Consequence of Sound published an interesting study today, one derived from a sensitively titled website called "Musicthatmakesyoudumb.com." The proprietor, Virgil Griffith, has found out what music intelligent people listen to and what music dumb people listen to, charting it accordingly.
His method: Scan the Facebook pages of attendees at various universities, gather what bands students "like" and then assign that performer a score based on the "intelligence" of the university attended by its fan. Griffith ranked the universities by average SAT score obtained by attendees, so he assigned that score to performers and then charted them.
There are obvious problems with this format, some of which he acknowledges: A) Correlation does to equal causation. B) This is based on the 1600 point format, which doesn't exist anymore. C) Obscure acts have no chance of placing due to too few "likes" and most importantly D) the only samples are college students. They can't be that dumb. Even if they were, hill residents of Appalachia probably play the same bluegrass music that Ivy Leaguers find hip, pretty much canceling out the scores of both sides.
We've opted to focus on issues tied to the actual acts represented however. Some issues:
If you believe Griffith's findings, jazz music is essentially for the lower common denominator, appreciated most by people with SAT scores in the 925-960 range. We don't know much about IQ and its effect on music but Miles Davis and John Coltrane, among others, simply must be considered among the greatest musical minds of the last century, rivaled perhaps only by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and the like. Certainly not The Eagles. What slanted the numbers against the genre? Cover your ears because it involves race. Among the lowest ranked SAT schools on the list are Alabama State University, Wiley College, Benedict College and Livingstone...all historically black universities. The lower SAT scores at the schools don't reflect a lack of intelligence as much as they reflect a willingness to offer chances to students who have historically received less complete educations as a result of lower standards than those found in wealthier economic climates. The SAT is not an IQ test. A high score is the result of preening and training for the standardized test, one of the test's weaknesses. Regardless, the high listening rate at historically black colleges is the result of cultural upbringing (often in the South), not intelligence.
02) Bob Marley
No performer creates a contradiction quite like Bob Marley. The Jamaican icon ranks fairly high, a favorite of people with SAT scores in the 1100 range. Meanwhile, the reggae genre comes in at about 950. This is less about race and more about college kids attaching themselves to particular performers. Marley truly is a landmark performer but your average dorm-dweller probably has a poster of him lighting a massive joint, not the album cover for Exodus. His status as a countercultural icon is more relevant at large universities (like our own...to be discussed later) than it is at the smaller colleges that enjoy reggae in more wholesale fashion. If college kids truly appreciated the beauty of Marley's music, why haven't they branched out to Peter Tosh or Burning Spear? (NOTE: The last hypothetical question was aimed at your correspondent's uni roommate.)
Our generation (twenty-somethings) listen to classical music as little as any previously. Therefore when someone listens to classical, we can safely assume they're a genius (sarcasm implied). Classical music is so rare on Facebook that Beethoven, the biggest musician in history, is the only one that can register a dot on this chart. In fact, he's got more than 2.5 million Facebook likes...not bad. If we were going to throw our weight behind a well established composer, it would probably be Alban Berg, who has a mere 14,500 fans right now. Sure, Beethoven's smphonies are beautiful but we'd argue writing atonal yet sensible works takes a bit more brainpower. This doesn't stop at classical. Notice how no electronic music performers make the chart (aside from the "techno" genre, which may be a ignorant attempt to wrangle all club music into one dot)? That's because modern listeners can't handle instrumental music in any form. Aphex Twin has 720,000 Facebook fans but that's still not nearly enough to register.
04) Kanye West
Kanye West has a wide average, ranging from 1000-1080. That still places him just slightly ahead of Blink-182. If you listen to the average musician, from any genre, they'll agree with the Kanye that he IS a god. So why is the emcee so middle-of-the-road here? We reckon that different people like different Kanyes. His music appeals to a wide range of listeners. For example, Yeezus features some rather avant garde segments, like the last two minutes of "New Slaves." That's a song that everyone will tell you is amazing to your face but will never play the record again behind closed doors, similar to The Knife's Shaking The Habitual. "Gold Digger" might not be as highfalutin but it's sure catchy! It would be more interesting to chart West's albums individually. We we're to willing to bet the few who choose 808s and Heartbreak as their fav would be closer to that 1400 region, while Graduation comes in much earlier. Just hypothesizing.
05) Lil Wayne
Weezy was, alas, apparently the most obvious indication that you're an idiot for listening to him. This is personal but we've always felt his lyrics can serve as a litmus test for how much attention listeners actually put into his music. Let the test subject listen to "Six Foot Seven" and then ask what lyrics stuck out most. If they say "six foot seven foot eight foot..." give them a piece of candy and carry on. If they cite Wayne's brilliant meta-grammatical analysis of the word "lasagna" ("B---h, real G's move in silence like lasagna") then you probably have a smart cookie on your hands. The moral is that there are dozens of hidden—and quite intelligent—easter eggs in Wayne's tracks, so there's no shame in listening to him.
Tool's appreciation by the rock music community has always bothered us. Radiohead is a band comprised of brilliant musicians so it's fair that fans go stand over there and judge us while we rock out to Slayer. Tool is typically associated to the same metal/meatheads who listen to Godsmack however. Any band that changes time signatures 47 times during one song ("Schism") while only playing in common time for one just one bar, or that coordinates lyrics and riffs around the Fibonacci sequence while singing about that very sequence ("Lateralus") probably deserves some more respect from at least math nerds.
07) The Game
We're not referring to the rapper here-we're referring to perhaps the greatest rivalry in sports, Ohio State University versus the University of Michigan (we attended the former). These schools hate each other...for reasons believed to stem from the bloodless border conflict between Michigan and Ohio during 1835, known as "The Toledo War" (this is a true statement). Both sides have a favorite musical performer however: Jack Johnson. Maybe why the SEC and Pac-10 is starting to win all the national championships.