The Fade-Out of the Fade-Out in Popular Music

Back in the days before recordings were made on magnetic tape, all songs on record had to have a defined and definite ending. But around 1950, recording engineers using new reel-to-reel recorders realized that could just fade out a song. The concept was simple: play the hook/chorus of the song over and over again as it got softer and softer before disappearing entirely. This technique (a) eliminated the need to write an ending for the song; (b) helped the hook become more memorable for the listener; and (c) supposedly gave the listener that the emotional promises made by the song went on forever. Think “Hey Jude” or “Smoke on the Water.” The effects could be rather dramatic.

Song fade-outs became standard practice for decades in many different genres. Not all subscribed to the same thinking, though. When I first became involved in alternative radio back in the 80s, I distinctly remember thinking it odd how so many songs in the genre actually had endings. They either ended cold (i.e. abruptly on the beat) or with a last chord that naturally faded out. I became a fan.

Today, though, the fade-out seems to be endangered. published this chart showing how Top 10 hits came to conclusions over the decade. The trend is obvious.


Interesting, no? I wonder why this is happening? Thoughts?

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