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Music Industry

Have you noticed this new strange trend with vocals in songs?

One of the most maddening things about music over the quarter century (well, for me, anyway) is The Loudness Wars this insane practice of making the apparent volume of music louder by adding a lot of compression. This squishes the audio signal, ruining the dynamic range and causing a lot of listener fatigue.

Here’s an example what I’m talking about

This has had some interesting compensatory side effects. NPR reports that vocalists have actually gotten quieter over the years when compared to the band with which they’re singing.

According to the University of Oldenburg in Germany, quieter lead singers have become a thing. Some genres are more affected than others, too. I quote from NPR:

“Kai Siedenburg and his colleague analyzed the four highest-ranked songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1946 and 2020, along with top songs in the country, rap, pop, rock, and heavy metal genres. When they compared the loudness of singers to everything else — guitars, drums and more — they found that rock and metal had the most drastic shifts in volume.”

The effect seems to be most pronounced in rock, alternative, and indie. It’s worth reading what Beck has to say about all this. Once you know what to listen for, you’ll hear it immediately.

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 38427 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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