It’s time to cease those perpetual debates with your friends about whether Nirvana’s Nevermind was a musical revolution. Once again, science has done its job, and we can all stop having differing opinions on a subject that was previously thought to be open to subjective interpretation. According to the BBC, a recent scientific study has demonstrated definitively that pop music has been marked by exactly three revolutions, no more, and no less. So it’s time to cool it with that “Elvis changed everything” nonsense.
Queen Mary University and Imperial College in London looked at more than 17,000 songs from the United States’ Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and found exactly three “music revolutions,” something which can definitely be quantified and logged as pure data. The scientists defined a revolution as a “period of extremely rapid change within the charts.” Evaluating a number of musical characteristics, such as timbre, harmony, chord changes, and how they shifted over time, these intrepid researchers were able to pinpoint exactly when these musical revolutions happened, and can confirm that, no, punk rock really didn’t change anything.
The first revolution comes in 1964, with the dying out of traditional jazz and blues chords during the British Invasion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The second occurred in 1983, when new technology ushered in the ascent of synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers—meaning Eurythmics were more of a musical revolution than The Clash, which it will please everyone to know. The last revolution took place in 1991, with the mainstreaming of rap and hip-hop, which researcher Dr. Matthias Mauch describes as “the biggest…rap and hip-hop don’t use a lot of harmony. The emphasis is on speech sounds and rhythm. This was a real revolution: suddenly it was possible that you had a pop song without harmony.”
Also, grumps who complain that pop music is getting less diverse and more bland will now have to shut their mouths, because science has further proven that those people are full of shit. Pop music is not starting to sound the same, no matter how many times Katy Perry puts out basically the same song as Sara Bareilles. “Many people claim music is getting worse and worse, and we didn’t really find anything like that. There is not an overall trend for the composition, the musical ingredients of the charts, to become less diverse,” Mauch added, likely while cueing up some One Direction on his iPhone.
However, there was one blip they found in the diversity of pop music—the rise of ’80s hair metal and arena rock in the second half of that decade. That era of music did cause a temporary reduction in diversity. So congratulations, Warrant: you officially helped make music worse.