The word “millennial” is overused.
Patrick Metzger, a musician and product manager, blogged about a trend he noticed in pop songs that he dubbed the “millennial whoop.”
“It’s a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth,” Metzger writes. “The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an ‘Oh’ phoneme, often in a ‘Wa-oh-wa-oh’ pattern.”
He uses Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” to mark the beginning of the trend.[youtube=]
“[S]uddenly every artist (consciously or subconsciously) jumped on board to replicate this earworm,” Metzger wrote. “In ‘California Gurls,’ we first hear it at 0:51 as a kind of foreshadowing to its more memorable usage within the chorus at 1:05 (and multiple times in every chorus thereafter).”
If you listen to top 40 radio, you know exactly what he’s talking about. But Quartz points out that the pattern can be found in songs from the 1980s, and other commenters added their own examples from the 1980s and before. One commenter, identified as Victor Lin, opined that the so-called “whoop” makes pop music successful because the pattern implies the major tonality (1st, 3rd, 5th intervals) and because it’s fun to sing.
“[When] I hum a 5 to 3 interval the first thing i think of is the “ole ole” chant in soccer,” Lin wrote.
Pointing out similiarities in pop music hardly counts as a groundbreaking discovery; comedy musical group The Axis of Awesome’s popular “4 Chords” song blended 36 popular songs together using the same four chords.
Though the easiest examples to jump to for this musical “whoop” are ones in recent history, its roots hardly keep it from being a uniquely “millennial” event.