What Do Billboard Hit Songs Have in Common?


– Over the last two and a half years 89 songs have made their
way into the top five slots of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. For this episode, the team at Sound Field cracked open every one of these songs to identify certain trends that are common in music right now. What are chart-topping artist doing today versus in the past. (mic static) (music notes flip) These days if you want to top the charts, it’s better to use the
sad, mysterious tones of the minor keys in modes rather than the more regular major keys that have historically been
used at the top of the charts. In this graph, we can see that
of all the tonalities used, harmonic minor and natural minor, as well as the minor modes
of dorian and phrygian, outed the appearance of major keys in the lydian mode by almost double. This is uncommon for pretty much any other era of western popular music. Even more surprising, is
the rise of phrygian mode in modern pop hits, 7%
of the songs used it. And while that’s not a huge number itself, it becomes gigantic when you consider that the overall usage of phrygian across all popular music
ever, is well south of 1%. (music notes flip) – In lyric writing, or any
kind of writing or poetry, a trochee is when a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable. So like, trochee, Mona Lisa, or bad and boujee. These trochees are in contrast to the more common
cousins, iambic phrases, like, “I’m bad at love, “She walks in beauty like the night”, or “Havana ooh na na”. What we’re hearing all over
the pop charts these days is that trochees are often
being sped up, double time. So what was two eighth notes before becomes two sixteenth
notes followed by a rest. We call these rapid trochees and they sound like this. ♪ stuntin’, popping bottles ♪ ♪ Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh oh ♪ ♪ Ain’t no stoppin’ ♪ ♪ Album droppin’ ♪ ♪ Do my back like I do these records ♪ ♪ Walkin’ past the mirror, ooh ♪ ♪ I’m the hottest in the street ♪ ♪ Banging body, spicy mami, hot tamale ♪ Actually, maybe we should
just call these Cardi trochees because the last four examples
were of Cardi B using them. Shout to Adam Neely’s
video on Scotch Snaps where he digs into this more. – Teenage mutant ninja turtles. (music notes flip) – So what does the Billboard Hot 100 have against guitars these days. Well, let’s first mention that two of the most common keys that guitars have
traditionally written songs in are E and A major. ♪ We’re gonna rock around
the clock tonight ♪ ♪ Aye Oh, let’s go ♪ ♪ Layla ♪ ♪ Yes, I’m back in black ♪ – Now, let’s look at what’s
going on in today’s charts. Here we can see that while A and E have healthy showings for minor keys, not one song to top the charts was written in A or E major. (music notes flip) – Now let’s take a look at the tempos that chart toppers have been using lately. Okay, so we have a small
spike from 67 to 70 VPM but the real story here, is this big gap from 109 to 118 VPM, with just Lil Baby and
Gunna’s Drip Too Hard sitting here at 112 like
they didn’t get the memo. But seriously, this is not typical. The most common tempo in the Rolling Stone greatest
500 songs of all time, was 112 VPM. I guess modern pop
listeners just don’t respect these tempos anymore. Maybe they went out of style. (music note flips) – One thing that still hasn’t
gone out of style in pop music is the pre-dominate use
of the major key triads. Major one, four, five, and minor six. These chords still dominate the harmony in a lot of songs. In fact, 28% of the songs in major keys only use these chords. (music notes flip) – In a very general sense,
pop songs have evolved from having one repeated section, to two sections, to having three sections, often organized as verses,
choruses, and a bridge. As songs kept evolving, we started to see more
interlude sections into the mix, such as repeated intros,
instrumental solos, and pre-choruses. And finally, the post-chorus
is now becoming pretty common. But where a pre-chorus warms up the stage, a post-chorus cools things
off before the song returns, usually to a verse,
but sometimes a bridge, or another section. Songs with post-chorus’s include: ♪ We ain’t ever getting older ♪ ♪ Girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend ♪ ♪ Quiero ver bailar tu pelo ♪ ♪ Quiero ser tu ritmo ♪ (music notes flip) – I’m sorry to report
that the modern pop song still has a long way to go
on the gender parody front. Let’s take a look. So not only were there twice
as many male solo tracks as there were solo female tracks but only 8% of tracks had
no male vocalist, at all. (music notes flip) Traditionally, both
western classical music and pop have really liked
this home and away interplay. Almost always beginning and ending on clear-cut home chords. But it’s really becoming
less and less important as the years go by. And this shows up all
over on today’s charts. Take the loop from Drake’s
hit, Nice For What, it’s based off of a loop he got from Lauryn
Hills’s song, Ex-Factor. ♪ Care for me, care for me ♪ ♪ I know you care for me ♪ Here are the chords in the sample. E flat major, E flat major seven, D flat major, and F minor. So, the thing about this is that there is a lack of
reinforcement in the bass, there aren’t any cadences really, and also, there aren’t dominate chords. These are all things that would indicate a key center for us. For example, if we’re in
the key of A flat major, these chords, (piano music) might lead, (piano music) back to the tonic. Back to home-base. We don’t have those signs, we just have. (piano music) Are we in (piano music) F? (piano music) Natural minor or aeolian? Are we in D flat? (piano music) D flat lydian? (piano music) So it’s really hard to say. Towards the middle of the song we do hear.. (piano music) In the base, a little bit. ♪ And you showin’ off, ♪ ♪ but it’s alright ♪ ♪ It’s a short life ♪ But still, it’s not providing
a strong key center for us. – Dean, can you introduce yourself, let some people know who
you are and what you do. – Yeah, my name’s Dean Olivet. I just statistify music, you know. I’m a trend spotter, I suppose. – As far as total ambiguity, I feel like the tone ambiguity it be happening on accident a lot of times. – Yeah. – Or it’s like, it’s not intentional, a compositional decision
that’s being made. – Well yeah, just trying to
find what sounds good to you rather than what you’ve
been trained to do. – And you think about
Lil Jon and Eastide Boyz, Da, da, da, da, dae, da, da, da, da, dae, da, da, and they just
do it an octave higher. Da, da, da, da. But, it’s like, that became a massive hit. – What makes sense to
me is to use the analagy of people trying on different clothes. People are more experimental
with everything from color, to the shape of things, and I think that’s what
happens with music too. – It’s like back in the day you had like, functional clothes, like, okay, I’m going to school I’m gonna
where my school clothes. Those have a function. I’m gonna wear my work clothes, I’m sleeping, I’m gonna
wear my pajamas, you know. Clothes ambiguity is like, what if I just wear my
pajamas to work or, you know? And that’s parallel with music. Functionality isn’t as
important as it used to be. (music notes flip) – Tight lyrics and ad libs
are nothing new to pop music. But never before have
they been so prevalent across the top of the charts. ♪ We out in these streets ♪ ♪ We go back, remember
criss-cross and hopscotch? ♪ ♪ What I like, that’s what we like ♪ And if you can’t think of what to say, just ad lib yuh. (yuh music) There’s also a lot of ayy’s. (ayy music) (music notes flip) Everything we’ve
discovered is just a trend, a modern rule. So now that you know
the rules of modern pop, you can break ’em. So, as far as creating the billboard tune, most all of, every tune, top
five tune in the billboard has got lyrics on it and we only have lyrics on a
couple of Sound Field tunes but this one is one that
we just can’t get around, like we gotta have some lyrics. – Yeah ♪ Don’t want to waste my time with you ♪ What is your background, Christina? – I do a lot of like soul influenced singer/songwriter stuff. – Dope. – We’re in good hands. (giggles) The LA, the beats, they have this, it’s kind of round. – Nahre, your words are like, you’re spot on today. – Kind of like scoops up but so.. – It’s like, okay, round and scooping. – Round and scoopy but hard.
– Ice cream. – Really good ice cream. (laughs) – Ice cream. – One thing for this I
would think, percussive. I would think rhythmic,
choppy, percussive, words. Not necessarily rapping,
you know what I’m sayin, but like Billy Eilish. – [Christina] Hm hmm. (hums) – No pressure. We’re just trying to live up to multi-million dollar budget track. (laughs) (soft music) ♪ No one I gotta go back to ♪ ♪ For the night it’s just me and you ♪ ♪ So, baby take my hand ♪ ♪ To show you my land ♪ ♪ And we can taste this passion food ♪ ♪ I’m like get with tune ♪ ♪ Bad girls, bad girls on the road ♪ ♪ We don’t take it slow ♪ ♪ I get what’s mine ♪ ♪ You take what’s yours ♪ ♪ You don’t gotta tell me twice ♪ ♪ I know you can make it right ♪ ♪ Oh yeah, you electrify ♪ ♪ Baby you just blow my mind ♪ ♪ You don’t gotta tell me twice ♪ ♪ I know you can make it right ♪ ♪ Baby you’ll just blow my mind ♪ – PBS Digital Studios
wants to hear from you. We do a survey every year that asks about what you’re into, your favorite PBS shows and things you’d like to see
more from PBS Digital Studios. (clears throat) Sound Field. You can even vote on potential new shows. – All of this helps us
make more of the stuff you want to see. The survey takes about 10 minutes and you might even win a sweet t-shirt. The link is in the description, and thank you in advance.

65 thoughts on “What Do Billboard Hit Songs Have in Common?

  • September 26, 2019 at 10:29 pm
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    ..i always felt like major chords have a boring, elevator music, cheesy happy hour bar vibe..U2, Springsteen, AC/DC..legions of fans, but they sound so dry.
    it lacks the soul, jazz, spirit, epic, fear, romance, deep emotion of minor chord genres. combine emo minor chords with happy dance bpm rhythms, & you've got a yin yang balance, high value.
    then its just a matter of the lead. today, the niche may be more important than the talent itself..a black gay cowboy rapper..an obese baps..a teen queen vampire cult leader..
    take lana del rey, a modern trip hop talent, but stale design..billie takes her voice, adds gaudy japan emo wardrobe & horror videos, shock value troll marketing, & voilà.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2019 at 10:47 pm
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    ..next video topic, shorter songs are becoming the standard. otr is just over 2 minutes, i think 1:54 max is coming..hook intro, verse, hook 2, outro, done, repeat stream. now when I hear a 2nd verse, im like, oh yea, too long, skip, lol. it wasn't like that just a year ago. 'rockstar' didnt need 21 savage verse, maybe just a business move to ensure hiphop radio/chart spins, but the snippet of post alone was enough to go viral..cardi b still does 2nd-3rd verses long..legit songs, but i noticed they don't viral on spotify nor youtube, & i think maybe its just her song structure is long winded today.

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  • September 26, 2019 at 10:53 pm
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    ..i swear, no hate, the chainsmokers are making bad rip offs of diplo-skrillex-snake songs, & gettin' away with it, because they have strong european jaw lines, one looks like a jonas brother, the other a jock model, girls & gays are attracted, so its not about their music, its their look. there's no other way, why listen to bad versions of major lazer – 'lean on' drop attempts otherwise.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2019 at 10:57 pm
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    i love analysis..art is automation proof, & we'll need to be the heart of the machine, going forward into the tech singularity. we need this data. i fvckin' love this channel, new data = evolution.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2019 at 11:05 pm
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    lot of great singer/songwriters grindin' on twitch & tube..got the look, voice, everything..basically a bunch of lana del reys..talented, but missing something, the cool. billie's bad guy flow is influenced from all the rap she listens to. ariana's 7rings flow from souljaboy/chiefkeef/lilreese. post malone flow sounds like future's flow mixed with country vibrato, think aaron neville, bob dylan. tecca said don't take his flow, but its bound to happen. drake takes flow after flow, seamlessly..maybe the authors want drake to take their flow for more attention, maybe a life changing remix opportunity for exposure, like migos feat drake – 'versace remix'..do the migos still take off (no pun) so crazy, without that drake co-sign early on in their debut?

    Reply
  • September 26, 2019 at 11:15 pm
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    10:06 yea, that's it. i can totally see this being a K-J-Pop hit. nailed it. their entire run is based on taking retro & current us trends, refine it, runnin' with it in their language, but flows & melodies are so universal, the world fvcks with it too, its no longer just rotating in their bubble. i think kawaii trap..japanese bossa nova jazz / video game soundtrack music, with us trap..could be huge.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2019 at 11:53 pm
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    What is up with Nahre's mic? The audio was quite unpleasant…

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 1:07 am
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    "Guitar music" isn't nearly as popular as it was in my day when you had to have long hair and speedy technique, but it's not necessarily related to the popular keys used. Back then most bands tuned their 6 string guitars to standard tuning making E and A the easiest keys to play, whereas now many tune them lower, to Eb, D, C#, or even C – all keys that are well represented.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 1:09 am
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    That's interesting! As a DJ and Producer, I notice the trend towards trap, will bring along more minors. I like songs with ambiguity, it's exciting and you can choose how to feel with it

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 1:18 am
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    soul influencing?

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  • September 27, 2019 at 1:35 am
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    Musicball…. Moneyball but for music, I guess

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 1:53 am
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    You know what would be a super fascinating video? A comparison of… I guess… formulas?… of popular music throughout the decades.

    Like you could take the decades starting from the 20s through to today to compare and contrast the Top 40. So for example… what was so different about the 70s that bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd could rise to the very top, while today a band like Greta Van Fleet, while maintaining some level of popularity (mainly with fans of Led Zeppelin for obvious reasons), can't seem to break into the top of the charts?

    I think that could be a super fascinating exploration of music trends and even music tastes.

    (I hope I'm not alone on this one…)

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 2:12 am
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    I didn't even realize about tonal ambiguity or the post chorus in music nowadays, but it makes so much sense!! I love that not only do you guys cover music genres and artists, but the culture and trends in it too! Cannot WAIT to see what's for next week! Still waiting on that Tribe Called Red episode!

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 2:19 am
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    Loved Adam Neely's video! Great shout out.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 2:25 am
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    Look out for LA's octave!! 8

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  • September 27, 2019 at 2:26 am
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    Fascinating episode!

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 2:48 am
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    Great Video Gang!
    Just filled in the survey for that free shirt (and to big up Sound Field).

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 4:18 am
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    Lovin it! PBS KEEP THIS CHANNEL!!!!!!! <3<3<3

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 5:36 am
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    Love how you guys break it down. Learned a lot. Love you guys! ✌️❤️🤘

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 5:42 am
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    Awesome video! What was the song/s in Phrygian?

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  • September 27, 2019 at 6:23 am
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    This period of pop music is so distinct from historical precedents probably because of digital streaming, rather than traditional media sales

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 7:10 am
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    does anyone who knows rap history better than me know where that "rapid trochee" style flow originated?? like in the lil wayne and cardi examples where it's like two fast syllables on each beat. i first started hearing it around 2012-13 but i assume it's a lot older than that

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 7:25 am
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    Not your best work.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 7:54 am
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    Great video! As this is a channel about sound though, just wanted to ask about Nahre's speech track for her talk-to camera pieces, seems like it had some phasing issues from reflections? Wasn't present during the discussion with Dean Olivet. Just found that interesting.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 8:29 am
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    Now I know exactly what to avoid, thanks!

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 9:41 am
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    This show has become my oxygen.
    Never stop, please.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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    Spot on

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 4:36 pm
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    It would be great if you guys could explain your terminology and what you are saying and doing a bit more, to fully get the gist of your analysis.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 5:41 pm
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    Don't forget the "yeh" (kind of a lazy "yeah") that Adam Levine does over and over. Aso, Tinzo! <3

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 6:03 pm
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    Rapid trochees sound like the vocal equivalent of what my grandparents call "wub wub music". There are a lot of songs with digital music where the notes drop off from their maximum volume really quickly rather than fade off a bit, which gives them that wub-wub kind of sound. Rapid trochees sound similar to me because they have a bunch of information, then no information, and repeat that pattern quickly.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 6:47 pm
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    This is a wholesome diet

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 7:36 pm
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    "Too many male solo tracks."
    Because it's rap music. If you looked at pop music we'd be seeing harem numbers.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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    That Adam neely video on scoth snaps is truly incredible. Even ended up watching a lecture he referenced in it on vimeo that was equally Fascinating.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 9:11 pm
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    I love that drake is a separate gender 😂
    For some reason reminds me of this https://youtu.be/Ss1Yu0CsujI

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    God I could literally watch LA and Nahre's interplay when working on new music. Just two talented musicians and good friends having a blast. Plus I lost it at LA's "so like real good ice cream" comment.

    Reply
  • September 27, 2019 at 10:08 pm
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    Imagine Frank Sinatra ad libs.
    Fly me to the moon yuh yuh
    Let me play among the stars ayyyy

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 2:18 am
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    Wait, I'm confused… What time signature should I use?

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  • September 28, 2019 at 3:15 am
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    I filled out that long ass survey for you, keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 5:42 am
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    shout out to Adam Neely is right!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 9:00 am
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    Very good video, really interesting and well made!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 9:05 am
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    Lol that beat at the end was corny

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  • September 28, 2019 at 10:10 am
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    I left at 'gender parity front'. Bye!

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  • September 28, 2019 at 11:30 am
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    4:39 Drake is his own gender lol

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  • September 28, 2019 at 1:21 pm
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    You guys should do a video on Björk and her sound!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 2:20 pm
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    Fell in love with Tinzo's voice! Does she have any albums?

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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    The argument for no guitars does not hold up; since the 2000's that down tuned guitars are a thing and nowadays more than ever.
    It means that typical guitar oriented music these days fall much more on C and B than E and A. Furthermore, since the late 80's guitar players have tuned to Eb for "warmth" which would make it easy to fall on one of the highs of the chart.
    Let's face it, modern hits do not go for guitars for 3 reasons:
    1 – Guitars mean you need to hire some one who can write for guitar and a guitar player to record, while synths just require you to decide on the notes.
    2 – Guitar is not sonically associated with the cultural influences of today's music
    3 – Playing and instrument is not seen as cool for the mainstream anymore thus the concept of a band with instruments does not sell, hence is not a good investment

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  • September 28, 2019 at 4:04 pm
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    They are all awful braindead trap.

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  • September 28, 2019 at 4:34 pm
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    Where's her YouTube? When I search tinzo it's a guy that comes up

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  • September 28, 2019 at 4:51 pm
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    I didn’t know offset was gay

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  • September 28, 2019 at 7:26 pm
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    Am I the only one who wants to know what pop songs are in phrygian mode?

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 9:24 pm
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    Modern pop music is much more diverse than its counterparts from 40 years ago.

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    Why don't people like happy songs anymore? Its horrible that the music industry is so afraid of cheerful music that they had to make all the cheerful songs flop.

    Reply
  • September 28, 2019 at 10:01 pm
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    Was that vocal recorded with a potato?

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  • September 29, 2019 at 2:54 am
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    First Layla by Derek & the dominos is clearly minor, and I would say that in the contrary guitar is making a huhe come back in today’s hip hop scene

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  • September 29, 2019 at 4:00 am
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    Little of what makes the Billboard lists get my attention, but I've already downloaded your track and listened to it a few times. Nicely done! —Tom

    Reply
  • September 29, 2019 at 8:55 am
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    Is that OffSet?

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  • September 29, 2019 at 10:46 am
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    Layla’s chorus is in D minor my guy

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  • September 29, 2019 at 11:23 am
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    Drake has become its own gender confirmed

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  • September 29, 2019 at 11:57 am
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    She walks in beauty like the night…are you quoting Suede?

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  • September 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm
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    Her singing sounds too good. Not that modern pop singers can't sing, it just that the modern sound tends to be less real and more processed.

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  • September 29, 2019 at 12:58 pm
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    That dudes the offset that went to music school

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  • September 29, 2019 at 2:19 pm
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    Great video but Layla is not in E major lol

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  • September 29, 2019 at 3:17 pm
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    Me: doesn’t understand these technical terms

    Also Me: So interested.

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  • September 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm
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    Is scatting just jazzy adlibs? 🤔

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  • September 29, 2019 at 7:36 pm
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    Great video!

    Reply
  • September 29, 2019 at 8:20 pm
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    Cool video. Thanks.

    Reply

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