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‘80s Music is Boring, According to Science

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Most debates about pop music may be entirely subjective, but Matthias Mauch, an engineer at Queen Mary University of London, decided to take a more scientific approach to the subject. He and a team of colleagues put 17,000 songs spanning 50 years of the Billboard 100 list through data-mining software to generate a quantitative data set about the evolution of what’s topping the charts.

The computer took songs (the label of “pop” is more about popularity than genre) from 1960 to 2010 and measured things like harmony and timbre. The results, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, prove that it simply isn’t true that all mass music sounds the same.

One major finding: Music in the ‘80s was a snooze! That decade was the least diverse of any time period in the last half-century.

After Mauch and his team measured harmony, timbre, and chord changes, the researchers built a “fossil record” that tracked when particular stylings were more or less prominent. With that data, the team was able to see the decline of the dominant 7th chords as jazz and blues faded from the mainstream. In turn, the minor seventh chords found a place with the dawn of the disco era.

The team was also able to spot three musical revolutions in 1964, 1983, and 1991. These years marked large shifts in the pop music world where styles changed quickly. It’s pretty remarkable that a set of data would reflect the changes of what was in vogue from decade to decade, but the revolutions in the data make total sense. The British Invasion stormed pop music in 1964, while 1983 ushered in the era of new technology and synthesizers, and in 1991, rap and hip-hop started to take over. The last shift was the largest, according to Mauch, in part because rap and hip-hop are genres with very few harmonies.

There’s also some great news for those who are tired of hearing people say that all modern pop music sounds the same: Science disagrees. According to the data, today’s pop is just as diverse as ever. So if you must hate on something, you can hate the ‘80s, though my New Order t-shirt and I will just keep dancing over here.

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Animals
Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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