September 14, 2012

Why Pop Music Is Getting Sad

A regular podcast I enjoy is Studio 360 from WNYC, with Kurt Andersen. It's a weekly show about all aspects of the arts from unusual angles. This week's episode had a story about why pop music is getting sad. Literally. Someone did an empirical study of pop songs over the last 40 years and, back in the 1960's, the vast majority of hit songs were in a major key and extremely upbeat tempo around 116 beats per minute.  Nowadays, the majority are in a minor key and the bpm's have dropped to around 100.

As part of the conversation, they dissect the "Barbie Girl" song (remember that one?!) from the 1997 as a key hit in this trend towards minor keys. There is even a discussion of Mozart in relation to all of this which was unexpected as well, along with a lively interview with Alice Cooper who laments the lack of major keys in pop music today. He seems like an unlikely champion of old school hit making but he makes his point strongly and eloquently for a rock star.  All in all a really cool piece of radio journalism that, afterwards, will have you listening to the radio in a different way.

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