01 May 2015


the journalistic takeaway on this recent study of pop music from 1960-2010 offers a great example in the popular distortions of scientific investigation. the study's authors admit they only sampled a tiny fraction of American music: "Given that the Hot 100 is certainly a biased subset of [new singles released in the USA], our conclusions *cannot be extended to the population of all releases*" (asterisk-emphasis ours). yet that didn't stop editors from publishing headlines such as "Computer scientists prove 80s pop music is boring" (PBS News) or "The Beatles and Rolling Stones didn't revolutionize music" (NME). what the study actually showed (not proved) was that the charts in the late 80s became more homogenous ('boring' is subjective) and that the British Invasion built on a dramatic but already on-going turn in musical tastes ...but never mind these pesky details, newspaper readers. even more galling is the soft bigotry of burying the lead: "The rise of RAP and related genres appears, then, to be *the single most important event* that has shaped the musical structure of the American charts in the period that we studied". not even a plurality of the headlines I read trumpeted this, and when mentioned, it was almost always presented as something along the lines of "It's Official: Hip-Hop Is More Important Than the Beatles" (Esquire) or "Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dog put the Beatles, Rolling Stones in shade" (The Australian) - a comparison the study never explicated! WHAT to the THE to the FUCK! to us, that's just quasi-racist click-bait for the Bill O'Reillys of the world, meant to compel crotchety white Baby Boomers to leave nasty comments on how sophisticated Beatlemania was when juxtaposed with the downfall of Western civilization that is hip-hop. what's more, if we can't even trust the press to report accurately on entertainment news, how can we trust them to get their facts straight on climate change or international crises? same ol' song and dance.

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