The Loudness War: Why Justin Bieber Is Louder Than Iron Maiden

Music The Loudness War: Why Justin Bieber Is Louder Than Iron Maiden

We all have a passion, and some take a while to figure out what it is and practice it with devotion and commitment. We can safely say that music is a passion shared by many, and we all have songs we can't stop listening to and that a day without music is a day lost. After you get home at night, you get comfy in your favorite sofa, plug your flat frequency headphones into the boom box, and proceed to play your favorite album: The Number of the Beast, special edition released in 1982.

Loudness war Iron Maiden

One day, a friend comes to you and persuades you to give their favorite artist a chance or at least get acquainted with him. The album they want you to listen to is called Purpose, and to be precise, they insist that you listen to its greatest hits "What Do You Mean?" and "Sorry." You love them, so you accept the challenge and you start listening to the Bieber. As you listen, you notice a rather strange phenomenon that's taking place: Justin's poppy tracks sound louder and have a more killer sound than the iconic band whose songs summoned the devil decades ago. You are afraid to admit it, but this 23-year old guy is actually killing it more than "The Number of the Beast," but why?

Loudness war Justin Bieber
Well, in this vast world of musical industry and production, there is this thing called audio mastering, the process which consists of preparing the final product that will contain a song or full-length album. Audio mastering includes imitating and identifying identifying the characteristics of successful tracks.

This phenomena has brought about a Loudness War. As its name suggests, this confrontation arises from the need to prove which song is the loudest. This trend began in the early eighties and had the sole purpose of increasing progressively the decibels of a final musical product. To exemplify this, here is the following audio graph:

Loudness war the beatles  

What we see here is the wavelength sequence of "Something" by the Beatles. When it was remastered in 1987, the volume level was harmless, but as more and more remasters came out, sound engineers increased the volume. 

Many artist have stood against this phenomenon that only cares about marketing trends. Bob Dylan expressed his inconformity, "You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like – static".

This explains why your favorite Iron Maiden album is overpowered by Justin Bieber's overbearing vocals and music. This doesn't mean that those amazing guitar solos played by Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers are overshadowed by a simple “Bay, baby, bay oh…”,  but rather, the Loudness War gave way to a haphazard increase in pop songs' volume just to draw the attention of the average listener.

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