Today's musical artists are providing listeners with less musical variety while relying upon permutations of the same basic chords and sound bits. As a result, pop music has become homogeneous, but here's how we can change that.
While some might say that comparing Beethoven's 9th Symphony and Katy Perry's Roar is much like comparing apples and oranges, this comparison stands because the role of these two songs in musical development has been quite the same. Both songs spent an extended amount of time as the most popular song of their era. Both songs paved the way for other hit songs within their respective genre. And both are the products of artists who understood the musical demands of their time.
However, there is one glaring difference between these two songs, and it definitely doesn't take a lesson in music theory to hear it. Katy Perry's harmonic material is composed of only 4 distinct notes while Beethoven's harmonic material is at minimum 12 distinct notes for just his Ode to Joy.
Here's the problem with pop music today: Producers and artists alike are taking fewer risks within the pop music genre because listeners of today's music have a lower standard for music appreciation. Case and point: Iggy Azalea's "Black Widow" and "Fancy" are composed of effectively the same cords with different lyrics. Yet both songs were on the Billboard Top 10 list at the same time.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, musical dynamics revolve around 3 major components:
-Timbre: the sound color, texture or tone quality
-Pitch: the chords, melody and tonal arrangement that contribute to the harmony
-Volume: the loudness with which the music is intended to be played.
Since Beethoven's time, timbre and pitch have decreased while volume has increased. As timbre decreases, songs lose their "uniqueness" and the homogeneity manifests at a subliminal level. In addition, pitch has decreased because musicians are afraid to move from one chord to another, instead opting to follow what the well-trodden path of musicians who came before them. Artists can get away with this because we have been conditioned to lower our standard of good music. And lastly, the average volume has increased, desensitizing us to musical nuances.
So, how do we increase our aptitude for more complex and dynamic music?
This is where experimenting with music comes in. Personally, after hearing the dissonance between the classical genre and pop music today, I tried to find artists and genres that were pushing the boundaries of modern pop. Here's where I stumbled upon an untapped, under-promoted and frankly underappreciated pool of genres and musicians. Dubbed the future of hip-hop by LA Weekly, artist Masego has forged a genre called TrapHouseJazz.
But what makes Masego stand out? Like many of the classical greats of the classical era of music, Masego is an improvisational composer. He plays almost every single instrument, is well versed in modern musical equipment, and sings his own vocals. He creates nearly a song a day and caters to multiple genres while still pushing the boundaries with unique musical components.
By stepping out of our musical comfort zones, appreciating the renaissance musicians of today and being cognizant of musical oversimplification in pop music today, together we can leave a musical footprint that we can be proud of.