Monday, June 11, 2018

The Reason Why Modern Pop Music is, Well... Awful - Perspectives and Scientific Research on the Apparent Decline of Popular Music - Video and Commentary

Have you turned on a radio lately? If so, you may have noticed something about most of the music being played. Constant repetition, cheap and yet catchy sound effects, a lack of variety in verbiage, and overly simplistic and intellectually hollow lyrics are just a few of the characteristics which make modern pop music a largely disappointing experience for many listeners.

Naturally, not everyone will agree with this perspective. We all have our own tastes with regard to the music we like and that which we dislike. To add, there can be numerous qualities within music which many people may associate with good times and pleasant experiences in life. (This is typically a generational phenomenon.) However, some may not realize that there are scientific means of gauging the level of complexity and variety which songs contain, and that this musical complexity can actually influence the mental capacity of listeners.

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As we will see, when we give our brains a steady diet of thought-provoking and dynamic stimulus, our brains tend to grow and maintain this complexity of capacity and functionality. However, when we constantly expose our brain to little more than mental junk food, this can actually reflect in our capacity to think, remember, to solve problems, and our intelligence as a whole.

Perhaps it is dating to say that modern music is awful. Before studying this subject, I may have imagined the only people who held this opinion were all old curmudgeons standing on their soap boxes with their pants securely fastened around their sternums. However, after reading about these matters, I feel a need to acknowledge the questionable norms in modern pop music.

If we are appreciative of music from previous decades and are able to notice changing trends in this music, we may have noticed a certain difficulty in categorizing modern music. It is as though musical variety has been replaced with something else, reducing the depth of creative expression of artists to an all-time low.

This is not to insult any of those artists who are simply trying to earn a living. In fact, I find it very likely that many of these artists are being forced to conform to an ever-devolving industry of high-demanding, detached and unappreciative executives who care little to nothing about the projects they fund. This can be seen in Hollywood and the movie industry as well as the whole of the music industry.

Somehow, the quality of art has dwindled down to a handful of predictable productions which show unhealthy obsessions with dark occult imagery. Never before have I personally seen such a consistent, unbroken parade of satanic cult-like imagery in movies and music videos. This obsession with such dark imagery and overall lack of quality has driven many people (including myself) away from modern entertainmentlargely without regret.

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It is unfortunate to see the degradation of modern entertainment. However, it is even more unfortunate to see the affect this entertainment is having on modern youth culture.

According to the website Anti-Media, the low quality of modern music is leading to a complementary degradation in the intelligence of those who frequent this entertainment.

How Popular Music’s Lyrics Perpetuate American Idiocy

A recent study served to confirm the patently obvious: song lyrics for the most popular genres of music are ridiculously obtuse — and getting worse over time. Though this might not be a revelation, the figures are distressing indicators of both an intellectually vapid societal and cultural future as well as its apparent inevitability.

If you’ve already moved away from Billboard music, congratulations, you refuse to be insulted. But if you haven’t, or if you’re concerned about pop culture trends acting as portents of systemic dysfunction, you should probably pay attention. Andrew Powell-Morse of SeatSmart studied the “Lyric Intelligence” of 225 Billboard songs in the Pop, Country, Hip-hop, and Rock genres that spent three or more weeks parked at the top of the charts to analyze any changes over the course of ten years. And change there was.

Ten years ago, the most popular songs read between a third and fourth grade level, but the inanity only increased with time, and after a five-year downward tumble ending in 2014 (the last year of the study), chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent to second or third grade. Broken into genres, the levels measured just 2.6 for Hip-hop/R&B, a tie of 2.9 for Rock and Pop, and faring best was Country at 3.3 — though declaring a winner in this insipid race to the bottom seems somewhat defeatist. Even further to that point, the most intellectually stimulating song, Blake Shelton’s Country hit “All About Tonight”, measured just 5.8, while wading deeply into the ludicrous was Three Days Grace’s “The Good Life”, at a level equivalent to 0.8 — begging the question, did they have to try to craft lyrics a kindergartner could easily read?

So how did this happen and why is it getting even worse? For the sake of brevity, this is a systemic issue being reinforced across the board by pandemic anti-intellectualism. Some have argued there is no harm in a bit of mindless distraction, but this is incontrovertibly false. When just six corporations control 90% of the media, and 80% of radio stations have identical playlists, mindless content isn’t a choice — it’s a virtual mandate. In this self-propelled cycle of banality, the conglomerates dictate content to be promoted by radio, which in turn pushes it endlessly, creating a false perception that what is being played is due to listener demand. But this insidious marketing ploy is more akin to kidnapping and is every bit as dangerous.

According to this article, the dumbing down of our music and entertainment may be deliberately intended to create an audience with less ability to think for themselves. Thus making them more dependent upon establishment and easier to control and influence as customers. After all, it is difficult to give adequate thought prior to making expensive purchases when we lack the mental capacity to do so.

We may consider the above concepts and wonder why listening to overly simplistic music lyrics could decrease our level of intelligence. If so, we might think of our intellect as being similar to physical strength.

Naturally, we take for granted our general muscular strength. However, the fact is that we only remain strong and able to move about the world as we do because we are in constant in motion. If we wanted to know how difficult physical movement is, all we would need to do is lay in a bed for a week straight.

After a short while we would realize that our arms, legs and our entire upper body actually have weight to them. It takes work to move them, and if we are not used to moving on a regular basis, the task of simple movement becomes difficult. This is the concept of muscular atrophy. Upon observation, scientists have found that a similar concept applies to the human brain.

According to the website Brain MD, the human brain requires numerous stimuli in order to remain sharp.

12 Ways to Strengthen Your Brain

When it comes to keeping your body’s muscles fit, you often hear the expression “use it or lose it.”

Yet most people don’t know that your body’s controlling organ – your brain – is similar to a muscle, too. In fact, keeping your brain “fit” with plenty of mental stimulation is a great way to support your healthy cognition, mental function and memory throughout your life.

Isn’t that exciting?

It’s Brain Awareness Week through March 22 [2015]. What better way to celebrate your brain than to begin exercising it with the following 12 brain-strengthening ideas from clinical neuroscientist, board-certified psychiatrist and brain imaging expert, Daniel Amen, MD?

It is just as important to exercise your brain, as it is to exercise your body. It can be fun, too!

Dr. Amen’s 12 Ways to Strengthen Your Brain

1. Dedicate yourself to new learning.

Put 15 minutes in your day to learn something new. Einstein said that if anyone spends 15 minutes a day learning something new, in a year he or she will be an expert! Learn by taking a class. Try square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga, or sculpture. Parents, work with modeling clay or Playdough with your kids. It helps develop agility and hand-brain coordination!

2. Cross train at work.

Learn someone else’s job. Maybe even switch jobs for several weeks. This benefits the business and employees alike, as both workers will develop new skills and better brain function.

3. Improve your skills at things you already do.

Some repetitive mental stimulation is okay as long as you look to expand your base skills and knowledge. Common activities such as gardening, sewing, playing bridge, reading, painting, and doing crossword puzzles have value, but push yourself to do different gardening techniques, more complex sewing patterns, play bridge against more talented players to increase your skill, read new authors on varied subjects, learn a new painting technique, and work harder crossword puzzles. Pushing your brain to new heights helps to keep it healthy and strong.

4. Limit television for kids and adults.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics it was reported that for every hour a day children watch TV there is a 10% increased chance of them being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). This means if the child watches five hours a day they have a 50% increased chance of being diagnosed with ADD! Watching TV is usually a “no brain” activity. To be fair, most studies did not specifiy if watching programs that teach you something had the same effect as situation comedies, reality shows or sports. I suspect that no-brain TV shows are the primary problem.

5. Limit video games.

Action video games have been studied using brain imaging techniques that look at blood flow and activity patterns. Video games have been found to work in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, one of the pleasure centers in the brain. In fact, this is the same part of the brain that lights up when researchers inject a person with cocaine! My experience with patients and one of my own children is that they tend to get hooked on the games and play so much that it can deteriorate their school work, work and social time – a bit like a drug. Some children and adults actually do get hooked on them.

6. Join a reading group that keeps you accountable to new learning.

Almost any mental activity you enjoy can be used to protect your brain. The essential requirement is that it activates several different brain areas, one of which should be the hippocampus (in the temporal lobes), which stores new information for retrieval later on. By recalling information (using your hippocampus), you are protecting your brain’s memory centers. In essence, as long as you learn something new and work to recall it later for discussions, you are protecting short-term memory. Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas that process, understand, and analyze what you read, and then store it for later recall if you decide it’s worth remembering. The neurons in these activated brain areas are stimulated with specific patterns of information.

7. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

The brain does not interpret what you feed into it; it simply translates it. When you are learning to play the piano, the brain doesn’t care if you are becoming a great piano player or a terrible piano player. Consequently, if you repeat imperfect fingering, you will become very good at playing imperfectly! Teaching someone to do something well at the start prevents them from developing bad habits, which get solidified in the brain and are subsequently hard to retrain. Effective initial training in the workplace and in school is essential to developing effective, happy employees and students. We do not just train people, we train brains!

8. Break the routine of your life to stimulate new parts of your brain.

Do the opposite of what feels natural to activate the other side of your brain and gain access to both hemispheres. Write with your other hand, shoot basketballs with both hands, hit baseballs left handed (if you are right handed), play table tennis left handed, shoot a rifle sighting with your other eye, use the mouse with your other hand – make your brain feel uncomfortable. In essence, break the patterned routine in your life to challenge your brain to make new neuronal connections. Here are some more ideas:
  • Make love in a different way.
  • Try a sport you’ve never tried before.
  • Take a class in a subject you know nothing about.
  • Learn new cooking recipes.
  • Do some volunteer work – see how good you’ll feel when you help others.
  • Try a different shampoo/soap/shaving cream/ razor/ tooth/ paste/perfume/cologne.
  • Go to church, or a different church.
  • Go to an opera or symphony.
  • Join a self-development group.
  • Spend time reading the dictionary or a reference book. Learn a new word each day!
  • Take time out each day to strengthen a special relationship — spouse, lover, child, or friend.
  • Make a new friend–call up someone and ask him or her to do something with you.
  • Contact an old friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  • Submit a new idea at work; maybe even one you’ve thought about for awhile but were too embarrassed to mention because you thought no one would be interested in it.
  • Forgive someone you hold a grudge against…this is a new activity for many people.

9. Compare how similar things work.

Evaluating similar items – how different pitchers throw a curve ball, the many ways painters can paint ocean scenes, the varying spices in meals – gives your brain a sensory workout. Looking at similarities and differences helps the brain’s ability to think abstractly and challenges our frontal lobes. Learning to see, hear, feel or taste subtle changes will enhance your sensory ability and stimulate brain growth.

10. Visit new and different places.

Traveling to new and interesting places helps the brain by exposing it to new experiences, scents, sights, and people. Using maps stimulates the brain in new and different ways and also exercises our parietal lobes responsible for visual-spatial guidance.

By now, we may realize the importance of complexity in our mental activity. It is vital that the majority of our time investments include some form of mental stimulus to ensure that we are always growing in some way. This does not mean that we must always be at work, but rather that our down time and/or our entertainment be higher in quality for the majority of  time.

By ensuring that our entertainment is high quality, we can make certain that our brains receive the proper amount of exercise necessary for optimal intelligence and complexity of thought. As things appear, this does not at all include modern pop music, but of course, a person can listen to whatever they please.
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