Now you can substantiate to today’s generation why that ’60s and ’70s era’s music was objectively “better,” as JPMorgan’s CIO Michael Cembalest has previously noted, and furthermore, researchers also found that popular music has gotten a lot louder (as SAT scores have plunged.. hhmm?) However, as Consequence of Sound notes, asoftware application writer by the name of Virgil Griffith has charted musical tastes based on the average SAT scores of various college institutions… and the results are.. interesting. Bob Dylan, The Shins, Radiohead, and Counting Crows are the favorite bands of smart people. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, The Used, and gospel music comes in at the lower end of the spectrum — or, as Griffith puts it, is music for dumb people.
Among other interesting revelations from the Griffith’s chart: Smart people prefer John Mayer over Pink Floyd; rock titans like Tool, System of a Down, and Pearl Jam fall right in the middle — so, music for average people?; and people still listen to Switchfoot.
* * *
Of course, correlation is not causation but…
As JPMorgan’s Michael Cembalest has previously noted, there has been a “progressive homogenization of the musical discourse”, a process which has resulted in music becoming blander and louder.
Bring those classic rock and R&B playlists back
Now you can substantiate to today’s generation why that era’s music was objectively “better”.
The Million Song Dataset is a database of western popular music produced from 1955 to 2010. As described in Scientific Reports (affiliated with the publication Scientific American), researchers developed algorithms to see what has changed over time, focusing on three variables: timbre, pitch and loudness. Timbre is a proxy for texture and tone quality, terms which reflect the variety and richness of a given sound. Higher levels of timbre most often result from diverse instrumentation (more than one instrument playing the same note). Pitch refers to the tonal structure of a song: how the chords progress, and the diversity of transitions between chords. Since the 1960’s, timbral variety has been steadily declining, and chord transitions have become narrower and more predictable.
The researchers also found that popular music has gotten a lot louder.The median recorded loudness value of songs by year is shown in the second chart. One illustrative example: in 2008, Metallica fans complained that the Guitar Hero version of its recent album sounded better than it did on CD. As reported in Rolling Stone, the CD version was re-mastered at too high a decibel level, part of the Loudness Wars affecting popular music.
Overall, the researchers concluded that there has been a “progressive homogenization of the musical discourse”, a process which has resulted in music becoming blander and louder. This might seem like a reactionary point of view for an adult to write, but the data does seem to back me up on this. All of that being said, I do like that Method Man-Mary J. Blige duet.
* * *