Researchers Say Pop Songs Are Getting Slower and Sadder

From the Vancouver Sun:

The oldies are indeed golden when it comes to music, according to a new study of more than 1,000 Top 40 songs spanning five decades.

Researchers from Canada and Germany report pop music recordings have become progressively more “sad-sounding” over time, as characterized by slower tempos and increased use of minor mode – that is, scales that evoke the same feelings one experiences when pondering orphan puppies or long-weekend gas prices.

The study found the proportion of minor-mode songs has fully doubled since the mid-1960s.

This increase comes at the expense of happier songs penned in major mode, which have gone from representing 85 per cent of top pop songs to just 42.5 per cent.

“Many people assume pop music is banal in its happiness. But most songs now are actually in minor key,” says lead author Glenn Schellenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

Read more here.


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.

3 thoughts on “Researchers Say Pop Songs Are Getting Slower and Sadder

  • June 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Instead of sad and slower, it should actually read more and often.

  • June 5, 2012 at 11:35 am

    minor notes equals cool! ask Tony Iommi and Geaser Butler 🙂


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