky-rocketed. In fact the IFPI reports that today it costs
anywhere between $500,000 and $3,000,000 TO sign a new act and break them into the music
scene; that’s a hell of a lot of money. Would you want to gamble with three million
dollars? No? Neither do music producers. So the industry has reacted by removing the
risk. Instead of trying to find genuine musical
talent they simply take a pretty young face, usually from a TV talent show and then simply
force the public to like them, by brainwashing them. Instead of allowing the public to grow to
like an artist and make their own mind up about the quality of their music, the industry
now simply makes you like the music, thus removing all the financial risk. Brainwash you say? How on earth do they do that? Have you ever noticed how “that” popular new
song seems to follow you around, everywhere you go. It’s on every radio station, it’s played in
your favourite stores, the supermarket, online and its even in the latest Hollywood movies
and popular TV shows? This is no coincidence. What that is in fact, is the record label’s
$3 million making sure that that new single is quite literally everywhere, completely
unescapable. Remember I was talking about the power of
familiarity? It’s called the Mere-exposure effect, a physiological
phenomenon by which people develop a preference for things they see and hear often. Our brain releases dopamine when we hear a
song we’ve heard a few times before and the effect only gets stronger with each listen. Can you remember the very first time you heard
your favourite pop songs from the past ten years? Whether it be Gangnam Style, Happy, All About
That Bass, Blurred Lines, Hotline Bling, did you truly like it the first time you heard
it? Or where you kind of repulsed? Did you have this brief moment where you thought,
what the hell is this? But then you heard it a few more times and
you began to think, well I guess it’s kinda catchy. And they your friends are all listening to
it and you hear it a few times and boom, it’s your favourite song and you can’t stop listening
to it. If this has happened to you then I’m afraid,
you have been brainwashed. The mere-exposure effect has gotten to you. Surely if a song is truly a great song, then
you wouldn’t need to force yourself to love it, you wouldn’t need to be won over through
a period of repeated exposure, you would just like it the first time you heard it. We all have different musical tastes but they
are sadly being overridden, diluted and emulsified by the brainwashing activities of big record
labels, the repeated and constant exposure to manufactured songs that we’ve heard a hundred
times before. Don’t get me wrong, there are many fantastically
talented bands out there, but in today’s industry virtually none of them will ever be signed
because they are simply too risky to promote, because they don’t fit the usual pop formula…
they are different. But being different is important. You may be thinking, “so what if I’m being
brainwashed, I enjoy contemporary popular music and isn’t that what’s important?” Yes, of course, music is an expression of
your personality and it should be enjoyed, no matter what others think. But it’s also really important to not let
creativity and originality disappear. Music as an art form is dying, it’s being
replaced by music which is a disposable product, designed to sell but not to inspire. So we shouldn’t be so complacent in allowing
systematic, cold, factory produced music to dominate or else the beautiful, soulful and
truly real music that we’ve all at some point loved and has been there through our darkest
times and our happiest times, could soon be a distant memory, never to be repeated. Thanks for watching.

32 thoughts on “The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful”

  1. Looks like I live under the rock. For me the youngest pop stuff you talk about is Britney Spears. I know the name Justin Biber, never have heard a note from his production. I am under 40. Looks like cuting off radio and tv for 14 years will do me just fine. I have Crowbar, Tool, Mgla, Robert Johnson, QOTSA, Foo Fighters, Hooded Manace, Obliteration, Nick Cave, Suicide Commando Enslaved and Krakow – some of this is 2019 fresh or people 20 years younger than me. I enjoy my contemporary tunes. And because I was a teenager in the 90' – on cassettes and CDs 8)

  2. Every generation has the right to think their music is the best. Except for the last 10 years whatever this new shit is. You’re right pop music it’s been sounding the same for a long time. Now I know why I don’t like new pop music. It’s the same song I didn’t like 20 years ago.

  3. Only one way to settle this:

    Elvis Presley – 50 cent. That’s when music was Great… then anything after that..nope,just shit

  4. Why is it that credit is never given to some of the highly talented digital music producers such as Infected Mushroom and Deadmau5. I agree with most of your points, but it's hard to deny that the examples I mentioned are modern day "Bach level" composers and producers. Somehow it's always about rock, pop and often hiphop/r&b… which to me all sound like audiocancer.

  5. Another great evaluation. I agree completely and have in the past, read about the two main writers you mentioned. It's a sorry state for the music industry really and most musicians have now found themselves emulating and 're inventing existing tracks, to make the money from live gigs just to please the crowds. Original bands unfortunately have felt the squeeze and don't get the recognition they deserve these days.

  6. Opeth have just come out with an excellent album, In Cauda Venenum. I highly recommend. My enjoyment of Opeth's new album is 9.5/10 https://open.spotify.com/album/0NAN3xcePJlVbTY1YaXCqK?si=5LFlTwwIRJGUMFVki2ah4w

  7. You cant analyze art with science. The beatles? lol My musical universe centers around the 90s (truly the best musical decade), but that doesn't change the fact that the beatles are friggin terrible. Overrated doesn't begin to describe them. Music today sucks, because most millennials suck!

  8. It works in others areas of life: Joseph Goebbles- Hitlers propaganda minster
    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

  9. A lot of accurate information but reduced the music history to the Beatles is just a joke. And no, you don't need to dig too far to find good music. Go to Bandcamp or even Tidal, and listen to bands or singers randomly from every type of music and you will discover so many beautiful and creative artists. Like said DM, there is Music For The Masses and the other music.

  10. I have found his counterpart. Mr. Thoughty2 I'd like to make you the offer of a lifetime. Something that will change the course of events today and become the pentacle of mankinds evolution.

  11. Songs a few years ago: This is good
    Songs now:99% are the same love songs with no originality and sounds so similar

  12. It's hard to watch something that looks like nothing more than a hit piece after the first few minutes.

    Music recording is less than 100 years old in any significant quantity.

    The idea that compression is inherently bad is ridiculous, and instead, we can look at radical stereo panning, radical volume shifts and other things which make listening to music in any except perfect conditions to be a challenge at best and an experience where you either damage your ears or miss half the song,… well, I think there's a good reason we use compression more now.

    Further, the idea of a lack of instrumental diversity fails to account for modern midi and electronic work. Much of the orchestral diversity, much like the incredible choreography of Busby Berkley and his ilk, came from a depression and just post-depression era where musicians were cheap (and arguably abusively so)

    The documentarian cherry picks the simplest melodies of our time and compares them with some of the masterpieces of complexity of earlier eras.

    The lyrical complexity of rap, the musical variety of electronic music, and the amazing harmonic effects in modern jazz (eg: Collier, Turner, etc) are radically more diverse than previous generations of music, and build on, rather than decline from the earlier traditions.

    Remember that the big pop music of the day was stuff like Billy Holly and the Big Bopper etc.

    If you want to argue that in the 60s and early 70s there was an explosion of musical diversity and experimentation that, due to pop culture at the time, got more pop play than the radical experimentation of today, I'll agree, but…

    When I can hear Of Monsters and Men, anything off of Jack Whites "Boardinghouse Reach" album, the Decemberists, and 21 pilots on the radio within the hour, I will argue that we are as diverse, as musically complex and as interesting as music has ever been.

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