#1
First, let me state that I believe musical taste is a reflection of the brain's ability to foresee and analyze patterns. I'm not saying directly that someone's musical taste makes them smart or dumb, but rather either their ability or willingness to put effort into listening to the music they hear. I've been talking with friends recently and it seems to me that pop music today is the easiest music to figure the patterns out in. Mainstream rap and pop music are quite repetitive with simple background beat/"music" (hold on, don't jump all over me yet). I hypothesize that this appeals to the largest amount of people because it takes the least amount of effort to understand. I (and others) also believe that it is engineered this way. This could explain the "catchiness" of popular music and its tendency to get stuck in your head whether you even like it or not. In my opinion, the hierarchy of musical taste (or a rough overseeing of) goes relatively like this:

Keep in mind this is a general outline and I hate to generalize genres in this way but as a very rough outline, I see complexity on a scale as simplest to most complex as thus:

1. Pop/Mainstream Rap/Country
No one can argue that generally all of these types of music use simple looped beats or riffs and many mainstream songs lack lyrical depth.

For instance:
Black Eyed Peas - I've Got a Feeling

We start off with a very repetitive, simple beat that continues throughout the song. It's a very normal 4/4 electronia-esque loop and is easy to pick out a pattern. Shortly after the intro, electronic drums are added. This is a very good recipe for popular dance music, but as far as grabbing the attention of anyone interested in music from a philosophical standpoint, it does not offer much. Needless to say, very few will actually understand my point in this and shrug this all off as bias against pop music. Take a look at the lyrics as well:


I've gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night
that tonight's gonna be a good night
that tonight's gonna be a good good night

I've gotta feeling (woohoo) that tonight's gonna be a good night
that tonight's gonna be a good night
that tonight's gonna be a good good night

Tonight's the night night
Let's live it up
I got my money
Let's spend it up

Go out and smash it
like Oh My God
Jump off that sofa
Let's get get OFF

I know that we'll have a ball
if we get down
and go out
and just loose it all

I feel stressed out
I wanna let it go
Lets go way out spaced out
and loosing all control

Fill up my cup
Mazel tov
Look at her dancing
just take it off

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

The words lack meaning and seem written to cater to current teenagers and college students concerned with the "party" scene.

I'm honestly not trying to sound old and scenile when I talk about this, I just am trying to analyze the music. Another perhaps better example is Tik Tok by Kesha:


Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy
(Hey, what up girl?)
Put my glasses on, I’m out the door - I’m gonna hit this city (Let’s go)
Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back
I’m talking - pedicure on our toes, toes
Trying on all our clothes, clothes
Boys blowing up our phones, phones
Drop-toping, playing our favorite cds
Pulling up to the parties
Trying to get a little bit tipsy

Don’t stop, make it pop
DJ, blow my speakers up
Tonight, I’mma fight
‘Til we see the sunlight
Tick tock, on the clock
But the party don’t stop no
Woah-oh oh oh
Woah-oh oh oh

This song is a prime example of a song primarily engineered to make money. Simple looped beat, lyrics that cater to the not-so-musically-inclined bunch of high school/college aged people who can relate to going out and drinking and partying every night. It's a "fun" song. But is it music? Not good music, at least.

Other popular music such as rap and country share similarities with pop music in that they incorporate simple loops and riffs, but we start to gain slightly more depth with some artists' work in these genres. As I see it, there is musically (lyrically) acceptable rap, and for lack of a better term, garbage.

Pioneers of the rap genre deserve respect. Tupac, Biggie, and other artists of the 90's are great lyricists. While I do not see them exactly as musicians, they have great poetic talent in terms of writing their raps, etc. The musical (as in background music) complexity in rap music still lacks quite a bit of depth, but again the aim of rap music is not to captivate listeners with intricate music - the focus is on intricate lyrics -- which I believe the founders of rap deliver. New artists, like Lil Wayne and Soulja boy don't involve the same meaning to the lyrics. This brings me to believe that a large portion of music produced today is heavily influenced on contracts with producers rather than writing music/lyrics based on inspiration.

For people that think like I do, music that is produced and widely played has lost the true essence of music itself. There are many people that don't care about it the way I do and say "I just listen to it because it's fun to listen to!" I have no problem with that. To each his own, but I believe that your musical tastes may be affected by a growingly more "lazy" society which has lost interest in pursuing what it actually means to be "musically gifted".

I know the next part of this will sound ridiculously biased, but I am trying to look at this in the most fair way possible. Keep in mind music is a very objective subject (lol) and no one has to agree with what I say.

Music that involves lyrics should ALWAYS be written to either make people think or express opinions and feelings. I don't believe songs about sex and drugs really satisfy that requirement. Moreso it seems that they were written to satisfy a contract with a producer, i.e. to make money.

Don't roll your eyes when I reference an Alexisonfire song:


Uncountable numbers written in new fallen snow
I can hear the claws of the beast tapping at my window
Nihilist sleeps and in dreams he sees God's face
Realize even disbelief required a leap of faith
From birth to death, we search for what's yet to be known
We hope and pray and ask, but we are never shown

This verse in itself is a philosophy of religion, including one of the most powerful and thought-provoking lines I've ever heard in a song:

Nihilist sleeps and in dreams he sees God's face
Realize even disbelief requires a leap of faith

They are seeming to say that even disbelief through Atheism is a belief through religion. The words definitely create a paradox and are definitely thought-provoking.

Moreover, for you whom can read guitar tabs, look at the comparison of guitar tabs from this song and Kesha's "Tick Tock":

Chords:
Bb C Dm
Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy
Bb C Dm
Put my glasses on, I’m out the door - I’m gonna hit this city
Bb C Dm
Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
Bb C Dm
Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back
Bb
I’m talking - pedicure on our toes, toes
C Dm
Trying on all our clothes, clothes
Bb
Boys blowing up our phones, phones
Bb
Drop-toping, playing our favorite cds
C Dm
Pulling up to the parties
Bb
Trying to get a little bit tipsy

[CHORUS]
Bb
Don’t stop, make it pop
C Dm
DJ, blow my speakers up
Bb
Tonight, I’mma fight
C Dm
‘Til we see the sunlight
Bb
Tick tock, on the clock
C Dm
But the party don’t stop no
Gm
Oh woah wuh-oh
C
Oh woah wuh-oh

Repetition is quite apparent. Throughout the entire songs, there are 3 chords looped:
G minor, C, and D minor. The hook factor is there to be a catchy song to those who allow themselves to be "caught", but I fail to see any sort of depth or feeling whatsoever involved.


Alexisonfire - Born and Raised (intro):

|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|----------8-/12h13p12--------------------------------------------------------|
|----5h7/9-------------12-/7-5-4-------------2p0-2-7p5-5--5h7---------|
|-/7-----------------------------2—0h2-5p2-5----------7-7-----------------|
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

|------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|----8-8-10p8-10--12----------------------------------------------------------|
|--/9-9------9-------12-9p7/5-5h7p5-7^--7p5-----------------------------|
|----------------------------7-------------7----------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------5-3—h5p3-2------3-5^-3-5p3---|
|------------------------------------------------------5p3h5----------------------|

|------------------------------0-----------------------------------------------------|
|------------------------------1-----------------------------------------------------|
|---------5-5/4-4-2-0----------2-------------------------------------------------|
|---------7-7/5-5-3-2-0h2p0----2---------------------------------------------|
|-2-3p2--------------------3-2-0-------------------------------------------------|
|------3-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|
#2
The complexity is obvious compared to Kesha's song. I believe this to be contributed by actual talent and instrumental skill on the side of Alexisonfire and the lack thereof (or lack of effort thereof, which is just as bad) on Kesha's (rather whoever wrote that song's) part.

Instrumental complexity is directly influenced by musical talent. In short, bands and artists who incorporate complex riffs in my opinion show more musical prowess and knowledge than artists of most popular music. Metal and Melodic Metal, while definitely deferring potential listeners by their screaming and harsh singing, do employ intricate riffs and show mastery of their respective instruments. This is what I believe it takes to be considered a true musician. Not necessarily to play metal/rock/melodic metal/etc but to showcase some mastery and understanding of music and how it works.

That said, it seems that the more understanding or ability to analyze music an individual has, the more "complex" the music is that he or she chooses to listen to. People who play a musical instrument do not normally listen to popular music. I believe it is because their mind thirsts for something more complicated and deep. Depth is achieved through instrumental prowess, lyrical prowess, or a combination of both. While there is a huge variety and span of the genres of music that demonstrate these factors, there is a definite separation of what most of the people that "know" music can draw between pop/rap and virtually everything else.

I won't list everything here, but listen to some stuff by bands like Radiohead, Ratatat, Alexisonfire, All That Remains, MyChildren MyBride, DREAM THEATER etc. And those are very very very few of bands that show what I'm talking about, but if you're curious to try to analyze the difference between these songs and everything else, be my guest.

I will not argue, but anything is open for discussion. Music is in the ears of the beholder, so don't get mad at me for stating my opinion. However, I'm more than happy to talk about it.

Thanks.
#4
Well you're exactly right. THe people who write pop songs are more then capapble of writing musical complex pieces but they're paid to write ridiculously catchy music, which is a talent in itself. And generally the simpler sometihng is the catchier it is.
But I've found personally I've moved through musical genres by their complexity as I got older. I still enjoy music I used to listen to but I've found myself exploring more complex avenues as I find they hold my interest more.
I started off listen to stuff like Linkin Park, Lostprophets, then moved onto the metalcore scene, so Atreyu, ABR, BMTH, and now I find that only very rhythmically complex and technical music interests me, Architects, PTH, BTBAM, Orbs, Fellsilent, Periphery, Meshuggah, Vildjharta.
Although there's a million bands in between who don't fit into this sequence but I still love them, like Muse, Fightstar.
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Last edited by frankibo at Sep 7, 2010,
#5
+1
until i have an idea NO SIG!
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#6
I completely agree. Although, I do think people will get mad at you. I made a post similar to these a few days back, and they chewed me out. That was in Musician Talk, though.

What I thought was, one could write a song using these simple patterns/good sounding, but extremely generic chord progressions and get a real leg up on the competition, and possibly make some money. But would that be ethical, at least to yourself? I don't think so.

Anyway... before I played guitar or wrote my own music, I was very content listening to the same old pop punk and the sort like Fall Out Boy, etc. This was years ago, however, now, I just find it boring. I like the point you made about rap, about how it's about the lyrics and not necessarily the music, which is simplistic at best. I guess some people find that appealing, I've been told its about the beat, which is the same throughout. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Good post, btw.
#7
A lot of good points! I do disagree that popular music has no meaning/feeling to it, however. It does indeed seem that simpler people listen to this simpler music- or is it simply simpler feelings? Partying, sex, drugs, money, yaddayadda..some of the most basic human actions which this music appeals to and ecourages. Even the most sophisticated and intelligent of people would find it distracting if they had to keep thinking about the lyrics and meanings while dancing in a crowd.

I've already forgotten what my point was, so I'll stop for now. A very interesting read and I hope you don't feel that I'm trying to criticise
#8
I completely agree as well ) even when it comes to rock and blues (my favourite genres) the most popular songs are those with repetitive riffs and lyrics ) who hasn't heard "Sunshine of your Love" (Eric Clapton/Cream) or Smells Like Teen Spirit ? Or let's say "Another Brick in the Wall" or the all-time classic "Were Not Gona Take It"from Twisted Sister ? the list continues with just about every AC/DC song
#9
technical progressive metal 4 lyf
No ego-inflating quotes nor stupidly long signatures to be found here.

Move along.

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#11
Yeah - some of your points are pretty stupid - does one song being more complicated make it "better" than another? No - music is subjective. Some people (musicians included) prefer catchiness over technicality. My favourite band at the moment is Tera Melos but I still listen to pop - hell, one of my favourite songs at the moment is California Gurlz.
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#12
I think you need to expand on slightly. The simplicity of some rock songs is maybe contributed to fact that mainstream music listeners, easy listening i'll go with, want simple songs, like Sunshine Of Your Love, where as we know that's Clapton and he of course has ridiculous feel with a guitar and can express himself using notes on a guitar neck maybe better than talking.

I think you missed maybe the biggest influencing factor on writing music, money, we all need to make a living and I think Sunshine Of Your Love is a potential example whereas Tears In Heaven, a complex song, not as complex as Metal etc but more so than contemporary pop, is based on PURE emotion, for god sake his son died.

I also think it's a trend to the decades as well, the 60's is a hard one to call with some simple things like early Beatles, though amazing, simple, to people like Hendrix and latter Beatles with Sgt Pepper which is amazingly complex. The 70's was maybe the most technical mainstream era with Led Zeppelin and the first 8 Black Sabbath records (Both the fathers of Metal btw). The 80's was again simple with mainstream cheesey pop.

I think the 90's got a little complex with Britpop, by the way this is from an English perspective, I don't know enough about American pop to comment, with Blur standing out and decides the cliche of Oasis being simple, listen to Some Might Say and Champagne Supernova. Modern day, noughties, is ridicously simple, yes in the early years rock was top but that was simple compared to the metal scene at the same time, but now as quoted by kingkongjaffa it's simple.
#13
The fact that you seem to need literal messages indicates how little your perception of music is.
You may need 'meaning' to be spelt out in large letters right in front of you, I can find a message and meaning in every song.

As for complexity, technical ability, theoretical knowledge, and the sort are nothing more than tools. They are not necessities for anything.
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