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Is Bad Music Getting Worse?

A study by The Spanish National Research Council has found that popular music is, in essence, high volume and low quality. This Slate story posted by Phily.com has the details. The most important paragraph:

The study’s analysts ran 464,411 recordings in all popular-music genres from the period of 1955 to 2010 (called the “Million Song Dataset”) through algorithms to analyze three metrics: harmonic complexity, timbral diversity, and loudness. The results indicated that, on the whole, popular music over the last half-century has become blander and louder.

It may be true that the music is getting blander, but I don’t buy that this study proves it. The idea of working out computer algorithms to test for something so subjective is problematic. That subjectivity could come into play as an unconscious inclination to program the test to come to the conclusion that the study indeed did reach. The bad music of today is fresher in our minds and more immediately annoying than the bad music of yesteryear.

Keep in mind, however, that much pop music always has, well, sucked. That’s no accident. It’s primary goal isn’t to be good. It’s to attract young kids, sell products directly or indirectly, make money for bands and labels filling the void of millions of hours of radio broadcast time and so on. It would figure that the quality would be consistent, albeit at a low level.