If you haven’t yet seen Google’s attempt at plotting the history of music and all its many genres, you should check out its new Music Timeline. It’s pretty fun.
You can essentially look at the popularity of certain genres from 1950 right up to today, although only with a certain level of accuracy.
So how does it work? “The Music Timeline shows genres of music waxing and waning, based on how many Google Play Music users have an artist or album in their music library, and other data (such as album release dates),” Google has explained. “Each stripe on the graph represents a genre; the thickness of the stripe tells you roughly the popularity of music released in a given year in that genre. (For example, the “jazz” stripe is thick in the 1950s since many users’ libraries contain jazz albums released in the ’50s.) Click on the stripes to zoom into more specialised genres.”
So, while not a truly accurate picture of how we’ve listened to music over the past 64 years, it’s a very Google-centric view, but an interesting one nonetheless, and probably roughly close to the truth given Google’s multitude of users around the world.
Of course it presents a very western view of music as well, but you can dive deeper into each genre by simply clicking on that region of the default graph, so check out World Music for an example of how music in more unusual parts of the globe has fared over time.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Rock and all its sub-genres has taken up most of the space on the graph. The introduction of the electric guitar (thanks Adolph Rickenbacker and friends) certainly has helped that, and it’s clearly still a genre that many other genres have borrowed over time. Think Michael Jackson Dirty Diana, En Vogue Free Your Mind, and a plethora of hip-hoppers who have injected heavy metal riffs into their tunes over the years.
Have fun exploring the Music Timeline. I certainly did, and will continue to do so.