Increased levels of bass in popular music recordings 1955–2016 and their relation to loudness
Journal of Acoustical Society of America, April 2019
Michael J. Hove, Peter Vuust, and Jan Stupacher
The sound of recorded music has changed over time. These changes can be captured by different audio features. Over the past decades, popular songs have shown clear increases in RMS energy and loudness, but far less attention has addressed whether this upward trend is more prevalent in specific frequency bands, such as the bass. Bass frequencies are especially important for movement induction, such as foot tapping or dancing, and might offer competitive advantages of capturing attention and increasing engagement. Here, the authors examined the evolution of audio features, such as root-mean-square (RMS) energy, loudness, and spectral fluctuations (changes in the audio signal’s frequency content) in ten frequency bands from songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts from 1955 to 2016. Over time, RMS energy and loudness increased while dynamic range decreased. The largest increases were found in the bass range: Spectral flux increased most strongly in the lowest frequency bands (0–100 Hz), and when controlling for overall RMS, only the lowest frequency bands showed an increase over time. The upward trend of bass could reflect changes in technology and style; but based on links between bass and movement, it is likely a widespread technique to increase engagement and contribute to chart success.
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