thread to track Poptimism 2.0

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Going to combine a lot of the conversations we're having in other threads surrounding Timberlake into this one

Here's an excerpt of something I posted last year

An actual poptimist critic would be riding for the pop music that America actually, actively embraces and enjoys like the Chainsmokers, Meghan Trainor, Twenty One Pilots, Lukas Graham, Flo Rida, Mike Posner, Shawn Mendes, etc.

Instead artists who work in the pop genre just started releasing albums and "statements" like rock musicians do and we look at them through that rockist lens because there's no fucking rock bands any more. The end.

I really do think the way a "pop" artist can be critically loved right now really does mirror classic Rockism. For a lot of them You need to either:

A) Releasing a big album statement like a rock band (Beyonce, Rihanna, Kesha)
B) Basically *be* a rock band (The 1975, Harry Styles, Paramore)
C) Be a not-as-famous underdog people can champion like an indie rock band (Carly Rae Jepsen, Jason DeRulo, Jeremih)

Lorde doesn't track into any of these, but she's pretty big too.

I think the way a "pop" artist can be hated right now is, as Jordan pointed out, is even the slightest perceived dip in quality – Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus – is now license to do flying trampoline dunks on their career, even though critics really got behind all of them not all that long ago...

I dunno, I definitely feel like the critical window w/ what pop music is "good" is becoming increasingly narrow, it's interesting to watch.

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:06 (six months ago) Permalink

no way sna

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:10 (six months ago) Permalink

Are people still listening to Lukas Graham at all?

Ned Raggett, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:11 (six months ago) Permalink

B) Basically *be* a rock band (The 1975, Harry Styles, Paramore)

i guess i should note this doesn't map onto fall out boy (who prob are closer neighbors to twenty one pilots here anyway). i also don't think the 1975 are really *there* yet, or at least in my experience there's been heavy resistance

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (six months ago) Permalink

Doesn't the "flying trampoline dunks"-approach extend beyond pop, and is more media jumping on and off the hype train? Arcade Fire got the same treatment (perhaps for going pop; though their quality dip was more than slight)

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (six months ago) Permalink

xpost Ned, I guess I could update that list to be, like, Ed Sheeran, Halsey, Imagine Dragons, Chris Brown and Charlie Puth

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (six months ago) Permalink

Where does Bruno Mars fit in all of this?

MarkoP, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:15 (six months ago) Permalink

when was the last time critics were behind eminem

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:16 (six months ago) Permalink

I'm also confused as to what point critics were actually behind Katy Perry, as I remember her first two albums getting relatively negative reviews at the time.

MarkoP, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:18 (six months ago) Permalink

all i remember is the Teenage Dream title track showing up on a few EOY lists in 2010

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:20 (six months ago) Permalink

Doesn't the "flying trampoline dunks"-approach extend beyond pop, and is more media jumping on and off the hype train?

ah yeah this does remind me of clowning on movie trailers

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 17:21 (six months ago) Permalink

Yeah, that's fair re: Katy P

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:21 (six months ago) Permalink

I feel like Ariana Grande is a decent counterpoint to this though - her singles and her last album have been generally well liked by critics and she isn't any sort of underdog nor is she making big album statements

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:31 (six months ago) Permalink

We are in an an era of unprecedented chartpop conservatism imo. The algorithms have churned out Imagine Dragons and they'll keep churning out similar

imago, Monday, 5 February 2018 18:03 (six months ago) Permalink

this thought experiment brings up a question i've had for a long time: does poptimism imply a kind of classically liberal stance, in which the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable, or is it a populism that doesn't necessarily match up with chart trends? the former seems like it's got support in various industry trendpieces like Carl Wilson or Chris Molanphy's stuff, whereas the latter feels like it's the driving force behind the rise of semi-pop artists like CRJ and Charli XCX, not to mention Allie X or MUNA.

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 22:56 (six months ago) Permalink

the former also feels like it's less music qua music criticism and more cultural criticism, while the latter is a developed aesthetic stance that i think Tom Ewing summed up well in this piece, regardless of what you think of its surrounding argument https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/jun/16/can-pop-music-survive

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 22:58 (six months ago) Permalink

this thought experiment brings up a question i've had for a long time: does poptimism imply a kind of classically liberal stance, in which the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable, or is it a populism that doesn't necessarily match up with chart trends? the former seems like it's got support in various industry trendpieces like Carl Wilson or Chris Molanphy's stuff, whereas the latter feels like it's the driving force behind the rise of semi-pop artists like CRJ and Charli XCX, not to mention Allie X or MUNA.

"the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable" seems like a slightly loaded statement to me, but I guess it depends on what sits behind it. I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality. Both Chris's 'Why is X Number 1' column and Tom's 'Popular' series assume that songs that get to number 1 get there for a reason (or reasons), but don't assume as a starting premise that those reasons have to do with aspects of the song the writer privately considers valuable, attractive, "worthy" etc. (though they might!).

Tim F, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:11 (six months ago) Permalink

yeah, "interesting" definitely is a better word than "valuable"—although i think the slipperiness between the two is the foundation of the confusion around what poptimism is that seems to have pervaded.

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:15 (six months ago) Permalink

re: the quoted text in the first post, my understanding of the nebulous term 'poptimism' was simply that it asks critics to put forth the slightest modicum of effort required to avoid having a kneejerk reaction against music just because it was successful or marketed to people that typical (white male) rockcrits don't see as credible, i.e. women, poc and young'ns... not that a 'poptimist' must have the exact set of tastes equal to the mythical median "target audience" consumer, who therefore enthusiastically and earnestly recommends virtually everything that is successful.

so not quite sure what is different about poptimism 2.0!! not that i had a particularly strong grasp of what 1.0 was

dyl, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:20 (six months ago) Permalink

anti-rockism was always a more useful notion to me than poptimism tbh, i saw it as pretty much a shortcut to catch untrained undereducated music critics up w/ arts/literary criticism broadly

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:22 (six months ago) Permalink

"it" = poptimism or anti-rickism?

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:25 (six months ago) Permalink

er rockism

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:25 (six months ago) Permalink

anti-rockism

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:26 (six months ago) Permalink

Lorde definitely fits into Whiney's category C; she's a one-hit wonder whose latest album is almost entirely propped up by critical goodwill.

grawlix (unperson), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:26 (six months ago) Permalink

otm

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:27 (six months ago) Permalink

I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality.

It amazes me that critics who write about pop have to clarify this point over and over; it should have shut up those trolls who cock eyebrows wondering why pop music critics don't write treatises about The DaVinci Code and Transformers.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:28 (six months ago) Permalink

im trying to imagine if any of the rappers i'd written about had a career trajectory like hers, how quickly they'd be tossed out by the critical apparatus ... waiting x years to drop a follow up album

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:28 (six months ago) Permalink

anti-rockism was always a more useful notion to me than poptimism

― Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, February 5

otm

pomenitul, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:29 (six months ago) Permalink

i mean, ppl who took a 'poptimist' approach to the genres i liked def helped me look at them in a new way but a lot of times they were just as much invested in "scenius" & the relationship between the local and underground + national and commercial just in other genres

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:31 (six months ago) Permalink

I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality. Both Chris's 'Why is X Number 1' column and Tom's 'Popular' series assume that songs that get to number 1 get there for a reason (or reasons), but don't assume as a starting premise that those reasons have to do with aspects of the song the writer privately considers valuable, attractive, "worthy" etc. (though they might!).

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right? Or even someone who thinks it is worth studying from a technical standpoint in order to cynically craft commercially successful music? Iirc, Tom (and a lot of early-00s ilxors) loved "Baby One More Time" and thought we were living in a Golden Era of Pop Music, not just that the music was interesting in an abstract sense. What is the "optimism" in the term about?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:33 (six months ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right?

This person would be called "a fiction."

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:34 (six months ago) Permalink

the early 00s seem like a golden era of pop music in comparison to the 2017 charts

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:40 (six months ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right? Or even someone who thinks it is worth studying from a technical standpoint in order to cynically craft commercially successful music? Iirc, Tom (and a lot of early-00s ilxors) loved "Baby One More Time" and thought we were living in a Golden Era of Pop Music, not just that the music was interesting in an abstract sense. What is the "optimism" in the term about?

― No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:33 PM (five minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I think this goes back to what austinb refers to above as the "slipperiness" between the propositions that popularity is interesting and that what is popular is good.

This is a slipperiness that need not exist - it emerges from sloppy thinking as follows:

1. Hypothetical pop music critic says (or implies) that "popularity is interesting in itself."

2. That same hypothetical pop music critic says "this particular pop song (currently at number one on the charts) is great!" <-- Although pointedly does not claim that all commercially successful pop songs are great, or that her enjoyment of that particular pop song emerges from its commercial dominance.

3. Observer of hypothetical pop music critic complains: "Your approach to music criticism assumes that pop songs are great because they are popular."

4. Hypothetical pop music critic seeks to clarify: "No, that's not what I'm saying. You're conflating two separate propositions. Allow me to expl-"

5. Observer cuts in: "Sorry, I've stopped listening, a magazine has accepted my pitch for a hot-take on how the orthodoxy of populism has come at the expense of critical appreciation of less popular artists, and I've got a deadline to meet."

Tim F, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:47 (six months ago) Permalink

^^ they should teach this post in schools

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:51 (six months ago) Permalink

i think you could argue that some poptimist proponents also bought into this faulty logic

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:54 (six months ago) Permalink

like, what poptimist thinkers thought became what was cool think, and if this small group of influential people gravitated towards a particular school of Pop music, ppl would gravitate towards particular styles of pop as being representative of this theoretical argument, and now x years later we have carly rae jepson

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:55 (six months ago) Permalink

those two posts are making slightly different points i realize

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:58 (six months ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right?

This person would be called "a fiction."

― morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:34 PM (nineteen minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Alfred is correct here, I think. People tend to conflate any handwringing about the state of popular culture with Dialectic of Enlightenment, but (at least in part because it would be so exhausting "in practice" for anyone not so profoundly invested in negativity as Adorno was) there's no such thing as a music critic who both considers that popular music en masse should be viewed first and foremost through the frame of how it is culturally/socially damaging and is actually interested in writing about it in any detail.

If I had to name the critic that springs to mind in response to the question "who do you think has written the most and most thoughtfully about the problems with the current composition of commercially successful pop music" my answer would be Maura, and that is no surprise: it is precisely because Maura is open to the prospect of commercially successful pop music being good that she has both the interest and the capacity to write thoughtfully about how and why it might not be.

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:04 (six months ago) Permalink

i think you could argue that some poptimist proponents also bought into this faulty logic

― Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:54 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Any professional music critics, though?

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:06 (six months ago) Permalink

there was a period where i found myself really put off (pre-streaming service era) by the coverage of "popular music" that seemed like it was undercounting hip-hop, or not recognizing its cultural breadth bc it was invested in this sorta discourse of the pop as populist marketplace & center of the teen zeitgeist ... some of the stuff ann powers (a critic i do respect on a number of levels) was writing around this time for example, the hollowed-out sounds of like 00s/early 10s "pop music" have aged awfully in many cases imo (not talking about taylor)

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:10 (six months ago) Permalink

*late 00s/early 10s

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:11 (six months ago) Permalink

i think whiney's characterization of poptimism in the op is subtly at odds with my own, but also recognize what he identifies as poptimism 2.0 as a thing

flopson, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:13 (six months ago) Permalink

There was a conversation in early 2012 i'm thinking of (w/r/t Ann)

Year-End Critics' Polls 2011

i'm not sure i was right back then, but i think i was getting at something that felt kind of 'off' about a perceived poptimist status quo

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:15 (six months ago) Permalink

like it felt like the way we wrestled w/ "pop" was very detached from earnest enthusiasm & was almost anthropological and dispassionate cataloguing of what teens listen to

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:16 (six months ago) Permalink

i am possibly being hugely unfair to ann but i think there was something there that has been validated by the way the streaming economy completely shifted the sound of the 'pop charts' in something akin to the 80s/90s soundscan moment

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:17 (six months ago) Permalink

I think that for most (especially young) people who would self-diagnose as "liking pop music" in some concrete, active sense, the actual commercial performance of any given piece of pop music is of decreasing importance - i.e. Carly Rae Jepsen and Rihanna and Lady Gaga and Charli XCX and Ariana Grande and Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor are all competing on broadly the same terrain for stans, which competition could broadly be boiled down to two zones of possible success (you need to succeed on one, but ideally both):

(a) quality x quantity of bops

(b) fierceness of instagram/twitter feed

In this sense "pop music" in the sense of genre has become detached from the charts and even commercial success to a much greater degree than whiney's opening post suggests - carly and the chainsmokers are much more aligned than they are opposed.

On basically every single possible level of this debate, the transformative impact of social media (which has become the space in which the enjoyment of popular music is performed) simply cannot be overstated.

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:18 (six months ago) Permalink

t swift notably unfierce, which might explain the sudden critical volte-face at the first sign of weak bops

imago, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:28 (six months ago) Permalink

Looking back on that thread i think both you (deej) and lex were right, or perhaps rather the truth was the combination of your respective positions: "pop" moved from being what "just folks" listen to becoming a smaller, activated niche with a much more concrete sense of genre identity.

However, this is not a problem with criticism, IMO, but rather a real reaction to the fact that the patterns of music engagement are so much more decentralized than they used to be such that talking about what "just folks" listen to now is just not as relevant or meaningful: it's very difficult to point to a community of people who are primarily invested in "chart music".

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:28 (six months ago) Permalink

i think ive veered slightly from the original convo but this was the post i was thinking about when you asked the question, tim, if there were actual professional critics who'd allowed the distorted version of poptimism to shape their work:

yeah i mean i don't mind the shopping at whole foods thing, or that she's writing to a generalist audience, i guess it's more that I don't get a sense of what she likes as much as a sense of what she thinks she needs to cover, all of which she's vaguely enthusiastic about, and as a result the coverage is of a fairly rote series of artists I guess? idk I guess I'd just like to see some more personality in it or something

idk I'm probably being unfair. at a certain pt. the job is covering what people are likely to care about. although i'm not sure that explains the tuneyards thing which is p niche right?

― Regional Thug (D-40), Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:31 PM (six years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:35 (six months ago) Permalink

haha, that was until last week the last time tune-yards was something i might talk about in an ilx post

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:36 (six months ago) Permalink

I didn't like the book, got the impression he knew next to nothing about music.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 4 June 2018 15:49 (two months ago) Permalink

(i actually liked his book, numerous flaws aside, btw. but still.)

dyl, Monday, 4 June 2018 15:50 (two months ago) Permalink

every academic “study” on pop music should be accompanied by a release of the researchers’ favorite artists, similar to how you find out that research on seltzer being bad was sponsored by soda companies

it should also require the researchers spend a certain amount of time listening to the music they're writing about.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 4 June 2018 15:56 (two months ago) Permalink

pudding's analysis (to their credit, it's one of their better music-related ones!) systematically ignores that many compositions credited to one writer in the past would have, by today's standard practices, been credited to many more. like, read about how some of these songs and albums were actually put together! read about thriller and bad, to start. there is no easy way to normalize the raw numbers based on social and cultural changes in the industry, but that doesn't mean that settling for the raw numbers is adequate.

these data-driven analyses can have great value imo! but the people who generate them need to be, like, hyper-vigilant about the implicit assumptions that are made when they collapse the complicated reality down to a few easily understood numbers. sometimes the understanding you think you are gaining is fatally compromised by the nuance you've lost. pudding has disappointed on this front multiple times. (their 'best' music projects are the ones that attempt to say the least: here's yesteryear's charts presented in a neat visualization, without any blathering or analysis! the analysis of spotify streaming numbers was not very insightful and contained some truly awful writing. the analyses of hip-hop lyrics have been abominable and deeply misguided.)

dyl, Monday, 4 June 2018 16:11 (two months ago) Permalink

if this is one of pudding's better music-related analyses I'd hate to read the worse ones

I accidentally posted this in the kanye thread but it mentions Max Martin being a #1 hitmaker since 1985, which is hilarious, because you just know they got that year off Wikipedia -- in 1985, Max Martin was in a newly formed Swedish hair metal band that wouldn't release its first (mediocre-selling) album for six years. shit, that's on Wikipedia too, it would just take ONE CLICK

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 16:17 (two months ago) Permalink

every academic “study” on pop music should be accompanied by a release of the researchers’ favorite artists, similar to how you find out that research on seltzer being bad was sponsored by soda companies

This will happen the day after what I want to happen, which is for every year-end critics' poll to start listing publicists alongside artist, album title, and label.

grawlix (unperson), Monday, 4 June 2018 16:20 (two months ago) Permalink

i think they meant max martin is the #1 hitmaker (songwriter/producer) by their metric from the period 1985-present. like, not implying that he started as a hitmaker in 1985.

(incidentally, some of the errors in seabrook's book very obviously did come from misreadings of wikipedia articles!)

dyl, Monday, 4 June 2018 16:23 (two months ago) Permalink

if they meant that, it's sloppy-ass writing, especially considering it also mentions "the adrenaline-charged bubblegum sound of the past 10 years," which started apparently with a 1995 Backstreet Boys song. like, pick one start date and stick to it

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 16:26 (two months ago) Permalink

While there are plenty of burgeoning Max Martins (e.g., Metro Boomin, DJ Khaled)

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 16:28 (two months ago) Permalink

pudding's most useless analysis of pop music is 'the most timeless songs of all time'. i quoted this excerpt in another thread over a year ago but it still astonishes me every time i see it:

For example, in 1961, Bobby Lewis’s Tossin’ and Turnin’ spent 7 weeks at #1. For all intents and purposes, Bobby Lewis was the Beyonce of 1961. Yet, have you heard of it? Do you know who Bobby Lewis is?
Meanwhile, Etta James’ debut album dropped the same year, with At Last peaking on Billboard at #68.

Music historians will regard Bobby Lewis as a pioneer in rock and roll and R&B, yet whatever led to Tossin’ and Turnin’s popularity in 1961 has faded over time. His music, for countless reasons, didn’t persevere in the same way as Etta James’.

One hypothesis: Tossin’ and Turnin’s success had more to do than just the song...perhaps Bobby Lewis was a huge personality. Great looks. Amazing dancer. When we examine pop hits, popularity is so much more than song quality.

But future generations don’t remember Bobby Lewis’s dancing and good looks. Spotify only catalogues his music. And unfortunately, that quality didn’t endure in the same way as At Last. (And of course, we have not even considered the role of covers, samples, and movie soundtracks, etc. – a future project to undertake).

And for this reason, it will be weird to hear future generations reverently listen to groups such as Nickelback – the kids only know their music, not what they culturally stood for in 2015.

like, try cracking open a fucking book! this represents the absolute worst of (what aspires to be) 'data journalism'. (same feature surmises that onerepublic's "counting stars" was initially popular in 'indie music circles' lol.)

dyl, Monday, 4 June 2018 16:32 (two months ago) Permalink

the adrenaline-charged bubblegum pop of Seabrook's prose.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 4 June 2018 16:39 (two months ago) Permalink

whatever led to Tossin’ and Turnin’s popularity in 1961 has faded over time... One hypothesis: Tossin’ and Turnin’s success had more to do than just the song...perhaps Bobby Lewis was a huge personality. Great looks. Amazing dancer.

it's so sad that the civilizations from the mid 20th century didn't leave behind any records of what life was like back then, how people lived, what they looked like, how they even consumed audio-based art in those primitive times.

fact checking cuz, Monday, 4 June 2018 16:53 (two months ago) Permalink

I had never heard of Zedd until I clicked on this thread.

Mr. Snrub, Monday, 4 June 2018 16:55 (two months ago) Permalink

so ya, i think katherine's point about sampling credits is valid, for sure

and while i actually enjoy the nitpicking of his argument, the point he is trying to make is that hits have become more homogenous in their sound, which i think is accurate, at least to my ear

and at the bottom he links this:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-music/pop-music-too-loud-and-all-sounds-the-same-official-idUSBRE86P0R820120726

Researchers in Spain used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down audio and lyrical content into data that can be crunched, to study pop songs from 1955 to 2010.

...

They also found the so-called timbre palette has become poorer. The same note played at the same volume on, say, a piano and a guitar is said to have a different timbre, so the researchers found modern pop has a more limited variety of sounds.

i think the whole loudness wars has been dying out in recent years, actually, but there is something to be said for the resemblance of timbre palettes in top hits

it could be that producers are seeking the same type of heavy kick drum and using mostly synths in middle frequencies to create lush sounds, but the details are super scarce

it's more of a curiosity for me rather than some hidden agenda btw

F# A# (∞), Monday, 4 June 2018 17:01 (two months ago) Permalink

he also links a study that says the opposite, so

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 17:03 (two months ago) Permalink

i think he does that in an effort to provide transparency, which is actually pretty laudable

F# A# (∞), Monday, 4 June 2018 17:08 (two months ago) Permalink

from the 'most timeless songs' article:

For the entire 1980s, Don’t Stop Believin’ is the most-played song on Spotify. This song barely charted on Billboard. From the 70’s: Bohemian Rhapsody. If we were to time travel to either decade, no one would reasonably believe that these two songs would be cultural touchstones for their respective decades in 2015.

apparently hitting #9 on the Top 100 counts as 'barely charting' and while a large part of Don't Stop Believin's current popularity stems from usage in TV etc., this seems like an absurd assertion to make about Bohemian Rhapsody considering its huge success in the UK at the time? not even good at the 'data' part of 'data journalism'

re: the 1985 Max Martin thing, I think they're trying to say that Max Martin has written & produced more hits than any other producer/songwriter since 1985 (when their dataset for producer credits starts)

ufo, Monday, 4 June 2018 17:26 (two months ago) Permalink

taking credits as gospel is a bad idea imo

credits are political, they're a summary of leverage and not of cotributions

any argument constructed on the foundation that credits can be taken at face value is inherently flawed and will have to be thrown out entirely the next time another cultural or legal paradigm shift changes the way people within the industry think about the process

james brooks, Monday, 4 June 2018 17:27 (two months ago) Permalink

^ otm

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 17:30 (two months ago) Permalink

james otm

also yes stop citing seabrook. having a good job doesn’t make him not a dumbass

maura, Monday, 4 June 2018 17:58 (two months ago) Permalink

i have never read john seabrook

but anyway, the dudes the wrote the pudding article made another page of the top #1s in 3,000 places

https://pudding.cool/2018/06/music-map/

F# A# (∞), Monday, 4 June 2018 18:08 (two months ago) Permalink

1/ finally updated the music map for May 2018. This is a breakdown of the most popular song in 3,000 cities around the world from last month. https://t.co/iHni87eJbu

— Matt Daniels (@matthew_daniels) June 4, 2018

F# A# (∞), Monday, 4 June 2018 18:08 (two months ago) Permalink

4/ worth nothing that most of Mexico is listening to a song by NJ-based Nicky Jam and Colombian J. Balvin.

it sure is

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 4 June 2018 18:25 (two months ago) Permalink

worth noting even more is that said track was produced by two Dutch guys

breastcrawl, Monday, 4 June 2018 18:52 (two months ago) Permalink

i am not convinced by this analysis that music today is more homogeneous than it was in the 1980s (!)

may i ask why the article was shared in this thread? like, "here's evidence of why we need to be taking this evil new strain of poptimism seriously!" or something? personally i was considering reviving this thread with a link to the thread where some of ilm's influential early adopters are heaping praise onto the new charlie puth record, thus setting us up to thoughtfully enjoy whatever ed sheeran, maroon 5, meghan trainor and james arthur put out next. phew, the poptimist threat has been vanquished and all is well again!

dyl, Monday, 4 June 2018 19:30 (two months ago) Permalink

No particular reason

Feel free to post whatever u like man

F# A# (∞), Monday, 4 June 2018 20:29 (two months ago) Permalink

I am still so annoyed by that "timeless" article. Early takedowns, including me going on about their amateur-level misreading of Pearl Jam data, can be found here: songs that weren't a bands biggest hit, but have gone on to be their legacy song and biggest iTunes seller

noel gallaghah's high flying burbbhrbhbbhbburbbb (Doctor Casino), Monday, 4 June 2018 21:37 (two months ago) Permalink

For example, in 1961, Bobby Lewis’s Tossin’ and Turnin’ spent 7 weeks at #1. For all intents and purposes, Bobby Lewis was the Beyonce of 1961. Yet, have you heard of it? Do you know who Bobby Lewis is? Meanwhile, Etta James’ debut album dropped the same year, with At Last peaking on Billboard at #68. Music historians will regard Bobby Lewis as a pioneer in rock and roll and R&B, yet whatever led to Tossin’ and Turnin’s popularity in 1961 has faded over time. His music, for countless reasons, didn’t persevere in the same way as Etta James’.

One hypothesis: Tossin’ and Turnin’s success had more to do than just the song...perhaps Bobby Lewis was a huge personality. Great looks. Amazing dancer. When we examine pop hits, popularity is so much more than song quality.

It's baffling to me that someone who writes about music would have to turn to extra-musical factors in trying to understand why "Tossin' and Turnin'" was a bigger hit than "At Last"!

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Monday, 4 June 2018 22:18 (two months ago) Permalink

Yet, have you heard of it?

noel gallaghah's high flying burbbhrbhbbhbburbbb (Doctor Casino), Monday, 4 June 2018 22:46 (two months ago) Permalink

haha - lemme rack my brain

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Monday, 4 June 2018 22:53 (two months ago) Permalink

if this is one of pudding's better music-related analyses I'd hate to read the worse ones

― aloha darkness my old friend (katherine)

Things That Can Happen in European Politics is one of the all-time great historical analyses, up there with Albert Thayer Mahan

Arch Bacon (rushomancy), Monday, 4 June 2018 23:40 (two months ago) Permalink

lmao

flamenco blorf (BradNelson), Monday, 4 June 2018 23:46 (two months ago) Permalink

the pudding people don't appear to have any experience writing about music outside those pieces hence their extremely bad engagement with their data

ufo, Monday, 4 June 2018 23:55 (two months ago) Permalink

pudding in, pudding out

noel gallaghah's high flying burbbhrbhbbhbburbbb (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 5 June 2018 01:04 (two months ago) Permalink

Pudding poptimism

omar little, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 02:33 (two months ago) Permalink

Pudtimism

F# A# (∞), Tuesday, 5 June 2018 04:04 (two months ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII&t=21s

i don't even know if we've already done this but lol peak fucknut

Karius whisper (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 7 June 2018 09:29 (two months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

sick of these yet? https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/articles/projects/what-makes-a-hit/

(i haven't read the paper the visualization is based on)

dyl, Sunday, 22 July 2018 21:27 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Oh god

It is funny to me that an article might begin with a caveat along the lines of "pop music is often derided as manufactured...", and then follow that up with the most manufactured and useless I-Made-Some-Arbitrary-Metrics-To-Try-And-Correllate-Characteristics-Of-Pop-Singles-With-Chart-Performance pie-charting

There are so many things I want to learn about with regards to pop music, and statistical charting of tempos and "acousticness" aren't it; if anything, articles like these make me feel as if people are missing the point, making pop music all about "numbers" instead of "feelings"

flamboyant goon tie included, Monday, 23 July 2018 13:37 (three weeks ago) Permalink

i wanna see an analysis of those EQ tweaks they do to rev into the chorus of every song now

flopson, Monday, 23 July 2018 15:28 (three weeks ago) Permalink

yeah i get the sense that these features don't adequately describe the audio analysis tools they are leaning so heavily on as the basis of their work. like the most this one says is 'sometimes the tool gets the tempo wrong by a factor of 2' but none i have seen so far has critically examined whether the select metrics these tools zero-in on are actually that salient as far as whether people respond positively or negatively to music. of course by these methods lyrical content is considered nearly irrelevant beyond its mere presence and how 'speechy' it is, lol. ridiculous.

dyl, Monday, 23 July 2018 16:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink

of course by these methods lyrical content is considered nearly irrelevant beyond its mere presence and how 'speechy' it is

― dyl, Monday, July 23, 2018 12:59 PM (one hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

to be fair this is also the music-critic party line

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Monday, 23 July 2018 18:24 (three weeks ago) Permalink

"sometimes the tool gets the tempo wrong by a factor of 2" is insanely obvious to anyone who's ever used serato

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 23 July 2018 19:53 (three weeks ago) Permalink

another thing i sometimes wonder about these pieces that do audio analyses of hits is how often the tracks they feed into their analytical tools aren't even the correct ones. like the one i linked above says it sourced audio from spotify (if i'm understanding correctly), but, like, you don't even have to go that far back in the history of the charts before you start turning up hits that aren't on any of the streaming services or digital download stores. not to mention the many that aren't available on digital platforms as their original versions, but ARE available as bad, cheap-sounding re-recordings from 15 years later. personally when i am searching for old + relatively forgotten chart music i often have to turn to youtube when the streameries don't have the proper versions!

dyl, Tuesday, 24 July 2018 00:36 (three weeks ago) Permalink

If I had a way to automatically deactivate the Spotify audio-attribute API whenever anybody tries to use it to explain or predict hits, I would totally do that...

glenn mcdonald, Tuesday, 24 July 2018 15:44 (three weeks ago) Permalink

ha. yeah, and dyl otm - - - i'm waiting for something like "we analyzed fifty bubblegum hits from the early 70s, and surprisingly, the feature most predictive of a hit in this period was tinny late 80s digital production"

This is a total Jeff Porcaro. (Doctor Casino), Tuesday, 24 July 2018 15:59 (three weeks ago) Permalink

"the late 2010s were characterized by an uptick in songs that sound as if they have been shifted up a half-step in key"

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Tuesday, 24 July 2018 19:51 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Lol that's a joke, but that's actually a good trick. When you tune the track a little sharp it pops on radio

flamboyant goon tie included, Tuesday, 24 July 2018 20:19 (three weeks ago) Permalink

the streameries

nice

16, 35, DCP, Go! (sic), Tuesday, 24 July 2018 20:19 (three weeks ago) Permalink

oh I meant people pitch-shifting videos for YouTube to get around copyright detection but that works too

aloha darkness my old friend (katherine), Tuesday, 24 July 2018 20:26 (three weeks ago) Permalink


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