From Elvis to Miley, Danceability Remains Constant


(This post originally appeared here.)

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Hemlines rise and fall. Stocks fluctuate. Music styles arise, shift, and combine. One thing that hasn’t changed: how danceable we like our music.

From the days when Elvis ruled the airwaves through the hippy ’60s, the smooth rock and disco ’70s, the new wave, synthpop, and hip-hop of the ’80s, the grunge-y ’90s, the boy bands that followed, all the way to the hip-hop-tinged pop that’s popular today, our favorite music has remained approximately as easy to dance to.

In other words, from the time when your parents or grandparents demurely cut a rug to Elvis, all the way to Miley’s twerking at the VMA Awards, we’ve preferred our music to have just over average danceability.

Data alchemist Glenn McDonald found the danceability attribute of the 5,000 hottest songs from each year from 1960 to 2013. On the above chart, zero represents music that has absolutely no value for dancing; one representing music that is perfectly danceable.

As you can see from the chart, the danceability value of popular music remained fairly consistent through several big music revolutions, with a highpoint in the years surrounding 1982 and a lowpoint in 1968. But mostly, the popular music of the past few decades has remained at about the same danceability level.