The songs remain the same (but louder), say scientists

A team led by an AI specialist in Spain declares, shockingly, that pop music is becoming increasingly noisy and homogenized.

Homogenized? But Justin's an original, surely. JustinBieber.com Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It isn't true until the numbers say so.

That is the mantra of the modern world.

So I bring you news that the figures have been counted and the declaration has been made by unimpeachable scientists: pop songs are becoming noisier and increasingly homogenized.

Yes, should you wonder, on hearing a Lady Gaga song: "Gosh, haven't I heard that somewhere before?" you might well have, but this time it's accompanied by a few more decibels.

You might be wondering what sort of scientists have taken time out of their busy schedules to put a number to the numbness.

Well, Reuters tells me that this research is the work of a team led by Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council.

Serra is an expert in artificial intelligence, so he must know real from made-up. Surely, he'd just have to hum a few tunes to reach a conclusion.

But, no. He and his backing band chose songs from as long ago as the '50s up to the present day and poured them through a very fancy algorithm to see how much originality there might now be in terms of chord structure, melody, and noises exclusively invented by Brian Eno. (I paraphrase marginally.)

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is entitled: "Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music," which sounds like it could be put to music and go straight to No.1 in North Korea.

Serra sang a depressing tune to Reuters: "We found evidence of a progressive homogenization 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."

I know you will immediately be ripping your iPod Nano from your body and ululating to the ceiling at this hideous news. Yes, you had believed that the special songs written for "American Idol" winners were just that -- special.

Now you are being told that it's the same old song, but with a different meaning since you've grown up a little.

Sadly, I have news that might cause you never to listen to an mp3 again. For Serra also declared that today's pop has become One Dimensional. I am sorry, those last two words should have had small initial letters, but it seems that today's fresh-faced hits are stale-eared. They hit fewer varieties in terms of basic sounds.

They're also louder. Indeed, Serra accuses those venal producers of deliberately ratcheting up the noise in order to get you to cum on, feel it.

The study, though, does offer hope to all those who would want to produce for Bieber, write songs for Bieber, or merely be Bieber.

For it says: "An old tune could perfectly sound novel and fashionable, provided that it consisted of common harmonic progressions, changed the instrumentation, and increased the average loudness."

And that is how Simon Cowell became so successful, perhaps.

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

Hot on CNET

CNET's giving away a 3D printer

Enter for a chance to win* the MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer and all the supplies you need to get started.