Isn’t it always the same? This question could be easily posed while listening to the music of any mainstream radio station in a western country. Like language, music is a human universal involving perceptually discrete elements displaying organization1. Therefore, contemporary popular music may have a well-established set of underlying patterns and regularities1, 2, 3, 4, some of them potentially inherited from the classical tradition5,6, 7. Yet, as an incomparable artistic product for conveying emotions8, music must incorporate variation over such patterns in order to play upon people’s memories and expectations, making it attractive to listeners3, 4,5. For the very same reasons, long-term variations of the underlying patterns may also occur across years9. Many of these aspects remain formally unknown or lack scientific evidence, specially the latter, which is very often neglected in music-related studies, from musicological analyses to technological applications. The study of patterns and long-term variations in popular music could shed new light on relevant issues concerning its organization, structure, and dynamics10. More importantly, it addresses valuable questions for the basic understanding of music as one of the main expressions of contemporary culture: Can we identify some of the patterns behind music creation? Do musicians change them over the years? Can we spot differences between new and old music? Is there an ‘evolution’ of musical discourse?