Do you ever find yourself asking questions like: Why am I overwhelmed with loneliness and despair? Or: Am I suffering from depression, or is everyone around me suffering and I’m just depressed by proxy? Or perhaps: Is it just me or is my taste in music like, ridiculously sophisticated?
If any of these questions ring a bell, music analysts from The University of Toronto and the Free University of Berlin have the answers you’ve been seeking. Analyzing 1,000 hits from 1965 to 2009, the researchers found that today’s music is both more depressing and longer than it was in music’s golden years.
Below is a breakdown of their findings. But first to understand how they defined “depressing,” you should know that songs with a fast tempo in major key make for traditionally uplifting music, while a slower beat and minor key are hallmarks of musical downers. (According to my editor who is a musician, Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be Nice” is a major/fast temp tune; while The Cure’s “Love Song” is the opposite. See what I mean?).
Anyway, here’re their findings:
- The proportion of songs recorded in a minor key has doubled since the ’60s.
- Modern pop songs have slowed from an average of 116 beats in the ’60s to 100 beats today.
- The average track used to be just under 3 minutes long, whereas now it’s almost 4.
And, as mentioned above, according to Daily Mail, researchers claim the changes could represent an attempt on the part of the music industry to “appeal to an audience that thinks it is more sophisticated than those of the past,” a cynical conclusion probably reached after listening to the radio.
What’s interesting about the suggestion is that even though we may feel more sophisticated listening to our sad, minor-key songs, they’re on the whole much simpler than ever before. Another study released earlier this year based on almost half a million pop, rock and hip hop songs from 1955 to 2010 says that songs today are not only louder (they’re recorded at a higher volume for playing at noisy venues), but they also have fewer complex chord changes, making for “easier listening.”