First we were told that music videos make men feel fat and flabby, then that food tastes better with music, then that listening to rock n roll made you racist, that pop music was getting louder and blander, and finally that heavy metal music was linked to suicide.
Now The AV Club points out another new university study as shown that pop music has become gradually more depressing over the last five decades.
According to the findings of researchers Glenn Schellenberg and Christian von Scheve who analysed the tempo and mode of the most popular 1,010 songs from between 1965 and 2009, songs have become increasingly sadder and more melancholy.
During the course of their study the pair discovered that happy sounding songs usually have a fast tempo while sadder songs tend to be slower and use minor-mode.
According to their findings, the number of songs recorded in minor-mode has almost doubled over the last 50 years, while at the same time the number of slower tracks has also increased after reaching a peak in the 1990s.
“We examined whether emotional cues in American popular music have changed over time,” the pair wrote in their paper. “Predicting that music has become progressively more sad-sounding and emotionally ambiguous. Our sample comprised over 1,000 Top 40 recordings from 25 years spanning five decades.”
“Over the years, popular recordings became longer in duration and the proportion of female artists increased,” they continue. “In line with our principal hypotheses, there was also an increase in the use of minor mode and a decrease in average tempo, confirming that popular music became more sad-sounding over time.”
“Decreases in tempo were also more pronounced for songs in major than in minor mode, highlighting a progressive increase of mixed emotional cues in popular music.”
Schellenberg and von Scheve have proposed several theories why pop music has become slower and sadder, pointing towards increased consumerism and cultural individualism which “produces a demand for more choice”.
The pair have also suggested that modern listeneres and eager to show “sophistication in their taste”, meaning that happy and fun tracks have fallen out of fashion for sounding “naïve and slightly juvenile”. By the same measure, acts that use emotional ambiguity are now seen as attempting to convey depth or seriousness, something that can often be incredibly depressing.
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