THE MILLENNIAL WHOOP: IRRITATING POP TROPE OR HUMAN NATURE?

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the ‘millennial whoop’ phenomena taking the online music world by storm.

Coined by musician Patrick Metzger, the ‘Millennial Whoop’ is a melodic feature that is present in an alarming number of pop songs, consisting of a alternating major third and fifth interval, usually sung in an irritating Katy Perry-esque ‘wa–oh–wa-oh’. Metzger described it as:

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CRIMINAL MASTERMIND: KATY PERRY IN THE ‘CALIFORNIA GURLS’ VIDEO

‘A sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scales. The rhythm is usually straight 8th notes [and] a singer usually belts these notes with an ‘oh’ phoneme. And it is in so many pop songs, it’s criminal’.

In his assertion, Metzger may have pinpointed one of the reasons why so many pop songs sound so similar, and once you hear it, you can never un-hear it. Could this explain why so many copyright lawsuits arise in the pop world?

However, some fleeting Spotify research confirms that it is not only the pop world that makes use of this particular trope – it can be heard across all genres since time immemorial, even in indie and folk music, whose artists pride themselves on ‘artistic integrity’. Admittedly, many of the indie/folk songs that use the millennial whoop do lean towards the pop side of the musical spectrum – perhaps this is what helps to create their catchier hooks in comparison to their more alternative bedfellows.

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It seems this sequence of notes is all encompassing, and we, as humans are unable to escape it. It’s there in car alarms, police sirens, bird song, nursery rhymes, and football chants, and as one astute Internet user pointed out, infant directed speech (baby talk to you and me). Could there be a biological reason behind this sometimes-irritating ostinato’s prevalence? Are we predisposed to prick up our ears and listen when we hear it?

Whatever the reason behind its frequency, its clear that it’s use is highly effective in making us remember catchy tunes and the often-important significance behind them. Either way, here is a selection of non-pop tracks that feature this phenomenon in a slightly less grating way:


Of Mountains And Men – Mountain Sound

Death Cab For Cutie – Lightness

Mates Of State – Goods (All In Your Head)

The BPA ft. Emmy The Great – Seattle

And just for fun….

The Rasmus – In The Shadows

 

 

 

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