Whenever I watch videos of producers creating songs it just doesn’t seem like much thought is put into the chord progression and melody. It pretty much seems like everyone does the basic pick a scale - pick chords in that scale - and then pick random notes in that scale until they come up with a melody they “like”. On a related note, I was watching a tutorial on captain plugins’ “captain chord” plugin and although it made creating chord progressions and melodies simple and easy, it just seemed geared toward that same basic format I described above. Keep in mind that captain plugins is meant to be used by professional producers. I guess my question is, do modern producers look to advance harmony/melody techniques or is more time spent on developing sounds or maybe something else? I know this may come off as a criticism, but I’m not saying that whatever’s happening is better or worse, I’m just curious what people’s opinions are or even approaches you use.
I voted to close because I think this is opinion-based. But I'll add my opinion and speculation.
So you're talking about the random notes phenomenon? Many guitarists have a similar problem, picking notes from fingering patterns randomly without understanding about harmony. The problem is, the people don't really know how music works, and they don't know how their actions on their instrument affect musical phenomena. Some might even know quite a bit of music theory and explain things about scales, chords, modes, leading tones, ... but when it comes time to actually play, it's all over the place.
What causes this? One view is, they have got access to music production tools and are able to create sound, and nothing prevents them from making random stuff. It's possible to have a channel and followers etc. without being able to actually do much. Lack of talent, lack of practice etc. can be made up for with other means. There have always been people like this on the field of music. If you can make interesting sounds, or if you can talk about it in an interesting way, that might be enough. There are TV shows where people watch TV!
The skills that are required are plain old-fashioned harmony and phrasing. See this answer: Any ideas for soloing on guitar?
A good way to develop these skills is to learn to play melodies and chords to songs by ear, and to creatively modify the songs. I guess these random-notes producers couldn't play melodies by ear, and couldn't accompany them with chords. I consider such inability as lack of the most elementary musical skills, but like I said, it's possible to have even a professional career in music in many roles. For example in an orchestra it can be enough to read music and play your part, and you don't really need to understand the whole.
We had this regression already in the 50ies progression: I vi IV V . The vi IV V I progression is obviously nothing als than a variation of the earlier one. t I wouldn't say this question is opinion based as it could be tested by comparing an analysis of the Charts of the 60ies and the 80ies and 2020.
I assume that each decade -or shorter periods - had their specific harmonic. meolodic and also rhythmic pattern (especially by imitating, copying and covering the greatest his, consciously and unconsciously - I remember how I was influenced e.g. by the "We can work it out" or "Lucy in the sky with diamonds").
In general I would agree that the actual pop chart hits show more regressiion than in other eras:
about the reasons we can only speculate!
I think there are several influences:
Video clips (illustrating the story or dance shows)
R.A.P and Techno sound
Melodies and lyrics seem to be "exhausted"
But don't forget there have always been existing - parallel to great melodic and harmonic songs - simple patterns e.g. like this 50-progression or the 12 bar blues schema (which is till today a inexhaustible resource!)