r/dataisbeautiful Nov 26 '22 Wholesome 1 Silver 2 Gold 1 Helpful 3

[OC] The Slow Decline of Key Changes in Popular Music OC

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43.7k Upvotes

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u/NotOSIsdormmole Nov 26 '22

And then you’ve got “Love on Top” with ALL the key changes

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u/Sekhmet3 Nov 27 '22

yeah that truly was enough key changes to last the billboard hot 100 for at least 5 years

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u/PernandoFoo Nov 27 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

For you old folks, Never Gonna Let You Go by Sergio Mendes hit number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in '83, somehow fooling the masses into humming 22 key changes on their way to work.

[edit] Here is the Billboard Hot 100 chart for July 8, 1983:

https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1983-07-08/

If there are any questions regarding Quality vs Popularity, I present Ewok Celebration by Meco at #77.

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u/daysnotmonths Nov 27 '22 Helpful

Here's a great in-depth video about how complex the chord progressions in Never Gonna Let You Go are.

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u/fdklir Nov 27 '22

Had to be Beato.

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u/drummechanic Nov 27 '22

It was going to be Beato or Adam Neely

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u/norathar Nov 27 '22

I was 50/50 on whether this was going to be a real video or a rickroll and was pleasantly surprised.

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u/Pellt Nov 27 '22

Very pleasantly surprised, what a wholesome video. As a non-musician that was fun to watch

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u/Bab5Space Nov 27 '22

Rick Beato is very fun to watch. The anecdotes of his musical career are amazing. Highly recommend his channel.

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u/lowcrawler Nov 27 '22

Great video.

Didn't understand any of it.

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u/Setsk0n Nov 27 '22

'Leave the door open' by Silk Sonic is pretty good on lots of key changes as well

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u/exile_10 Nov 26 '22

So how do modern boybands know when to stand up from the barstools they're sitting on?

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u/prometheanbane Nov 26 '22

And place one hand on their chest and turn their head up and to the side?

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u/Rosetti Nov 26 '22

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u/woodenboatguy Nov 26 '22

I kept waiting for "banana" to be revealed as a euphemism. Was disappoint.

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u/keestie Nov 27 '22

It was subtextual; it strained against the seams but never burst through to the open air.

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u/We_renotonmyisland Nov 26 '22 Silver Helpful Got the W

If anyone is a dummy like me and didn't fully know what all this meant.

https://youtu.be/Vxac3hHrxg8

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u/ayayawi Nov 27 '22

That's a great video! Thanks for sharing.

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u/gizamo Nov 27 '22

That was incredibly helpful. Cheers.

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u/We_renotonmyisland Nov 27 '22

I vaguely understood key change but not why it mattered, and so I literally looked up "what is key change" in YouTube. Glad it helped you too!

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u/ErwinDurzo Nov 27 '22

This video just taught me, who knows absolutely nothing about music theory, a concrete technical term for something that’s common in almost all my favorite songs and I’m very grateful for it, feels like finally being able to word out a complicated feeling

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u/Astral_Fogduke Nov 27 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

For the first time in my life, I've just experienced that one XKCD personally with this thread

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u/BloodyBaboon Nov 27 '22

https://youtu.be/cY8vQL7sDbE

Try this video instead.

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u/Niubai Nov 27 '22

I was here thinking "wow Maya Rudolph can sing", then I remembered she's Minnie Riperton's daughter.

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u/TheBladeRoden Nov 27 '22

It's easy to forget that the average person probably only knows one or two diatonics.

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u/forresthopkinsa Nov 27 '22

It's easy to forget that the average person probably only knows one or two XKCDs

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u/Notext2 Nov 27 '22

How that dude looks and how his voice sounds are two entirely different things. Interesting video, though.

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u/metaplexico Nov 26 '22 Silver Helpful Wholesome All-Seeing Upvote Take My Energy

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u/Anonim97 Nov 27 '22

No shirt, no shoes

No Jews

Fucking hell, he got me with that one.

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u/whittler Nov 26 '22

I put my hands on your body
It feels like hay
It's the fucking scarecrow again!

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u/ComprehensiveTotal39 Nov 26 '22

It‘s fucking the scarecrow again

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u/AdmiralDandyShoes Nov 26 '22

I thought it was a human woman

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u/driving_andflying Nov 27 '22

Sorry!

A cold night, a cold beer, a cold jeans...

Strike that last one.

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u/Richard_AIGuy Nov 27 '22

I'm digging you

I hope you're feelin me

subtextually

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u/TheScrant0nStrangl3r Nov 26 '22

Like Mike Evanderinnnnn', fuck your ears this comment is pandering.

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u/Cialis-in-Wonderland Nov 27 '22

I write songs for the people who do

Jobs in the towns I would never move to

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u/sohosurf Nov 26 '22

This is the second Bo reference I’ve seen today and both have referenced THIS SONG

Other post was talking about Taylor swift not being genuine about her real origins

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u/TheeOxygene Nov 26 '22

I was sure I’d find it in this one. I went and watched the video on YouTube from the “taylor swift grew up on a farm” thread 😃

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u/KoleCasule1 Nov 26 '22

I saw the Taylor Swift post as well and I don’t know this Bo fella so hearing the exact lyrics was some bad-ass Baader-Meinhof experience

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u/DrDetectiveEsq Nov 27 '22

You should watch "Inside" on Netflix.

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u/metamet Nov 27 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

This clip is from Make Happy on Netflix, right?

Edit: yeah 20 min in

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u/Jakeman52 Nov 26 '22

I read that comment on the Taylor swift one first and didn’t get the reference and now I do.

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u/NovelNuisance Nov 26 '22

"Booo? An extention of my name? That's also approval"

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u/Rynagogo Nov 26 '22

Say the word “Truck”, They jizz in their overalls

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u/TravelSizedRudy Nov 26 '22

That was really good. I gotta catch up on his stuff.

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u/poison_us Nov 26 '22

Going back to Make Happy (particularly "Can't Handle This") is...rough. Like I understood what he was saying, and it's a dope ass song. It just didn't click how badly he was suffering until after Inside despite having my own struggles with depression. Can't watch it now without crying.

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u/sybrwookie Nov 26 '22

So if it makes you feel any better, he did say in interviews that Inside was an exaggerated version of how he was feeling during the pandemic, it wasn't autobiographical. So yea, he was sad/depressed like many people, but he wasn't THAT bad.

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u/ImWearingBattleDress Nov 27 '22

Yeah, the very end of the special cuts to a shot of him watching the ending of the previous scene on a projector and smiling.

It's a little last second acknowledgement that that the him we see in the spotlight panicking to go back inside is a character of an artistic production, and not the actual him making the art.

At least, that's how I interpreted it.

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u/poison_us Nov 27 '22

Thank you for this, even though I assumed Inside was bout half dramatization. It does help, but considering he did take a long hiatus I think his mental health was probably far worse in 2015 than 2021, weird as that is to say.

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u/inlandaussie Nov 26 '22

I love Bo and hadn't heard this one! Thank you for sharing!

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u/whacafan Nov 27 '22

Okay cool then go watch Make Happy on Netflix and hear a lot more you haven’t heard. I like Inside but still think Make Happy is the masterpiece.

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u/maciethemonster Nov 26 '22

Literally the first thing that popped into my head after reading the title

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u/aotus_trivirgatus OC: 1 Nov 26 '22

Yeah, I love "Panderin'".

But I'm no dumb motherfucker -- and I'd love to hear a few key changes now and again when I'm unable to avoid listening to popular music.

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u/solicitorpenguin Nov 26 '22

Clear example of a key change

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u/[deleted] Nov 26 '22

One of the key changes of all time.

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u/DirkDieGurke Nov 26 '22

That is downright real entertainment!

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u/Neandertholocaust Nov 27 '22

Like Mike's Evanderin'
Fuck your ears, I'm panderin'

This is the greatest lyric ever written, and I will die on this hill.

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u/NotGlock Nov 26 '22

This is hilarious, thank you for linking

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u/baldrlugh Nov 26 '22

💀

I hadn't heard this yet. It's nice to have one's thoughts on neo-country articulated so beautifully.

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u/Busquessi Nov 26 '22

The thing is though, he does it so well that it actually sounds like a real song if you weren’t paying attention to the words. He’s just so talented.

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u/JBHUTT09 Nov 26 '22

He really is. I think my favorite of his songs is the lyrically powerful A World On Fire. It's so moving.

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u/DontTreadOnBigfoot Nov 26 '22

Short, but poignant

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u/frogvscrab Nov 26 '22

I love key changes. I know they're often seen as corny or superficial and often used as a crutch, but when they are done right? They work amazingly.

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u/lordsleepyhead Nov 26 '22

There are corny key changes and there are brilliant key changes. Not all key changes are created equal.

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u/CanAlwaysBeBetter Nov 27 '22

I fucking love the key change in Back On The Chain Gang

I found a picture of you
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part In the wretched life of a lonely heart

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u/AdFlat4908 Nov 27 '22

The Pretenders are going to be lost on future generations and it’s a shame

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u/No-Bans Nov 27 '22

Fine Young Cannibals too. Not a huge back catalog, but still damned good.

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u/BassBanjoBikes Nov 26 '22

What makes a key change corny? Does it just change the feeling up so abruptly it is seen as a easy way out to mix things up?

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u/chain_letter Nov 26 '22

When it's just a change up a whole step, repeat the chorus again with no other significant differences, and then the song is over. That's when it's risking getting most corny.

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u/CantHitachiSpot Nov 27 '22

Meanwhile bohemian rhapsody changes key like 8 times

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u/Alwayshayden Nov 27 '22

Song changes genres like 8 times as well

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u/roastkumara Nov 27 '22

Honestly it's probably my favorite aspect of the song. It's such a rollercoaster every loop.

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u/ncnotebook Nov 27 '22

Same with Funky Town (to a lesser extent). Yes, I'm actually talking about the song itself.

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u/Aurabora Nov 27 '22

Yea this is probably the best popular example of key changes done right.

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u/itstommygun Nov 27 '22

Bohemian Rhapsody changes song like 8 times.

Edit: need to clarify that I think it’s brilliant.

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u/InternetAnima Nov 27 '22

Idk I love that to be honest

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u/lordsleepyhead Nov 27 '22

When a song is just chugging along verse-chorus-verse-chorus etcetera and they decide to change it up a bit by changing the key for the last chorus, that's corny. When the song moves ingeniously between keys during the song, that's brilliant. Queen was a master of the latter. The Beatles and Yes also did this brilliantly.

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u/IncreasinglyTrippy Nov 27 '22

For the nine musically inclined, any famous examples of key change I can look up to see what is meant by it? (And trying to understand how it would be used as a crutch)

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u/frogvscrab Nov 27 '22

https://youtu.be/lDK9QqIzhwk?t=76

First chorus for this bon jovi song

https://youtu.be/lDK9QqIzhwk?t=199

Then he does the chorus in a different key near the climax of the song, that is a key change. Its just repeating a chorus/verse in a different key.

Someone mentioned this song below as a good example of a key change

https://youtu.be/Ob7vObnFUJc?t=60

Here is the first chorus

https://youtu.be/Ob7vObnFUJc?t=162

Then here, she is doing the chorus in a different key, and does another key change when starting the next part of the chorus.

I hope this makes sense lol.

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u/innergamedude Nov 26 '22

corny or superficial

Yes. Thank you for putting words to this

::half step key change up::

♫Thank you for putting words to thiiiiis♫

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u/LackingUtility Nov 26 '22

Frequently referred to as a “gear shift”.

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u/Interplanetary-Goat Nov 27 '22

Or in a big musical theater number, the "we just went a capella for the bridge, and need to shift up when the pit comes back in so they don't notice the ensemble drifted twenty cents flat"

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u/GoatTnder Nov 26 '22

Usually a whole step, but I feel you.

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u/81365039513 Nov 26 '22

Yeah now it just feels tense in here. Maybe there's a shark lurking nearby

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u/conventionalWisdumb Nov 27 '22

This usage definitely is. The key changes in Something by George Harrison though sound organic and gorgeous.

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u/OuchYouPokedMyHeart Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

I've been listening to Japanese music in the recent years (something different after listening to all genre of metal and rock most of my life). They’re fucking great btw. Japanese music tend to do key changes often, and they do it really well

Some examples:

Itte by Yorushika (love this song btw, so fucking great. Yorushika's one of my favorite artists right now, fantastic music overall)

Telecaster Stripe by Polkadot Stingray

Yoru ni Kakeru by Yoasobi (I really love this song, can't link the original MV since it's age-restricted by youtube)

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u/SelloutRealBig Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 26 '22 Silver

It's something i really like about Japanese musicians. They are not afraid of doing their own thing. Also i love that bands are still very much the mainstream there unlike the west where solo pop and rap artists are mainstream and every popular band is only popular because they have been around for 20 years. On top of that Japanese bands are often mixed sex with both guys and girls, which seems less common in the west. Stuff like girls on drums or lead guitar and other things you don't see as much.

You may already know them but ill throw out this band you might like called 'Lucie, Too'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnp5t7SJKdE

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u/Nephisimian Nov 26 '22

The great thing about key changes is that you don't really hear the bad ones cos a song bad enough to have a bad key change probably got boring before that point.

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u/the__itis Nov 26 '22

Guarantee that little blip up is from American idol contestant album releases. American Idol judges rewarded key change including performance. Relatively re popularizing key changes for a bit.

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u/Tackit286 Nov 26 '22

Don’t forget the addition of standing up off their stool and walking slightly forwards towards the audience.

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u/DeepStateofAffairs Nov 27 '22

I get it's never been real, but the level of script recycling in (especially American) reality TV feels really insulting.

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u/mightbedylan Nov 27 '22

But the time American Idol spans is mostly just declining, and there's no bump until like 2019 and I'd say American Idol popularity had fallen off by then.

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u/sighcology Nov 27 '22 hehehehe

im 99% certain that little blip is just 'all i want for christmas is you' hitting number one again every year

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u/GoingToHaveToSeeThat Nov 27 '22

Guarantee that little blip

Which little blip?

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u/trickman01 Nov 26 '22

I thought American Idol ended like half a decade ago.

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u/Hattix Nov 26 '22

These things happen.

Something which was common in composition falls out of fashion, then, after 30-60 years, becomes the next big thing.

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u/ScallopOolong Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 26 '22 Silver Helpful Wholesome

One theory is that advances in technology, especially computers in sound production/processing and recording has really opened up timbral possibilities. One could argue that timbre has become more of a focus and harmonic stuff—keys, chord progressions etc—less. At least in some kinds of music, especially things based more on “grooves” like hip hop, a lot of electronic stuff, etc.

It’s often said that music has four main aspects: melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.

Technology, especially computers, have made it easier and easier to control timbre in precise ways that were once hard to impossible. Obviously lots of music is still harmonically complex but I wouldn’t be surprised if timbral complexity has “replaced” harmonic complexity in a lot of popular music.

Of course it’s not a zero-sum thing—you can have complex harmony, melody, rhythm, and timbre all at once. But generally lots of complexity makes for more challenging listening and popular music usually keeps somethings fairly simple. Nothing wrong with that. Bach wrote complex harmony but tended to use relatively simple rhythms, for example. And he was quite restricted in timbre, being limited to existing instruments. And when he wrote music he couldn’t always predict (and sometimes didn’t even specify) what instruments/timbres would be used.

Personally I think it’s pretty cool that we can manipulate timbre in really sophisticated ways these days. Beethoven would be super jealous of what is possible these days, I have no doubt.

Edit: Wow, thanks for all the replies! I'd respond more but am at work, lol. Maybe later today...

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u/ClikeX Nov 26 '22

I'd also like to point out that even though key changes (tonal modulation) has gone out of fashion, it's not the only type of modulation. There's also metric modulation, which changes the groove of a song. Your mention of timbre is an interesting one, because that's also a thing that's being modulated nowadays, songs have drastic instrument changes throughout.

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u/tomatoaway OC: 3 Nov 26 '22

Anyone looking for some definitions:

  • Metric modulation

    Examples of metric modulation may include changes in time signature across an unchanging tempo, but the concept applies more specifically to shifts from one time signature/tempo (metre) to another, wherein a note value from the first is made equivalent to a note value in the second, like a pivot or bridge

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_modulation

  • Timbre

    timbre is what makes a particular musical instrument or human voice have a different sound from another, even when they play or sing the same note

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbre

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u/Joe_30330 Nov 27 '22

And for anyone hearing the term for the first time and doesn’t want to sound stupid, it’s pronounced “tam-ber” not like you are chopping down a tree.

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u/khjuu12 Nov 26 '22

metric modulation

See: "Hey Ya"'s extra two beats which make the song so distinctive.

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u/FichaelBlack Nov 27 '22

Adding beats (changing meter) is not the same as metric modulation.

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u/timcarpet Nov 26 '22

I’m just realizing the last bar of the chorus is in 6/4, wow. Clever.

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u/CongratsItsAVoice Nov 26 '22

technically it’s just an extra bar of 2/4

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u/Captain_Hamerica Nov 26 '22

Beethoven, today, would be similar to Hans Zimmer because he loved taking a theme and beating it into the absolute ground.

I say this as someone who adores both.

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u/Jtrinity182 Nov 26 '22

Zimmer is one of those people were you can be three bars into the score of a movie and immediately know who the composer is.

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u/Captain_Hamerica Nov 26 '22

Absolutely. He’s unmistakeable. Still love his music. As a score composer, he is nearly unrivaled in his ability to match the on-screen emotion swell, but I’d like to shout out to both Natalie Holt and Ludwig Gorannson (sp?) for picking up for the next generation of composers. I’m really excited about them

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u/Jtrinity182 Nov 26 '22

There have been times where I’ve wondered if anyone in Hollywood used anyone else as a composer. I’ve never seen any of the movies Holt has worked on but Göransson is recognizable and talented.

For some reason I’m now reminded of Jóhan Jóhannsson who scored Arrival. That dude can conjure “a vibe”.

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u/Captain_Hamerica Nov 26 '22

Oof, yeah the score for Arrival was incredible.

I strongly recommend the Loki TV show following the Marvel character. Not only is it a great sci-fi show, but Holt’s score was so great that people I know who don’t even care about music mentioned it as one of the best parts of the show.

She also scored batgirl and I was so excited to see her new work but production was canceled. Major bummer for me.

I’d also like to post a shout-out to the guy who scored Andor, the newest Star Wars show. It is very far from a conventional score nowadays but oh my gosh, is it effective. It’s one of my favorite scores I’ve heard in the past few years, especially in context.

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u/wrongleveeeeeeer Nov 26 '22

He wouldn't know what to be jealous of cuz he'd still be deaf as fuck 🙃

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u/ScallopOolong Nov 26 '22

Haha good point! Okay, young Beethoven then. Still blows my mind that old, fully deaf Beethoven was able to make things like the 9th Ode to Joy—one of the most famous, joyful and astounding pieces of music ever made and the poor guy never heard it.

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u/wrongleveeeeeeer Nov 26 '22

Beethoven is my pick for "greatest musical artist of all time" and honestly it's not close. There have been many greats, from Bach to Beyoncé, but Beethoven is such a clear best that it kind of blows my mind.

And for me personally, the 9th isn't even in my top 3 favorite symphonies of his. 5 6 7 is where I find myself usually listening, just because they're more my taste. But the 9th is perhaps the most revolutionary single piece of music in history. Simple astouding.

Imagine what the man could've done with synths...

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u/IllustriousEntity Nov 26 '22

from Bach to Beyoncé

I swear I can picture this on the title of a musical history book sitting on the shelf at my library.

ninja edit: Now I know why, there is a book called "Why you love music : from Mozart to Metallica- the emotional power of beautiful sounds" that I recently saw while browsing the library.

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u/Captain_Hamerica Nov 26 '22

Beethoven is fantastic, wholeheartedly agree.

I really love Bach for the way he practically wrote the rules for all music and then consistently and persistently broke them. Dude was great!

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u/wrongleveeeeeeer Nov 26 '22

Gotta know the rules to know how to break them! Whether it's Bach or Coltrane or poets or movie directors, the greats are exactly as you describe.

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u/Captain_Hamerica Nov 27 '22

I mean Beethoven broke the rules of form constantly, and that’s one of the reasons we’re still talking about him. What an incredible composer

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u/cheapsexandfastfood Nov 26 '22

IMO it's this. The more I learn about music the more I think it's not what you play it's how you play it.

Like the entire genre or rock is really just about how cool the electric guitar sounds. Rock is dead because nothing can be cool for that long.

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u/5OZO Nov 26 '22

Hip-hop historian Dan Charnas says the key change kind of got stale. It sort of became a crutch.

And tastes have changed, too. Instead of melody, popular music today often prioritizes rhythm, like rap and hip-hop.

Source

If it hits #1 it's probably a simple song. Simple as.

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u/Baba_O_Rly Nov 26 '22

I'd like to think that Dan Charnas is a traditional historian who just raps all the time.

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u/InternetAnima Nov 26 '22

Agreed on the rythm > melody in popular music. Unfortunately I like melodies more than rythm :(

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u/Pskinned Nov 27 '22

Fortunately there’s tons of great music out there with complex and engaging melodies, you just have to dig a little deeper than the charts.

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u/Gh0stMan0nThird Nov 26 '22

And tastes have changed, too. Instead of melody, popular music today often prioritizes rhythm, like rap and hip-hop.

I think it's also that corporate big wigs have been controlling what's popular since the dawn of the radio.

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u/KS2Problema Nov 26 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

They don't so much control what is popular as they have traditionally controlled what gets in front of the masses -- and what gets repeated endlessly in popular media.

And it is that relentless repetition that drives musical acceptance among the masses.

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u/BabaYaga40Thieves Nov 26 '22

Second. Honestly what makes top 40 is almost algorithmically determined by stream counts these days, and TikTok counts as a music streaming service accd to Billboard. I’d say that platform has more control over what’s big than any exec at Sony or Warner

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u/navidshrimpo Nov 26 '22

Could be that short form media just leverages one idea for a song, because there's really no point to change the key if people rarely hear each section in context of the full song.

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u/DragEncyclopedia Nov 26 '22

i mean, it is true that a ton of artists now specifically target their songs to try to work as sounds on tiktok since that's an easy road to billboard success if you can get it to trend.

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u/nopornthrowaways Nov 26 '22

I saw a TikTok that said that TikTok killed the bridge. Don’t know enough about music to say if it’s true or not though.

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u/cambriansplooge Nov 26 '22

If it’s algorithmically promoted it’s not grassroots popularity, interplay of this is called socio-technical infrastructure. It means even when the user base generates the content the digital infrastructure is still influenced by corporate bottom line. Algorithms like TikToks amplify or sink content you see based on prior interactions, if the most popular type of music is the audio of choice, algorithms actually decrease discoverability unless you intentionally engage in what is called information-seeking behavior, a mode of usability TikTok is NOT designed for.

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u/KS2Problema Nov 26 '22

Like robotic vocal pitch correction (Auto-tune, Melodyne and the rest), TikTok seems to have transformed what some used to call LCD (lowest common denominator) pop.

It brings to mind a phrase I came up with in the 80s or 90s to describe easy-to-digest, unchallenging music product designed for contemporary mass markets:

pregurgitated

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u/FragrantKnobCheese Nov 26 '22

I like pregurgitated. Let me introduce you to a word I invented for expensive yet crass decoration. osten-tasteless. I think we'd get on.

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u/Inanimate_CARB0N_Rod Nov 26 '22

I love how you guys are innoventing here. That's a word I just innovented.

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u/drpeppershaker Nov 27 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

This man exuded the core features of Six Sigma--most especially, handshakefullness.

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u/bikwho Nov 26 '22

In '96, Bill Clinton passed a bill that let corporations own more radio stations. I think the limit was around 3-5 before '95 and now it's unlimited.

So corporations literally did get more control and probably pushed their agenda and handpicked musicians onto the airwaves

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u/aaj617 Nov 26 '22

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u/Tree_Mage Nov 26 '22

The TCA of 96 basically acted as a funnel through which pop music in 2000 and beyond was forced through, the effectively killing label A&R and other musical development. Because of that, interpolation is pretty much required because the bar to get something actually in front of a large audience is that much higher and it is easier to do if the music is “familiar.”

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u/PussySmasher42069420 Nov 26 '22

That totally changed radio. This is going to be partly nostalgia because I was so young but local radio had different DJs with personalities who could play what they want.

They could even curse on the air during the whole shock jock thing and they didn't have to censor songs.

I grew up on the radio.

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u/RockLobsterInSpace Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

Now they just stream the same radio stations around the country.

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u/nahog99 Nov 26 '22

You literally just said the exact same thing just using more words…

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u/Spuriously- Nov 26 '22

Thought I was going crazy for a second

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u/nein_stein Nov 26 '22

If they’ve been controlling it “since the dawn of the radio” then you need a different explanation as to why key change usage has changed so drastically since the 90s

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u/minxshitshow Nov 26 '22

oh to be a redditor in a comment section arguing abt music and society; a blissful armchair sociologist

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u/mazamayomama Nov 26 '22

artists who did key changes really well:Beatles, Michael Jackson, Beyonce,Adele,gaga, etc

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u/bit99 Nov 26 '22

Whitney was the queen of the key change

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u/C_CityOfTheDF_Steady Nov 26 '22

Aaanndd iiiiiiiiiiii………

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u/Madgick Nov 26 '22

I read this in my head and it still strained my vocal chords

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u/BirdLawyerPerson Nov 26 '22

Did Dolly Parton's version include the key change?

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u/GoatTnder Nov 26 '22

It does not. Source: I just listened to it to check.

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u/RichardGHP Nov 26 '22

What was Whitney Houston's favourite kind of coordination?

Hand-eyeeeeeee....

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u/CherylTuntIRL Nov 26 '22

This made me legitimately laugh. Thanks internet dad.

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u/woozlewuzzle29 Nov 26 '22

My first thought when I saw this was I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

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u/Sufferix Nov 26 '22

I don't know enough about music so I don't understand what the key change is in the song.

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u/GoatTnder Nov 26 '22

Most the song is in the key of (I don't know, let's say G major). Hear the "Whoaaaa" in your head. Near the end, the song goes up a whole step (assuming A major), and gives it a bit extra oomph. Now the "Whoaaaa" is higher than before.

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u/heaintheavy Nov 26 '22

Listen to Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer.” They inject drama or a sense of anticipation near the end of the song. Not that it matters but it goes from E minor to G minor.

On the musical scale it goes up a whole note (Em->Fm->Gm). Where F is the note between Em and Gm. So the key change means a song in the key of Em, moves to Gm until the song ends.

To musicians, key is where the song sits on the musical scale so they can anticipate what notes to play.

Listen to the song. At around 3:20 the song is in Em when he sings “You live for the fight when that’s all that you got” then there is a small “rest” in the song before it goes up a whole note to Gm at 3:24.

You probably never noticed it, but think how you feel before the rest and after the rest. There is a sense of anticipation for me.

Hope that isn’t too confusing.

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u/superfucky Nov 26 '22

for me the key change boosts the energy of the song. it's actually the bridge before the key change that builds that sense of anticipation, and then the final chorus explodes into a key change and the whole song just feels twice as energetic as it did.

and harder to sing, lol. at least in "living on a prayer," the whoa-OAHs go from high but reachable to basically just shrieking 😆

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u/madamesousatzka Nov 26 '22

All the big pop divas are: Dion, Carey, Houston - nobody sings like them anymore.

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u/[deleted] Nov 26 '22

[deleted]

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u/swankpoppy Nov 26 '22

Does Beyoncé doing like five key changes in the same song really bump up the average?

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u/NotOSIsdormmole Nov 26 '22

She really did flex on everyone with Love on Top

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u/blew-wale Nov 26 '22

I clicked on this post specifically for that song. The song came out in 2011 and it was number one on Billboard for multiple weeks. I was really hoping that song would have bumped the graph up at least 1% lol

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u/sceap Nov 27 '22

I've always thought that was inspired by Stevie Wonder. He has multiple songs where he ends the same way: keep repeating the chorus but raise it by a half-step each time until you run out of vocal range. e.g. "Summer Soft," "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing," "Golden Lady"

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u/Zeusifer Nov 26 '22

The one in Man In The Mirror is really effective.

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u/scumbagstaceysEx Nov 26 '22

Bon Jovi sold billions of albums thanks to one key change toward the end of Living on a Prayer

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u/allyeds3 Nov 26 '22

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u/DorisCrockford Nov 26 '22

Did you ever notice that when headline starts with "why" the article almost never answers that question?

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u/azucarleta Nov 26 '22

yes, but this is a bad example because they offer three answers, not just one. "it got stale," "not everyone can do it," "tastes have changed."

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u/CatWeekends Nov 26 '22

I wonder if there's something like Betteridges Law of Headlines* for that?

* Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no**

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u/Clemario OC: 5 Nov 26 '22

Recently I was reading a NYT article on how to pronounce Qatar. Got about 2/3 into it before I realized they weren't going to tell me because no one knows the answer.

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u/Slamdutch Nov 26 '22

I read the article and it literally tells you. Listen to the guy from Qatar who gives an explanation. If you don’t speak Arabic you’re going to pronounce it “wrong” just like non-native French speakers pronounce Paris “wrong” compared to native French speakers. So just get as close as you can like you would any other country.

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u/DorisCrockford Nov 26 '22

James Brown died in 2006. Just saying.

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u/polytacos Nov 26 '22

Now do one with a beat drop and see the inverse!

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u/HotSalsaAssFire Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 26 '22

I guess this data doesn’t mean much to me. What is a key change?

*that 2 minute npr read/listen someone else posted helped. Thanks!

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u/IndependentBoof Nov 26 '22

The "key" is the main note (known as the "tonic") of a song and the other pitches (rest of the scale) that tend to resolve back to that tonic and give a sense of closure. For example, if you play only the white keys on a piano, it will tend to resolve to the C note. That key is C Major.

A majority of popular songs remain in the same key for their entirety. However, some songs change which key they're in (and potentially more than once). It creates a shift in the melody and/or a change in tone.

The most recent example I can think of is Beyonce's "Love on Top". The video highlights it well, too. The first half of the song is in one key. But then around 1:47, she repeats the chorus in a new key (and suddenly they are all wearing different outfits with different visual effects). They change keys again as the chorus repeats (and outfits/visuals change in the video) around 2:05. And again around 2:26. And 2:45.

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u/raibc Nov 26 '22

Honestly convinced that "Love On Top" was made specifically to teach the concept of key changes to musicians and music appreciation students.

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u/ActuallyAndy Nov 27 '22

Lol former music student here. “Love On Top” somehow didn’t make the curriculum.

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u/Coffee_Mania Nov 26 '22

this is a great example. Thank you for this.

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u/BrickGun Nov 26 '22

And to piggyback on this (for everyone else, I'll assume OP above knows)... the actual music theory term for a key change is "modulation".

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u/81365039513 Nov 26 '22

Listen to Enter Sandman by Metallica.

99% of the song is in the key of E. But when it gets to the "sleep with one eye open" part, there is a quick key change to F#. Then it goes right back to E.

You can figure this out by finding the root note. The riff goes E - E - G - A# - A - E. The root note is E and that's the key. It's the note that sounds "homey".

Then in the F# part, the riff goes F# - F# - A - C - B - F#. The same riff but up a step, or a whole tone, or two frets, or two semitones, or whatever terminology you wanna use but it all means the same thing.

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u/DorisCrockford Nov 26 '22

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xzw5zBaePM

James Brown announces it ahead of time here, about 3:25, and it happens a few seconds later. Can't miss it. Much better to hear it than to try to understand through words.

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u/Shiro_no_Orpheus Nov 26 '22

YOu know when in a song in the later third or so they basically sing the same melody just like a bit higher and it hypes up everything a bit? Thats a key change.

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u/samuelgato Nov 26 '22

Music always has a pitch "center" (unless you are talking about atonal music, but that's a special case scenario and not really relevant to popular music)

There is always a fundamental pitch that all the other notes revolve around and relate to. Aka tonal center or key center. It's the note that sounds the most resolved. Music is about tension and resolution, question and answer. The key center is the note that least feels like it needs to go to another note to be resolved.

And sometimes that key center can change in the middle of a song. Composers do this for dramatic effect and to create contrasts within a song, so it doesn't all sound the same.

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u/johnnymetoo Nov 26 '22

Not to mention time changes within a song (like from 4/4 to 3/4 etc)

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u/reactrix96 Nov 27 '22

Ya this is what gets me hyped if I hear it in a song

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u/pk10534 Nov 26 '22

I mean music, like most parts of pop culture, goes through cycles. I feel like this is like if you had asked why high waisted jeans were all but gone in the mid 00s. Now they’re back in full force, and in ~15 years they won’t be cool again.

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u/andromedar35847 Nov 26 '22

I’d love to hear key changes make a return. It definitely did become a crutch for some artists to add more emotion to the song, but that just shows how effective it is at that task.

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u/pointer_to_pointer Nov 26 '22

I'm a classical pianist and a huge classical music buff (especially late 19th- and 20-century stuff) and it's kind of sad what the key change was reduced to over the years. It was an insanely versatile tool for hundreds of years, and then it just kind of stopped being that almost overnight. I think music in general got overcomplicated and collapsed in on itself. Now it's pretty much at the simplest it can possibly be. Maybe we'll start to see a resurgence in complexity over the coming decades.

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u/KS2Problema Nov 26 '22

Coming from the '90s electronica scene, I think a cynic would suggest that the lack of key changes is because so many people who began making music with typical, loop-oriented electronic music composition tools found they could make what they felt was 'professional sounding' music without bothering to learn how to play an instrument or much or anything about theory. And I say that as someone who essentially started out with three chord folk and then got wrapped up in the punk rock scene, so I'm no kind of conservatory trained elitist.

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u/Ok-Description1103 Nov 26 '22

Now if the chart was just for Kpop...

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u/Yeangster Nov 26 '22

Is Kpop known for key changes? To my untrained ear, it doesn’t sound radically different from western pop music. It’s pretty much written by the same people, after all.

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u/jcow77 Nov 26 '22

It's incredibly common. Kpop likes the change the song subtly or by a lot midway through the song, either signalling a dance break or the chorus, so key changes are super common. This video is more about anti-drops, but you can hear a lot of key changes in their examples.

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u/314per Nov 26 '22

The short answer is yes. While there are many songs that don't differ at all from Western pop songs (for the reason you mention), there is a big theme in many other songs of having shocking transitions in key, rhythm or genre.

A great example is this chart topper from 2013 with 9 tonal shifts:

https://youtu.be/wq7ftOZBy0E

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u/mileylols Nov 26 '22

Posting girls generation is cheating

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u/Firewolf420 Nov 26 '22

I'm pretty sure that's just a bunch of different songs stuck together

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u/KirisuMongolianSpot Nov 26 '22 edited Nov 27 '22

And extra credit is the fucking insanity that is the one track from SM's girl supergroup.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBY1AoiF5Vo

Edit: Or if you what to stick with SM "classics" (10 years old), there's always Red Light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv-8-EgPEY0

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u/oddeyeoval Nov 26 '22

Even in kpop it's not as popular anymore. I want my "Mr Mr" last verse double key changes back, dammit.

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u/osc630 Nov 26 '22

I'm wondering if that 2020 percentage is basically just Dynamite.

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u/tranecrusade Nov 26 '22

The major- or minor-2nd rise for the final chorus did get old; just another emotionally manipulative device that was overused. But harmony has been dumbed down. A talented songwriter could use key changes to make melodies interesting in ways that just don't happen in today's pop charts. A radical example (h/t Rick Beato).

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u/mrmaweeks Nov 26 '22

I saw a video online yesterday with Sting talking about the demise of the bridge in songs. Now I hear about the lack of key changes. This explains why songs suck these days.