Ever since musician, Patrick Metzger, shed light on the millennial whoop, a sequential melodic hook that is present in many pop songs, music lovers have been losing their collective minds as to just how prevalent the trend is.
From Katy Perry’s 2010 smash hit, “California Gurls,” to Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High)” in 2014, there have been countless other well-known tracks identified as ‘suffering’ from the same recurring beat.
What is the Millennial Whoop?
Referred to as the annoying whoop in some quarters, the millennial whoop is basically a melodic sequence that goes back and forth between the third and fifth notes. It is most noticeable onomatopoeically by the sound “Wa-oh, Wa-oh” and has been used in different parts of songs, including the opening lines, chorus and bridge. The sound, although distinct, has been blamed for causing brand new pop songs to sound familiar. And while it has left many questioning the creativity of music makers, there is no doubt that it has helped many songs reach the top of the charts and get stuck in listeners’ heads.
History of the Millennial Whoop
The exact song which first used the whooping phenomenon in mainstream music is not clear. However, as Metzger pointed out in his article, which was published on his blog, “The Patterning,” it’s much older than the last decade. But it has grown more popular over the last 6 years since the Katy Perry number mentioned earlier. In fact, the writer was able to link the Nicki Minaj/ Will.i.am song, “Check it Out” to a 1979 tune called “Video Killed the Radio Star” by Buggles that was popular back in 1979, and which had the same melodic signature.
But the sound has deeper roots than that, apparently. In the Metzger article, it was pointed out that the taunting “nanny-nanny, boo-boo” sound made by kids is similar in nature to the millennial whoop. And one comment made in response to the article went one step further to note that music teachers and musicologists have linked the whooping sound to what is known as the ‘mommy interval.’ Also called baby talk or infant-directed speech, the mommy interval refers to the way how many mothers speak to their young babies in a cooing pattern.
So, is the millennial whoop hard-wired into the human DNA?
That seems to be a question for the experts to answer. In the meantime, the repetitive theme is too ubiquitous for any artist to claim ownership of. That’s maybe because it is a melody that can so easily be added into songs with similar or different chord progressions and tempos. For example, it is found in many up-tempo tracks, including “Turn Up the Music” by Chris Brown and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)” by Beyonce, but also in slower jams, such as Twenty One Pilots’ “Tired” and “Ivy” by Frank Ocean.
Whether it’s a case of lack of originality or not, the millennial whoop has become an essential ingredient in the recipe for making hit pop songs and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. One thing is for sure, using the sequence in any song is almost guaranteed to make it quite catchy.