How does criticism affect popular culture?

Popularity is slippery, and shouldn't be confused with quality, says critic A.O. Scott.

  • Popularity has a funny way of correcting or reversing itself, says journalist and film critic A.O. Scott. It's a weird and fickle index—never identical to quality, though it can coincide with it.
  • Movies like Avatar that are capitalist consumer hits can fade over time. Meanwhile works that were initially passed over can be dredged out of forgotten corners to glory many years later.
  • Moby Dick is an example of how critics can turn the tide of popularity, for better and for worse. First, critics dismissed Moby Dick and it was forgotten until a resurgence of interest by critics many years later. It's now a staple of American literature.
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Move over, math. The universal language is world music.

A new study finds that societies use the same acoustic features for the same types of songs, suggesting universal cognitive mechanisms underpinning world music.

  • Every culture in the world creates music, though stylistic diversity hides their core similarities.
  • A new study in Science finds that cultures use identifiable acoustic features in the same types of songs and that tonality exists worldwide.
  • Music is one of hundreds of human universals ethnographers have discovered.
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Nom-nom or dinner call? Silverbacks sing as they eat.

Dominant wild silverbacks wax musical with their mouths full.

Image source: Grant Tiffen/Shutterstock
  • Recent recordings of gorillas singing as they eat add the species to a lengthening list of musical eaters in the animal kingdom.
  • Two types of songs have been recorded: a hum, and, well, gorilla improv.
  • It's suspected that spoken language may begin with songs.
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Coldplay stop touring to save the world: Is pop music going sustainable?

"The hardest thing is the flying side of things."

George Pimentel/WireImage

They're one of the biggest stadium-rock bands in the world, but Coldplay will not be touring for the foreseeable future, as they seek to make their concerts less environmentally damaging.

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Listening to gospel music 'unexpectedly' linked to several maladaptive traits

Before you judge someone's personality based in their playlist, you may want to read the results of this study.

  • New research predicts links between music and film preferences and recent models of unhealthy and psychopathic personality traits.
  • A study on 379 participants found that conservative music tastes and a preference for faith-based movies that were the most strongly correlated to dysfunctional personality traits.
  • Psychopathy's component of "boldness" corresponded to enjoyment of rhythmic beats, like R&B and party music.
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