Most of us usually tend to hear upbeat and faster tempo music at parties or during workouts, while slower tempo and soft songs accompany us in romantic and quiet times. It has become known that music is connected to our feelings, as it represents a form of natural data through which scientists can learn about human thinking and their values. It has been noticed that there has been a change in general musical taste during the past five decades. How did that happen?
Researchers Glenn Schellenberg and Christian Von Scheve have conducted a study of popular songs in America during the past fifty years. The professors used Using a selection of songs from the list of top 100 songs from Billboard Magazine. The researchers wanted to know how the influence of feelings on music has changed since the beginning of the 1960s and until now, in terms of tempo (faster or slower) or mode (Major key or minor key).
The most surprising discovery was the change in key, as songs composed on the major key tended to be warm and calm, like the song We Can Work it Out by the English band The Beatles released in 1965 while songs composed on the minor scale ladder tended to sound more melancholic and dark, like Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day.
In recent decades, the most popular songs have moved from major to minor keys. In the 1960s, 85% of songs were written in a major key. Today, the percentage has dropped to 45. Overall, music has switched to something more complex from happy.
It is worth noting that although the old songs were composed in major key, this does not mean that her words and meanings call for optimism or fun, for example, the song Wedding Bell Blues issued at the end of the sixties, which is composed in major key whose lyrics tell a sad story about a woman longing for her wedding day. On the other hand, there is Shakira’s famous song; Hips Don’t Lie, composed in the minor key, with lyrics that speak of desire and love between two passionate lovers.
It is also noticeable that popular American songs have become slower and longer. When the researchers analyzed the beat per minute (BPM), they found an average decline from 116 BPM in the 1960s to 100 BPM in 2000. Also, the duration of 1960’s songs was less than three minutes, while the average length of songs these days is four minutes.
Another interesting note is that the songs we prefer to listen to today tend to be ambiguous and puzzling as if the songs are fast and sad, or slow and happy. Other studies based on linguistic analysis have shown that the lyrics of popular songs between 1980 and 2007 are more self-focused and antisocial, as they contain many profanity and violent ideas, as psychological transformations in society led to a change in the musical elements of melancholic and sad songs. It was no longer suitable for parties and became slow.
Reasons for the change in musical taste:
The first explanation suggested by the researchers is that today’s artists may choose to compose slow-paced songs in the minor key and to give them a touch of maturity. Children’s music is usually characterized by joy and optimism, and many musicians known for their enthusiastic or happy music are placed in the pre-teen shelves at the store, and this applies to the songs of the band Jonas Brothers.
The second explanation is that new music reflects the hardships and tragedies of society. It has been observed that songs tend to become slower and longer during economic and social crises. In any case, the researchers believe that the steady increase in length and the decrease in speed that they found was inconsistent with the idea of escalating crises because this means that our problems and crises have increased steadily during the past fifty years.
Likewise, popular songs have become more and more by years, perhaps because Americans have become more diverse and unique in their musical tastes, and this has contributed to their openness compared to other people and their acquaintance with their music.
We cannot speculate on all the reasons for changing musical taste, but we can use the taste of society as a measure of public awareness. For example, we all remember the song Gangnam Style and the international fame that it gained in 2012, which may be due to our need for a little fun and joy amid annoying events outside our control in this world, such as economic crises and others.
In the end, the researchers emphasize that their initial observations would open the door to questions about the link between feelings and the consumption of music, and perhaps soon we will know more about the secrets hidden by our music and our favourite songs.