The Science of Popular Music or The Four Chord Song

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This amusing video investigates the science behind popular music: Australian comedy group 'Axis Of Awesome' performs a sketch from the 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival where they play parts of popular songs to demonstrate their claim that popular music contains only four cords that are rearranged. Somewhat.

Footage courtesy of Network Ten Australia. More information about Axis of Awesome.

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They copied from Ron Paravala who did Pachelbels Rant many years ago. but they expanded a few songs. Old idea new taste.

Stolen concept, but it still made me giggle...

But that could be from the fact that every time I looked at the guy in the middle I said, "One, and a two, and a Ching Chong Potato" in my head...

No, no, it was still just a funny skit.

"Fuckin' Birdplane..." <3

Nice. There are LOTS more songs they missed. I'll start:

Where is the Love? - Black-Eyed Peas

By j from stumble (not verified) on 25 Apr 2010 #permalink

FINALLY! i can finally show my musically retarded friends that pop music is shit.

Well . . . it shows either that there is no creativity . . . or that there is a multitude of it. Variations of a simple premise does not make the product simplistic, necessarily, or at least negatively. Obviously, those chords are ones the ear responds to -- perhaps it is that which is, quote unquote, shit.

It doesn't make it shit, but it does really emphasize how little tolerance the public has for musical experimentation. I found it particularly hillarious because I play keys in an indie rock band and I'd swear that our most popular songs have those four chords, usually in a different order, but the same ones. And I don't think the western 12 tone scale is that limited at all. I mean, look at all the complex post-bop jazz out there. Bill Evans sure as hell didn't just use the same four chords. What this video proves is not that western music is limited, but that western audiences are simple minded and not very adventurous.

I have a lot of respect for someone who can take four chords that have been done to death and make something new out of them, but that's a very, very rare thing in pop/rock. Not only are the chords the same, the melodies also tend to be pretty unimaginative. This leads me to believe that it's really the lyrics, the singer's voice and the arrangement that makes a pop/rock song unique and not the music. This has been something I have wrestled with in my band since I listen to a broad range of genres. Once you've exposed your ear to lots of different kinds of music, the four-chord-formula starts feeling extremely, well, stupid (for lack of a better word0.

Course these days almost all indie rock only has two chords... oh well