Is Music Getting More Energetic Over Time?


(This post originally appeared here.)

Does it seem to you that today’s music packs more energy than the music that came out last year, decade, or century? You’re onto something.

Chalk it up to music having to compete with an increasing number of distractions, an overall increase in the speed of our lives these days, or some other factor or combination of factors, but the energy level of music has been rising steadily over the past five-plus decades of popular music.

By running the 5,000 most popular songs from each year through The Echo Nest’s deep musical understanding of music, which not only incorporates what people everywhere say about music, but also listens to it — as in to the soundwaves themselves — data alchemist Glenn McDonald showed that popular music has grown increasingly more energetic since 1960.

Notably, popular music’s energy level plateaued slightly during the ’80s. Other than that, we’ve seen a pretty consistent ramp-up in energy level:


Our energy attribute is computed by a combined analysis of many parts of the musical signal — the loudness, beats, structural changes and sounds of the instruments. This energy attribute results in a scaled floating point metric from 0 to 1, where 1 is the most energetic. From this analysis, popular music’s energy level started out around .3, and has now climbed to .7 — a big increase, and one that took decades.

And, to get an idea of what we mean by energetic, have a listen to this playlist. Songs 1-5 have a very high energy rating, while songs 6-10 have a very low energy rating:


(Top image courtesy of Flickr/Luc Viatour)