A recent study from London found three music revolutions in the last five decades. All three happened in the 20th century, 25 and more years ago. Every generation since the beginning of recorded music has introduced a game-changing genre. Until now. What the hell is going on with today’s western pop music?
In the early 60’s there has been the beat music coming to the US from British bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, replacing the so-called dominant seventh chord, mostly found in jazz and blues. The second revolution came with the new technology of affordable synthesizers, samplers, and drum machines, that drove a significant style shift in 1983 to New Wave. The last and third in 1991, came about when rap and hip-hop went mainstream and is claimed to be the biggest by the scientists.
Since the researchers analyzed more than 17,000 songs from the US Billboard Hot 100 and looked at the different characteristics of music, including harmony, chords changes, and timbres (the tonal quality of the music), they didn’t take into account the social relevance and therefore don’t mention hippie, punk or grunge music.
Music and society have always been related. Music reflects and creates social conditions, to the point that it even might impede social change. The development of recording techniques in the latter half of the 20th century has revolutionized the extent to which most people have access to music. All kinds of music are available to most people, 24 hours a day, at the touch of a switch. The downside of this easy availability of music in the Western world is that there is a tendency for it to be taken for granted.
Much more, it is noticeable that all these revolutions happened before the internet started to have an impact on the music business. Perhaps it’s precisely because of the digital revolution that we have not seen a generation-defining genre for more than 25 years. Maybe we should discuss less streaming killing music, but streaming killing the social impact of music and its revolutions.
But hopefully, there’s a local band slogging it out in a small club in some metropolitan area, that’s destined to get music journalists salivating. Let’s go to the small clubs again!