In 2017, Hip Hop/Rap and Pop were the two most prominent genres in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. One of them, however, hooked the listener in with the first chorus faster than the other.
The answer may surprise you. Pop songs, which are typically thought of as the most chorus & hook-centric, took 39 seconds on average to get to the first chorus. Hip Hop/Rap songs, which are typically thought of as the most verse-centric, arrived at the first chorus at 30 seconds on average – that’s 23% sooner than Pop.
Surprised? When you find out why it won’t be surprising at all.
Let’s drill down further.
Looking at the average first chorus occurrence quarter over quarter in 2017, the amount of time that it took for Pop songs to get to the first chorus increased from 34 seconds in Q1 to 42 seconds in Q4. This was due in part to the entry of two songs during the second half of the year that have their first choruses hitting right around the one minute mark – Perfect (Ed Sheeran featuring Beyonce) and Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor Swift). These were the only Pop songs in 2017 with choruses hitting this far in, and both were #1 hits. This goes to show that while getting to the first chorus sooner rather than later is a good practice, there are exceptions to every “rule.”
When looking at Hip Hop/Rap songs, the average amount of time that it took for songs to get to the first chorus decreased from 34 seconds in Q1 to just 17 seconds in Q4. That’s 25 seconds sooner than the average for Pop songs during the same time-period. This decrease was due in part to the arrival of songs in the second half of the year such as MotorSport, No Limit, and the #1 hits Bodak Yellow and Rockstar, all of which have their first choruses hitting at 15 seconds or earlier.
So, why did songs in the Hip Hop/Rap genre get to the chorus earlier than their Pop genre counterparts in 2017?
Song structure played a key role. While most songs in both genres begin with an intro (95% of Hip Hop/Rap songs and 85% of Pop songs), the vast majority of Hip Hop/Rap songs – 73% – immediately followed with the chorus, not the verse. However, this was only the case with 15% of Pop songs: Don’t Wanna Know, Havana and Side To Side, all of which have a Hip Hop influence.
By the end of 2017, the percentage of Hip Hop/Rap songs with a chorus preceding the first verse rose to 86%, while only one song in the Pop genre – Havana – broke the nil streak that defined Q2 and Q3.
When you take into account that the average length of a Hip Hop/Rap intro in 2017 was almost twice the length of a Pop intro (17 seconds vs. 9 seconds), and the average length of a Hip Hop first verse was almost twice the length of a Pop first verse (44 seconds vs. 23 seconds), the inclusion of a verse after the intro in Hip Hop/Rap songs would mean that the listener would have to wait over one minute on average to hear the first chorus, which by mainstream standards is a VERY long time to seal the deal with the listener.