100 & Single: fun., Gotye, M83, EDM, And The Beginning Of The Hot 100's Spotify Years


fun. feat. Janelle Monáe, "We Are Young"

Six streaming services—MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker and Spotify—are now being tracked by Nielsen Soundscan and getting baked into the Hot 100 by Billboard. (The Hot 100 has already included Yahoo! Radio and AOL Music streams on a small scale for years, but they've had a fairly insignificant effect. The new Hot 100 formula will also include on-demand audio from MySpace and Guvera, video requests on Akoo, and non-demand radio streams from Rhapsody and Slacker. There's no tracking of YouTube, Vevo or Pandora, likely for technical reasons, and no reports on when or if that might happen.)

Looking back on the half-century of Hot 100 history, this week's infusion of streams into the chart isn't as earth-shattering as some previous Billboard formula changes: for example, in November 1991, the switch to the more accurate Soundscan system for sales data and Broadcast Data Systems for radio counts; or, in December 1998, the addition of non-retail, airplay-only tracks; or, in February 2005, the inclusion of iTunes and other digital song sales. The charts that debuted after these Hot 100 rule changes were radically different, with records yo-yo-ing all over the place and new hits materializing out of thin air.

The 2012 changes to the Hot 100 are more modest. "We Are Young" would have been No. 1 under either the old or the new system; in this, its second week on top, it's only more dominant, thanks to the 1.1 million on-demand streams it racked up last week. But the effects of streaming data on the chart go deeper than "Young." According to Billboard , the formula change provides a serious boost to about a dozen other Hot 100 hits.

These stream-boosted hits have a few things in common, broadly speaking—like "We Are Young," they are rockier, quirkier and more male. But more important, they don't sound much like current Top 40 radio... and, it must be said, they're mostly pretty cool.

Let's start with "Somebody That I Used to Know," the rueful ambient-rock hit by Gotye featuring Kimbra that is currently Billboard's No. 1 Alternative hit. A couple of months ago, it was already improbable that this ornate mid-'80s throwback was going to make the upper reaches of the Billboard charts. But there it is, at No. 5 on the Hot 100, up from No. 9 last week; under the old Hot 100 formula, Billboard reports that the song would have only risen to No. 8 this week. "Take Care," the chillout duet by Drake featuring Rihanna and a standout on his album, built on a prominent sample from indie favorites The xx, reaches a new peak of No. 7; under the old rules it would've been outside the Top 10. "Rack City," the minimalist, borderline-austere former Top 10 hit by rapper Tyga, rebounds to No. 15; it would have fallen to No. 18 without streams.

Down below the Top 40, electronic dance music (EDM) does particularly well under the new formula. Avicii's "Levels," the Etta James-sampling dance smash that formed the basis for a recent Flo Rida hit, rebounds to No. 66, instead of failing to No. 80 under the old system. Skrillex reenters the chart at No. 83 with his Grammy-winning, bass-dropping "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites." And "Midnight City," the lead single to my favorite album of 2011, becomes the first Hot 100 hit for dreamy French electropop act M83, debuting at No. 74 thanks to streams.

Add to all this the fact that fun.'s chart-topper brought the critic-beloved Janelle Monáe to the U.S. Top 40 for the first time, and this is arguably the Pazziest, Joppiest, hippest Hot 100 we've seen since around the mid-'90s.



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