60 Minutes/Vanity Fair: Music

In this month's poll, many agree this decade has the worst music in the 45 years since Woodstock

Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll for April 2014. They say April is for lovers and so is this month's poll, for lovers of music that is. What is it about music that moves us so much? Many people find it hard to describe how and why music moves them, it has been said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

One of the greatest and most beloved musicians of the last century, Louis Armstrong, described the new swing music he was playing later to be known as jazz like this, "if you don't feel it, you'll never know it." Music bridges the generations bringing young and old together, it has the power to soothe and to inspire us. It is not surprising that the Grammy Awards on CBS is one of the highest-rated shows on television year after year. After a long tough winter, spring has finally arrived and that should be music to everyone's ears. And now the results of our poll...

Music Consumption

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Nearly half of the Americans that we asked still listen to music the old fashioned way, they listen to the radio. Seventeen percent have opened Pandora's Box and use a digital music service most of the time, 15 percent are usually "plugged in" to one of their personal electronic devices, nine percent still spin CD Players, six percent use their computers and one percent are really old school, they still spin vinyl. As you might imagine, the devices that people use are often related directly to the age of the user. Only 24 percent of those under the age of 35 are still "radio heads" while almost two out of three of them use personal devices or digital services. Now that's music to the ears of the people who run those industries.

Pick One

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Almost three out of four Americans would select jazz as the more important type of American music. Only 19 percent think that hip hop is more important. Hip hop is undeniably popular but jazz is uniquely American. It embodies the melting pot of the southern United States and is comprised of a rich gumbo of sounds that combine different African American spirituals with newer forms like ragtime, blues and swing. The combinations create a series of ever-changing and evolving rhythmic beats that defy description.

Moving On

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Half of all Americans think that as a musical form, hip hop has most likely reached its peak and will not get any better. Twenty percent think that country music has reached its plateau, 10 percent think rock has reached its apogee, nine percent say pop has reached its zenith and only seven percent think that R&B should RIP. It may be that because hip hop is the most recently developed genre, it has not had the time to develop as strong and loyal a fan base as the other musical categories have. However, people of every age group including those 18-35 voted hip hop most likely to have peaked, now that's a bad rap.

Sing to Me

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Beauty is in the ear of the beholder and not surprisingly, nearly two out of three (64 percent) Americans think that songs sound best when they are sung in English. European languages dominate the rest of the vote with Spanish (13 percent), Italian (10 percent), French (six percent), and German (two percent) all receiving votes. Portuguese got only one percent, but if any of those people polled were shown a video of Brazilian Bossa Nova singer Astrid Gilberto singing "The Girl From Ipanema" in her native tongue accompanied by Stan Getz on the saxophone, they might have reconsidered their vote.

Do your homework

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It's a toss-up between the Fab Four (33 percent) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (32 percent) as to which artist's music Americans would choose to have their children study. Next in order are Michael Jackson (14 percent), Billie Holiday (nine percent) and Jay-Z (five percent). People (mostly Baby Boomers) between the ages of 45 and 64 favored the Beatles, while those under 45 as well as those over 65 went with the brilliant 18th century composer. It's a tribute to Mozart's genius that he could win a strong coalition of the youngest and oldest people in the country, now that's staying power.

Turn it off!

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There's no time like the present...for bad music. Forty-two percent of Americans think that this decade has the worst music compared with the other four most recent decades. Next in order are the 2000s (15 percent), 1990s (13 percent), 1980s (14 percent) and the 1970s (12 percent). People of all stripes are in agreement on this one. The 70s had classic rock and disco, the 80s had pop and new wave, the 90s had hip hop, alternative rock and grunge but starting around the turn of the century, Americans seem to feel music has hit a rough patch. Many people are predisposed to feel nostalgia for the music and songs of their youth, but by a wide margin, even today's younger set feels that this decade's music is the worst.

Time travel

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And now for this month's fantasy question. So, in which decade would you jump off your time machine to see a band perform before they lost their famous lead singer? Twenty-two percent would go back to the 50s to see Buddy Holly chirping with the Crickets, 21 percent would drag themselves back to the 70s to see Freddy Mercury perform with Queen, another 21 percent would venture back to the psychedelic 60s and "experience" Jimi Hendrix first hand, 13 percent would also flash back to the 60s and open the Doors to see Jim Morrison in his prime and 11 percent would travel back to 90s and seek Nirvana in the form of Kurt Cobain. Nine percent would skip the trip altogether.

Girl's Night

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If they had to attend one of these concerts with their daughter, nearly four out of 10 Americans would see Taylor Swift. Twenty-six percent picked the "Dark Horse" Katy Perry and 11 percent would go in One Direction to see the super popular British Boy Band. A paltry five percent would choose Miley Cyrus the former Disney kid turned twerker. And the prize for the least desirable concert goes to Justin Bieber. Only three percent of parents would want to take their daughter to see the former "boy next door" (accent on former).

Looking Good

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One out of four Americans think that the guitar is the sexiest instrument for someone to play. Another quarter has the brass to choose the saxophone as sexiest, 21 percent are keyed up for piano players, 14 percent bow to violinists, seven percent get a bang out of drummers and five percent are blown away by the flute.

I'm with the band

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I'm just a singer in a rock and roll band...so goes the classic rock song by the Moody Blues. If Americans had their choice of which player they could be, 29 percent would want to be the lead singer. Close behind with 27 percent is drummer followed by lead guitarist (19 percent), keyboardist (14 percent) and bassist (eight percent). Rock on people. Rock on.


This poll was conducted by telephone from February 5-9, 2014 among 1,017 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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