Influences of Modern Pop Music
Pop music. Typically, you either love it or you hate it. A genre that focuses primarily on the vocalist, and is known for most of itís songs having roughly around four chords. Without a doubt, the music gets old after awhile. However, harnessing the power of the repetition, vocalists can flourish. With a very limited amount of interesting instrumental melodies, and chord structures everyone is very familiar with, modern day pop music almost forces the listener to pay attention to the vocalist. By giving you so little, in comparison theyíre making their voice that much more interesting. A common example is how a pop song doesnít sound right if the original vocalist isnít singing it. In essence, the song becomes the singerís voice. To get a closer look into popular music, I examined See You Again by Wiz Khalifa.
As I began dissecting See You Again, it came to my attention that this song, like most pop music, is primarily based off of four chords: vi I VI V. Though there is an outlier in the bridge, the entire rest of the song is roughly the same progression of these four chords. A small variation on the Sensitive Female Chord Progression that seems to have devoured popular music (vi IV I V). To emphasize how overused this progression is, here is a relatively complete list of songs that use the SFCP without including variations of the progression. Notice how the list gets much longer in the late 2000ís.
Some may think of this progression as a cheap way to write a popular tune, but maybe popular artists donít have the patience to write a more original progression. Why fix something that isnít broken?
As I dug deeper into the song, the instrumentation surprised me. The song consists of an acoustic piano, electric drums, bass, synthesizer, and vocals. No guitar. All except two components of this song, the piano and vocals, are electronic. This is just a narrow insight into the fact that popular music is becoming, along with society, more and more digitized. If we take a look at electronic music, there are whole genres devoted to making music on nothing more than a computer. In my personal opinion, creating music in this manner takes away from an individualís musicianship. Sure, you can express emotions through these programs, but the farther you dig yourself into the digital world, the more artificial your expressions become. Pop music, as a whole, has lost respect solely because of itís artificial manner.
Another aspect I found interesting was that almost every melody in the song was based off of the G minor pentatonic scale, one of the most popular scale types in western music. For a song accompanied by grand piano and a hip-hop comp groove, the vocals are the primary recipient of the listenerís attention. You would think for the vocalist to stick to one scale for almost four minutes, things would become a little dull? In the world of jazz, pentatonic scales are the center of melody and improvisation. However, a well-seasoned improviser almost always will change things up to keep the listener intrigued. Modern pop music apparently seems to be an exception. Maybe nowadays society prefers simplicity to a symphonic masterpiece. It befuddles me how the pop industry has become so big by offering us so little.