One could be forgiven for being unable to distinguish one chart-topping hit from another. Far too often, they have the same kind of catchy hooks and riffs and easy-to-remember lyrics. But there might be a deeper reason. In the form of a specific sound.
You can hear it in Katy Perry's 2009 hit California Gurls at the 0:52 mark. It's there in the Carly Rae Jaepson and Owl City collaboration Good Time at the 0:4 mark. And is also repeated in teen idol Justin Bieber's debut hit Baby.
The repetitive sound was identified in an article which appeared on the music blog The Patterning, analysing the "melodic obsession between the fifth and the third" notes of a major scale. Which is also known as the Millennial Whoop.
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
The familiar sound it gives to songs also plays a role in listeners preferring some songs over others.
Other artists to use in their songs include everyone from rock band Kings of Leon to critically acclaimed performers like Frank Ocean and indie acts like Death Cab For Cutie. Below are just three songs featuring the Millennial Whoop from an ever-growing list on The Patterning.
One of the earliest examples of the whoop was in the 1985 hit Tarzan Boy by Italian pop group Baltimora, the famous wa-oh-wa-oh tune from which found its way into Tum Ladki Ho from the film Maine Pyar Kiya.