“Who killed rock? Singer-songwriters, box sets and record producers,” Noel Gallagher gives his frank opinion when speaking to The Times last February.
He adds, “No f***** wants to be in a band these days because it’s too much of a struggle.”
If what the former Oasis guitarist and songwriter says is true, it might go some way to explaining the monotonous musical graveyard that was the 2016 chart.
The elements he mentions are what stifle creativity: watch TV, instead of playing an instrument, and do what the producer says, instead of what you want.
Ten years ago, you could find Razorlight and the Arctic Monkeys, mixed in with Kanye West and James Blunt.
In 1996, Oasis battled Blur, complimented with the catchy cringe fest of the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys.
In the 70s and 80s , there was Queen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Clash, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, Slade and The Who, accompanied by the subtle bagpipe melodies of the Royal Scots Dragoon.
The point is, yes, there was fantastic music, but there was also some abominations making it into the charts. Crucially, there was variety.
Compelling stories have different elements, and, in many ways, a look back at the charts is often the story of a year or a decade.
Following this train of thought, onlookers would assume that 2016 had been an uneventful year. If the spiders from mars were to listen to our chart, they may be forgiven for thinking that Ziggy Stardust didn’t die, that Brexit never happened, and that world peace must have been solved years ago.
In the end of year chart, there were two bands in the top 50: DNCE, and Coldplay. One produced a refreshingly catchy song, the other has been bombarding our ears with excruciatingly dire tracks for the last 20 years.
With just two bands in the top 50, and the lyrically dyslexic Drake reaching number one, even professors are telling us that popular music is getting worse.
Joan Serrà, a postdoctoral scholar at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona, examined three aspects of over 500,000 songs between the years of 1955 and 2012: timbre (which “accounts for the sound colour, texture, or tone quality,” pitch (which “roughly corresponds to the harmonic content of the piece, including its chords, melody, and tonal arrangements”) and loudness.
The results found that the variety of timbre had decreased, whilst the pitch has remained the same since the 60s – musicians are becoming less creative and are less willing to take the risks of their predecessors.
And if you thought pop songs were becoming increasingly monotone jams about personal relationships, then you’re not wrong. The study found that pop tunes are becoming more self-focused, which might explain the lack of variety.
On the other hand, it might be time to accept what comes naturally to many these days – the chart doesn’t matter anymore. With the growth in popularity of streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, where you pay a monthly subscription to gain unlimited access to over 40 million songs, who needs a chart to tell them who’s good?
It says a lot, when after using a streaming service for two years, you can still find yourself being amazed at the new musicians you find thanks to their programming. By reading your listening history, it creates playlists and suggestions of songs that you might like and in turn you are able to dive deeper into your own interests.
The big producers may choose who goes in the charts and who plasters the pages of gossip magazines. However, it is now the listeners, with the help of algorithms, who choose what they themselves listen to.
In short, the chart is dead. Once a bastion for the musically gifted, in 2016 it became poisoned and no antidote was found. Parasites need a living body as a host, perhaps the current music in the charts will just die off without theirs. And songs will once again explore topics incomprehensibly deeper than whoever’s anaconda don’t.