Modern Music

Modern Music Be Making Us Dumb-Dumb

Forgive this preamble, but I believe it’s important to know.

In all forms of entertainment, there are tricks we can use to persuade an audience into thinking they are enjoying it. It’s more of a commentary on the limits of our species than anything conspiratorial. In literature, many popular titles follow the exact same format, known as the Hero’s Journey. Movies like Indiana Jones or Star Wars famously used this formula in their construction. Another formulaic approach to writing, particularly screenplays, would be the 1-3-5 story structure. This even goes so far as to tell you which part of the tale you should be on, based on the percentage of progress through the story-line.

When done poorly, the film is still somewhat entertaining, but when done properly, anyone oblivious to these structures won’t realize they’re seeing the same story told over and over. One article written here discusses a basic formula for constructing jokes. Personally, I believe horror works in a very similar way to humor, but that’s a subject for another time. Like humor, horror is also predictably formulaic: see The Uncanny Valley for one such example. If we write in a certain structure, like common meter, the writing becomes more palatable. Essays, be they persuasive or informative, also have a particular structure. This goes for food, style of clothing, or even speech; our preferences fall into patterns. If something is unfamiliar, we are predisposed not to like it, which likely had an evolutionary advantage. So stick with what’s predictable.

Today’s subject goes beyond these heuristics.

Almost all popular songs you hear in clubs and on the radio are made by the same four people, written at a 3rd grade reading level, typically using the same four chords, using the same rhyming pattern, computer algorithms and how well songs compress determine what will be a hit and what won’t. This is what you listen to and what you get excited for. It’s all the same damn song! Tell me this isn’t one of the craziest things you’ve ever seen.

Pop songs are at a grade 3 reading level, and this has dropped from grade 5 since the 00s

Dazed Digital, BBC

A ten-year analysis on the degradation of popular music:


Popular music all sounds the same:


Computers determine what will be a hit. It can be as simple as file compression. If it compresses too much, the song is too simple; if it doesn’t compress well, the song is too complex. If it compresses within a certain range, the song will be a hit:


Computer algorithms determine if a song will be a hit:

Independent, LA Times

Most popular music is made by the same FOUR people.

The Atlantic

Axis of Awesome’s “Four Chord Song” Will show you how most modern music uses the exact same four chords.

Axis of Awesome: Four Chord Song

Modern music also tends to use the same rhyming scheme and use iambic pentameter, so you can sing the lyrics of one song to the tune of another. The following link will demonstrate this:

Stairway to Gilligan’s Island

That’s about all for today.

Author: Orry

Editor In Chief with SALT Media.

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