Monday, March 09, 2020

Pop Music Analysis

I decided to make some pancakes today at 11:45am and it was a good decision.  Julian was up in his room working on a script that was initially going to be about a kid romance but then he realized he "didn't know much about that" so he changed it to a story about a man named Ernest who narrowly escapes an alien invasion.  While he did that I made my pancakes and asked Alexa to play me some music.  I wanted something different but didn't know what so I went against my grain and asked her to play some Taylor Swift-like station of music, to which she obliged.   I decided to turn this into an experiment, as I do with many things in my life, and it resulted in some very interesting findings.

 It was my intention to listen to what I assumed would be a collection of current pop singers on the young side, who all the kids are hip to these days, and who I am not inclined to choose to listen to on a given day. I had to ask her just about every time what the song was as I either didn't recognize it altogether or had heard it somewhere (probably Forever 21) but had no idea who the artist was.  I would say, "Alexa, what is this?"  She would tell me.  I then wrote down the name of the singer, drew an up arrow, a down arrow, an arrow to the side, or one between up and to the side, pointing at like 1:30, like this:

⬆️: i like it
⬇️: i do not like it
➡️: i am not sure. feeling kind of meh.
↗️: i think i like it

This was fun. For some reason I enjoyed giving Alexa my feedback, as well: "Alexa, I hate this."  "Alexa I like this."  And if I wasn't sure if I liked it, I'd say "Alexa, skip this song" to possibly be evaluated again at a later date as it required further analysis.  It made me feel like I was a scientist giving my assistant my analyses which I liked because often it's Alexa that makes me feel like the dumb, unimportant one.  Not this time, Alexa! You work for ME.   You could consider this An Old Person's Guide to a Sample of Current Music (at least I think it's current. *Shrug*) Also, my analyses are based on minimal samples. In other words, I mostly only listened to one song per artist and based my opinion on that one song, which could translate to harsh judgment. Let's just call it quick and speedy.

So here are my results:

Taylor Swift:  I have experimented with Taylor off and on (mostly off) for several years now. The only one of this collection by whom I've heard several songs.   My grand and final conclusion:  ➡️.   It's a little perplexing because if I break it down I'd say her vocals are nice and not irritating, her song style can be somewhat interesting and varied, and she rates a high catchiness factor.  But I think combined, therein lies the downfall for me.  Anything of interest in any of these categories is simply not enough. And none of her songs are standouts really, so that's a problem. Finally, by the time I factor in the catchiness, I'm annoyed, because catchiness alone is for sure not enough to tip the scales.  In fact, I start to hate myself a little bit for being fooled into thinking I might like this, as I believe a lot of these song types in this station Alexa chose for me are designed to do.  So I get a little mad and I say: Taylor, you're all over the place.  I get that you like to write about your life but sometimes life is about more than YOUR life, you know? So pick a thing and work at it. Craft it.  I think you have the talent and skills, everything just needs some focused work.

Ed Sheeran: ⬆️  He's got a great voice, the songs are somewhat interesting, and they don't annoy me. A lot of them are perhaps sappy but I decided I prob wouldn't hear this at Forever 21 and if I did, I'd be pleasantly surprise. I guess I used hearing it at Forever 21 as my likability gauge, which is good because shopping is exhausting and i need a control variable of some kind. So as i listen i ask, am I shopping right now? Am I getting annoyed?  Ed scores well on this scale.

Sam Smith: ➡️  He's got such a distinctive voice and this was one of the very few I could immediately identify.  Also, I basically only know the one song--Stay With Me.  I don't hate it. But I don't love it. But I probably wouldn't immediately tell Alexa to skip one of his songs if something else of his came on.

Jonas Bros: ⬇️  Just grating, pop filler sound.  I don't like the songs, don't like the vocals.  Sorry, bros. You're out for me, and were never in.  Your Sucker just sounded stupid.

Harry Styles: ⬆️  My likes were rare, and I was surprised by this one. This is one of many examples of a name I've heard several times but had no idea what the sound/style was like.  And my surprise was pleasant.  His songs are good, and not just catchy.  And the vocals are solid.  I heard two of his this round and while I gave the first one a ➡️ , upon further analysis and listening to the second one which was Sign of the Times, my positive regard was decided.  Harry Styles, who knew?

Selena Gomez:  I only heard one song of hers but gave it an ⬆️ as well.  Again, interesting song and good vocals with some depth. Song I liked: Lose You to Love Me.   I guess I gave more up arrows than I thought. I scrapped names I didn't recognize and reported to Alexa my disdain many times, though I did not record this information on my scientist clipboard/post-it note.

Demi Lovato:⬇️    I know she and Selena have been compared in the past, sooo, sorry, Demi. I did not listen to this one to the end as I did not remotely enjoy it, but I ranked it high on the annoy-o-meter at Forever 21.  Empty song style, not even catchy, and irritating, shallow vocals.

Dua Lipa: ⬇️  I've heard this name before but am again, super unfamiliar with musical stylings.  And again, did not last long as I did not like it and classified it similarly to Demi L.

The Weeknd: Surprise! ⬆️   I guess I'm not that surprised because I had no inkling one way or another. But I have heard this name a bunch and I guess I'm inclined, as the oldie I am, to assume I will probably not be super into it. So that's fun.  The song i heard was this suuuper 80's-esque/ basically Ah-Ha Take On Me tribute song so this particular branding is OF COURSE going to appeal to me.  I'll have to do some further experimentation of other songs to really develop a proper opinion. But that song sold me, as it would.

Shawn Mendez: ⬇️   By himself, same thing. Super annoying, teeny bopper vocals that do nothing for me singing a junk song meant to trick teens into thinking they're listening to something they like.  It's a lie, don't listen.  At this point you will either buy whatever clothing item is in your hand just to get out of Forever 21 and this noise, or ditch the sweater on some rack and flee for the same purpose.

Camilla Cabello: ⬇️ Same thing.

Shawn Mendez and Camilla Cabello:  I am hip enough to know these two are dating so this sparks some vague interest (whenever two people sing together who are together in real life).  And initially, I heard them both for the first time as a duet in Seniorita. I gave it a  ➡️  but it probably should have it been a ↘️ because when I heard them both solo later on, my dislike was decidedly so.  The song, I'll grant you, has some catchiness, and a duet makes it a bit more complex and perhaps therefore more interesting. But I found it uplifting that by themselves they are ⬇️, but together they are ➡️.  If that's not an inspiring love story that Ed Sheeran could probably do something with, I don't know what is.

I considered this a productive, successful experiment.  My top winner? Harry Styles.  Harry Freakin' Styles.  I'll be darned.


Alanna said...

I'm embarrassed by how much I like Taylor Swift's music. It's the absolute best for singing along to while road-tripping and needing to stay awake! Right up there with Hamilton, in my book. I always threaten my 13-year-old that if he doesn't behave, I will start singing "I Did Something Bad" in front of his friends. Works like a charm!

I don't know much by Sam Smith but I really love his "I'm Not the Only One." It's depressing as all get-out, but I love it.

And now I need to try out Harry Styles!

)en said...

Taylor Swift.. she's such a puzzle! I came off sounding more harsh than I intended. I don't hate her. I just don't love her and don't know what to do with her. And I guess i'm a hot/cold kind of person. If I don't love, then I might as well hate? There is no middle ground? Sounds more fun, right?