I know it’s a bit old itself now, but I found this article recently, and read it with interest. If you can’t be bothered reading it in full right now, the gist is that songs that fade out peaked in the US chart in 1984, and have been disappearing ever since, hitting zero for two years running in 2011 and 2012, for the first time in over fifty years. If you’ll pardon the obvious pun, they seem to have literally faded away.
What’s particularly interesting about this is that in the 1990s, when fadeouts were everywhere, it always seemed a bit lazy to me, as though artists couldn’t really be bothered working out how to end their songs. I was wrong, of course – a fade is every bit as much of an artistic decision as a snare sound or guitar effect. Billboard wrote a lengthy, and interesting analysis of how fades work, as did NPR, and others seem to have concluded much the same – it’s very much part of the song (look for Survey 845 here). The AV Club go further, suggesting that abrupt endings are just plain wrong in pop music.
But they were pretty much omnipresent, and to have lost them is a tragedy indeed. So what happened, exactly? The Slate article above blames twitchy iPod fingers and millennial attention spans, which seems fair.
It’s perhaps slightly surprising that this hasn’t raised more attention – issues this big tend to hit all the major news channels, but apparently nobody cares about the loss of fadeouts. The fact that there are academic papers on the matter is a relief, though.
Songs that fade in, of course, are another matter entirely…
You can watch an interesting analysis of the problem via Vox below: