Popular Music: Simple Sells

Complexity is a key ingredient in many great musical compositions, but that doesn’t mean it is absolutely necessary to intrigue people.  In fact,  simple compositions with just a few chords are often the ones to become huge hits.  Listeners don’t always choose the music they like based on how impressed they are with the musicianship.  In most instances, the ability to relate or enjoy oneself while listening is what draws in the audience.

Jack Black in the movie School of Rock

{link:http://www.schoolofrockmovie.com/}Jack Black in School of Rock{/link}

I find it a bit comical how songs that could very possibly have been written overnight often outsell those that composers spend months writing.  Some people are bothered by this, but it is not a major concern to me.  When a talented musician plays a very basic song, his or her talent still shines through those few notes and chords.  Additionally, that musician is providing entertainment by giving the audience what they want to hear.  It isn’t like they are trying to sneak anything by the listeners, such as the case with the issue I previously addressed in my post about auto-tune.  Even those without any background in music can tell the difference between Greenday’s “Good Riddance” and Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.”

I am not trying to say all music should should be built around no more than a few common chords.  I think just about anyone likes to be impressed by highly dynamic, unmatched musical compositions.  Many of my favorite songs are those that venture outside of the ordinary.  However, when it comes down to the overall sound of a song, it doesn’t always take super sophisticated melodies and chord structures to strike certain emotions.

Below is a video of a comedy rock band called The Axis of Awesome performing the “Four Chord Song.”  They do a superb job demonstrating this concept.

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