When it comes to Hot 100 #1 hits, 2021 was the year of pop, retro, love/relationship-themed lyrics, and a rise of traditional instruments including electric guitar, bass and acoustic piano.
Of the 71 songs that charted in the Top 10, only 25% (18 songs) made it to the top spot (see Spotify playlist below). BTS’ Butter, was the longest-charting of them all with 10 weeks at #1, and Columbia scored the most #1 hits with seven.
The majority of #1 hits were crafted by teams of five credited songwriters or more (56%) and producer teams of two (44%).
So what did these chart-toppers look like compositionally?
For the third year in a row, pop was the most popular primary genre and accounted for 56% of #1 hits, double the number of hip hop #1 hits (28%). However, when looking at the overall Top 10, pop and hip hop were neck and neck, with 39% and 34% respectively.
Just as in 2020, there were two R&B #1s, Leave The Door Open (Silk Sonic) and Peaches (Justin Bieber feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon). And for the first time in well over five years, we saw a rock song chart at #1, Olivia Rodrigo’s Good 4 U.
Sub-Genres & Influences
As one would expect, pop was also the most popular influence across all #1s, followed distantly by hip hop and trap, the latter of which has dropped in popularity by almost half since 2018. Conversely, #1s featuring a rock influence have been on the rise for the past three years, increasing from just 8% of songs in 2018 to one-third in 2021.
Twenty main instruments were used to shape the sound of Hot 100 #1 hits in 2021. The top three, as usual, were drums/percussion, synths (non-bass) and synth bass.
There was also an overall rise of traditional instruments including electric bass, acoustic piano, electric guitar and acoustic drums. Following a dip in 2020, all reached five-year highs in 2021 save for electric guitar, which remained relatively steady at roughly half of #1 hits (though it rose considerably in the years prior).
The average length of a #1 hit in 2021 was 3:08, 16 seconds shorter than the overall Top 10 and seven seconds shorter than last year’s average. The past three years’ averages have all been significantly shorter than years prior.
*Note that this excludes Taylor Swift’s 10-minute long All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)
What else was trending among 2021’s #1 hits? Stay tuned for our year-end trend report, The State of the Hot 100 Top 10, being released on January 31st!
Did you know subscribers can get access to our full trend report – which features data on genres, instruments, structure, vocals, artists, songwriters, producers, and much more – and a host of other reports and tools? Click here to learn more!
Spotify Playlist: 2021’s Hot 100 #1 Hits