The Millennial Whoop
August 22, 2016 1:14 AM   Subscribe

The “Millennial Whoop” is a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an “Oh” phoneme, often in a “Wa-oh-wa-oh” pattern.

Some examples (from the link)

BOY – “Little Numbers” (2011, Millennial Whoop at 1:04)

Stonefox – “All I Want” (2013, Millennial Whoop at 2:02)

Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson – “Good Time” (2012, Millennial Whoop at 0:04)
posted by Just this guy, y'know (73 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
This will be the rebel yell used in the eventual War Between the Ages.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:25 AM on August 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


If it's "in so many pop songs it's criminal" then it really shouldn't have been hard to find more than a handful of examples. I don't doubt that it is in fact everywhere, but come on article author, don't tell us it's common as muck and then fail to demonstrate that.
posted by Dysk at 2:16 AM on August 22, 2016


CHVRCHES - The Mother We Share
is perhaps the ur-example. It's through the whole song.
posted by parm at 2:36 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would swear this appears in multiple M83 songs but I don't have the means to look it up right now.
posted by ardgedee at 3:23 AM on August 22, 2016


As opposed to the "baby boomer wail" which consists of "the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift" ?
posted by HuronBob at 3:23 AM on August 22, 2016 [60 favorites]


don't tell us it's common as muck and then fail to demonstrate that.
Uh...did you read the article? They did just that, with a brace of linked videos that included the precise time at which the trope appears in each.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:30 AM on August 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


There's the "Millenial Whoop", and then there's the "Whoop Whoop".
posted by fairmettle at 3:46 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


There it is.
posted by srboisvert at 4:05 AM on August 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


It's millennial, but it's about the aspirational rather than actual side of the Millennial condition. The ideal of YOLO and swag and the perpetual summer beach-party for good-looking young people. It's what keeps debt-saddled snake-people going to the gym and the hairstylist and hustling three or four app-mediated jobs to bail out their credit cards and not fall off the treadmill, because if you believe life is a party, you don't want it to end.
posted by acb at 4:05 AM on August 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Are you implying that people who don't treat life as a party are happy to die?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:09 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like this pattern shows up in a lot of the current folksy indie stuff. (Maybe sometimes in the music rather than the vocals.) That Stonefox track sounds an awful lot like Daughter, and I'm pretty sure it shows up on some Of Monsters and Men songs too.

It's just a little less prominent than in danceable stuff like CHVRCHES.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:20 AM on August 22, 2016


I like every style of music except snake person and country
posted by thelonius at 4:34 AM on August 22, 2016 [28 favorites]


The article forget to mention a key element of the millennial whoop is that it is autotuned to within an inch of its life, and then autotuned some more.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:49 AM on August 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is clearly a pop punk WOAHOH a la Blink 182 by way of Saves the Day being imported mainly via Katy Perry into Pop. Please leave your badge and gun on my desk.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:05 AM on August 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


if you believe life is a party, you don't want it to end

I am torn between making some kind of generation gap joke about how my generation was more Princean, what with the "life is just a party and parties aren't meant to last" thing and being so, so ready to stop hearing about the snake people. Many of my best friends are snake people; anyone would think from all this nonsense that they are actual snake people.
posted by Frowner at 5:09 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


the cloying and upbeat millennial whoop is also probably a reaction against the shitty fifth-generation corporate grunge singer "wooaaaaahhh"s or whatever too
posted by entropicamericana at 5:14 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nope these are still whoa-ohs and have always been upbeat even in negative songs. Examples.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:15 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


EXCUSE me but our term of preference is "sneople", or "snerson" for the singular. Thank You
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 5:19 AM on August 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


I had noticed the whoa-oh thing before, but just as one aspect of a genre of music I don't particularly like. The three linked examples perfectly capture it -- Pandora will sometimes start feeding me those kinds of songs and I do my best to downvote them out of the playlists.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:24 AM on August 22, 2016


The root of nonsense lyrics....Do Wop
posted by HuronBob at 5:26 AM on August 22, 2016


I am against this.

Boooooo. ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

o crap did i do that out loud? errr.........quick.... must shed skin.
posted by lalochezia at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Fortunately, Lena and Thomas inverted things.
posted by sonascope at 5:46 AM on August 22, 2016


And then there's the Wo-wo-wo-WO-a-WHOOOA-o-o-o-ohhhhh Diva overture that seemed to open damned near every song for the longest time. I think it was meant to imply serious soulfulness and vocal chops. To me, it just always sounded like an American Idol tryout.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on August 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


And here I thought the Millennial Whoop was that whooping cough we all have because so many of us and/or our parents are anti-vax!
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:07 AM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


This should replace the Wilhem scream in all action movies.
posted by elgilito at 6:10 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


When the Millennial War starts, and the ones born in 1980-1988 fire the first shots against those born in 1989-1996, will you fight under the banner of the whoa-oh, or the wa-oh-wa-oh? I'll be making the Ken Burns style documentary so send me your correspondence now for the first voice-over pass.
posted by penduluum at 6:12 AM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pop music follows trends. Not a shocker.

But I do want to say that Lonely Island clip is just spot-on satire, it's wonderful. I'm going to have to watch that movie now.
posted by fungible at 6:17 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]




An early example from 2009, proving that indie hipsters were at the forefront of something.
posted by onehalfjunco at 7:01 AM on August 22, 2016


Thanks for this; I learned a new phrase from it:

That would put them on thin ice indeed due to the scènes à faire defense, which basically says certain musical elements are just too common to be owned by any one entity.

Scènes à faire
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know... after listening to some of these I have this sudden compulsion to go buy an overly-expensive brushed aluminum and plastic gadget.
posted by -1 at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2016


Of course, there's also the (far more participatory) whoop-whoop.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2016


scènes à faire defense

I wonder if this is what led the jury to side with the defendants in the "Stairway To Heaven" suit that concluded recently. I had certainly heard people argue that the song's intro descending bass under minor chord motif is hundreds of years old and isn't an original compositional device.
posted by thelonius at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2016


When the fighting begins, I shall take refuge under the banner of "Oh-wee-oh-wee-oh" in service to my Commander Morris Day.
posted by anthom at 8:38 AM on August 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


Is this the same interval pattern that shows up in a folksy guise in Ho Hey? Or an artsy guise in Scenic World? (And probably a bunch of other stuff from Daughter, Of Monsters & Men, etc?) And a bunch of 'cloud rap' too.

I feel like I hear the same pattern in a lot of that kind of stuff, in the music if not always pushed forward in the vocals.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2016


man I'm gonna just write a song that's nothing but millennial whoops and sassy background singers going "hey!" and weird flat atonal hooks and just rake it in
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Maybe I'm not really getting it, but some of the samples being listed don't fit for me. The Chvrches song isn't a whoop but a whole melody constructed with a synthesizer, so eh. And that Frank Ocean "Ivy" woah is so slight it barely qualifies as anything. I'm sure I've heard this in a bunch of bland, generic EDM pop. But don't accuse the songs I actually like! :)
posted by naju at 9:18 AM on August 22, 2016


I guess the idea is that the two-note warble in between verses is the simplest version of the motif.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2016


I think we have to acknowledge that it goes back at least as far as the Winkies.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:57 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I listened to the samples linked above first before reading the article, and I immediately thought myself, "what's that one song that really does this? you know, that horrible one?" And I could totally hear it in my head but not the actual chorus or anything truly identifiable. And then when I actually read the article and started listening to that Katy Perry song, and was like "Oh, YES. But nooo...." Because holy heck, that song... I mean, some of my best friends are Millennials, and I love all y'all, but...Stap it, snek ppl. You are giving my ears the irritate.
posted by drlith at 10:06 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, hi ambien walrus.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:09 AM on August 22, 2016


Fuckin kids these days have no sense of fuckin history, man.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:11 AM on August 22, 2016


man I'm gonna just write a song that's nothing but millennial whoops and sassy background singers going "hey!" and weird flat atonal hooks and just rake it in

The chorus has no words, we're only singing "yo"

(sadly(?) it's a legitimately catchy song)
posted by sparklemotion at 10:18 AM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't hear a lot of pop songs and didn't know a lot of these, and had already noticed this in the few I hear. That conner4real video also shows how similar so many of the melodies are in general.
posted by bongo_x at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2016


I recall back in the 80s having an epiphany of sorts on La-La-La (good, found in all manner of exquisite pop artifacts) vs Woah-oh-ohhh (bad, the kind of thing Phil Collins went for when he was aiming to show that the passion he was feeling was just too much for wordsl). The higher point being that a La-La-La knew it was a studied, artificial thing, inserted to serve the greater interests of the song, whereas the Woah-oh-ohhh was just some asshole saying, "Hey everybody, look at me."
posted by philip-random at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I wish to subscribe to your music criticism newsletter, philip-random.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:59 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think we have to acknowledge that it goes back at least as far as the Winkies.

The article doesn't really talk about the phenomena as being originated recently, just that it's become extremely common in pop music recently.

Of course all the horrible pop songs sound alike, that's the point. Your brain gets a payoff when it picks up on and predicts the pattern and then another when that pattern emerges.

So when some little musical idea like that two-note warble emerges that's the least bit catchy, every other pop song will seek to include it. Most pop songs are built on the same chord progression for the same reason, those familiar patterns play your brain chemistry like a fiddle.

(insert Axis of Awesome YT link here)
posted by VTX at 2:21 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the standard issue house diva wail / DJ whoop the same interval, by any chance?

Have we all been aboard The Last Train to Trancentral this whole time?
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:32 PM on August 22, 2016


When I read this article, I think of a particular song that uses woah-oh-oh as a pop song opener. This song is definitely on trend. Dagny - Backbeat
posted by yueliang at 2:43 PM on August 22, 2016


That goddamn Lumineers song has this. I hate that song.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:19 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Whoa-oh-oh supercut (5 minutes worth)

That goddamn Lumineers song has this. I hate that song.

OK, so that is basically the same thing. I'm never sure whether to trust my ears with this stuff.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:25 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, the idea is that there's something that distinguishes the specifically 'millenial' whoah-oh from, say, NKOTB , right?

This is definitely one of those times I wish I grasped music theory even a little bit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:33 PM on August 22, 2016




FWIW, no, the Lumineers song "Ho Hey" doesn't have this motif, or even anything remotely like it (the "hos" and "heys" are short notes of indeterminate pitch that fall one per measure). The author is describing a pretty specific melodic (back and forth between the 5th and 3rd note of the scale) and rhythmic pattern (steady eighth notes).
posted by drlith at 4:45 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with Potomac Avenue, this is a total pop-punk thing (Saves the Day has sooooo many whoa-oh parts and I belt them out every chance I get!)

I'm more interested in where the little alarm(?) sample in Future's songs came from (heard at :27 here).

Hip-hop has this sort of thing happen a lot, I guess due to the nature of sampling and call backs and producers getting really big and everyone wanting to work with them. For a long time there were tons of songs on the radio with those very distinctive "EY!"'s that I think Young Jeezy may have popularized, which may actually be a form of the whoop. You can hear it in this popular T.I. and Rihanna song here at the 1:12 mark.
posted by gucci mane at 5:29 PM on August 22, 2016


By the way, Japandroids were always one of my fav bands to do the whole "whoa oh" thing as well. At the :20 mark here.
posted by gucci mane at 5:37 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


FWIW, no, the Lumineers song "Ho Hey" doesn't have this motif, or even anything remotely like it....

Regardless, all of their songs pretty much sound the same anyway and have at least a similar-ish tic, so I'm perfectly comfortable keeping my pitchfork within poking distance.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:28 PM on August 22, 2016


The author is describing a pretty specific melodic (back and forth between the 5th and 3rd note of the scale) and rhythmic pattern (steady eighth notes).

Yeah, lots of pop songs use the same tricks, just not exactly the same in the same way. I feel like pop music in the last couple of decades has been distilled down to a formula. People said that in the past, but little did they know there was much more distilling possible.

I like cheesy pop, and cheesy pop tricks. I think though it's more of the focus shifting from "what can we do to stand out and be different from X?" to "how can we be just like X?".
posted by bongo_x at 6:54 PM on August 22, 2016


Ease Back Into Chromaticism with the Plant-Vannelli Motive! *

* root, octave, major seventh, octave
posted by mubba at 10:55 PM on August 22, 2016


"If this is anybody but Glenn Danzig, you're stealing my bit!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:17 PM on August 22, 2016


Toh-oh-whoa-otes snakesh persh
posted by univac at 8:37 AM on August 23, 2016


I left something out of my guaranteed millennial pop-hit songwriting formula, which is the super-slowed-down-vocals

Hear me snake people: you can keep your woah-ohs and your halfassed dubstep breaks but oh my god lose the slowed down voices, I don't need these "HEY LOOK I JUST DISCOVERED SOUND EDITING TOOLS" moments in my top 40 radio all the goddamn time
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2016


Why is this millennial? Because the artists making the music are? Isn't all new pop music supposed to be for teens who are spending their parent's money? I blame the next generation: whatever comes after millennial! God they have terrible taste, right?
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2016


I dunno, I don't hate the Undertale soundtrack
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2016


So snake people means millennials? I never really thought about it that hard, but I thought it was referring to something else. But, you know, call people what they want to be called.
posted by bongo_x at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2016


So snake people means millennials?

FPP.

The author of the featured extension received an undergraduate degree in 2005, which is consistent with snake person status.

But, you know, call people what they want to be called.

Just call us Snake People
posted by sparklemotion at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


One of the few times I've used the word "Millennials". I never really understood Gen X or any of those labels the way they're used.
posted by bongo_x at 12:34 PM on August 23, 2016


i 100% blame this on mainstream pop stealing it from pop punk

also i'm really sad that a mates of state song got included in this as they are definitely gen-Xers and not snake people and also god how dare anyone compare them to freaking owl city
posted by burgerrr at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hear me snake people: you can keep your woah-ohs and your halfassed dubstep breaks but oh my god lose the slowed down voices, I don't need these "HEY LOOK I JUST DISCOVERED SOUND EDITING TOOLS"

The best part is you don't even have to record a separate backing track. You can just reverse half the syllables of the chorus. Efficient!

Sneeeeeeeksneeek purrrrpurrrpurr sneeeeek ruprup
Kneeees kneeees puurrr pleeeee sneeeeek lop sneeeek

posted by snuffleupagus at 6:41 PM on August 23, 2016


I'm more interested in where the little alarm(?) sample in Future's songs came from

"Ironside" by Quincy Jones
posted by hilker at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2016


whereas the Woah-oh-ohhh was just some asshole saying, "Hey everybody, look at me."

Woah-oh-ohhh should essentially be regarded as a stylised mating call.
posted by acb at 7:09 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


and, because there are always exceptions to rules, Tom Jones manages to not be at all assholish when he does it.
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on August 26, 2016


"My Shot" from Hamilton. It's in the bridge.
posted by dw at 4:00 PM on August 29, 2016


« Older Dinosaurs are still, still alive!   |   Kakonomics, or the strange preference for... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments