Why Is Pop Music So Sad?

Feature

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pop music's not what it used to be. That’s what every generation of no-longer-kids says about what the kids are listening to, but fogey clichés aren’t necessarily wrong.

A study published in the Journal of Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts tracked the mood of pop songs over five decades of Billboard charts, and it confirms that pop has changed in substantial ways. Far more of today’s hits are now in minor keys (which most of us hear as sadder or more complex) — more than half, as compared to just 15% in the 1960s.

(Scroll down to see the results)

The study, by Glenn Schellenberg and colleagues, found that the average beats per minute fell in those decades as well. Even in uptempo dance music, minor keys are far more frequent, creating a mixed or ambiguous mood.

Why is this happening? Our reporter called up two experts, music writer Chuck Klosterman and Alice Cooper, heavy metal icon and now radio host. Cooper thinks songwriter ego bears some of the blame. “Bands that want to sound like they’re deep and serious cannot play in major keys — they want to go to minor keys to make them sound more mysterious. I think that we have really gotten away from the fun of rock music and we’ve gotten too emotional about it.”

(Originally aired: September 7, 2012)


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    Artist: Taylor Swift
    Label: Big Machine Records, LLC
    Purchase: Amazon
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    Purchase: Amazon
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  6. Dance Yourself to Death
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    Label: Rhino/Warner Bros.
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Boom Boom Pow
    Artist: The Black Eyed Peas
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    Label: Interscope
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Les Danaides: Act V: Pere barbare, arrache-moi (Hypermnestre)
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    Purchase: Amazon
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Contributors:

Ike Sriskandarajah

Comments [1]

shane from seattle

Current pop music is basically the "crack cocaine" of music. Producers scientifically identify what listeners like and accept with using the bare minimum of talent. After the song is over in 2 to 3 minutes,,the listener is left feeling hollow and needing more,,what they dont know is that they will never get that original feeling the got when they heard the pop song for the first time. Only unless those listeners somehow go way back and listen to Stevie wonders innervisions or the likes, will they ever get that true fix they are longing for.

Mar. 14 2013 07:54 PM

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