But Armand Leroi, a professor of evolutionary development biology at Imperial College in London, and his team did just that. Their results? Music’s most seismic year in the last 50 years included DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” — it was 1991. Other Billboard blockbusters that year: “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd and “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C+C Music Factory.
“It’s when hip hop goes mainstream. It’s when it invades the conscious, the musical consciousness of mass America, when everybody starts to buy it,” explains Leroi. He notes his work is founded in scientific principles, something he says music research needs more of. “The whole problem with this area is that it’s made up, … is that everybody’s got [an] opinion…”
Instead, by using algorithms and statistics, Leroi is able to disseminate what he says is the biological evolution of music. “If you think about it, culture is a lot like living things, it’s a lot like organisms,” he says. “Music is the soundtrack of our lives, as they say, and that means that everybody’s got a view on it, and not everybody can be right.”