Fifty years may be a short time for the music industry, but much has happened over the course of half a decade. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London teamed up and found there have been three music revolutions over the past 50 years, from 1960 through 2010, based on 17,000 hit tunes on the US Billboard Hot 100.
1964 First Wave of Music Revolution
After processing thousands of hit songs, researchers found that the dominant seventh chord used in jazz and blues faded in the early 1960s and were replaced with minor seventh, which doubled in frequency until the late 1970s. This marked the era of disco. Simultaneously in 1964, British bands Beatles and Rolling Stones swept the US with their radical new rocky music.
1983 Second Wave of Music Revolution
Around 1983, despite the relatively lower musical diversity, new technology, drum machines and synthesizers drove another shift in music style marked by the rise of “percussive” and “guitar/aggressive” tunes of such artists as Bon Jovi and The Cars.
1991 Third Wave of Music Revolution
When rap and hip-hop music hit mainstream, it marked another era in music. Head researcher, Dr. Matthias Mauch of Queen Mary University of London, said that this was the biggest music revolution so far, pointing to the success of rap and hip-hop despite their lack of harmony. He said “This was a real revolution: suddenly it was possible that you had a pop song without harmony.”
Beatles and Other British Bands Discredited
Interestingly, the study showed that even before the Beatles and other British bands became big in the 1964 US charts, the first music revolution had already begun. According to the research, as the Beatles claimed fame in America, “many styles were changing in frequency” and that “their evolutionary trajectories were all established before 1964, implying that, whereas the British may have contributed to this revolution, they could not have been entirely responsible for it.” To a certain degree, British bands merely exploited the trending music style in the US during the 1960s, and became benchmarks for other artists.