Why does all new pop music sound the same?


Basically because it IS the same - I think anyone with ears already knows that, but there is more to it. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVME_l4IwII
chayro
Because it has little or nothing to do with music and everything to do with current "lifestyles " .
That is an excellent 20min synopsis of this Horror Story:
"The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory"
I could not finish the book (too disturbing for me) but it finally "flipped" me onto "classical" for 90+% of my listening. I still follow a few "new" acts like Steven Wilson, David Sylvian, Bjork but the only recent 'top 100" album in my collection is "Black Star". Makes me feel old...






As if the music you listened to when you were a teenager didn't sound that way to your grandparents.
I’m with @onhwy61 ...you could say that all genres of music sound the same, although, If you are a fan and follow certain genres you’d be able to pick out what makes it different. 
What I have heard the last 20 yrs does sound more similar to me than not. Which most all of that music is not my cup of joe to begin with. The you tube video seems to make sense.
People relate to things they are familiar with. In the past few decades people have probably been raised without a connection to original music, acoustic instrumentation, creative music, personal ability to play an instrument even simple ones. So maybe that is why they want to hear the same not very good thing over and over. Just my opinion. 
It sounds the same to all of you because you are OLD.  Don't you all remember your parents saying to you "all your music sounds the same".  Old people have been saying that to younger music fans since 1955. New music sounds different to young people.  Your grandmother couldn't tell the difference between Bob Dylan and Bobbie Sherman.  
Musical inbreeding, encouraged by the industry which is convinced that there's a formula based on recent trends.  But there's plenty of good off-mainstream stuff to hear if you do your homework and there's bound to be someone refreshing and good to come along sometime (probably not soon enough) who will be popular.
The generation gap argument is valid, but music was never packaged the way it is now. Look at the artists who top the Billboard charts and tell me they are not part of a manufacturing process by the same hit factories.

I only surfed past Dick Clark's Rockin Eve, but I heard enough to know that this contemporary genre of music sounds like it was written and produced by the same group of music manipulators.
Of course, using certain "hooks" and style has happened before over the years; e.g., disco, but never so tightly controlled and accepted.

There are a few exceptions in this genre like Lady Gaga...I give her props because she writes her own songs and has been formally trained since a very young age.

But there's plenty of good off-mainstream stuff to hear if you do your homework
This is true, but we always had to search to find alternative music.

And yet the high school seniors I teach have a musical knowledge base and listen to a wider variety of artists than my generation ever did at that age. 
@simao , the college interns and recent grads I work with in the film and video field generally do not know or care about the history of modern music. Some listen to Pop/Rock, many listen to recent alternative bands (some that I know, most I don’t), but have never heard of the bands that influenced the music they like. For instance, I’ll hear music coming from a work station and I’ll comment that it sounds like Smashing Pumpkins or another alternative group (1980s, 90s), and they’ve never heard of them.

I don’t expect them to know Led Zeppelin’s music, but weren’t they exposed to their parents’ music while growing up? I knew about Perry Como, etc. as a kid. That was my what my parents listened to, I listened to Top 40 or Rock.

The iPod generation has missed out on an incredible music education.
I've been a musical outcast most of my life. Never really took to mainstream music much with the exception of the truly (IMO) talented like Bowie, Dylan, Steely Dan, etc., who were somehow able to put non brainless music on the radio. That stated, there is so much excellent music available to us today. Literally decades of it.  
I respect the opinions and I realize the validity of those who say we think all new music sounds the same because we are "OLD", as if that is a condition, which it probably is. But, anyone with actual ears knows that Zeppelin did not sound like SLY, did not sound like Joplin, did not sound like the Who, did not sound like the Fudge, did not sound like Creedence,  did not sound like Earth Wind and Fire, did not sound like Blood Sweat and Tears, did not sound like Jethro Tull, did not sound like the Stones, et al. Whether our parents thought it did or not is not relevant because our parents were musical schmucks for the most part. I’m addressing a group of people who pretend to actually know and like music. Contrast this to most of today’s popular music, which is predominately written by the same two people, using the same formulaic hooks. Yes, there are probably many newer artists with validity, but they will never get the airplay or make the money of a Taylor Swift, Chainsmokers or whomever, who could not kiss the musical ass of anyone mentioned above. IMO of course.
In other news, aging rock fan shakes fist at sky...
No, not really. I accept the world as it is. Reality is the reality. Not what I think. Regardless of the outcome of this discussion, I still think it is infinitely more interesting and relevant than whether expensive wire is better than cheap wire. That’s tiring. Have a drink.  I'm having one.  
@chayro agreed on this being way more interesting and socially enlightening than whether Cable B produces less deeptwitch crosstalk when paired with Widget C, and I’m not trying to shut anyone down or prove someone wrong just to be a troll.

For the record, this discussion seems limited to contemporary pop, so I’ll leave jazz, country, and the burgeoning and quite widespread folk-rock genre out for the moment.

I’m not saying that "today’s music" doesn’t reek of formula and over-production; much of it does. And I know that top producers and topliners will, like a fussing and flapping entourage, be summoned to surround a hot artist like Ariana Grande and Rihanna or Sam Smith, etc., and infuse their prodigious sonic and lyric talents into their clients’ equally prodigious stage and vocal talents.

(Much like Quincy Jones, George Martin, Mutt Lange, Berry Gordy, and a host of others did for the music of many A-list artists of the 60’s and 70’s.

And much like Carole King, Kris Kristofferson, and a bunch of others all sat in those little offices, churning out hits for the stars of the decade.)

Just as I know the whole shtick of "the same two guys" writing all the hit songs

https://nypost.com/2015/10/04/your-favorite-song-on-the-radio-was-probably-written-by-these-two/

But to write off an entire zeitgeist of music as simply insipid and sounding all the same is equivalent to admitting an inability or a reluctance (or a simple lack of care) to keep up with ever-changing music.

Also, to use an arbitrary "formally trained" label as a metric of what’s legit in the "contemporary music scene" seems out of touch. Every decade has its share of formally trained, talented, and respected artists alongside self-taught, talented, and respected artists. Here’re some formally trained, talented, and respected (as in, having received musical training, though not necessarily 'classically trained') artists of today who write their own tunes:

Nicki Minaj
Adele
Katy Perry
Bruno Mars
Justin Timberlake
Phish
Demi Lovato
Imagine Dragons
The XX
Drake
Linkin Park

Here’re some NOT formally trained, but talented and respected artists of 2-3 (or 5) decades ago who also wrote their own tunes:

Rush
Motley Crue
Tears for Fears
Heart
The Beatles
Madonna


Now, I’ll agree that, for example, when I browse through the Tidal Discovery charts, I barely recognize 90% of the artists on there. Are they legit? Many probably are, just not in a genre or style I listen to. And yes, a lot of them are flashes in the pan, much like much of the shite we listened to in the 70’s, 80’s, and beyond. For confirmation, browse the Billboard charts for any year in those decades and try to see things without the misty rose-tint of nostalgia. If any decades were formulaic, the 50’s and the 80’s were just as bad as anything today. Or how about the 2000’s - with all the rap-rock and boy bands everywhere?

Oddly enough, while electric guitar sales have been steadily declining for years now, acoustic guitar sales are actually increasing thanks, in part, to teenage girls (yes, you heard it right - teenage girls), learning guitar thanks to their hero, Taylor Swift. Who, incidentally, writes and produces many of her own songs.


Generally speaking, talking about modern cables is more interesting than talking about modern music. But there are exceptions. Listen to some Mongolian rock and rap music, as an example.
Also, just because someone is old doesn't mean he is rigid and sclerotic. In fact, I find most younger people incredibly stupid ignorant and underdeveloped. Generation of digital imbeciles. But not all of them, thank you.
After further deliberation on the subject, I think my final thought on this (and that's only because I don't feel like thinking about it anymore) is that, IMO, the "top 40" of the 60s and 70's was more varied in nature than the current music being played on stations like WKTU, which I listen to a lot more than I want to for reasons that have no relevance to this discussion.  Time marches on, music marches on - sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  Peace to all.  
chayro
... IMO, the "top 40" of the 60s and 70's was more varied in nature than the current music being played on stations like WKTU, which I listen to ...
That's certainly true, but it reflects the changes in radio broadcasting and corporate ownership as much as the change in popular music.

Because the ownership caps on radio stations were lifted - allowing giants such as iHeart (Clear Channel), Cumulus and Citadel to own hundreds of stations and "clusters" in many markets, formats fragmented. There is simply no reason for a corporate owner to compete with itself in a given market. The days of innovative station owners such as Gordon McClendon and Todd Storz are long gone. And the huge debt acquired as the radio consolidators started buying stations means they can't afford to take a chance with programming. 

In every aspect of American life fewer and fewer are in control of more and more .
@lowrider57 you mention a current hit factory...how is it different from Motown or Stax, etc.? I'm 38 and tend to think that I listen a wide range of music but I'm sure when my 2 1/2 year old is a teen, he may think I'm a musical schmuck as well. 

It's also important to note that not all music is made for you. Why would I sit here and spend time railing against a Taylor Swift album? It's not for me...I'm sure T Swift isn't sitting somewhere with her 6 string saying to herself "hmmm...I bet dudes pushing 40 will love this song..." I can say the same for Country music...something I will never ever understand but I can appreciate that many people do. 

You may not like what 'the kids' are listening to these days but It's important to understand what they are listening to because it's their soundtrack. I do not specifically care for trap music, Migos, Drake, Lil' Uzi Vert, etc. but this is what a lot of teens/20's are listening to at the gym. If I want a chance at identifying with them and staying somewhat relevant you have to understand what they are listening to and where it's coming from...

I hope I never become an old guy waxing nostalgia about Kurt Cobain (and the like) to anyone who will listen...my worst nightmare... 
Because in order to be popular these days it has to be generic enough to appeal to more diverse kinds of people in a vary basic way than ever. Much like fast food.

Better off forgetting about what is popular or promoted heavily and find your own good music. There is more of that out there than ever these days and growing. Its all up to you not others to find the music you like. The tools and material to do it is all out there. Some of it might even turn out to be or have been popular.

Don’t be afraid to go way back if needed. Great music was made and recorded as far back as the first 3rd of the 20th century and digital remastering and streaming works wonders. Way before The Beatles hit. Go figure!
I always thought the similarity to Pop music nowadays is because they share the same writers, and producers. If you have a producer who works with a pop starlet and they make tons of money then the record label will use that same producer for other pop stars till the world gets tired of the producer's schtick.
Look at the artists who top the Billboard charts and tell me they are not part of a manufacturing process by the same hit factories.

Motown is a great example of a hit factory, and there have been others. I'm saying in the past there was more diversity on the Billboard charts. And I'm someone who was always seeking an alternative. 

I do agree that this is their time in music and pop culture, just as I had my day. But I'm not pining for it, I've moved on.


As the article stated, it's 1 or 2% making 80% of the pop music today.

It's easy, you need:

good songs, artistic talent, engineering, mixing and mastering


Maybe not so easy

The documentary "Hired Guns" on Netflix helps put this discussion into perspective in terms of what producers have been doing to many of the songs we all know for years.
@lowrider57 Did you ever ask your interns what music they were listening to? Did you ever follow up on those artists?

There might have been more "diversity" on the Billboard charts (though certainly not ethnic or gender diversity), but only because mainstream music had to be a variety show of sorts back then. There wasn't the niche marketing, the targeted playlists, the Sirius/XM stations, the Tidal and Spotify playlists.

And yet many kids today have access to and listen to a wider variety of music than kids in the 70's and 80's.
@asp307 
"I hope I never become an old guy waxing nostalgia about Kurt Cobain (and the like) to anyone who will listen...my worst nightmare... "
_________________________________________
Bite your tongue my young friend.  There are nightmares out there like you can't believe just waiting.  I truly hope they never find you.  Really I do. 
@chayro , lighten up...I wasn’t being serious about it being my worst nightmare...we’re debating the state of pop music...
The great German Classical Conductor Hebert Von Karajan once said,"There will come a time when everything (music) will be 10th rate.   Question is, are we there yet?

Cheers
rok2id / It depends on what you're listening too. There are some gems out there, though I doubt they'll get air time. 
BTW, I just asked my son (he's 20 / 36 years younger than me) if he considers me a musical schmuck. He doesn't, there is hope :-). Seriously my kids have turned me on to some great music such as: Jason Molina, Moe., My Morning Jacket, Phish, Great Lakes Swimmer, Parquet Courts, Porcupine Tree, and even some that I previously ignored such as Radiohead & The Talking Heads. They in turn have come to love musicians such as Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Dylan, Lou Reed, Wilco, and many others through me. A few months ago I took my youngest with me to see Mark Lanegan live. He thoroughly enjoyed it. This can go both ways.  


@boxer12 , it's what you said. This CAN go both ways but I think it's important to take as much as we want to give. You are showing an interest in what your kids are listening to and what's important to them musically and in turn they are doing the same. There are correlations between the bands you've listed and many deviations which could occupy a lifetime of exploration.

A great way to introduce older bands is through covers... Phish does this well...sneakin' sally through the alley, VU- loaded, TH- remain in light, boogie on reggae women, etc. Jim James and Mark Lanegan have both released cover albums. Many of the current indie bands released the massive GD tribute produced by by The National.

Hearing Phish play Sneaking Sally, I dug further and found Robert Palmer (the Robert Palmer I grew up with was addicted to love and letting the world know that some like it hot, not the 70's sneakin' sally and Pressure Drop Palmer I came to love.) I then dug further and found Allen Toussaint, who wrote the song. He exposed me to the NOLA sound and I became a fan of Professor Longhair, the Meters, Dr. John, Lee Dorsey, etc...

Well , I believe that the standards are set by the likes of  "The Idols" reality TV programs all over the world and everybody think that is the "sound" that will make it onto becoming world famous or at least famous in their own countries. If you have noticed, there are very little distinction between the winners year after year. 
It's crap.....    My kids are 19 and 22.   Their choice in music is pretty bad.   Although my daughter likes some classic rock ...Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty,  so that's a good sign.... 

My son is into rap,  hip hop.....  I'm no prude , believe me but I blush at some of those lyrics....   

Everything is mixed to sound best on lesser systems in my opinion.
Jkotze.... you are right on the money...it's like a template or formula.   It's not great songwriting
asp307 / Thanks for the lead. I'll check out the Meters. 
For all you old folks holding on to your walkers, complaining about contemporary music, and wondering why your kids don't like Rush, John Denver and Motorhead, you need to get your head out of the sand, see some new shows and quit talking about your musical aches and pains:

New Pornographers
Beck
LCD Soundsystem
Arcade Fire
Neko Case
Vampire Weekend
St Vincent
Angel Olsen
Glass Animals
Tame Impala
Cage the Elephant
Green Day
Arctic Monkeys
Cold Play
U2
Franz Ferdinand
The Killers
Group Love
The Kooks
Mac DeMarco
MGMT
Modest Mouse
Matt and Kim
The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
OK GO
TV on the Radio
Passion Pit
Phoenix
Peter Bjorn and John
The Shins
Spoon
The Strokes
Two Door Cinema Club
Weezer
Jack White
Black Keys
Courtney Barnett
Kurt Vile
The Lumineers
The War on Drugs
My Chemical Romance
Cold War Kids
Foster the People

All new, rock and pop music, as good as any old fogy music and available everywhere.  Ever hear of the internet?




 
@sevs 

Geat point regarding “The Song Machine: Inside the hit factory “.   — John Seabrook.

Computers, neuroscientists, algorithmic brainwave exploitation,  Popmusic is the domain of the machine.  There are long lists of exceptions to pop dreck listed here,  support them


I fall between the extremes here, for several reasons. First, I think "pop" music was always cotton candy to some degree (though there was material I liked and still pull out occasionally). The major labels were dragged into the "youth explosion" (say, post-Monterey Pop Festival) only because there was money there and a big market to be satisfied. A few savvy A & R people got it, but apart from The Beatles, which were kind of sui generis and acts that followed the British Invasion template -Sir Douglas Quintet anyone?- much of what was released in coming years followed trends. Psych- yeah, that lasted a couple years- not enough there to hold the mainstream (much as I love it). Prog- died pretty fast, wasn’t radio friendly, and the formalistic faux classical stuff just didn’t work for a lot of people (e.g., I dug ELP’s first album, but Pictures left me cold- I only revisited it in the last year or so, largely due to Greg Lake’s wonderful voice and acoustic playing).
The Band got some radio play, but were regarded at the time as under appreciated. (Their work didn’t really lead to a wholesale discovery of "roots/Americana" until the last few years). Disco and punk--some fun stuff, but kind of limited.
The ’80s had a sound all its own, much of it dated today. Then "grunge" with Nirvana, and a lot of follow on acts, some of which were pretty good.
Lurking on the sidelines, below the top 40, was the stuff people "discovered" for themselves, by word of mouth, through reviews, etc.
I think there’s good stuff out there today, but it may be harder than ever to sort through it-- very little money to promote coming from record companies and the splintering of so many different sub-genres that people follow through the Internet, much of it free. The flip side is that the Internet can give you access to a huge pool of talent if you are willing to do some digging.
Consider whether you were an adventurous listener at the age of 13-16, or whether you wound up listening to a lot of what your friends were into.
Some of the urban/hip-hop isn’t bad, though there are only a handful of those acts that I find musically interesting. Just like the ’80s sound, today’s "neo-soul" follows a template. Very little of it is innovative or engaging. But, I think the same could be said for almost any decade of popular music. You have to dig deeper to find joy.

FWIW, and this may be heresy, but I never really "got" Sgt. Pepper’s at the time of release and still don’t play it that often; when I do, it is a few discrete tracks rather than the whole album. Granted, it has been hyped as the best album ever made if you believe in such stuff, but my musical interests are diverse enough, as is my willingness to explore beyond the boundaries of convention, to find satisfaction in a variety of music, old and new.
+1 to @kennovak for throwing down some newer acts even if not all of them are appealing to me.
All new, rock and pop music, as good as any old fogy music
Will anyone still be listening to those groups in 40 to 50 years? Probably not, but it could happen.  Will anyone get out their old rap records when they're 50 and play them for the grandkids?  Not likely.

The comparison of today’s hit factories to Motown is a little off target. Does anyone think that those two guys that write so much of today’s pop have the songwriting talent of Smokey Robinson and Holland - Dozier - Holland?

Motown didn’t use autotune. Smokey, Marvin Gaye, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Diana Ross, Martha Reeves and Gladys Knight, to name just a few, all had the ability to sing a song all the way through without overdubs or sweetening. The house band, The Funk Brothers, could play at a level and with a variety I don’t think many of today’s hit factory bands could match.

Humanity is being taken out of music today and being replaced with computer generated effects. As Bob Seger put it, "Today’s music ain’t got the same soul."

I understand that young people want their own music, not their parents’ music and that there is plenty of good music being made today, as there always is, but I think musical quality has kind of been on a downward trend since Mozart and Beethoven, and the downward trend is picking up speed.
Actually, this thread wasn’t meant to be about all modern music, despite its somewhat inaccurate title. It was primarily aimed at the WKTU and equivalent radio stations’ playlists, which consist of exactly none of the artists mention on Kennovac’s long list and, for the most part, written by the same two guys. Obviously, there are plenty of acts around with musical value, but that is always the case. Every era has good and bad of course. You should watch the you tube videos with Jack White and Edge watching "geezer" Jimmy Page play Kasmir. They look as if they have seen god. How can this be?  
@chayro - that movie, of the three of them, was entertaining. I went with a guy who had at one point played with Link Wray. He was rolling in the aisle when "The Edge" claimed he invented the power chord. Pagey and Jack White are both OK in my book. 
@Whart - I think maybe one needs to actually be a musician to realize the contribution the rock musicians of the 60's and 70's, i.e, Page, Hendrix et al, made to the music coming later.  But again, the discussion sort of morphed from a discussion of pop music, which it was meant to be, to a discussion of all modern non-classical stuff, which it wasn't.  
But the White/Edge videos are great, as are the Leslie West videos, showing him talking about his days with Mountain and hanging out with Jimi.  Living in the past?   No - just talking about the past.  We all live in the right now.  
I am a musician. And I recognize what the musicians of 50 years ago created and contributed. Just as I recognize what Jack White has done in the past ten years has altered the musical landscape inestimably, even if I don't particularly care for his music. 
"Pop music", ironically, is a much narrower genre today than it was even 25 years ago. It's more narrowly defined; it sticks to a stricter formula. Many of The artists in Kennevacs and my previous posts aren't pop at all and have much the same dusdain for the over produced saccharine bubblegum of WKTU. 

However, there seems to be the tendency on the part of posters who consider the classic rock era as the halcyon of music to conflate all modern music into the same genre. 
@simao - I understand what you’re saying, but, as a musician, I think you would agree that every era of music had what may be called, for lack of a better word, a "zenith". The Baroque had Bach, the Classical had Mozart and Beethoven, the romantic had, well, whomever, the Jazz era had Coltrane. However that does not invalidate all the other artists operating at the same time. It’s more popular opinion than anything else. The US cars of 1969-70, The 396 Chevelle and Camaro, the Shelby GT350-500, the Hemi Cuda, et al, are generally considered to be the considered the zenith of US car manufacture, although I would much rather drive my current vehicle than my 1970 Mustang Mach 1 from a comfort and convenience point of view. Indeed - all the car auctions show these cars have a higher value than anything else produced in the US, AFAIK. Onto music - I think it is generally accepted that the late 60s and early 70’s were the zenith of British/US rock/pop music. You are certainly free to disagree, but I think that Hendrix/Zep et al were the fountain from which it all flowed. IMO of course. This is not to say it was "better" than anything that came after, nor does it invalidate the contributions by any major artists. So, on one hand, I do consider the 60s-70’s era to be the "halcyon" as you put it, but so what? They’re gone, the 70 Mustang is gone. Now what do we do? I really don’t know. Admittedly though, it’s difficult to accept the substitute once you’ve experienced the original.
It is all the same garbage.
Autotune is the death of creativity. 
Long live Rock 'n' Roll.

There is great pop music out there. I recently went to see some live music by somebody I'd never heard of. My audio buddy is more geared to new stuff and it was his idea. Ariel Pink was the nights entertainment. It was great! I honestly couldn't believe the quality of songwriting, musicianship and show that was put on. Best night out to see live music in sometime. Gary Wilson and the Blindates opened. That is another story in its own. Less a mind opener than a blender, but also deliciously awesome stuff. 
I am a record producer, mixer and multi grammy winner currently still
active in the industry , although I started in the early 90's.

The biggest difference isn't really the talent, there is some great talent out there all across the musical spectrum. The reason I believe music
has hit the creative wall is technology.

Digital technology, making records for the most part entirely on a computer and distributing it via streaming and promoting over the internet has created the opposite of it's intent.

There is now SO much music out in the world it's sometimes hard to find the great stuff and due to radio formatting all the same type of music gets the heavy promotion. The heavy handedness of digital recording has given everything a similar overprocessed dynamic free sound