ESC BPM Analysis: 128 Beats Per Minute suck big time

Ich verachte den anstehenden Eurotrash Wettbewerb wie jeder andere vernünftige Mensch auch, aber diese BPM-Analyse von Popbitch (btw: seit Jahren einer der besten Newsletter überhaupt) ist aus ein paar Gründen hochinteressant, denn sie erklärt auch, warum Standard-EDM so furchtbar langweilig ist: The Need For Speed: „The tempo is the heartbeat of a song, the rhythm to which it works. In a competition where you have a strict three-minute upper limit to adhere to, choosing your tempo is therefore a critical decision. The one you need to avoid? 128 beats per minute. It is the kiss of death. Why? We'll explain…“


In 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 all of the songs which placed dead last were all paced at either 127 or 128 beats per minute (bpm). Conversely, all of the winners since 2000 have avoided those tempos completely – dodging the 128bpm death trap by 4bpm on either side. Coincidence? Or is there something else at play here? (SPOILER: There’s something else at play here.)

128 is an interesting number in musical mathematics because it marks the point where a few important staples of timing, structure and tempo all intersect. Without getting too complicated about it all, if you’ve got write a song which can’t be longer than three minutes (the upper limit for Eurovision entries) then putting it in 4/4 at a tempo of 128 beats per minute means that your three minute song will fit exactly – down to the very last beat – into 96 bars.


A 96 bar framework is incredibly helpful and versatile to work within as a lot of the musical phrases that we understand best work in fours, eights, twelves and sixteens. Working with 96 bars at 128bpm, the whole process of compiling a three minute pop song becomes like a child’s jigsaw – the composer slotting big, simple and standardised phrases of music together.