Is it me or is music shit?


It’s day after Australia Day, so Australia’s taxpayer-funded hipster national radio station Triple J has run its Hottest 100 songs of the previous twelve months. They are voted by the sort of people who strongly support moving Australia Day to a different date (60 per cent in favour, versus 10 per cent of the general population), so needless to say you probably haven’t heard most/all of them, and let me tell you, you’re not missing out on much (with the possible exception of Amy Shark):

1. “Confidence” – Ocean Alley

2. “Losing It” – FISHER

3. “SICKO MODE” – Travis Scott

4. “This Is America” – Childish Gambino

5. “I Said Hi” – Amy Shark

6. “Be Alright” – Dean Lewis

7. “Groceries” – Mallrat

8. “When the party’s over” – Billie Eilish

9. “Dinosaurs” – Ruby Fields

10. “Knees” – Ocean Alley

Only three of the above songs have crossed over to the ARIA singles chart for 2018,  which actually still counts sales as opposed to the once great US BILLBOARD charts which increasingly includes streaming, since fewer people then ever actually want to pay for music. Remember when it was not unusual for an album to sell 10 million copies just in the States alone? Good times. Last year the top album in America was the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman” with 1.3 million sales. Coincidentally, this has also been the case in Australia, with just over 200,000 copies sold.

Why is it all so dismal? Perhaps this is part of the answer:

Pop songs have become angrier and sadder over the past 60 years, experts say.

Researchers analysed lyrics in best-selling songs from the 1950s to 2016 to find expressions of anger and sadness had increased, while words about joy had dropped.

The US study team looked at lyrics of more than 6,000 songs from Billboard Hot 100 in each year.

Tones expressed in each song were analysed using ‘automatic quantitative sentiment’ which looked at each word or phrase in the song with a set of tones they express.

The combination of the tones expressed by all words and phrases of the lyrics determines the sentiment of that song.

A cautionary note, however: “Study co-author Lior Shamir, of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, said: ‘The change in lyrics sentiments does not necessarily reflect what the musicians and songwriters wanted to express, but is more related to what music consumers wanted to listen to in each year.'” So perhaps it’s all our fault after all.