Monday, July 23, 2018

Pop music, by the numbers: 1950-2015

1. In the past sixty years, we have had only two major changes in music

By using an algorithm called clustering, we can find similarities/clusters of artistes and their music using their song features.

Using this approach, we have two clusters of artistes — The String Lovers and The Poetics. The reason we chose these weird names lies in the two song features that define these clusters best: Instrumentalness and Speechiness.

Instrumentalness predicts whether a track contains no vocals on a scale of 0 to 1. “Ooh” and “aah” sounds are treated as instrumentals as well. The closer the value is to 1, the more likely there is no vocal content (e.g. a soundtrack) and the closer it is to zero, the more vocal it is (e.g. rap or spoken word).

Speechiness detects the presence of spoken words in a track.
  • The String Lovers score high on Instrumentalness but low Speechiness. This means that artistes in this period tend to favor instruments as opposed to speech.
  • The Poetics are the direct opposite. They score pretty high in Speechiness but very low on Instrumentalness.
The other interesting thing about these clusters is when they appear on the Billboards Hot 100.
  • Most String Lovers appeared on Billboard before the 1990s.
  • Most Poetics appeared on Billboard after the 1990s.
  • The 90s itself seemed to be a pivotal time in music as we see with the ~50–50 split between String Lovers and Poetics. This meant that artistes were split between going with this new type of music or sticking to the existing sound.
In summary:
  • The 90s was an extremely important time in music.
  • The decline of rock bands and the rise of Hip-Hop played a major role in steering music to where it is today.
  • Love is a popular theme across songs for the past six decades but the approach to love might differ across the different eras of music.
  • Yes, modern artistes may be louder but it’s BECAUSE we have content :).
  • Bonus Point: Michael Jackson, despite being most popular in the 80s, is a Poetic! He was ahead of his time!

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