Pop Music Getting Sadder, Longer, Slower

Are the pop sounds jingling in our ears increasingly ripe with sadness and/or emotional ambiguity? So argues the Pacific Standard… although it’s impossible to decode with certainty a “meaning” of minor keys and slow tempos:

Over the past half-century, pop hits have become longer, slower and sadder, and they increasingly convey “mixed emotional cues,” according to a study just published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.

“As the lyrics of popular music became more self-focused and negative over time, the music itself became sadder-sounding and more emotionally ambiguous,” according to psychologist E. Glenn Schellenberg and sociologist Christian von Scheve.

Analyzing Top 40 hits from the mid-1960s through the first decade of the 2000s, they find an increasing percentage of pop songs are written using minor modes.

“The present findings have striking parallels to the evolution of classical music from 1600 to 1900,” Schellenberg and von Scheve write. “Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries …. Pieces tended to sound unambiguously happy or sad. By the 1800s, and the middle of the Romantic era, tempo and mode cues were more likely to conflict,” which allowed composers to express a wide range of emotions within a single piece.

14 Comments on "Pop Music Getting Sadder, Longer, Slower"

  1. Im bringing sexy back.

  2. Pop Music has always been and will always be an irrelevant genre of music. The History of Pop Music the world over is one of delivering state sponsored social messages and of being a product for mass consumption that stifles descent, not any form of Art or genuine Human Expression.

    Its like Henry Rollins said “Why would you adhere yourself to a disposable culture, why would you want to listen to disposable music?”


    • > delivering state sponsored social messages and of being a product for mass consumption that stifles descent

      Sounds pretty damn relevant to me.

    • Bollocks. And who cares what closet dwelling Hank says? – he is also the same dude that talks of how utterly crap, braindead and meaningless electronic/techno music is. When its the most punk expression/culture to emerge since punk itself.


      • “…. electronic/techno music is. When its the most punk expression/culture to emerge since punk itself.”

        No, no it’s not.

      • rus Archer | Jun 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

        there’s nothing punk about caring about punk

    • I disagree that pop music has always been irrelevant, look at The Beatles, David Bowe, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Elton John etc etc etc. I do agree that pop music has been irrelevant since  the 90’s, minus a few artists; Nirvana … and some other names(?). Pop music today looks and sounds like a bad case of the shits.

      BTW love Henry Rollins, Black Flag were the Lords of Hardcore.

    • rus Archer | Jun 21, 2012 at 11:54 am |

      because you’re henry rollins, that’s why

    • Don’t be so quick to dismiss all popular music as irrelevant. That would be a mistake. Pop music has relevance for the youth of the time and also helps shape the wider culture, for better or for worse. When I was young I liked most pop music, but the older I got, the less it spoke to me and that’s as it should be, since pop music is made/written for the young and mostly performed by the young. Teens and twenty-somethings are the primary consumers of the genre, but the further they move away from their 20s, the less they probably identify with the pop music that’s current, although, inexplicably to me at least, most still seem to identify with the pop music of their youth, even into their 50s and 60s. I’m in my 40s now and don’t listen to any of the artists and songs I liked when I was in my teens and 20s because my tastes have evolved and changed. Every once in a while, though, I hear a current pop song and I actually like it a lot.

  3. The article may be right but even so pop is still overwhelmingly cheesy unnecessarily positive.  The ones that are sad are actually self absorbed.

  4. Who cares if pop music has become “longer, slower and sadder”? It’s also become more soulless, over produced and talentless.

  5. Faucettesmith | Jun 21, 2012 at 2:44 am |

    I think that she may become a More Upset about Music .

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