Do you ever feel like some music is popular simply because it is popular?
While this may sound like an axiom, research suggests this is precisely one of the reasons behind musical success.
As explained in Jim Davies' excellent article in Nautilus, an experiment found subjects were much more likely to listen to the tracks they were told were popular.
For those of us who love music for its variety and mysterious power, the reworking of the same shallow songs you find in the charts is a constant irritation. And now, what used to be a fleeting concern quickly dismissed is, having been backed up by research, disturbingly concrete.
It seems that all the marketing men have to do to manipulate our tastes is show that lots of other people like it. The manufactured cheering on shows like X-Factor demonstrate this every week. Aided and abetted by our obsession with celebrity, the likes of Simon Cowell are the ringmasters in this circus that keeps innovation on the sidelines. Even technology is conspiring against us as the music industry uses computing algorithms to predict the next hit and so can churn out the same formula written by the same people.
You do suspect, however, that PR can push the public only so far. There must be a reciprocation, a pure enjoyment on some level. Davies says it comes down to individual personalities and their motivations. People listen to music for different reasons, he says. Some prefer more complex music whereas others simply use music as an emotional mood lifter and, more to the point, something easily accessible. Sometimes people don't want innovation, they just want the comfort of something they know.
So while some may deride pop music as a symptom of our quick-fix society, it may simply depend on how you like to get your kicks.