, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 313-317

And the Beat Goes On: Popular Billboard Song Beats Per Minute and Key Signatures Vary with Social and Economic Conditions

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Abstract

The beats per minute and key signatures of popular Billboard songs from 1955 to 2008 were investigated along with changes in the social and economic conditions of the USA, in accordance with the Environmental Security Hypothesis. Slower pop songs and songs in less common keys are generally more reflective and serious, whereas faster pop songs and songs in common keys are generally more celebratory and fun. Consistent with theory predictions, songs with more beats per minute and in common key signatures were most popular in social and economic good times and songs with less beats per minute and in less common key signatures were most popular during social and economic bad times. Environmental conditions appear to influence tempo and key preferences of popular music.