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The Hit Songs Deconstructed Trend Report

Q3's Record-Setting Trend Shifts

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The third quarter of 2015 was filled with record setting trend shifts in the Hot 100 Top 10. Trap, solo male lead vocals, and the use of a pre-chorus reached their highest level of popularity in years, while partying themed lyrics, solo female lead vocals, and the use of a bridge sunk to their lowest. These, among many other trend shifts, affected the state of the mainstream music scene.

Our latest Hit Songs Deconstructed Trend report takes a look at the compositional characteristics that defined the 23 songs that landed in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 from July to September, and how these characteristics differed from – or stayed the same as – what came before.

What follows are some key highlights taken from our Q3 Trend Report. For a full rundown and analysis, be sure to read the full report by clicking here.

The Top 10 Charting Hits Of Q3-2015
  • 679: Fetty Wap featuring Remy Boyz
  • Bad Blood: Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
  • Can’t Feel My Face: The Weeknd
  • Cheerleader: OMI (Felix Jaehn Remix)
  • Drag Me Down: One Direction
  • Earned It: The Weeknd
  • Fight Song: Rachel Platten
  • Good For You: Selena Gomez featuring A$AP Rocky
  • Hey Mama: David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack
  • Honey, I’m Good: Andy Grammer
  • Lean On: Major Lazer, DJ Snake, M0
  • Locked Away: R. City featuring Adam Levine
  • My Way: Fetty Wap featuring Monty
  • Photograph: Ed Sheeran
  • See You Again: Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
  • Shut Up And Dance: Walk The Moon
  • The Hills: The Weeknd
  • Trap Queen: Fetty Wap
  • Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  • Want To Want Me: Jason Derulo
  • Watch Me: Silento
  • What Do You Mean: Justin Bieber
  • Where Are U Now: Jack U (Skrillex, Diplo) & Justin Bieber
Below are a few of the categories that INCREASED in prominence in Q3:
Hip Hop/Rap (Sub-Genre )

Hip Hop/Rap’s influence as a sub-genre in the Top 10 reached its highest level in years. From a low of just 25% of songs in Q1, it jumped up to 48% in Q3, which tied it as the second most popular along with R&B/Soul. Its influence spanned all of the primary genre categories except for Rock, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Hey Mama), Pop (Good For You), R&B/Soul (The Hills), and of course all of the songs in the Hip Hop/Rap primary genre category.

Trap (Sub-Genre)

The sub-genre that REALLY took off during the last couple of quarters was Trap. Accounting for just 5% of songs back in Q1, it skyrocketed up to a multi-year high of 43% in Q3. Its influence spanned each primary genre category except for Rock, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Hey Mama), Hip Hop/Rap (My Way), Pop (Bad Blood), and R&B/Soul (The Hills).

Solo Male (Lead Vocal)

Men were in control of the mic in Q3. The solo male lead vocal category reached its highest level of prominence in years, accounting for 57% of songs by the end of the quarter. Additionally, this was the third quarter in a row where the vocal category was the most popular. Representative songs spanned each primary genre category, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Where Are U Now), Hip Hop/Rap (Watch Me), Pop (Photograph), R&B/Soul (The Hills), and Rock (Shut Up And Dance). Note that all of these songs were new to the Top 10 in Q3.

Love/Relationships (Lyrical Theme)

Love was certainly in the air in Q3. Surging from 74% of songs in Q2 up to 91% in Q3, this was the lyrical theme category’s highest level of prominence in over a year. Representative songs stemmed from each primary genre category, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Lean On), Hip Hop/Rap (See You Again), Pop (Bad Blood), R&B/Soul (Want To Want Me), and Rock (Shut Up And Dance).

Pre-Chorus (Inclusion Of)

The “optional” pre-chorus became mandatory in Q3. From a multi-quarter low of 68% of songs in Q2, the percentage of songs that feature a pre-chorus in their framework jumped up to 78% in Q3, which was the highest level in a year. Representative songs stemmed from each primary genre category except for Rock, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Lean On), Hip Hop/Rap (Watch Me), Pop (Drag Me Down), and R&B/Soul (Can’t Feel My Face). Note that all of these songs were new to the Top 10 in Q3.

Below are a few of the categories that DECREASED in prominence in Q3:
R&B/Soul (Sub-Genre)

R&B/Soul’s multi-quarter reign as the top sub-genre/influencer in the Top 10 came to an end in Q3-2015. Dropping from a high 0f 70% of songs back in Q1 down to just 48% in Q3, this was the sub-genres lowest level of popularity in over a year. Its influence spanned multiple primary genre categories, however, including Dance/Club/Electronic (Hey Mama), Hip Hop/Rap (Trap Queen), Pop (Good For You), and of course all the songs in the R&B/Soul primary genre category.

Solo Female (Lead Vocal)

Solo female lead vocals were a rare commodity in Q3. The vocal category has been steadily diminishing in prominence from a multi-year high of 42% of songs back in Q4-2014, down to a multi-year low of just 9% of songs in Q3-2015. Lean On and Fight Song were the two songs responsible for keeping the category alive in Q3.

Partying/Living It Up (Lyrical Theme)

There wasn’t a whole lot of partying going on in Q3. Dropping from 21% of songs in Q2 down to just 4% in Q3, this was the lyrical theme’s lowest level of popularity in well over a year. If not for Uptown Funk, the party would have been over.

Bridge (Inclusion Of)

The bridge traded places with the pre-chorus as the “optional” section to include in a song’s framework in Q3. Plummeting from 74% of songs in Q2 down to just 52% in Q3, this was the section’s lowest level of popularity in years. Interestingly, even less of the Q3 new arrivals, just 31%, utilize one in their framework. They include Good For You (Pop), Locked Away (Pop), Photograph (Pop), and The Hills (R&B/Soul).

Of the 48% of songs that don’t contain a bridge in their framework, most feature another section, such as an instrumental break, that provides a stringent departure relative to the other sections in the song in order to keep the engagement value at a high.

Late Hitting First Chorus (1:00+)

Prolonging the listener’s wait for the chorus went by the wayside in Q3. The Late (1:00+) First Chorus Occurrence category’s prominence plummeted from 22% of songs Q2, where it was tied as the most popular, down to just 9% of songs in Q3, where it was the least popular. Note that this was also the category’s lowest level in a year. Its two representative songs in Q3 were Photograph (Pop) and Earned It (R&B/Soul).

Below are a few noteworthy graphs illustrating how Hot 100 top 10 charting song characteristics have performed over the course of a year. Reference the full report for details:
Sub-Genres

sub-genre-q3-2015

Lead Vocal

lead-vocal-q3-2015

Lyrical Themes
lyrics-q3-2015
These are just a few highlights from our latest  Hit Songs Deconstructed Trend Report.  To read the full report which features in-depth analysis of the trends that shaped the hits over the past year, click here.
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