#1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Charts of 2016
Every year I look at what's just happened at #1 on the Billboard Charts to get a snapshot of what's trending....fascinating as always!
Let's look at intros first...how many were looking at radio. The interesting thing is that 8 of the 9 have a average of 10 seconds...that is by adding all the intros together and dividing...only one, Taylor Swift, "Bad Blood" had a "zero start"(no intro), and that was only 85 BPMs so it was kind of aimed at radio..her other #1, "Blank Space" was close BPM wise at 86 BPM.
LENGTH OF TIME TO THE PRONOUN "YOU"
All 9 songs used the pronoun "you" toward the front of the song. If you take all the lengths of time, from 3 seconds to 47 and average them together, they average 21 seconds. As mentioned before the pronoun "you" is a "trigger word" that gets the listeners attention, so....
Structure is very important, simply because the consumer expects to receive their information in a certain way....all songs are different, but in genres they tend to be similar in structure, by genre...Pop, Country and Country Airplay records.
So, of the 9 #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, 5 were 4th form(verse, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus chorus, middle 8, chorus...out). That structure seems to fit the listeners expectation in Pop. Then there were three third form(v, chorus, v, chorus, middle 8/breakdown/instrumental, chorus out...).
Let's take a look at Justin Beiber. He has a 14 second intro, and a very European approach as he starts with the chorus, but it's also 125 BPM so it's trying to be all things to all people by adding in radio as well as dance.
Adele also mixed forms....the very cool 5th form(a,a,b,a) is mixed in with the 4th form to really maximized the title "Hello". After the obligatory two verses starting with the title there is a small prechorus/bridge/lift before what should have been viewed as a bridge....it's in this case treated as a chorus.
There is also a "breakdown" or "middle eight" which uses the word "anymore" which is the last word of the bridge/ chorus just to further the illusion of 4th form.
2 MINUTE WALL
The writers generally obey the "two minute rule" in more traditional song structure, but "call and response" features a lot more heavily in the songs as Pop aims at the Dance market a lot. "Events" seem to happen musically about every 10 to 15 seconds. I would hazard a guess that Pop is becoming a lot less dependent on radio.
BEATS PER MINUTE(BPM)
The BPM are important to what the song means to the consumer. More that 100 BPM then the listener is probably dancing. Under 100 BPM the listener is probably sitting in a car, office, home...and if the song has an intro, then it's probably being used for radio.
Less that half(4) are in the 80 BPM range and (5) are over 100 BPM 113-125.
Only one song that achieved the #1 position on the charts had a fade. Quickly what that means is, the songs were designed as singles. Generally when a producer is making an album he/she will fade the song in order to wean the listener off that song and move them along to the next song on the album/EP. When it's intended as a single, you don't want the listener moving along, so you annoy them, make them feel cheated by "dead ending" it.
TIME TO FIRST USE OF TITLE
7 of the 9 number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart reach the title before the one minute mark...including intro. The Hills,by the Weeknd only uses the title in the middle 8/bridge and of course Taylor Swift in Blank Space waits until 1.25 to use the title. In most cases the listener expectation is that the writer creates an expectation and fulfills it in 60 seconds.
Unlike the Country genre, Pop deals more equitably with female artists. Three of the nine number ones are written in part/and performed by women artists.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the "writer" part, those are the only two females who wrote on number one songs in a total of 33 writers.
So, if you want to write a #1 Pop Billboard Chart record......and remember these were the #1 hits of last year. This is the consumer speaking, not me!
Have an approximately 9 second intro (that's factoring in Taylor Swifts "zero start" and dividing by the total number of songs on the Chart).
Use the pronoun "you" within 21 seconds or sooner.
Use detail to invite the listener in...and tell them how good/bad that "you" is.
As all the 9 #1s are aimed at radio, whether streaming or not, dancing or not, get to the first use of title in one minute or less and have a dead end.
If you're aiming at under 100 BPM, all of them were between 80 and 86 BPM.
.....and that gender issue, I won't touch at all...
Write a hit...seeya on the Charts!
Again, I would like to thank Anna White, Holly Chester, Suzanne Lee and the ASCAP interns, Katherine Ross, Andrew Anto and Sara Barron who helped to compile the mountain of data needed for me to distill this down to a few page...I certainly couldn't do it without you all!