We all have a good idea about what the term ‘hipster’ signifies. Despite what the title says, I’m aware they are not a race. Get over it.
For those who live under a rock and don’t know, a hipster would look something like this: owns round specs, probably wears flannels and mum jeans, maybe a pair of Docs or Vans, smokes… or simply looks like Kurt Cobain.
Inevitably, the most important requirement for such a title would be to have good music taste, i.e. some miscellaneous gathering of any non-mainstream indie rock, chillwave, garage rock, shoegaze and others, but mainly being old school music – a non-constituent of mainstream modern music.
A friend of mine got triggered by me calling ‘hipster taste’: ‘good music taste’, since he said it is a matter of subjectivity. I, hence, did my research. If you’re reading this, you actually have no right to be provoked. There is, in fact, good and bad music taste. Music is getting worse.
Try comparing The Beatles to Britney Spears, Led Zeppelin to Justin Bieber, Radiohead to Ariana Grande. Quite a joke.
To clarify, the title is somewhat of a hyperbole, maybe there to catch the attention of some politically correct or sensitive individuals, since not all hipsters have great music taste, and such liking is not constricted solely to such a group of people. Let’s face it, I can’t really call my grandma a hipster.
Unsurprisingly, scientists have decided to give their take on the matter. Research portrays a negative result. 500,000 songs of all genres, from 1955 to 2010 were run diligently through algorithms where three metrics of each song were evaluated: timbral variety, harmonic complexity and loudness.
Timbre is practically non-existent in today’s execrable music, due to having no depth and richness to the notes played. There is less diversity in the use of instruments or recording techniques and songs sound practically the same.
Such music is usually composed using either a keyboard, drum machine, sampler or computer software. Is this progressive, modern technology or simply a lack of creativity, experimentalism and originality?
This can be furthermore seen as most chart-topping songs are written by the same 2 people: Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Even lyric intelligence had deteriorated completely, where poetry has turned into pathetic repetitiveness and unoriginality.
The hook of the song is occurring sooner and more often, since our attention spans have minimized. This is one of record companies’ ways to grab our attention and keep listening to the song, due to the vast choice of songs that are available to us, which we can skip through at ease.
Furthermore, songs are made to sound louder by dynamic range compression, where the quietest parts of the song are made to match the loudest part of the song. This ensures that the song is heard amongst all the competition. The consequences are that, by the laws of physics, the sounds are distorted since playing a sound louder than recorded reduces its quality, thus leaving less of an impact.
So, what is the point of all this homogenization? Familiarity. Our brain likes it. Dopamine is released when we hear a song several times and our brain develops a liking towards things we have experienced with our senses before.
We feel safe listening to similar music, since we know we will definitely like it. Predictable music, liked by the masses, is a form of self-assurance for record companies. These songs are marketed by being played everywhere – a form of brainwash to make us like the music and listen to it. They convince us to like a particular song, even if at the beginning we might have disliked it. They, hence, avoid the risk of spending millions of dollars to break a new artist into the industry and failing. However, all of this does not imply that modern, less creative music is not truly enjoyed by some of its listeners.
Many genuinely talented artists never make it into the well-established music industry. This is why modern music is getting worse. Not because this generation is unable to produce such varied, original music, but because most are not given the opportunity to produce it and share it. They are too different. Too risky. Too original.
Despite calling the majority of modern music bad, it is undeniable that such music makes the listeners happy. If that is the case, one shouldn’t condemn such music too harshly. However, we should not allow ourselves to fall for the industrialised, commercial products of the West instead of an artpiece called “music”. It is vital to keep such creative and authentic music alive.
Written by: Michaela Pia Camilleri