50 Years of Pop Songs

Like many, I was deeply immersed in pop when I was growing up (for me, the 80s). I then abandoned it for more esoteric stuff for a while, spending the 90s mostly listening to industrial, techno, and electronica. In the last ten years or so, I’ve returned to pop with a new appreciation for the genius of a perfectly crafted pop song.

When I came back to pop, I formed a couple of crotchety-old-man theories about how contemporary pop differs from its forebears. I’m a cautious person though, so before ranting about the kids today, I decided to collect some data and test my theories. The result is an exploration of the last 50 years of pop songs. As it happens, I haven’t yet finished my original driving question about pop song meaning; my explorations of “popularity” are linked below.

First of all, why 50 years? Aside from being a round number, I think 1964 marks somewhat of a transition to more modern pop/rock. In particular, it’s the first year that the Beatles appeared on the year-end hot 100. And, while most of the songs from 1963 strike me as “oldies”, there are a number from 1964 that are still a part of the “classic rock” landscape. I explore this a little further in the digressions.

Second, where’d the data come from? I’m mostly using weekly top ten charts from Billboard, with some Billboard year-end charts. These sources are easily crawled and cleaned.

Posts on 50 Years of Pop Songs


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King of pop digressions

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