Here are 8 trends in pop music from songs which appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 during 2014.
1. Vocal Pitch Whipping
Maroon 5 – “Maps” (0:56 – 1:11)
This technique is a combination of singer performance and pitch shifting software (like Autotune). This creates a rapidly moving pitch-whipping sound that I am hearing everywhere.
2. Sparse and Spacious Beats
Rae Sremmurd – “No Type” [WARNING: CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE]
Hip hop/R&B is heavily embracing the minimalist beats. Lots of space and silence creates a palpable beat which supports and contrasts well against the more flushed out sections.
Ariana Grande – “Love Me Harder”
Side-chaining is a dynamic technique using compressors in production. This production technique has come across the pond from Europe and is infecting western pop music. Listen how the synth harmonies get very quiet every time the kick drum hits – this is side-chaining. It creates a “breathing” type effect.
4. Lack of Snare
Pitbull – Fireball (0:31 – 1:02)
In the pop songs of yesteryear, keeping time was easy. A snare hit on the third beat of the measure indicated standard 4/4 time. These days, you don’t need a snare to keep time.
5. Yelling on the 4th beat of the measure
Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (1:18 – 1:33)
Here’s something you probably never noticed in modern pop music. It is very common to put in a little whoop or yelp on the 4th beat of a measure (or the “and” of the 4). Add a little delay/reverb and you have yourself a hit. Trust me, this is everywhere.
6. Pitch Shifting
ILoveMakonnen (Feat. Drake) – Tuesday (0:21 – 0:51)
You probably have heard pitched up and down vocals (baby voice and scary voice), which come from hip-hop. Now we are seeing Billboard Hot 100 songs with even more unusual vocal pitch shifting. Certain artifacts created as a byproduct of pitch correction software are now becoming desirable in vocal production.
7. Extremely in-tune vocals. No one should be this in tune.
Florida Georgia Line – This Is How We Roll ft. Luke Bryan (0:30 – 1:12)
It’s easy to say that Autotune, Melodyne and other pitch shifting programs have completely ruined music as we know it. I would say that pitch correction is a two-edged sword. For the purposes of this list, let’s just say that no top trends list for this year would be complete without recognizing the music industry’s complete and utter dependence on pitch correction. I mean, listen to the song above. The vocals are extremely in tune. Even the guitar leads are autotuned (0:15 – 0:29). Blue notes? No, thank you.
Somehow sax is back. I will spare you the endless list of examples. But, here are two:
Ariana Grande – “Problem” ft. Iggy Azalea (side note: great compression on the sax)
Taylor Swift Shake it off (0:05 – 0:30)
That’s all for today, folks. Can you think of any trends for pop music this year that I missed? Mention them in the comments!