You would have to be a scientist to understand the full report, but a new study out of Spain has not only proved the Loudness Wars to be a real phenomenon, but have gone so far as to definitively declare that all modern pop music basically sounds the same.
The study, which is outlined in frustrating, jargon filled scientific detail here, aimed to prove the novelty of older songs while determining whether it was possible to distinguish the differences between music new and old.
To do this, those behind the study did a whole bunch of confusing math when analyzing lyrics, pitches and timbres from songs culled as part of the Million Song Dataset. They found that “although music recordings become louder, their absolute dynamic variability has been conserved, understanding dynamic variability as the range between higher and lower loudness passages of a recording.”
Or, in English, that songs are becoming less dynamic, sacrificing levels and varying sounds in favour of turning everything up to 11.
“We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,” explained researcher Joan Serra to Reuters. “In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.”
The study concludes that listeners have their own perceptions of what is new and what isn’t in regards to popular music.
“According to our findings, this perception should be largely rooted on the simplicity of pitch sequences, the usage of relatively novel timbral mixtures that are in agreement with the current tendencies, and the exploitation of modern recording techniques that allow for louder volumes,” it continues. “This brings us to conjecture that an old popular music piece would be perceived as novel by essentially following these guidelines.”
In short: your grandparents were right.