If you’re one of those people who thinks that everything on Top 40 radio sounds the same, we have some validating news: you’re kind of right. Product manager and musician Patrick Metzger recently identified a tiny melodic sequence that’s been permeating popular music for years, and once you hear it, you’ll be surprised you didn’t notice its ubiquity before.
Hop to 1:05 in Katy Perry’s "California Gurls" below to hear a prime example.
Did you catch it? Roughly transcribed it’s "Oooooh oh oooooh," which doesn’t seem like much, because it isn’t. As Metzger writes:
"It’s a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. 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’s dubbed the trope the "Millennial Whoop," and it’s so ever-present that it was even parodied by The Lonely Island. Everyone from Fall Out Boy to Carly Rae Jepsen has employed the motif, and it probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As Metzger notes, it’s such a short sequence that no one can claim copyright. As far as tracing its origins, there are definitely some early adopters, but the "wa-oh-wa-oh" trope seems to be somewhat universal.
Our cultural obsession with the Millennial Whoop makes sense in many ways: it’s catchy as heck, and the more we hear it, the more ingrained it becomes, which means that the next time we hear it in a song, we already feel like it’s familiar. Whether using the human brain’s affinity for patterns is smart or sinister or comforting (maybe all three), the melodic alteration now known as the Millennial Whoop is likely to be stuck in your head for years to come.
To hear more, check out the video from Quartz below.
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