I agree with you. It also feels to me that a title that is only the exact keyword phrase no longer ranks as well as it used to. Other factors, such as a strong backlink anchor text might help the situation in some cases, but I rarely use a title with just the keyword phrase alone these days - from exactly the same feeling you have.
In the past, you needed to almost shout at Google to get the relevance through to their ranking algo. Now, natural subtlety has a new power and the literal text-match kind of SEO has indeed lost a lot of power.