Pop music is becoming louder and blander, say scientists

Spanish scientists publish a study claiming that pop music is becoming less varied

Pop music has steadily become louder and blander over the last 50 years, according to a new scientific study.

A Spanish research team analysed pop songs recorded between 1955 and 2010 by delving into an extensive archive called the Million Song Dataset. After applying algorithms to the music in the archive, they found that pop songs have become “intrinsically louder” and less varied in terms of chords and melodies.

Explaining his team’s findings, Joan Serra of the Spanish National Research Council told Reuters: “We found evidence of a progressive homogenisation of the musical discourse. In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.”

Serra’s team also wrote in their study – published in the Scientific Reports journal – that pop music’s “timbre palette” has become less extensive, meaning that songs are featuring fewer and fewer different sounds.

However, Serra’s team found that pop music has advanced in one area over the last 50 years: so-called “intrinsic loudness”. This term refers to the intensity at which a song is recorded, so a song played at the same volume as another can seem noisier if its “intrinsic loudness” value is greater.