Can 2010s pop be that bad? Golden oldies rock Millennials
Following the success of the Freddie Mercury biopic, it is clear young people prefer music from before they were born
Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie about the iconic Freddie Mercury and his band Queen, is a hit on the circuit 40 years after the song soared to number one on charts around the world.
The film’s popularity prompted soul-searching among critics, who underestimated the power of Queen’s music to still pull crowds.
But researchers who have found that Millennials love music from the 1960s to the 1990s would not have been surprised that different generations of fans flocked to hear these songs decades on.
A new US study shows that Millennials recognise hits from this golden era, while their knowledge of hits from 2000 to 2015 “diminishes rapidly from year to year to the turn of the century”.
Senior author Prof Pascal Wallisch, from the New York University psychology department, said: “The large number of popular songs during the latter part of the 20th century may explain why so many are recognisable decades later.
“The 1960s to 1990s was a special time in music, reflected by a steady recognition of pieces of that era – even by today’s millennials.”
The diversity of songs reaching the top of the Billboard charts was greater in these 40 years than between 2000 and 2015, and 1940 to 1950.
The play count for these hits on streaming service Spotify correlated considerably with the chances of these songs being recognised by study participants.
“Spotify was launched in 2008, well after nearly 90% of the songs we studied were released, which indicates Millennials are aware of the music that, in general, preceded their lives and are nonetheless choosing to listen to it,” Wallisch said.
But not all songs by artists from this 40-year period have longevity.
Hits such as When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge (1966), Baby Come Back by Player (1977) and The Tide is High by Blondie (1980) were well–known, while others such as I’m Sorry by John Denver (1975) and Truly by Lionel Richie (1982) have disappeared into near obscurity, the authors said.
Songs that reached No 1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” from 1958 to 2015 and the “Top 100” between 1940 and 1957 were chosen for the study.
More than 600 New York University students and others from the greater metropolitan area, aged 18 to 25 years (mean age 21.3 years old), participated in the study led by a team from NYU’s College of Arts and Science.
A random selection of seven out of 152 songs was played to the participants, who reported if they recognised it.
Seven professors of music and practising musicians chose excerpts that were five, 10 and 15 seconds long, often containing a highly recognisable “lick” – a unique and often repeated pattern of notes played by a single instrument – of each song.
The period between 2000 to 2015 was the most rapid drop-off in recognition, but the phase from the 1960s to the 1990s was “marked by a stable plateau with no notable decline”.
The third phase from the 1940s to the 1950s showed a gradual drop-off.
Kanye and Rihanna fans would have hit rock bottom in this study if they were serious when they tweeted – “Kanye has a great ear for talent. This Paul McCartney guy gonna be huge” – about the former Beatle when he joined their performance of FourFiveSeconds.
Yesterday was a long time ago, but this legacy lives on.