A desirable track, built piece by piece inside the Machine, will be fought over by a score of pop-music icons, with a single song having the ability to launch, build, or repair multi-million dollar careers. And so the Song Machine cranks on.
New Yorker writer John Seabrook (Flash of Genius) provides an eminently readable and important inside look at how the pop music industry developed strategies to manufacture no-fail hit songs.Seabrook's in-depth interviews with an army of songwriters, producers, performers and others make for series of profiles that document a revolution in the music business. He chronicles everything from the emergence of new business models to the deliberate interjection of hooks meant to re-engage listeners every seven seconds, the average amount of time people listen to a song before they change the station. Including optimal chord progressions and the most effective camera angles for videos, these strategies exploit the brain's reflexive attraction to repetition, rhythm and melody. Hit factories now create formula-driven, synthetic tracks with near-universal appeal, producing songs that combine beat-driven dance music with the pop that people enjoy on the radio.The Song Machine is a superbly written, textured account of a creative industry still in flux, one where an artist's creative vision is no match for a deadly effective business machine. As streaming replaces CD sales and contemporary hits replace album-oriented music, and 1% of artists now generate 80% of the industry's profit, the role of the singer and writer has radically changed. Seabrook acknowledges the addictive appeal of such music while remaining troubled by the cost: music that can be performed by anyone is inherently soulless, even if it can foster brief moments of connection between Seabrook and his children when they are captured by a song's seductive hooks. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer 781b155fdc