Now and Then

Looking back at 100 albums of Now

This year Now That’s What I Call Music celebrates the huge milestone of 100 albums. Since 1983 these “mix-tape” albums has been a staple of British music culture and the formula behind them still feels remarkably simple — yet it works: take some of the chart toppers from the last few months, add a few tracks that people may have missed, and then spice it up with something alternative or different at the end.

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Pop Music. Everyone Talking about Pop Music.

As we see below pop has become the dominant genre to the Now album over the decades, typified by Taylor Swift’s move from country to pop in 2014. But calling it just pop is doing pop a disservice, as it’s no longer just the preserve of just 3 minute songs and a catchy tune.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy?

Valence describes the musical positiveness conveyed by a track. The higher the value, out of 100, the more positive the mood of the song.

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Visit the dynamic version here to hover and explore

Start Me Up

Popularity is measured out of a 100 — with the higher the number, the higher the popularity. Lots of ‘Now’ tracks have zero popularity. Some deservedly so, Garry Glitter’s Dance Me Up, but some are more puzzling, for example The Rolling Stones Undercover (Of The Night).

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Cum on Feel the Noize

As most parents have probably noticed music is getting louder, this is something that started from at least Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly in the 1950s. (See — ‘Pop music is louder, less acoustic and more energetic than in the 1950sGuardian) Now albums are keeping with that trend by also getting louder, although a little more quieter recently than at its peak.

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Time after time

Since Now started the average song length has shortened by a minute from a peak of 4:31 to 3:24, perhaps signifying the move away from longer rock anthems. There are lots of theories as to why and we don’t want to repeat them here, but many focus around the attention spans of modern generations artists “gaming” the Spotify streaming system, either killing the modern intro to get around 30 second demo limits or adding more, shorter, songs to albums to push them higher in the charts.

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The Beat Goes On

Previous analysis of hits on the American Billboard charts has shown that 120 BPM is the optimum tempo. So it’s no surprise that a hit based album should hover around that mark. In comparison Dubstep is mostly 80–90, Hip Hop is around 80–115 BPM and Drum and Bass averages a BPM of 160–180.

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I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Unsurprisingly, Now albums are full of energy and danceability. Danceabilty has hovered around the same mark for the entire period. There has been more of a change with Energy, and occasionally energy trumps danceabilty in a way that is not completely clear.

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Conclusion

So what have we learnt? In the Now series — which represents perhaps the best barometer of “mainstream” musical culture we have — then Pop is more prevalent than ever, songs are getting shorter and louder and even a bit angrier. Furthermore, despite our preconceptions, we’re not really seeing the series becoming less eclectic.

Methodology

Producing a Databeats article isn’t easy, to produce the 2000 words and handful of charts in an article takes a lot of effort that is often hidden behind the scenes. In this section we talk through some of those hidden details — if you’re not interested, and we don’t blame you, then move on but if you’re keen to see behind the scenes then read on.

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@ChrisLuv and @robradburn talking about, well, whatever we can get data on

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