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28th Aug 2016

Here’s the secret behind every mainstream pop sounding the same

They call it the 'Millennial Whoop'

Carl Kinsella

Sure look, real music died in 1977, didn’t it?

Or was that 1969? Almost every generation complains of modern music paling in comparison to the classic artists who have gone before. It usually comes with the territory of not being hip anymore.

But as astute as The Simpsons’ observation was, there is actually mounting evidence that while millennial pop music isn’t necessarily bad, it is a bit same-y.

Many of the pop songs released in the last few years use the same musical device, wherein the fifth note of the scale shifts to the third note before quickly returning to the fifth note. Musician Richard Metzger has termed this phenomenon the ‘Millennial Whoop’ and there is an abundance of examples.

A prime example of the Millennial Whoop is that bit at the end of the California Gurls chorus where Katy Perry goes “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” – a formula which is replicated in Chris Brown’s Turn Up The Music, Lumineers’ Ho Hey, and many, many other songs by popular artists.

The video below, by Quartz, explains that listener’s enjoy this repetition as it makes them feel familiar with a new song because, well, they are.

Of course, there’s nothing too unusual about patterns creeping into an era of music – musicians are influenced by their peers and by what’s popular, after all. Historically, plenty of songs have shared more than just a short phrase.

This viral-before-viral video by Rob Paravonian highlights how many soft-rock songs use the same chord progression, borrowed from Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

So there you have it, to find a truly unique song you’ll probably have to write it yourself. Even still, you’ll probably find that you’ve nicked most of it from something Mozart composed in 1781.

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