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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.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.