8 Pop Music Trends from 2014

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


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.

3. Side-chaining

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.

8. Saxophone

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!

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  • Great list. Pretty sure the saxophone trend we’re in right now started with Lady Gaga using it overtly as a solo in The Edge of Glory. (Which I suspect was inspired by the use of Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street in the movie Macgruber a couple years prior.) And now years later we have people using little bursts of sax to punch up their songs.

    • I can cite “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan, which was an ENORMOUS club hit over in Europe as far back as 3 or 4 years ago. That song was EVERY. WHERE. when we were in Switzerland for our honeymoon in 2011.

        • also, also! I seem to recall at least 3 “sax revivals” in popular music in my lifetime. I came of age during the Duran Duran era (yes, I’m old) and recall at the time (mid to late 80s) there being a thing where sax was used for more of a midcentury lounge style theme (the 1950s and 60s were quite popular nostalgia trends in the 80s). c.f.: Careless Whisper, The Reflex, et. al.

          In the mid 90s you had the whole swing revival (Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Squirrel Nut Zippers, etc.) where all the younger GenXers learned the lindy from their grandparents and the sax used was the WWII era swing / big-band sound.

          This, though… all the examples you cite here in this particular article are straight out of Golden Age Roaring 20s jazz. And it is pretty fantastic. Fireball is absolutely destined for our spin class mixtapes, for starters.

      • Simona H.Fluturii de toamna si-au inceput va,rCjulteand vantul sufla rece, copacii toti vuiescSi-si scutura coroanele de ale lor frunze,Ce spre pamant in graba, cad ca-ntru dans regesc.

  • […] Consider for a moment that the D♭ major tonal center during the chorus is achieved without the bass ever even striking that note. This implied tonal center contributes to the “lifted” and “floating” character of the song (not unlike an actual chandelier). This character is further enhanced by the sparse/spacious beat in the verse (one of our observed 8 pop music trends of 2014). […]

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