Each Country Is for Itself: What Characteristics Must a Song Have in Order to Reach #1


Music portal Billboard, owned by renowned American entertainment media brand of the same name published the top list of hits of the last decade and in the first place was the song from 2015 – “Uptown Funk” performed by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

Given that Billboard is considered one of the most reputable sources of music industry news in the world, selling 17,000 magazines per week and 15.2 million unique website visitors per month, charts it composes can be considered valid indicators of songs’ success.

Most Prestigious Charts vs. Interactive Chart

One of the Billboard charts, which are separated by music genres, is compiled to represent the top 100 tracks in the last decade – it’s a decade-end chart named Hot 100 Songs 2010s. We won’t, of course, consider all 100 tracks on the list but will round up our focus on the first 10 on the chart.

Furthermore, we’ll cross these songs with an interactive chart composed of hard-working statisticians on which the best 20 songs that topped the charts in the 22 countries in the last 10 years found their place. The value of all these songs is strengthened by categorizing its characteristics, such as genre, key, tempo, energy, and danceability.

The reason for this is to compare such a prestigious chart such as Billboard to the musical taste of people in some of the biggest countries in the world: the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Brazil… What characteristic(s) is crucial to make a song chart-topper in a specific country?

The average formula of the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Songs 2010s chart looks like this – genre: Pop; key: C major; tempo: 118 BPM; energy: 64 of 100; danceability: 77 of 100. This means that songs having these or similar characteristics had more chances to be in the chart that marked the last decade more than others.

Now, let’s cross these average values of the tracks’ characteristics on Billboard’s list with what people in particular countries like to listen to. The interactive chart based on the results of statisticians showcases calculated formulas for each of the 22 countries to determine what elements of the song will give it the best chance of achieving a chart-topper.

Tempo, Energy…

If some musician wants to stand out in Mexico, he/she has to create the most intense song (average tempo: 128 BPM) compared to all the other countries included in the study. The song with the most intense tempo of those topping the chart in the last 10 years in this country was Camila’s “Bésame” (176 BPM). Portugal was found to have the slowest tempo in its chart-toppers at just 104 BPM on average.

Spain is the country where fans preferred more energetic tunes with an average energy score of 81. The track “La Bicicleta” by Carlos Vives and Shakira proved to be the most energetic song in its chart (94). The country that’s the most relaxed regarding this criterion is South Africa. It has the lowest average energy score (58 BPM).

Danceability dictated the top of the charts in as many as four countries. Average danceability scores in Canada, France, New Zealand, and Portugal are all 74. The most successful song in these countries that got listeners up and moving was in France, where “Ne Reviens Pas” by Gradur feat. HeussL’enfoiré topped the charts with a score of 93. The need for a danceable track was least important in Japan (56).

Let’s finish the analysis with what genre that had the most chances to become the No.1. In as many as 17 countries, Pop hits dominated the top of the charts in the last decade. Pop music was involved as the most dominant in two more countries but with its subgroup – Latin Pop.

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