Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

Community News Network

June 27, 2014

Wanna write a pop song? Here's a foolproof equation

BATH, England — Why do people go to Glastonbury Music Festival? No, it's not a rhetorical question. Once you take away socializing, camping, sex, drugs, fast food, crystal healing, herbal remedies, face painting and sunburn/mudsliding (all of which can be achieved at a cost of less than $365 elsewhere), we must at least entertain the possibility that they're attracted by the music. And music, in the Glastonbury sense, means pop songs.

Pop songs (generally) stay in one key, are in 4/4 time, last between three and five minutes, are organized into chunks of four or eight bars, have a repeating chorus played two to four times, include the title sung at least three times, and feature short melodic fragments that repeat a lot to help everyone to remember them. Of course, there's a lot of great popular music in the world that breaks these rules, but most of the time, when you see a large mass of people in a mosh pit or field having a communal experience, they're usually experiencing just this - the pop song formula.

The formula, in its current form, arguably arrived with us sometime in the mid to late '60s, although it had been quietly evolving through a quasi-Darwinian process of listener selection for a few hundred years before that. And if Glastonbury 2014 is any indicator, it's still the dominant song species.

Let's test this assertion by looking at the most popular songs by Glastonbury's most popular artists - those headlining on the Pyramid Stage. So we can define Glastonbury's 2014's "favorite" songs as the largest number of Spotify streams by the top three headlining artists, appearing on the Pyramid Stage for each of the three nights.

They are - Arcade Fire/Elbow/Lily Allen, Metallica/Jack White/Robert Plant, Kasabian/The Black Keys/Ed Sheeran. I've amended White and Plant's top songs to account for their previous bands having more plays than their more recent solo work, working on the assumption that these high-profile classics are likely to be a big part of the appeal for fans.

There's an argument for deleting Sheeran's "Hobbit"-formed "I See Fire", but as it's impossible to account for the effect of cross-media selling on a song's popularity I've left it in. So, based on this data set, the top nine songs of Glastonbury 2014 could be said to be - "Reflektor," "One Day Like This," "Not Fair," "Enter Sandman," "Seven Nation Army," "Stairway to Heaven," "Fire," "Lonely Boy" and "I See Fire."

 All these songs are in 4/4 time and stay in one key throughout. The shortest is "Lonely Boy" (3:13) and the longest is" Stairway to Heaven" (7:58); the median average of the group is 4:23. They all include the title sung more than once with the exception of "Seven Nation Army" (only once, in verse 1) and "Enter Sandman" (the title doesn't appear). Seven of the nine have a repeating chorus featuring the title. They all use 4 bar phrases. Most of them feature a repeating melodic riff of between one and four bars in length.

Does the pop song formula mean that all popular music sounds the same? Clearly not, and there will be plenty of songs performed at the festival this weekend that challenge one or more of these norms. As online streaming overtakes downloads and retail sales, the historical requirement for songs to be radio-friendly may be starting to diminish - leading to some interesting current challenges to traditional song forms, even in the mainstream. But as a musicologist (and, yes, as a fan) I'm interested in the way we love popular music as much for its similarities as its differences.

We are endlessly entertained by songs that fit within known parameters, and we only need slight variations from the predictable to make something quirky or interesting (indeed, the law demands such variation, the lower threshold of songwriting creativity being defined by an absence of plagiarism). These formulaic characteristics can be found in almost any US/UK corpus of mainstream popular song you'd care to analyze from the past 50 years. A huge number of classics exhibit all of the norms - and yet within those constraints, skilled songwriters and artists can achieve creativity that absorbs and enthralls us. Crowd-pleasing songs simultaneously tread the well-trodden path and the road not taken.

The popular song, historically speaking, has served two main functions - community singing, and community dancing, and you'll see plenty of both in front of the Pyramid Stage. So if you're in the crowd, watching the crowd on TV, or even on that stage this weekend, look over the sea of joyful singing faces and dancing bodies, and let the song remain the same.

               

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Church's denied request for National Guard visit draws national attention

    A Missouri church finds itself in the middle of a media storm after the Missouri National Guard, citing short notice and time constraints, was not able to fulfill a request last week to appear at the church’s vacation Bible school.

    August 1, 2014

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

Featured Ads
Poll

Would you be in favor of or opposed to housing at the closed CCA facility at Wolters Industrial Park some of the unaccompanied children who have crossed illegally into the U.S. and Texas?

In favor
Opposed
Not sure/undecided
Don't care
     View Results
Mineral Wells Index


Click on a photo to visit our SmugMug page

Front page
Weather Underground Radar
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Must Read
Seasonal Content
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide