Yes. Absolutely.

Coming from a completely scientific and logical mindset, and compared to the past 70 years of music, the quality of music has severely declined. This link will show you aspects in songs that have changed (for the worse) since the 50’s, but I’ll summarize:

  1. “After peaking in the 1960’s, timbral variety has been in steady decline to the present day.” Timbre is what makes a musical note different compared to others, it is what makes us differentiate between different instruments. Timbre is created from the number of harmonics and pitches melded together to create a sound, the intensity of the playing (for example, how you can differently pluck a guitar string), and vibrato, controlled variation of a pitch or tone. A skilled musician can master all three and make their sound, their own. So what does it mean when I say, timbral variety has gone down? “A homogenization of the overall timbral palette, which could point to less diversity in instrumentation and recording techniques.” When the Beatles made Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (widely considered one of the best albums of all time), it took weeks, if not months of songwriting and bouncing of ideas. And A Day In The Life (widely acclaimed as one of the best songs of all time) had a seriously hard production. The song was created using a 41-piece orchestra and includes “sophisticated George Martin and Geoff Emerick musical trickery (distortion, echo, dubbing, reverb)”. But today, Justin Bieber just beat a Beatles record, “Bieber boasts 17 songs on the Dec. 5 Hot 100, marking the most titles that any artist has placed on the chart in a single week. He bests the 14 each that the Beatles managed on April 11, 1964.” But can anyone honestly tell me Bieber records music better than the Beatles?
  2. Pitch in songs has also significantly declined. “The basic pitch vocabulary has remained unchanged—the same notes and chords that were popular in decades past are popular today—but the syntax has become more restricted. Musicians today seem to be less adventurous in moving from one chord or note to another, instead following the paths well-trod by their predecessors and contemporaries.” Here it also explains how a lot of melodies are similar now and “that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished.”
  3. Today music has gotten louder to grab your attention more. Back in the 60’s, a lot more music could be slower and longer. If we take Led Zeppelin, for example, Achilles Last Stand is a 10-minute song, do most people nowadays have the patience to listen to an entire 10-minute song? No, with services such as YouTube available, most people don’t listen to an entire song over and over again, let alone all of it, to figure out if they like it. Most likely when people hear a song today, they listen to it for a few seconds…*SKIP*…another song… *SKIP*. But back then, people had to buy songs on vinyl and they were stuck with it. But they could listen to each song and listen to its distinctions and varieties. But as we just clarified, music lacks those distinctions. So what’s the record company’s solution?By just turning up the audio dial. But “when the whole song is loud, nothing within it stands out as being exclamatory or punchy.”

Now some of you may ignore this and be content with the music we listen to, but I beg you. Demand more from your music. We are the consumers, we have the ability to make the producers make more quality music.

We are in the golden age of music. There will be a time when technology becomes so advanced that we’ll rely on them to make music rather than raw talent. Music will lose its soul- Freddie Mercury

 

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Is Modern Music Terrible? by Bobby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 Comments
  1. Alex 4 weeks ago

    I found this article interesting, yet frankly, biased and downright incorrect in many factors. A more logical statement as opposed to the extraordinarily broad term “ modern music” perhaps would be that the quality of “modern top 40 radio” has declined. I’m sure there are few people who would argue against that statement. There is no such thing as a sort of cut off rate from when music officially became great, let alone officially became awful. With such a vast and subjective topic, it is easy to fall back on an easy argument. We all know Led Zeppelin is an incredible group that wrote complex and compelling music, and that Justin Beiber is a lazy pop singer. That argument has been unoriginal since 2009. Do also keep in mind that Led Zeppelin coexisted with such blunders as Captain & Tennille, Rick Dees, and Starland Vocal Band, all incredibly lazy and gimmicky pop artists as lazy as anything released recently, perhaps less sleazy, but that’s not to say that most critically acclaimed 70’s groups weren’t just as subtly sleazy. Bad music has existed as long as music has existed, and so has good music.

    As far as songwriting goes, there are only twelve notes in the musical alphabet, and chord structures are delicate. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of songs that use the chords G, Em, C, and D, but then you couldn’t blame them. The chord sequence sound sweet and complex at the same time. I dare anyone to invent a chord sequence that has yet to have ever been used and doesn’t sound shoddy and amateurish. It can’t be done. Also, the argument that today’s music is louder to grab attention is immediately dismissible through the music of groups such as The Who, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Etc. All groups well known for playing loud music most often that are very much critically acclaimed. On the flipside, there are plenty of acoustic singer songwriters to choose from who have sprung up in the past decade who have written songs comparable to the works of Simon and Garfunkel. If anything, due to modern technology, songwriting is even more diverse than ever. Refer to any Earthquaker Devices or DOD product, which can transform a guitar sound into that of a synthesizer, an orchestra, or just a cluster of interesting noise. Mars Volta, Tera Melos, Chon would be great examples of groups utilizing this technology.

    On a few petty sidenotes, Zeppelin have wrote many loud, energetic songs, perhaps more than quiet songs, it is in fact possible to skip songs on a vinyl record, and there are plenty of crappy pop artist who have written 10+ minute songs, Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia for instance, and incredible pop musician who have written songs just as long, Kanye West’s Last Call.

  2. Noah 1 month ago

    Bobby,

    I found this post really interesting, I definitely feel that people today don’t “demand” much of anything from their music. Your point on decreased pitch variety is also spot-on. I’ve noticed the repeated use of simple major/minor chords in all sorts of pop music today, even “sad” songs feel like they’re not conveying emotion through their notes (see the “Millenial Whoop” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennial_whoop). There has to be a reason for this, right? Music has been a big part of most people’s lives for centuries now. I wonder if the internet has caused music to lose so much of what makes it special, or just caused people to not care about their music as much.

  3. Ed 1 month ago

    Dear Bobby,

    Interesting write up, I would agree with you that the top charts today are seemingly bland compared to what they’ve been in the past. Popular music has over time moved into easier listening and catchy repetition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the music of today is “terrible” altogether. I’d love to see you analyze the progression of an individual genre as opposed to “music” which describes an incredibly expansive amount of things. Genres differ greatly, and looking past the surface of popular music today good music continues to be produced on a higher scale than ever before. As music evolves with time it has definitely changed in the last century, but saying that modern music is terrible is quite a generalization.

    Sincerely,
    Ed

    • Robert Lopez 1 month ago

      Dear Ed,
      It is a fair point to argue that I was too general in my assessment. But remember, my post was just a summary of all the data I came across. The data did include multiple genres including the year annotations and audio descriptions of 464,411 distinct music recordings (from 1955 to 2010), which roughly corresponds to more than 1,200 days of continuous listening. Such recordings span a variety of popular genres, including rock, pop, hip hop, metal, or electronic.” I am saying that artists today have gotten less creative in the way they create music and care less about the art of it, compared to last century, which is a big no-no. I thank you for responding to my post. If you still question my source, read this, it is more wordy and scientific than how I put it:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00521#

  4. Catherine 1 month ago

    Hi Bobby,
    While I do agree with you that in some ways music has gone downhill in the past few years, often I find music in certain genres lacking the depth that it used to have. However, there is more than one genre of music, and not all music today is the same. If you go looking for music that has more to it than just what most pop music has, it is there. This song for example was written during 1966, which was written during the height of protest music, and it tells a fully story. While this may not necessarily be considered “modern music” it was written past the 50’s during a brilliant revolution in music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDAKymklmJI. I hope you’ll listen to it to see where I’m coming from, and I’m interested to see what you have to say next about music as a whole, or possibly the particular genres and artists you have problems with.

    • Bobby 1 month ago

      Dear Catherine,
      It is a fair point to argue that I was too general in my assessment. But remember, my post was just a summary of all the data I came across. The data did include multiple genres including the year annotations and audio descriptions of 464,411 distinct music recordings (from 1955 to 2010), which roughly corresponds to more than 1,200 days of continuous listening. Such recordings span a variety of popular genres, including rock, pop, hip hop, metal, or electronic.” I am saying that artists today have gotten less creative in the way they create music and care less about the art of it, compared to last century, which is a big no-no. I thank you for responding to my post. If you still question my source, read this, it is more wordy and scientific than how I put it:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00521#

      The example you provide is like you say, not from modern times. I’m not saying I like one genre more than another, I am simply saying music today is less well made than it was before, leading to worse music. I like all kinds of music, as long as it is well-made. I won’t say I like all old songs, but there is no question those were better made, and therefore better in quality. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Jenessa 1 month ago

    Hi Bobby,

    I see where you are coming from. Nowadays, music can easily get repetitive and overplayed. What I’d like to suggest is that you expand your research. If you look at the top charts in the iTunes store, yes you will see many pop songs- but there are also indie artists, R&B, and a variety of different genres. A good argument always touches on the other side, so I think you should have mentioned something positive that has come from the music made in this generation. Otherwise, I think this was beautifully written and I like how you quoted Freddy Mercury. Bringing in statistics helped make your argument more viable, and convincing.

    Jenessa

    • Bobby 1 month ago

      Dear Jenessa,
      It is a fair point to argue that I was too general in my assessment. But remember, my post was just a summary of all the data I came across. The data did include multiple genres including the year annotations and audio descriptions of 464,411 distinct music recordings (from 1955 to 2010), which roughly corresponds to more than 1,200 days of continuous listening. Such recordings span a variety of popular genres, including rock, pop, hip hop, metal, or electronic.” I am saying that artists today have gotten less creative in the way they create music and care less about the art of it, compared to last century, which is a big no-no. I thank you for responding to my post. If you still question my source, read this, it is more wordy and scientific than how I put it:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00521#

      There were also other sources, but I linked them in my post. I won’t lie, some artists put some good stuff out there, but that is not the norm. I am merely referring that artists nowadays don’t put as much effort into the making of the song, as they use to, leading to worse music.

  6. Lucy 1 month ago

    Bobby,
    First of all, I thought your post was hilarious. Music that seems to be enjoyed by millennials is often incredibly racist and sexist, and has little to no artistic talent involved. However, making generalizations about modern music as being terrible isn’t completely fair, as “terrible” is subjective. You should take a poll from our school next time, involving different styles of music, new and old, and asking people to pick their preference. A study on something so predominant in the lives of modern teens could be really interesting. Great post!
    Lucy

    • Bobby 1 month ago

      Dear Lucy,
      Thank you for responding to my post. My data included songs from all different genres. Refer to this website: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00521# When I say, “modern music is terrible”, I am referring to the quality of the process of making the music and the final product. As I just established, that has definitely gone down, less creativity and variety in music leads to everything sounding the same, as it does now. Calling it terrible might be harsh, but imagine how much more it could decline in later year. I am just showing concern for music, as I love it so much and I love to analyze it.

  7. Isa 1 month ago

    Bobby,
    I thought this was a very interesting topic. I do believe some of the music has gotten worse in certain ways, but there is also amazing music being produced. With all of our problems today, music lets us express how we feel. Although people might believe what they hear is “trashy”, these people are expressing their opinions. Sometimes you have to look deeper into the lyrics to find the true meaning. I agree that some of the music is repetitive and could have more substance, but maybe there is music you aren’t finding and letting yourself understand. I suggest you to look at some songs that might change your mind. Specifically, I really enjoy the artists called Portugal the Man.

    Take a look at this link and see if you don’t find it catchy! Thank you for sharing your ideas.
    -Isa Dodson

    • Bobby 1 month ago

      Dear Isa,
      This song is really good. The distinction of the beat is what makes that song really good. Thank you for the song! Unfortunately, this artist does not represent the norm. If you read this source: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00521# the data I summarized included “the year annotations and audio descriptions of 464,411 distinct music recordings (from 1955 to 2010), which roughly corresponds to more than 1,200 days of continuous listening. Such recordings span a variety of popular genres, including rock, pop, hip hop, metal, or electronic.” The quality and the creativity of music has definitely gone down, leading to everything sounding the same, leading to worse music. But I am willing to bet, you haven’t explored much old music, and analyzed how the beat, melody, and lyrics relate together. That variety is not present today, I am happy to say that the song you presented has that interesting analysis but I could not say that for other artists. But thank you for your comment.

  8. Nacia 1 month ago

    Hi my name is Nacia Russell and what I noticed about your post is that you believe modern music is terrible. I am agreeing with you on how the content and quality is not as good as it was in the past but disagreeing because I feel like music now is not fully but somewhat getting at stereotypical, racial, and sexist problems. Now I know that some of the songs that do that aren’t always appropriate for kids but as a 14 year old female I feel like it really does help with letting kids understand what is partially going on in their society. I also agree with you because I feel like music back then was more anyone could listen to ,but I don’t feel as though there was a lot of diversity in the music industry until like the 70’s or the 80’s due to racial issues that were going on and it seems like now there is way more diversity than there was in the 1920-1970. Thank you for taking the time to write this very interesting post I think that if you can continue to write scientific and more debatable post people will start to leave more comments and they will help you add more about like pros and cons to what you’re arguing about.
    Sincerely,
    Nacia Russell

  9. Kevin 1 month ago

    Dear Bobby,

    I see the point you are making here, about popular music having the same kind of rhythm, but artist are only trying to put out what the listeners want. How can you blame it on music when the music is made to the listeners liking. So that they will listen to their music over and over again. In my opinion, music is having a new era, than a century ago. More and more artist are writing songs about oppression. More so I think because of America’s new president trump was elected. More artist are expressing how they feel through their songs. So you can debate about declining or uprising. Thank you for sharing your voice.

    -Kevin

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