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Has Pop Music Simplified Over Time?

In numerous studies, people are finding that pop music is homogenizing, both harmonically, stylistically, and even in vocal variety (i.e. very similar sounding artists being appreciated). Some claim that pop music is being "dumbed down" by becoming harmonically and melodically simplified. While pop music nowadays may be more harmonically and melodically simple, are there other factors that make it more complex/varied? Should we judge music based on these factors, or should we appreciate other aspects of the genre? What are those factors that we should appreciate?

  • A big factor is how formulaic a lot of the music is. Everyone wants to climb to the top via popularity and they do so by following the mainstream and taking the place of those who came before them by doing the same act. Many musicians don't even write their own songs, they just perform what their companies give them. It's a struggle between capitalism and the rise of the artist. – LaRose 5 years ago
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  • I'm not sure this topic fits into any of the current categories. According to the guidelines, music is not currently a category, but might be in the near future. Once this comes to pass, I would give this topic a second look. – BoomBap 5 years ago
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  • This topic is difficult because there is so many factors that can play a role. While I'm of the opinion that music (and all mainstream art including visual media, animation, film, literature, and theater) is being dumbed down. The reason people are noticing how similar music is becoming is also due to them being more familiar and experienced with it. While many artist are often criticized for "copying" other artist work. The reality is many artist are "inspired" by other artist. You can see this with bands like Wolfmother, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Cage the Elephant who were inspired by late 60's rock bands and tried to imitate them. You can honestly pick any era for music (or games, movies, and theater) and start noticing how redundant trends pop up due to the success of others. If you go back to the early 2000's there was a point where every artist was using auto tune and even further back you had the gangster rap era where everyone was trying to prove how "tough" they where. Also more recently Invincible has become incredibly popular due to its Amazon series and many people have praised it for its subversion of mainstream comic-books, but to me that is not the case. As, many of the more "shocking" elements have been done before by other comic-book series, such as the supposed paragon of good actually being corrupt. And is simply using his positive image to take over the world. Graphic violence has always been apart of comics and super hero's having sexual relations and having it be portrayed in full detail in the pages has also occurred. But the general press is talking up these elements, which to me shows how unfamiliar they are with the subject matter. "Btw I do think Invincible both the comic and Amazon series are worth looking at but not for the reason's I listed above." While I'm sure some musicians are simply following trends, I don't think all of them are. You also have to take in account how producers can act as gate keepers to the success and how popular some artist become, as they may choose to publish one artist over another due to them being similar to another successful arts. – Blackcat130 2 days ago
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Battle of the Fictional Bands: The Best Bands in Film We Wish Were Real

There are musical films like "Walk the Line" that tell the story of legendary real-life musicians, and then there are those like "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," that, while perhaps equally legendary, bring to life new, fictionalized musical talents. In the case of one of the more well-known fictional bands of all-time, Spinal Tap from "This Is Spinal Tap," the band ended up becoming something of a reality. After making their film debut, Spinal Tap actually went on to record a few albums and even embarked on concert tours. Is the experience of Spinal Tap something of an anomaly? Has Hollywood missed out on opportunities to capitalize on a potentially successful musical acts from film that could have been something more than just fictional? If so, what bands/artists from film might have made it in the musical industry?

  • This is an exciting and intriguing topic. My favorite is "Stillwater" from Almost Famous, which is almost the prototypical 70s rock n rock band. – Sean Gadus 2 years ago
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  • I sort of love this topic! I'll admit, I'm a big sucker for transmedial narratology and anything that blurs lines between fiction and reality, so this just pushes all the right buttons. Two more "anomal-ish" examples that come to mind are The Monkees and Hannah Montana, although they operated as almost an inverse of Spinal Tap, being conceived from the outset as both TV characters AND actual pseudonymous touring musicians, as opposed to Spinal Tap having (as you mentioned) only beginning to tour in response to the success of the film. Honestly, I think leaning into the anomalies might make for a more fruitful and thought-provoking discussion than what might otherwise read a bit like a Buzzfeed-esque list of micro fan-fictions about "what if Dewey Cox/Conrad Birdie/Llewyn Davis/Stacee Jax/School of Rock/Hedwig and the Angry Inch/Stillwater/Chum Bukkit/Mouse Rat/etc were real." Anyway, just some food for thought. Looking forward to reading the finished article! – ProtoCanon 2 years ago
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  • I’m not going to lie, I don’t think I’ve ever genuinely thought about this topic. But I would have loved to see school of rock tear it up as a kid, Jack Black is something else. – ShaniaRachelle 2 years ago
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Is Rock and Roll Dead?

Analyze how changes in technology (rhythm machines, streaming services) and people’s changing taste in music have led to the loss of influence rock music (Punk, New Wave, Heavy Metal, Grunge, etc.) had on mainstream pop culture. Also compare the number of new bands signed to major record labels to the number of acts of other genres (Hip-hop, country, folk, etc.) from the early 2000s to the present.

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    Punk Rock and Literature

    I am very interested in writing about how punk rock and literature intersect. I feel like both are mediums where its artists continually question the answer. I think about literary characters that are punk rock. For me the brooding indignation of Byron’s manfred is very punk rock because he tries to forge his own path despite the offered help of others. Expatriates like Hemingway’s Fredric Henry don’t just blindly follow orders or fight for the sake of fighting, but question why there is fighting to begin with.

    • Don't forget to either consider this through the lens of an applied reading, ie. applying the emerged concepts of 'punk rock' to previous literature; or perhaps more interestingly look at where 'punk rock' has drawn its themes and characteristics from previous authors/artists that challenged social norms. But yes I agree this could be a lot of fun. – SaraiMW 2 years ago
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    • You definitely need a definition of "punk rock" here to frame your discussion: are you discussing music? Punk style? Punk ideology (how would you delineate this?)? Maybe bleed into cyberpunk? Either way, fun stuff! – Heather Lambert 2 years ago
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    The Need for Music in Films

    Analyse how music has helped paved the way for the success of films. Without music, a lot of films would be missing emotions from the audience, and characters as well.

    • Love this topic. Music is so important to so many films, music has become a crucial element to so many movies. This topic could explore why and how this happens... – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
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    • Like this topic, would love to see what examples you would use for it! – CatBeeny 3 years ago
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    • I also approve of this topic. Perhaps you could focus on one or two major composers or specific films to illustrate your point, such as the music of John Williams or Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings." Another possibility is to explore specific scenes from important films, such as the powerful bar singing scene from Casablanca. – drmatteri 3 years ago
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    • Good topic, I think one good addition would be to consider periods of silence in film. The proper use of music and silence in conjunction with each other can help make a good soundtrack even better (i.e. cowboy bebop, samurai jack) – Alacrian786 2 years ago
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    The Significance of The “This is” Movement in Rap

    It started in America with Childish Gambino’s “This is America” hit. It was a controversial music video saturated with modern issues for black Americans.

    However now there are two other “This is” videos coming from Nigeria and Iraq. Let’s explore the significance of these three videos. The major theme that can be gathered from Gambino’s video is the way media attention diverts is from the truth. How does this theme carry over into these other videos?

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      Why mumble rap is a thing today?

      Thinking about how mumble rap has become today’s pick of development. How exactly mumble rap is effecting society with meaningless lyrics and demobilizing people’s thoughts.

      • This is a very interesting topic as it something very current. If you can define what exactly what Mumble rap and how artists use it then it can be something very engaging to read. Also try yo figure out its origins and how it became the thing it is today – cbo1094 3 years ago
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      • You could bring sound poetry into this! It's kind of mumble rap for spoken word poetry. – DanielleBrylDam 3 years ago
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      John Lennon: Singular Talent Or Group Dynamic

      Was John Lennon a multi-talented individual or did his success arise from a mixture of personal and professional acquaintances, geographical destinations, life experiences, or generational appetite? Examine the events leading to his early struggles as a fledgling art student, to the final years of masterful composing in order to isolate and understand the potent recipe for musical ascendancy.

      • Interesting idea. I lean toward Lennon being a singular talent. He obviously benefited from his band mates in the '60s, but his solo material subsequently is quite wonderful. I think you could make a compelling argument for either side of this issue. – John Wilson 4 years ago
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      • Maybe worth considering: It seems like he had most of his eccentricities and strange musical proclivities ironed out by the Lennon-McCarntey song writing machine and producer GeorgeMartin. – DeanJr 4 years ago
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      How Music Makes Film and Television

      What would happen if John Williams’ theme for Star Wars played in the background of a sensual, romance scene? Or if a whimsical tune from Alice in Wonderland played as characters were being savagely slaughtered in a horror movie?

      This piece of writing would deal with why music is so important to a movie or television show and how song selection can make or break the impact of scenes. It would speak about why composers use specific instruments, sounds or techniques over others to portray certain moods.

      • There's a really good Youtube channel called 'Sideways' that discusses media music; check it out! – m-cubed 4 years ago
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      • A fascinating subject for a topic. It might also be relevant to make note of those composers who have deliberately created music for a particular scene that appears contrary to the mood of that scene and yet somehow seems to compliment it. Just one example off the top of my head is the music for the model train chase in Aardman Animation's 'The Wrong Trousers'. – Amyus 4 years ago
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      • Horror films often do this, like at the end of Halloween II when they play Mr Sandman through the credits. Creepy. – AGMacdonald 4 years ago
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      • I would suggest focusing--this is a very old, very broad topic. – IndiLeigh 4 years ago
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      • Accidentally posted before finishing--I suggest talking about different genres and using mostly examples of recent movies (e.g., Atomic Blonde, Darjeeling Limited, Moonlight). – IndiLeigh 4 years ago
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      • In my university major studies I did one subject called Survey of Film Music with Dr James Wierzbicki at USYD, in which we were introduced and discussed through the history of film music and the trends of making film music throughout the long film history. In classic Hollywood era, major studios hire full-time composers (most of them from Germany) and orchestra to compose music after the visual part is finished, whereas in contemporary film music making, there are also avant-garde or experimental films of which the film editing is after the music is written. "Film Music: A History (Routledge, 2009)" might be a good choice if you are looking further for film music history since the pre-cinema era. :) – Chenlei 4 years ago
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      • It's not about Hollywood, but in Bollywood, mostly movies are famous for their music and songs. – Vinita 4 years ago
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      • There is also the element of actually using these songs from one "classic" film in another film. The example that comes to mind is the use of the theme from 2001 in Clueless. – derBruderspielt 4 years ago
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      • An example of this that comes to mind is the use of Joanna Newsom's "The Sprout and the Bean" in The Strangers http://www.westword.com/music/joanna-newsoms-the-sprout-and-the-bean-created-the-perfect-horror-movie-moment-7745761 – midado 3 years ago
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      Writing in Music: The Shift from Rock to Hip-Hop

      Many classic rock songs were written poetically and had a message or story behind them. Now the element of strong writing behind music has shifted away from rock and towards hip-hop. An example could be juxtaposing Bohemian Rhapsody to Beyonce’s Formation, or a politically charged song about the Vietnam War to one of Kanye West’s songs. Analyze this shift and how the music scene has evolved as well as the poetic value of some of these songs.

      • I would also include a discussion of Kendrick Lamar and the underground hip-hop and rap musicians that have been creating complex and poetic songs for years. Some artists like Mos Def and Talib Kweli have been killin it since the late 90s. – Jonathan Judd 4 years ago
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