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In the past, pop music was “terrible” because the curmudgeons complaining about it were old. Today, everybody hates pop music because it is truly terrible.

If the Beatles were indeed the product of a pernicious Tavistockian demoralization campaign, created to mete out the death blow to Western civilization, then what on Earth would that make Justin Bieber?

Young audiences agree that contemporary music is crap and the 2018 Grammys just had the lowest ratings in the Awards’ history. If you were ever in the music business, you know that the industry today is a pale shadow of its former self.

25-year-old YouTuber Thoughty explains the nuts and bolts of why today’s pop music has become a pathetic symptom of our clickbaity, dopamine-driven, digital culture. The pop music we have today is what happens when art is gamed-out by a very small group businessmen using Behaviorist marketing techniques.

He cites a study showing how harmonic complexity and diversity of instruments have plummeted precipitously while the compression of the dynamic range and general loudness has increased oppressively. The melodies, rhythms and the vocals of popular music have become more and more similar to each other since the 1960s, with hundreds of artists using the same sequence of notes. Researcher Patrick Metzger identified a specific shift from the fifth note in a scale to the third note and then back to the fifth, accompanied by a vocal “Wah-oh, wah-oh” as the “Millennial Whoop” because it’s featured in hundreds of chart-topping pop songs created over the past few years.

Thoughty reveals a sneaky fact that I knew 15 years ago but was stunned to learn is STILL true: The vast majority of hit songs in the past 20 years was written by just two people! Yes, what Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera, Ke$ha and the Backstreet Boys all have in common are the Swedish man, Max Martin, who is single-handedly responsible for over two dozen number-one singles and thousands of songs in the top 100 charts over the past decade. And if Max Martin didn’t write it, then American Dr Luke probably did.

Thoughty says, “You’ve likely never heard of them and that is very intentional. These two men are the hidden pop factories behind virtually every single band that has played on the radio today and probably every musical act you grew up with if you’re under 30 years old…and you wondered why everything sounds the same.”

It gets worse. The average attention span has become so reduced over the past decade, that Max Martin and Dr. Luke have to write their hooks earlier in the songs and to repeat them more often. Thoughty says that the advent of the iPod and millions of songs at our fingertips has caused musicians and record companies to favor punchy bass lines that demand our attention, stuffing each song full of hooks to instantly grab our focus and keep it for as long as possible.

Finally, the cost of breaking a new artist onto the global music scene has become so prohibitive, he says that the industry has reacted by removing the risk. Instead of trying to find genuine musical talent, they simply take a pretty young face, usually from a TV talent show and then simply force the public to like them by brainwashing them with familiar hooks from that Swedish hitmeister and placing the music literally everywhere – in supermarkets, shopping malls, movie soundtracks, online, etc., instead of allowing the public to grow to like an artist.

“[Pop] music, as an art form is dying. It’s being replaced by music which is a disposable product designed to sell, not to inspire.”

Alexandra Bruce

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  • There is one exception to the rule out there that many discovered when she ended up up winning the 2016 America’s Got Talant…. Then 12 year old Grace VanderWaal with her ukulele. (now 14) If you’ve never heard of her I’d highly recommend checking her out. She won AGT mainly due to the fact that she wrote all her own original songs and they were all astounding! Then there’s her voice… 12??? And her intelligence and humility. According to her she never thought she’d even pass the audition (let alone get a Golden Buzzer and a standing ovation from EVERYONE in the audience) Her attitude during the AGT competion….. “I wasn’t competing” A TRUE artist, she just wanted to share her music and hoped people liked it. Apparently people did. Her original Audition video now has over 70 million views…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBXKkF2UX5s She has an EP out called “Perfectly Imperfect” featuring the 4 songs she did on AGT plus another one she had on her Youtube channel, and recently put out a full album of all original songs… “Just the Beginning”. People love her precisely because she’s a total breath of fresh air. The antithesis of what this article is all about. SHE’S REAL!! Imagine that. Now we can only hope and pray she doesn’t get sawllowed up and spit back out by the music industry as just another formula product meant to sell albums. We’ll just have to wait and see. There is hope though. She is quite wise and aware way beyond her age. The song “Darkness Keeps Chasing Me” off her new album seems to be about exactly that …..”God I want to be different”….. seems to be saying I don’t want to end up like all the other Pop stars seem to end up. Anyway check her out. Be prepared to be astounded by what’s coming out of her at such a young age!

    • Another thing about Grace is although she did have 3 different producers work on her album Simon Cowell who signed her told her he trusted her, meaning he was basically giving her free rein to do what she wants. Going by the song arrangements she did on AGT, before she even had any kind of producer’s input I’d say she’s got a very advanced grasp of song structure and dynamics. Here’s what Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry) said about working with her on her first EP…..

      “I wasn’t sure what I was walking into by working with Grace in the studio,” producer Greg Wells recalls of working with VanderWaal on Perfectly Imperfect. “It was her first time ever in a proper recording studio and I envisioned several different potential horror stories. Within the first 10 minutes of working on music together, I was happily surprised to find that I was working with a real artist who could speak the language of record making.”

      “There were many times in our recording sessions when Grace would suggest an idea that I wasn’t sure would work, but as soon as we tried it, it made the song better,” he says of her musical intuition. “That’s a skill that takes most of us years to hone and develop, yet somehow this was pouring out of her at age 12 during her first time in the studio.”

  • I agree. There’s a total lack of musicianship in modern pop music and the structures of the songs and how the instruments are played is completely different from earlier eras. Listen to the drums on songs by the Beach Boys or the Four Seasons. Those drums were full of energy, they popped with volume and they really set the beat and drive for the rhythm of those old records. Why don’t drummers play that way today? I heard a re-do of “Let’s Hang On” and while the modern version was pretty good, the drumming sucked. There was no energy or life whatsoever to the playing. Also, whatever happened to the judicious use of reverb? Never hear it used on modern records and as a consequence the songs sound lifeless.

  • There’s still hope for our younger generation if we composers and songwriters keep on plugging our material. I’ve written hundreds of songs in several genres but one of my latest inspirational ones captured the hearts and enthusiasm of the local high school choir here in Yucca Valley, CA (8 miles from Joshua Tree.) They and the older folks here joined forces to passionately sing “10,000 Bells” with their 70 combined voices. I received many thanks from them for providing the opportunity to experience lyrics which contained thoughtful material.

    Clyde Grabski (“Clydeski”)

  • I agree with all this, except the assertion that only two men, Max Martin and Dr. Luke, are writing all the pop songs for all those music “artists.” No doubt these two are involved, but others researchers, like Miles Mathis, say that there are teams of writers behind the scenes churning this junk out.

    That would seem more logical, given all the pop songs and singers that are out there.

    Sad to think of all the young people with real talent trying to break into the music scene, thinking they have a real chance. The odds against them are more than they realize.

    • I’ve heard that “big’ artists like Mariah Carey can easily have 20 producers on a given track (!) but the data relayed by Thoughty is correct. He’s quoting Top 100 and #1 hits over the past 20 years and the involvement of Max & Dr Luke is inordinate. I don’t think he’s saying that they were the sole producers on all of these projects.

  • Excellent review of the decline in music quality. Live music played directly on an instrument, by one who first mastered the ability to actually play the instrument, without supporting technology props, has always seemed to be the most beautiful to my ears. Then there’s the science of how our heart rhythm harmonizes or collides with the sound made. No need to mention the degradation of lyrics where we only hear about who left who, who hurt who, and who they’re gonna hurt..

    • Anastasia, …….No need to mention the degradation of lyrics where we only hear about who left who, who hurt who, and who they’re gonna hurt..

      Check out Grace VanderWaal. Pretty wise for a (just turned) 14 year old. She noticed that all the songs are about falling in or out of love. Therefore all her songs are about, as she puts it… “Something more interesting.”

  • Does no one remember to make a joyful sound? I believe that you should not need to brain wash someone to sell a sound recording. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Not so with humans, you just give them some subliminal force, and repeat it, over and over, easy money. And no need for a joyful sound.

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