Why Pop Music is Bad

Why Pop Music is Bad

Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, and Ariana Grande, all modern pop music superstars that all share one thing in common, a guy named Max Martin. The Swedish songwriter is the backbone to today?s modern pop music scene. With over 200 songs to his name, he is responsible for a majority of produced music. Being an avid listener of any music besides country, pop, and rap,my personal belief of pop music being the worst type of music is not only backed up by common sense but also proven statistics and research done at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona . The simple fact of albums sold, recently observed test results, and complexity of instrument use and lyrical concept only further proves the point of pop music being the worst genre of music.

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One hundred and seventy seven million, the amount of albums sold by English rock band The Beatles. If you were to look at the top 10 selling artists according to Business Insider only one actual pop star shows up, Michael Jackson with 81 million albums sold. Now depending in the list and resource you use for this information you could see pop artists like Madonna and Prince within the top 10; however, many websites determine albums sold differently per se albums downloaded and vinyls bought. Nonetheless, no matter what source your list comes from it?s obvious that the top 10 are filled with artists of the same genre or sub-genre, rock. The Beatles lead the British Invasion in the early 60?s, Elvis Presley is undisputed dubbed the King of Rock and Roll, and other rock based like the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd all compete within the top 10 albums sold. Additionally solo artists Elton John and Billy Joel are well within the top 10. Although a valid argument for this is that today?s modern artists don?t sell albums, they sell singles. This being said its relevant to make the point that it is still possible to buy their albums or download them. This is a trend in society that is also affecting the music industry, people would rather buy singles and hit songs than the entire album. Artists like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles made albums to please people in their entirety, often the songs coincided with each other. Even today people are still buying and collecting records from bands that made vinyls. The simple fact that modern artists, though inspired by early musicians, don?t competitively sell records to compete with bands from 40?50 years earlier is a prime example why pop music is an insult to many genres.

Through the years of 1955?2010 researchers and scientists analyzed 500,000 songs and confirmed the opinions of many of our parents, simply put music is getting worse. The research group took these songs and ran them through algorithms that measured the following: harmonic complexity, timbral diversity, and loudness. First off, the tests confirmed that over the past few decades timbre has decreased. Timbre is defined as the richness, texture, color, and quality of the sound within the sound of the music. Basically is can be simplified as richness or depth of sound from the instruments and vocals. Through research, science has proven two things: over the past decades timbre has declining steadily over the decades, and timbre reached its peak in the 1960?s. This means songs have less diversity within their instruments and recording techniques. All summed up to point out that music has become simpler. Given that today?s modern pop music is based on the repetitive use of a simple beat, the harmonic complexity has also dropped over the decades. For instance, the Beatles ?A Day in the Life?, Led Zeppelin?s ?Kashmir? and Metallica?s use of the San Francisco Symphony in the 1999 album S&M feature heavy use of the bands main lineup as well as full orchestras under conductor. Even looking at the different amount of rhythm changes, overall instrumental changes throughout songs, and lyrical interpretation favors genres such as rock (plus variations and sub genres), classical, blues, and jazz. Pop music uses a single instrument a majority of the time, a drum machine. This instrument is capable of producing many sounds and variations, but is responsible for the beat and electronically produced rhythm often heard in pop music. Some may argue that this is an exaggeration and in some ways it is, because many some artists use bands for live performances. Also the use of the drum machine is also featured in the genres of dub-step, rap, and progressive rock. However, each of those genres feature such a diverse and complex rhythm accompanied by complex lyrics that its difficult to say that the use of the drum machine is a problem in pop. Yet it?s still an issue, dub-step artists Skrillex is known for the use of a drum machine and other computer generated noises to accompany the main beat of the song. The simple fact that no two songs have the same rhythm or tempo, even computer generated noise is proof that pop music is a simple genre that is not focused on the quality of music.

As reported by Scientific American, research performed at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona confirmed that music over the past decades also stated that lyrics are getting simpler to understand. While it was earlier stated that much of today?s music sounds repetitive, it was also proven that almost all the pop songs of today contain the same thing, the millennial whoop. Music blogger Patrick Metzger found that a lot of artist use the same note sequence of a shift in the fifth note on the scale to the third note and then back to the fifth note done repetitively. He also created the term millennial whoop. For example, Katy Perry?s ?California Girls?, Pitbull?s ?International Love?, and Owl City?s ?Good Time?, to name a few, all use the millennial whoop. A majority of the time this is used within the chorus of the song to fill gaps between stanzas leading to the song getting stuck in your head because our brain likes familiarity. The more we hear the same sound the more we enjoy it, and this is more than just a chance happening.

If you were a pop artist that just released a new song, would you not want it to contain something that other pop songs have? If other songs have success because of the millennial whoop then more and more artists will use it to assure the song becomes popular. It?s been proven that today?s lyrics are easily comprehensible at a seventh grade level, meaning not only can a 13 year old understand the single meaning of the song, but they could also probably write the song. Los Angeles based rock band Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan is considered to be one of the best lyricist of all time due to the complexity and underlying thoughts found within his work put to the unusual tempo of Tool?s unconventional rhythms. In the song ?Lateralus? ,the lyrics follow the Fibonacci sequence of mathematics as well as focusing on how the mind is the humans greatest weakness by saying ?Over-thinking, over-analyzing separates the body from the mind. Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.? Bob Dylan, another respected songwriter, won an Nobel Prize for literature and is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work in folk music. Whether it?s John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Bob Marley, or Jimi Hendrix, it?s easy to say that these artists are known for their complex lyrics. Why are complex lyrics good in music? Because it leaves the songs open to personal interpretation. If each person sees the song differently then it speaks to them on a person level which is what bands in the 1950?s to early 2000?s looked to achieve. When bands want to speak to their fans and strike them on a personal level instead of making a song to be popular, then true musical craftsmanship has been accomplished.

The Hook, or part of the song that grabs you and pulls you into the song also is an important part of music. Look at ?In The Air Tonight? by Phil Collins. Have you ever found yourself waiting for the drum solo in the middle of the song? For a majority of people the answer is yes and that?s because it?s the songs hook. In recent studies, tests found that the hook of a song is getting closer to the beginning of the song, meaning that we as listeners have to wait less time to be satisfied when the hook happens. Waiting less time for the hook means lowering attention spans, and if the song doesn?t grab you from the start or doesn?t have a hook, our brain will shut down and not hear or comprehend the rest of the song, essentially skipping the song. A believed reason for this is because of the instant access to millions of songs for basically free. We get a lot of music for not a lot of money and that means the music doesn?t hold a personal value to the buyer. When records and vinyls were still popular people would save up and buy a record with a handful of songs and listen to it countless times because of the cost of it and do to the fact that you would learn to appreciate the album and pickup new things in each song the more you listened to it. With the invention of the Ipod and other music listening devices listeners have lost the value of songs because they are so easily accessed. Also music streaming apps and websites like Spotify, Pandora, AOL Radio, and IHeart Radio people can download entire albums on albums and skip over songs or remove songs as they please. This has also caused listeners to take the value of music for granted. As previously stated we don?t have to listen to each song on a record anymore and appreciate them, instead if we don?t like the song we simply remove it from the playlist and don?t acknowledge the talent and work put into it. Mix that with the fact that in the last twenty years producers and record companies have been altering the dynamic compression of songs to make listeners get hooked from the start, and you have pop music at its finest.

Dynamic range compression is the act of boosting certain areas of the song so that quiet parts match the louder parts of the song. This is all done electronically in the studio. The reason for this is because recently producers have been in a battle among other producers to see who can create louder music. The decrease in dynamic range compression also means that despite the level of volume the listener is set at, the music will still be loud. In the competition between producers it makes sense that each producer would try to make their songs louder. For instance, only a select few people would acknowledge a person on the street corner yelling and then whispering words, but if that person were to continuously yell then everyone would notice. When an entire genre is based upon matching and one upping another pop song, the artists and producers look for any way to edge the competition. This technique ensures that when the song comes on the listeners will be able to hear it and associate it with other pop songs. There is nothing bad with trying to use dynamic compression in the creation of music, except when abused it breaks the laws of physics. Physics states that you can?t make a sound louder than the volume at which it was recorded at. Thus causing distortion and loss of quality among the song. When you compress a song?s dynamic range then the songs timbral variety is lost and the lower pitches produced by bass guitars and drums become unappreciated because they control the music as opposed to accompanying it. In today?s music industry risk plays a large roll within the production of albums. In the 50?s, 60?s, and 70?s record companies would receive hundreds of demo tracks a week from aspiring artists. If the company saw potential or the artist had talent then they would get accepted by the company and receive a contract. It was then up to the public?s ear to be the judge and jury for the artists music, if they liked the albums the artist kept recording, if the public didn?t the artist lost the contract. This was essential because it meant that only artist with real talent could only make a career out of creating music. There wasn?t any room for artists who were untalented and sloppy to make a career out of it. This had its disadvantages because a majority of the time companies would sign a musician and then pump thousands of dollars into their production and shows, only to have the artist become a bust. Rarely there was a artist who played the role of diamond in the rough that brought in money and gained popularity for their work resulting in the companies breaking even with their investment. Today, the cost to produce and promote an artist is higher than ever.

The IFPI found that the process of signing an artist, generating their work, breaking them in, and bring them into mainstream popularity costs anywhere between 500,000 and 3,000,000 dollars. It would only make sense that record labels wouldn?t want to risk the chance of an artist being a bust since they have so much invested in them, so they make them sound the same as other artists that have found success. This has resulted in the music industry signing a pretty face more or less, than and artist with talent, and forcing the public to like them because they sound identical to the rest of the genre. With the removal of financial risk in the industry the public is essentially being brainwashed to like every song produced instead of picking and choosing the tracks in which they like. How does brainwashing come into play? Look at the song ?See you Again? by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, that song was promoted on every radio station across America, played in malls and stores, even the theme song for Fast 7. When the song is pumped through every speaker around you, you are either annoyed by it or gain a fondness for it. A majority of today?s population let the songs grow on them and this is because the music is so controlling that many people have no other choice but to listen to it. This over promotion of songs is the record company making sure that the 3 million dollars they invested is returned and not going to waste, whether you like the song or not you will be unable to not hear it and it will be inescapable. The Mere-Exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon of which people develop preferences to stimuli they are exposed to frequently. In many cases the first exposure listeners have to a song has a negative effect, then the third or fourth time they start to accept or give into the song because of it playing frequently and the brain learns to accept it. If a song has true meaning to the listener and you like it as an individual then you wouldn?t need to be forced to like it by means of mass promotion, excessive playing, and your friends listening to it due to the same Mere-Exposure Effect.

Everybody has their own musical preferences for their own reasons. I personally enjoy heavy metal, hard rock, and a majority of the sub-genres created by both of these. The songs created, to me, are one of a kind, inimitable, easily to relate to, expressible, and speaks to me on a personal level. A person?s favorite band or music should be able to be listened to by them without care of what others think or say due to the fact that that music holds a personal experience with the individual. The creativity and originality of each genre is what makes music important because that is the artist?s way of depicting their emotions and feelings. In a society where peer pressure and social acceptance is a major role, it?s important to still be different against the norm or mainstream ideas. Music is an expression of the individual?s personality because the listener can understand the lyrics and appreciate the instrumental accompaniment of their favorite genre. It compliments their feelings or reflects a certain time in their life when music was the only thing they could understand or was the only thing there for them to fall back on. How many artist say that they were inspired to pick up and instrument because they heard The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan or the Eagles, and look at how many artists say they were inspired by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, or Taylor Swift. Music should be inspirational to the listener and it shouldn?t be forced upon them through big name label companies trying to bait in listeners through duplicated lyrics and repetitive sounds. Nothing speaks more to a listener than a song in which they can hear for the first time and remember years later the first time they heard it. The experience the individual gains from the songs is more important than the money the label company receives from them buying the song. It?s no wonder that many of the parents and elders of today?s youth always make the ?Music just isn?t good anymore,? the ?This isn?t even music, it?s just a bunch of noises,? or my favorite ?Whatever happened to good music? references when they hear today?s songs and that?s because they?re true. What has happened to good music, why isn?t it good anymore, and why? is it just a bunch of noises? Its simple, pop music doesn?t care about the listener, or the affect it has of someone, all it cares about is bringing the label companies money and fame. It?s quite obvious that music as an art-form, is dying. As listening it?s our job to not be complacent and allowing systematic music to overtake our lives. We can?t let the one thing that has been there for many of our happiest and saddest moments be dominated by a disposable object designed to sell and make millions of dollars without listener inspiration or else the beautiful, soulful, personal music that we all enjoy will become extinct by the trash that is pop music.

Works Cited

?100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.? Rolling Stone, www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-songwriters#bob-dylan.

Havers, Richard. ?25 Classic Orchestral Rock Tracks | UDiscover.? UDiscoverMusic, 25 Aug. 2017, www.udiscovermusic.com/playlists/25-classic-orchestral-rock-tracks/.

II, Theodoros. ?25 Top Selling Music Artists Of All Time.? List25, List25, 16 Nov. 2014, list25.com/25-top-selling-music-artists-of-all-time/.

Lynch, John. ?The 50 Best-Selling Music Artists of All Time.? Business Insider, Business Insider, 13 Sept. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/best-selling-music-artists-of-all-time-2016-9/#5-eagles-101-million-units-46.

?Max Martin.? Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Martin.

Thoughty2. ?Why Is Modern Pop Music So Terrible?? YouTube, YouTube, 5 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII.

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