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Explore the history of Pop -- and Punk, Jazz, and Folk -- with the Music Timeline

January 16, 2014

Posted by Alison Cichowlas and Tony Lam, Google Research

With newspapers, blogs, and websites wrapping up their Top Ten album lists for 2013, we thought we'd take a look at some favorite music a bit further in the past as well.

Today, we’re releasing a visualization to show which music has stood the test of time, and how genres and artists have risen and fallen in popularity. The Music Timeline uses aggregated data from Google Play Music to show the changes in music genres over the decades.

This visualization shows which albums from past eras are still in our music libraries today.

Dig deeper into the chart to highlight key artists in each genre and read their stories, and navigate to Google Play to hear their music. For example, by clicking on the Metal stripe, we can see the handoff from Classic Metal to Hair Metal to Alt Metal within the growth of the overall genre, as well as some of the most popular artists that composed each subgenre.

The overall shape of each major genre shows when it hit the scene and when it retreated -- for example, R&B has a long history of resurgences, but Electronica is a strictly recent phenomenon.

Delve into changes in the vocabulary used to name artists and their work -- funk may be over as a genre, but as a band or album name it seems to be timeless.

Or search for a particular artist to see the trajectory of their career -- contrast U2’s long-running reinvention and re-emergence from the ‘80s up to today, versus a one hit wonder like Los del Río’s 1995 Macarena.

For more explorations of how information visualization can make complex data accessible, useful, and even fun, check out the Big Picture project page at research.google.com/bigpicture. We expect this is the first of many collaborations with the Music Recommendations and Discovery team.