If you listen to the charts, you’ve been conned without even realising it. Even if you listen to stuff that isn’t in the charts, you’ll probably still hear plenty of the alarming phenomenon known as the Millennial Whoop. It’s a series of notes that appear again and again, a trend that’s spread itself over an incredible amount of pop music over the last few years. Proceed carefully, because once you hear it you definitely won’t be able to unhear it.
Technically speaking, the Millennial Whoop is a series of notes that jump back and forth between the fifth and third notes in a major scale. The term was coined by Patrick Metzger, who notes Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ as the real culprit behind this virulent melodic trend.
“Suddenly every artist (consciously or subconsciously) jumped on board to replicate this earworm,” Metzger wrote in The Patterning in late August. “In ‘California Gurls,’ we first hear it at 0:51 as a kind of foreshadowing to its more memorable usage within the chorus at 1:05 (and multiple times in every chorus thereafter). The beauty of such a short melodic sequence (simply the repetition of two notes over and over) is that no one can own it.”
That means everyone uses it to immediately catchy effect, and Metzger notes that even though it’s had more of a swell in recent years, it’s probably been around forever: “It’s the kind of musical phrase that we seem to know instinctively,” he says. Check it out some examples below, and see many more examples over at The Patterning.
Frank Ocean – ‘Ivy’ (first appears at 00:16)
Kings Of Leon – ‘Use Somebody’ (first appears in backing vocals at 00:03; louder at 1:28)
CHVRCHES – ‘The Mother We Share’ (first appears broken up at 00:00; later in full at 00:32)
Tove Lo – ‘Habits (Stay High)’ (first appears at 00:49)
Here’s a handy Millennial Whoop supercut video, if you can’t be bothered to find them all yourself: