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Pop Is Crushing Hip-Hop in 2019, According to Hit Song Study

The number of new hip-hop songs reaching the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 is dropping dramatically in 2019 as opposed to last year, according to “The State of the Hot 100 Top Ten,” a quarterly analysis of the compositional and industry trends issued by analysts Hit Songs Deconstructed.

While the study looks at just one element of the charts and year-to-year trends will be clearer in the full 2019 report, the drop in hip-hop is striking: Of the second quarter’s 15 new arrivals in the Top 10, just 34% were hip-hop as opposed to 60% last year — a drop of some 26% — while the percentage of pop new arrivals more than doubled to 49% from 23%. R&B/soul remained at 11% while other genres were 3% or below. The arrival of two new songs from Taylor Swift and one each from BTS and Ava Max certainly strengthened the pop category in Q2, although two new songs each from Drake and Khalid bolstered hip-hop and R&B, respectively.

The trend continued from the first quarter of 2019, which saw hip-hop songs dropping from 60% to 40% year over year, and pop surging to 45% from 23%.

Top 10 songs also moved faster and were musically more cheerful (or at least more were in a major key), according to the results of the study.

The second quarter was dominated by one song, of course: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which was in the Top 10 for some 12 weeks and was No. 1 for nearly the entire quarter. Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” was next with 11 weeks in the Top 10 during the quarter, followed by Khalid’s “Talk” and Sam Smith and Normani’s “Dancing With a Stranger” with eight each.

Looking at the 15 new arrivals, 60% had male singers, 20% female and 20% mixed, while 53% were pop, 27% were hip-hop/rap and 20% were R&B soul. The average tempo was a brisk 98 beats per minute, while the average length was 3:20 and 53% are in a major key.

(The 15 new arrivals are: “Old Town Road,” “Bad Guy,” “Talk,” Drake’s “Money in the Grave” and “No Guidance” and Taylor Swift’s “Me!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” Khalid’s“Better,” BTS’ “Boy With Luv,” Sam Smith and Normani’s “Dancing With a Stranger,” Logic’s “Homicide,” Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s “I Don’t Care,” Shawn Mendes’ “If I Can’t Have You,” Da Baby’s “Suge” and Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho.”

Overall, the quarter saw fewer songs in a minor key than 2018 (57% vs. 71%, with 40% over 28% in a major key); the BPMs sped up considerably (93 vs. 83), and far more songs were exclusively sung as opposed to rapped (54% vs. 31%).

One could also argue that listeners have become more impatient, as the average song length dropped from 3:36 to 3:16, and the percentage of songs with 1 to 9 second intros rose from 25 to 43%. However, it’s taking six second longer to get to the chorus, from 36 seconds in 2018 to 42 seconds this year.

Overall for the quarter, the Top 10 saw 32 artists, 110 songwriters, 43 producers and just eight labels (seven majors — Atlantic, Capitol, Columbia, Def Jam, Interscope, RCA and Republic — and just one indie, eOne). Six songwriters had more than one new song in Top 10: Drake, Khalid, Taylor Swift, Joel Little and Stargate’s Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Erikensen; three producers had more than one new song: Stargate, Swift and Little). Of the labels, Republic had most new arrivals with four (Taylor and Drake) followed by RCA.

Looking at the growing proliferation of contributors to hit songs, 74% of the quarter’s 15 new entries songs had two or more producers: 40% with two, 27% with three and 7% with four, while 27% of new songs had one producer.

Taking a look at the year to date, 86% of all No. 1s are pop, 91 is the average BPM, and 57% are in a minor key and less than three minutes long.

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