The New Yorker takes a look inside the great pop song machine.
How did this happen? How did mainstream rock, once the source of the catchiest hooks in popular music, become robotic, unimaginative, and predictable, while pop, always the soul of artifice, came to seem creative, experimental, and alive? Whereas rock is about the sound of a band playing together (even when its members aren’t actually together) and features virtuoso solos played on real instruments, today’s Top Forty is almost always machine-made: lush sonic landscapes of beats, loops, and synths in which all the sounds have square edges and shiny surfaces, the voices are Auto-Tuned for pitch, and there are no mistakes. The music sounds sort of like this: thump thooka whompa whomp pish pish pish thumpaty wompah pah pah pah.