At some point during the five minutes and 34 seconds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” I’m transported back to the summer of 1991.
The song appeared on July 29 of that year, right when I was hosting a series of alt-rock nights at a Toronto dance club called La Vie. If I were ever moved to create a playlist featuring my personal songs of the summer, it would right near the top, along with “Cherub Rock” from the Smashing Pumpkins (1993), Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” (2001) and “Dani California” by the Chili Peppers (2006).
Lately, though, I’ve had a nagging feeling about summer pop songs. Was it my imagination or have they been sounding more and more the same?
Apparently not. If you reduce pop songs to their sonic fingerprints, there has been a strange convergence of sound involving attributes like loudness/volume, valence (how happy the song sounds), energy (tempo, mainly), danceability, and something called “acousticness” (the likelihood that the song uses acoustic instruments).
Researchers looked at music between 1988 and 1997 and found that the sounds were wide-ranging and diverse. But since 2009, a strange homogeneity has set in.
The New York Times has the story here along with some really interesting charts like this.