Carbon Copies: Why Are Some Songs Sound Awfully Similar?

SPOTLIGHT
Elly Zulaikha
April 20, 2020
3 minutes

If you wondered why some songs sound eerily similar, then you’re not the only one with the thought. The RedTix Insights team brings you all the explanations and information you need to know about this music phenomenon. 


Musical arrangement


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Do you remember how Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s hit Senorita flooded every radio station last year? Even if you’re not a fan of the duo, the more you listen to the songs, you eventually change your opinion that ‘Hey, this isn’t bad.’ But have you wondered why it sounds similar?



The answer lies in the way music is structurally composed. Think of all those hit summer songs that topped the charts for weeks or months, and you’ll notice most of the songs were made using the famous four chords. 


Think of A-Ha’s Take on Me or Ariana Grande’s hit Thank U Next. Although each song uses different or maybe a few of the same musical notes such as G, B minor and more, when combined, these notes are what made pop songs essentially sound the same. 



Check out this article to help you understand better the workings of musical chords here


But these music producers don’t just happen to use the chords a few times. In fact, if you dig a little about all those famous summer pop songs, you’ll find only a few songwriters and music producers who produced at least 20 of the songs you’ve heard of. 


If you’ve got a sharp hearing sensory or you knew a bit, those 20 songs are somewhat similar. It’s just that the lyrics are different, and the notes were arranged slightly in a different way. That’s why some songs do sound similar!


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Psychological explanation


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Several psychological studies have found that people usually prefer songs that sound familiar to them and why most of us have distinct musical tastes in our playlists. If you listen to pop or R&B, chances are, your playlists are filled with identical songs, whether you unconsciously know it or not.


Due to this, it "influences not only how we perceive popular music, but also how it is produced," according to researchers in a study. Seeing this trend occurring all the time in pop music, producers take this as a chance and keep milking at our inability to distinguish ‘different’ but ultimately the same music.


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Generic is better than experimental


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There’s a reason why modern pop songs have progressively become generic. This is due to when a genre becomes popular and therefore demand for music increases (we’re hungry lots, aren’t we?), producers will rush to produce more. In turn, they ended up using identical music engineering to create, for example, 10 songs, with the same notes used previously in old songs. 


Additionally, technology grew to be an indispensable part of life, especially for music. It certainly paved the way for music producers to whip up new music in a short period of time, as they can use the sounds found in their library to create synchronized beats and tempo without recording the actual instruments in the studio. Therefore we sometimes noticed that ‘beat’ or ‘click’ sounded awfully the same in at least 5 songs we’ve heard nowadays.   


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But compared to music masterpieces that often fall under ‘experimental music’, it usually has a less fan following and therefore doesn’t get heard in the radio often. Undeniably, experimental music differs from the general pop because of its complexity, in that they tend to focus on creating unique music based on a complex set of notes and chords. No wonder it takes a while to even create a quality album!