All of us have our favourite songs, artists, and genres. One common trait is when we age, we tend to remember and re-listen to songs that we grew up with. To me, many popular songs in recent years share similar melodies where I can hardly tell them apart. For example, I could hardly recall many tunes from 2010 onwards but am able to recognise songs from before.
With so many popular hits on from Billboard charts to UK charts week after week, is there actually a golden age for music? A study was made to find out when was the golden age of music.
Research pitting modern music vs old classics
The research to find out when was the golden age of music studied which songs from different eras stick to the minds of millennials compared to the relatively bland and homogenous pop songs of today.
Academics found that popular songs from the 1960s to the 1990s proved to be a lot more memorable than melodies released in the 21st century.
There were 643 participants, aged 18 to 25 that took part in this study. Scientists tested their ability to recognise hit records from different decades. The study found that the participants maintained a steady memory of popular tunes that were produced between 1960 and 1999.
In contrast, their memory of songs from 2000 to 2015, while higher overall, diminished rapidly over time. Songs from the 1960s to 1990s reaching the top of the US Billboard charts were significantly more varied than from the 21st century onwards, or even the 1940s to the 1950s.
Lead researcher Dr. Pascal Wallisch from New York University in the US said that the 1960s to 1990s was a special time in music, reflected by a steady recognition of pieces of that era - even by today’s millennials.
Why are songs from the 20th century more memorable?
The researchers did not establish what explained the stable level of recognition for songs from the 1960s to the 1990s except they were significantly more diversified. The large number of popular songs that emerged during the latter part of the 20th century may explain why so many of them are recognisable even decades later.
The scientists acknowledged that the findings could be the result of self-selection - where there was a considerable correlation between the likelihood of recognising a given song and its corresponding play count on Spotify.
Wallisch added, “Spotify was launched in 2008, well after nearly 90% of the songs we studied were released, which indicates millennials are aware of the music that, in general, preceded their lives and are nonetheless choosing to listen to it.”
But even recognisable songs from the golden era of music were varied. Songs such as When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge (1966), Baby Come Back by Player (1977), and The Tide is High by Blondie (1980) were extremely well known. But others such as Knock Three Times by Dawn (1970), I’m Sorry by John Denver (1975), and Truly by Lionel Richie (1982) were all but forgotten.
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