Free Fallin' With John Mayer: Spotify's Most Popular Songs Of The Past Five Decades

Long were the days when my nights when my days once revolved around you.

Cool Spotify timewaster of the day: If you search for "year:xxxx-xxxx" the browser will display the most popular songs released in that range in descending order. So what does this tell us about, say, this morning's healthy discussion of the best records from the last decade? Well, Is This It's "Last Nite" comes in as the 16th-most listened-to naughts track, right behind Rise Against's "Hero of War" and ahead of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," neither of which I recall anyone in the mentioning in the comments section that followed Maura's initial list. The data has its obvious shortcomings—for instance, because Bob Dylan (whose Love and Theft also tops Is This It) has yet to license his catalog over to the cloud, "The Times They Are A-Changin' " appears at No. 19 on the naughts list thanks to its inclusion on the Watchmen soundtrack—but it provides an interesting look into the demographics and listening patterns of Spotify listeners nonetheless. I'm guessing that a sample that listens to—no, really—JOHN MAYER'S LIVE COVER OF "FREE FALLIN' " more than any other song in in the entire decade is not representative of the larger population, but I don't know, maybe he's big in the heartland? Top fives from the '60s onward below.

1. John Mayer - "Free Fallin' "
2. Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"
3. Coldplay - "Viva la Vida"
4. MGMT - "Kids"
5. Jay-Z - "Empire State of Mind"

1. Eagle-Eye Cherry - "Save Tonight"
2. Green Day - "Basket Case"
3. Massive Attack - "Teardrop"
4. The Offspring - "The Kids Aren't Alright"
5. Neil Young - "Harvest Moon"

1980s (I'm guessing there are some sorting issues here.)
1. Journey - "Don't Stop Believin' "
2. Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car"
3. Phil Collins - "In the Air Tonight"
4. Tracy Chapman - "Baby Can I Hold You"
5. Phil Collins - "You Can't Hurry Love"

1. Iggy Pop - "The Passenger"
2. Fleetwood Mac - "Go Your Own Way"
3. Van Morrison - "Into the Mystic"
4. Neil Young - "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)"
5. Van Morrison - "Crazy Love"

1960s (The play counts for more obvious hits seem to be diluted across multiple versions of the same song appearing on greatest hits compilations, re-releases, and live albums)
1. Buffalo Springsteen - "For What It's Worth"
2. The Turtles - "Happy Together"
3. Joe Dassin - "Les Champs-Elysees"
4. Los Bravos - "Black is Black"
5. Nancy Sinatra - "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)"

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Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

...[I]t provides an interesting look into the demographics and listening patterns of Spotify listenersExactly—and it's not going to stay like this if Spotify keeps spreading.This is, broadly speaking, exactly what the iTunes Store looked like in its first year or two (2003, 2004)—an overabundance of tech-savvy, rockist 30/40-something whites (mostly dudes) meant a heavy skew toward triple-A shit like Jack Johnson, Maroon5 (they were perceived as less girly then) and Coldplay. Then the rest of the world, including teenagers and people of color, received iPods and logged on to iTunes, and it became the all-consuming pop beast (I say that admiringly) it is today. Once Spotify attracts a wider array of demographics, it's going to track mainstream tastes much more closely.(Amazon's music section never made this leap and remains a Starbucks-drinker's stronghold, because a decade ago kids were going to record stores instead of Amazon, and then when Tower et al. died they leaped straight to the interwebs; buying physical CDs at Amazon never became a habit for them.)


as i was writing this i said to maura, 'i bet chris molanphy could pull some interesting stuff out of this data'

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