[“The Key To Music” is a research project lead by Robert Fontana on the musical formulas that have made up the industry’s pop trends throughout these past decades.]
Part one on the keys of the 50’s
Part two on the keys of the 60’s
Part three on the keys of the 70’s
Part four on the keys of the 80’s
The Old School Days
Other kids collected baseball cards, I collected songs. I recall one of my prized possessions when I was a child was my radio. I’d spin the dial to a station and sit there, poised, with my two sweaty fingers on the record buttons, impatiently waiting for my favorite songs. One of the first I can remember taping was “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. I would play it over and over, mystified as to why it was so great. It moved me and I never understood why. I didn’t care at the time.
After a few years, I became a pro at making my mix tapes from the radio. It would typically start with capturing half a song. This could explain why I can recall more 2nd verses of songs than 1st verses. Eventually, after enough missed attempts, I’d get most of the song. Finally, I’d get the whole thing with a little bit of the DJ blabbing over the intro and outro. I would scream, “Shut up!” The rare gem came when all the planets would align and I would snag the entire song with no talking. It honestly felt like snapping a picture of Bigfoot!
I would then high-speed dub the most complete songs back-to-back onto another cassette and voila: the perfect soundtrack while I thumbed away at Street Fighter II on my Super Nintendo. Many of those songs on my mix tapes were #1’s from the 90’s, including:
Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” EMF’s “Unbelievable,” Color Me Badd’s “All 4 Love,” Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” Kriss Kross with “Jump,” Snow’s “Informer,” Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” and Coolio featuring L.V. with “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
It’s intriguing to think that over a decade ago, I was participating, along with millions of others, as the role of a lab rat in my future research project. Did the key of the cheese have any effect on if I’d eat it? Can cheese even have a key? Hell, for half the 90’s, I didn’t even have a concept of a key. I wrote my first song in 1995, thus embarking on a musical journey that will take me to the grave. I sometimes feel like a musical Robert Langdon, trying to unravel the codes hidden in the songs left by the pop gods. I wonder which song, which key, or even which note will be the last to echo through my ears before I leave this Earth. God, please don’t let it be “Macarena” (in the key of A-flat major).
Results from the 90’s
177 keys were identified from the 143 songs of the 90’s
134 less keys & 88 less songs than the previous decade
Numerous “hits that wouldn’t quit” were freezing at #1 for weeks on end in the 90’s.
112 Sweet Days
Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men – two of the best chart-topping artists at the time – team up to write “One Sweet Day” which remains the current record holder for most consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at a total of 16 weeks. (Key of A-flat & B major)
One Sweet Day
Has the minor appeal finally peaked?