Music History

It’s Happening: Pop Music is Changing in the Age of Trump, Brexit and North Korea

These aren’t exactly the most cheery of times: Donald Trump, Brexit, terrorism, white supremacists, North Korean bluster, climate change–you know the list. Add in the fear spread by the 24-hour news cycle and t24-hoursures and weirdness of social media you might find yourself reaching for that bottle of scotch more often. Because pop culture offers a feedback loop on the mood of society, we’re starting to see a musical shift, especially when it comes to music.

According to this post in the Daily Mail, new music coming out today is, on average, both slower and darker than it was five years ago.

In 2012, the average speed of popular songs was 113.5 BPM. Today, that number is 90.5 BPM. That’s a drop of 20%. An example is “Evolve” by Imagine Dragons.

Analysis of the top 25 most-streamed songs on Spotify also shows that the percentage of songs recorded at 120 BPM or greater has fallen to 12.5%. Compare that to 2012 where 56% of those songs were at 120 BPM or higher.

The popularity of slow, intense ballads could indicate that people just aren’t into happy pop to the degree they once were. Ed Sheeran is riding this wave, racking up 2.1 billion YouTube views of this song.

There also seems to be an increase in the number of hits that are darker and slower tracks often written in a minor key, perhaps because people are becoming more introspective about life. Dancing while throwing your arms in the air like you don’t care doesn’t seem appropriate right now.

There are other reasons for this shift in musical tastes.

  • We’ve been in a pop cycle for a long time. People may just be burned out on happy, pop songs that are Auto-Tuned to perfection following the ubiquitous Max Martin model.
  • Whenever there’s a Republican in the White House, rock tends to see an uptick as young, liberal people feel an increased need to speak out using music. I predicted as much when Donald Trump became president. This new angry music is now just beginning to bubble up into mainstream consciousness.

Anger and confusion tend to sow interesting shifts in music. Let’s see where things go.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37874 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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