Step aside, men: Study of pop music finds rise in sadness, upward trend in female chart toppers

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I’m gunna let you finish, Kanye, but uh…

Female singers with upbeat dance songs are far more likely to top the music charts nowadays, according to new findings by researchers at the University of California, Irvine. The study also found a downward musical trend in happiness and an increase in sadness.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, examined 500,000 popular songs released in the UK over a three decade period, from 1985 and 2015, and categorized them each based on their mood.

“‘Happiness’ is going down, ‘brightness’ is going down, ‘sadness’ is going up, and at the same time, the songs are becoming more ‘danceable’ and more ‘party-like,’” co-author Natalia L. Komarova told The Associated Press.

Of course, researchers emphasize that a gradual decrease in the average “happiness” index does not mean that all successful songs in 1985 were “happy” and all successful songs in 2015 were “sad.” They were looking for average trends in the acoustic properties of music and the moods describing the sounds.

The overall mood shifts in the songs’ musical elements fall in line with past studies that have examined lyrical content changes over the years. They have found that positive emotions, on the whole, have declined; while indicators of loneliness and social isolation have increased.

“So it looks like, while the overall mood is becoming less happy, people seem to want to forget it all and dance,” says Komarova, a mathematician and evolutionary biologist who led the study. She added, “The public seems to prefer happier songs, even though more and more unhappy songs are being released each year.”

Some songs with a low happiness index in 2014 include “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith, “Whispers” by Passenger and “Unmissable” by Gorgon City. Songs from 1985 with a high happiness index include “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen, “Would I Lie to You?” by the Eurythmics, and “Freedom” by Wham!

Additionally, researchers found the most successful musical genres of recent are dance and pop, with a “clear downward trend” in the success of rock, beginning in the early 2000s.

The researchers also found that the “maleness” of songs — or the frequency of male singers in popular music — has decreased over the last 30 years. “Interestingly, successful songs exhibit their own distinct behavior: They tend to be happier, more party-like, less relaxed and more likely to be sung by a woman than most.”

The same trends hold true for the US market, based on a preliminary review of data by researchers. A few 2014 hits that meet the study’s qualifications for successful pop music include Clean Bandit‘s “Rather Be,” Taylor Swift‘s “Shake It Off,” and Meghan Trainor‘s “All About That Bass.”

The findings arrive at a critical time when the music industry is grappling with issues of gender inequality, where men are overwhelmingly dominating the visible ranks of artists and songwriters, despite studies such as these, which show a strong cultural/consumer yearning for female dance/pop hits in the contemporary global music climate.

Read the fully study by UC Irvine here.

H/T: Stereogum

Live music bolsters brain wave synchronization, study says

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new scientific study has confirmed what we’ve long felt to be true — that brain wave activity is heightened in the presence of live music. The study, led by neuroscientist and psychology professor Dr. Jessica Grahn, finds that “people enjoy music more when the performance is live and when experienced as part of a group.” 

The new findings add further scientific evidence to the notion that humans are social creatures indeed. “When individuals attend a live concert and listen to music as a group, their brains waves synchronize – a bond that indicates each individual is having a better time as part of a collective,” adds Grahn.

Grahn’s research team hired a band to perform for 24 participants in an audience, measuring the brain wave data of musicians and attendees, while also taking motion captures of how people move to music.

Two more data sets were collected during the study. The second condition broadcasted a video of the band’s performance to participants, in real time, using the same acoustics of the live performance. The third condition occurred afterward, where participants experienced the recorded concert, but this time, they couldn’t interact with each other.

After organizing the data, researchers were able to determine that the “synchronization” of brain waves amongst all participants was “greatest in the presence of live performers.”

“When the brain waves were synchronized in this live condition, they synchronized around the rate at which people tend to feel the beat,” Grahn explains. “We call this ‘the delta band.’ This seemed to be the highest in the live condition.”

Upon further analysis of people’s body movements, the study offered one fascinating hypothesis as to why music as a whole has evolved over the years.

“There’s some evidence that shows one of the reasons music evolved is because it allows large groups of people to synchronize their movement,” says Grahn. “When people move together, there is evidence they feel a sense of community and more altruistic.”

Via: Neuroscience News, H/T: MixMag