Why all pop songs sound the same

There’s been a lot of links posted to reddit.com in the last couple of days which point out the formulaic banality of Linkin Park and all of their ilk, pop rock / nue metal bands who go around like their shit don’t stink because they’ve figured out how to play a minor progression verse with a major key bridge, under some know-nothing lyrics about love and all that.

By playing two Linkin Park songs simultaneously, one in the left channel and one in the right, you can hear what I mean…

/all_linkin_park_songs_sound_exactly_the_same.mp3

Aside from the fact that all white, American, middle class and therefore angry bands all use this same chord progression (or extremely similar variants of) comedian Rob Paravonian points out this is nothing new…

However, there is also another good reason why the homogenisation of pop rock produces so much formulaic tripe. The screen shot below is of a program called Digital Performer, which works in the same way as many other MIDI music sequencer programs of it’s kind, which musicians and engineers use to cobble together the snippets of marijuana induced random bollocks which float through the minds of the silly haircut brigade, otherwise known as your favourite band, when they’re “working” on new material in the studio.

dp.png

You can see on the right hand side panel all the inputs and on the left all the outputs. Each output is looped over again, so the player who recorded the part only had to get it right once, for the music editing software to copy that correct version until the next section.

So for example, the band of your choice go into the studio, bash something mildly interesting down, the producer takes all the ghite out until all that’s left are the bits he can paste together into a radio friendly “hit”.

When it comes time to take out all the awful notes which are out of tune, the audio wave form editor can overlay the pitch of the notes with a graphic that allows the engineer to de-tune the offending note, until it’s in the required key, so that it is at least in the correct scale for the chord it is being played over.

This effect carries certain artefacts along with it, in as much as you have to be careful not to over use it – which can make the whole performance sound stilted – also known as the Britney Spears effect.

spears.png

Each yellow line represents the pitch of the note being played or sung. By dragging the lines around, completely out of tune notes can be made to sound as if they were played or sung correctly.

The differences between recording a band who can actually play and write their own material and recording a pop song in the way very briefly described here, are ones of time and money. A band like Radiohead think nothing of going into the studio one day and not coming out until they’re good and ready, many thousands of pounds later.

(Insert name of pop rock band here) on the other hand, will only block book perhaps 6 or 10 weeks off from touring and in that time they’ll be expected to lay down all of the basic samples which the engineer and producer can then manipulate into a new album, leaving the band free to go back on the road and pay off all the loans they had to take out to become famous for the sake of being famous in the first place.

2 comments on “Why all pop songs sound the same

  1. lol lee

    i think there’d s video out there somewhere that shows a singer singing poorly… and then how the digital guys tweak some waves and put her back in tune. It’s meant to show how so much of the laud and glory that goes to pop stars is unwarranted drrooolll

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