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Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Study Defining The 3 Eras Of Popular Music Might Surprise You

3 Eras of Popular Music image
A new study by a team of engineers and evolutionary biologists at the Imperial College of London found that there have been 3 major revolutions in music in the last 50 years.

The scientists analyzed nearly 18,000 songs from Billboard's Hot 100 chart, about 86% of hit singles during that time period, in order to produce a history of popular music. The results were published in the Royal Society Journal.

The 3 revolutions might surprise you. The first occurred in 1964, but not because of the British Invasion as is popularly thought. The study paints a picture of the rise of loud guitars, major chords and bright energetic melodies, while dominant 7th chords were rarely used. Rock, soul, funk and disco dominated and older styles like Doo Wop dropped off the charts.

Although many give The Beatles and Rolling Stones credit for this change, the study found that it was already occurring and those bands just moved the trend along.

The second revolution came in 1983 with songs that were based around synthezisers and drum machines from the likes of artists like Duran Duran, and loud heavy rock with lots of chord changes, like Van Halen, Queen, Kiss and REO Speedwagon. These rock bands were joined by new wave acts like The Police, and dance-pop like Madonna. All this was at the expense of classic country and folk music, which lost popularity as a result.

The study claims that the last and most important of the 3 occurred in 1991 with the explosion of hip-hop. This period featured a move primarily to rhythm, no chords, and signified the most social change reflected or caused by the music.

The study was based around a computer program that scanned each song looking primarily at its harmony and timbre. The team them built a "fossil record" of the music as defined by when certain chords and timbre styles became popular or disappeared from the charts.

Agree with it or not, it's a fascinating study.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but it should be noted the the methodology for compiling the Hot 100 has changed over the years. The "explosion" of hip hop on the charts in 1991 may have been influenced by Billboard's switch to more accurate sales and airplay monitoring. Country music also suddenly shot up the charts. cheers, Marcello


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