August 28, 2012


New Study Says Today's Music Is More Depressing Than Ever

Michael Brennan
Michael Brennan

Little morose lately? Feeling depressed? Well, it might not be all those random shootings, the state of the economy or that cheating BF/GF that are bringing you down: It's your music. Or so says a bunch of scientists. 

Here goes: A new study published in the journal Psychology Of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts [via AV Club] suggests that American pop music is getting more and more depressing. The study, which examined more than 1,000 Top 40 songs from the past 50 years, found that songs have used minor chords and slower tempos increasingly over those five decades. Researchers say this begets negative feelings, as opposed to happy songs which tend to have faster tempos and major chords. 

But we may not be quite as depressed as listeners in the 1990s; the study found that that decade boasted the largest number of slower-tempo hits. Another interesting find: Pop hits have in recent years taken a turn toward emotional ambiguity, aka songs with a mix of happy and sad aspects, like a slower tempo paired with major chords, or faster tempos with minor chords. Those emotionally confused Green Day fans are making more and more sense now, eh?

But what's with all the emo bewilderment? Why now? Researchers speculate it's due to the rise of consumerism and individualism in American culture. They claim it “produces a demand for more choice” among consumers who want to demonstrate "sophistication in their taste.” So, straight up happy songs, researchers suggest, can sound “naïve and slightly juvenile” to today’s pop radio listeners, while artists that utilize emotional ambiguity can be seen as conveying depth or seriousness, which is a total downer.

My suggestion: Forget "sophistication." Forget "depth." Screw "individuality." Let's all just party, dammit, and let's do it together. Here's my perpetual upper tune: Supergrass' "Alright," which I'm pretty sure is in a major chord and played at a speedy clip. So, feel alright... (Note all the band members are wearing matching t-shirts--how's that for "individuality"?)