Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Matt Lampert and Euan Wilson | Excerpted from the October 2009 Socionomist


In his 1985 essay “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” and the 2006 film History’s Hidden Engine (clip below), Robert Prechter traced social mood’s influence on popular music from the 1920s to the turn of the century. He observed that cheerful and fun songs are popular during positive mood periods, and somber or bitter songs profilerate in negative mood environments.

In this update, socionomists Matt Lampert and Euan Wilson investigate popular music trends from the late 1990s to 2009.

Here is an excerpt of Lampert and Wilson’s October 2009 article, along with a clip from History’s Hidden Engine.

Top of the Pops: The Grand Supercycle Peak

January 2000 was the stock market top at three large degrees of trend, dating back over two hundred years. In the year leading up to the peak, bubble gum, R&B and exuberant Latin pop music rocketed up the charts. Ricky Martin sang about “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” while Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and The Backstreet Boys had no. 1 records. Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas spent 12 weeks at no. 1 with “Smooth,” an upbeat pop song; this chart performance was the second strongest among all songs released in the first 50 years of the Hot 100 (Billboard magazine). Its final day at no. 1 was the day the Dow peaked: January 14, 2000.

Female pop idols and male vocal groups (“boy bands”) were popular early in Cycle wave V and again near its end. Just as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and New Kids on the Block burst onto the scene in the 1980s, so did Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The Backstreet Boys’ Millennium was the top selling album of 1999, with Spears’s …Baby One More Time a close second. But there were signs that the trend was turning. The Value Line Geometric Average, a broader measure of corporate activity (and thus social mood) than the DJIA, topped in April 1998, the same year of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. It declined more than 57 percent in the 4.5 years after. Angst-ridden industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, nu metal (which combines heavy metal, hard rock, rap and industrial) groups Korn and Limp Bizkit, and rockers Creed and Rage Against the Machine all had no. 1 albums in 1999 in the second year of the new mixed trend. Positive and negative mood were competing in the transition period, as the Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit swapped the no. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 four times in the summer of 1999. Negative mood prevailed briefly as the nominal Dow shed more than 1,000 points from September to October; albums by Nine Inch Nails, Creed, Rage Against the Machine and Korn, made their trips to no. 1 during and shortly after the decline.

In 2000 and 2001 as the Dow bumped against its high, the mood remained positive enough to give Spears, The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync no. 1 albums. No Strings Attached by N’Sync set a record for the highest first-week sales in the history of the Billboard 200. Beatlemania returned briefly in late 2000-early 2001, as the Fab Four returned to the top of the charts with the singles collection, 1, in a last gasp of bull market sentiment before the S&P 500 and NASDAQ began the then-largest declines in their respective histories. …

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Read the remainder of this five-page article to learn how social mood drove popular music trends such as hard rock, emo, hip hop, and bubble gum from 2000 to 2009.

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