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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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Your Library Has a Free Music Service That You Probably Didn't Know About
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Did you know that you can download free music from your local library? Music that you can keep. That's right: not borrow, keep.

It's all possible thanks to a service called Freegal (a portmanteau of free and legal), which gives patrons of participating libraries access to 15 million songs from 40,000 labels, notably including the Sony Music Entertainment catalog. All you need is a library card.

Here's how it works: You can download a few songs a week, and, in many areas, enjoy several hours of streaming, too (the precise number of songs and hours of streaming varies by library). Once you download MP3 files, they're yours. You're free to put them on iTunes, your iPhone, your tablet, and more. You don't have to return them and they don't expire. The counter resets on Mondays at 12:01 a.m. Central Time, so if you hit your limit, you won't have long to wait before you get more downloads. And Freegal has some great stuff: A quick scan of the front page reveals music from Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Cardi B, Simon & Garfunkel, Childish Gambino, The Avett Brothers, Lykke Li, and Sara Bareilles.

Freegal has been around since 2010 and is offered at libraries worldwide. In the U.S., that includes the New York Public Library, Queens Library, Los Angeles Public Library, West Chicago Public Library, Houston Public Library, and more. In the past few years, libraries have debuted some other amazing free digital services, from classic films streaming on Kanopy to audiobooks and e-books available to borrow on SimplyE and OverDrive. But the thing that's so exciting about Freegal is that you can keep the MP3 files, unlike services that limit you to borrowing.

Freegal's site is easy to navigate: You can browse playlists and make your own, check out the most popular tunes, and save songs to your wishlist for when you get more credits. In the old days, music fans would check out CDs from the library and upload them onto their computers before returning them. But Freegal eliminates the need to go to your local branch, check out an album, and bring it back when you're done.

Freegal app
Freegal

To find out if your local library has Freegal, go to freegalmusic.com and click login, then search for your area. It's important to note: Your library's contract might not have both streaming and downloading privileges. You can use Freegal on the web or as an app available on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon. Of course, the service doesn't have everything. And sometimes, when it does have an artist, it will only have a few of their most popular albums. But if you frequently buy music on iTunes or elsewhere, checking Freegal first may save you a bit of money.

If you don't yet have a library card, Freegal is just one more reason why you should get one ASAP.

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An Anthology Series Based on Dolly Parton's Songs Is Coming to Netflix
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Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Though she may be best known for her music career, Dolly Parton is a Hollywood powerhouse. In addition to starring in more than a few contemporary classics, from 9 to 5 to Steel Magnolias, she's also been partly responsible for some of your favorite TV series. As part owner of Sandollar Entertainment, a film and television production company, she's been a silent figure behind shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, the queen of country music is preparing to return to the small screen once again—this time on Netflix.

The beloved singer is partnering with Warner Bros. Television to produce an anthology series for Netflix, Engadget reports. Set to debut in 2019, each of the eight episodes will have a theme based on a song by Parton, who will serve as executive producer and singer-songwriter in addition to appearing in the series.

"As a songwriter, I have always enjoyed telling stories through my music," Parton said in a statement. "I am thrilled to be bringing some of my favorite songs to life with Netflix. We hope our show will inspire and entertain families and folks of all generations, and I want to thank the good folks at Netflix and Warner Bros. TV for their incredible support."

The list of songs hasn’t yet been released, but I Will Always Love You, Jolene, and The Bargain Store are among Parton’s greatest hits.

Parton previously worked with Warner Bros. to produce the made-for-television movies Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (2015) and Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016). She has also nearly finished the music for the upcoming film Dumplin'—based on a novel by Julie Murphy and starring Jennifer Aniston—and the soundtrack will be released via Dolly Records and Sony Music Nashville, according to Parton’s website.

[h/t Engadget]

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