The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire

Sub-Genre Fusion, Hip Hop/Rap & Trap



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Dance/Electronic, Hip Hop/Rap, Pop, R&B/Soul and Rock.  These are the five primary genres that comprise the songs that land within the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 from quarter to quarter.

During the second quarter of 2015, 19 songs had the distinction of landing in the Top 10 of the Hot 100. A key commonality that most share is an infectious fusion of multiple sub-genres and influencers that shape their sound and vibe.

Among the numerous sub-genres and influencers were newcomers such as Jazz and New Wave, and mainstays including R&B/Soul and Retro.  R&B/Soul, Retro, Electropop and Hip Hop/Rap were once again in the top 5, with R&B/Soul retaining top honors. The only change compared to Q1 occurred in the fifth spot, where prominent Dance (i.e. songs that possess an upbeat, danceable nature designed to get the listener moving) took the place of Ballad/Power Ballad.

The two big gainers of the quarter were Hip Hop/Rap and Trap. The former’s prominence as an influence in the Top 10 increased from 25%  to 42% of songs,  stemming from both inside and out of the Hip Hop/Rap primary genre category. Representatives include:

  • G.D.F.R. (Hip Hop/Rap)
  • Nasty Freestyle (Hip Hop/Rap)
  • See You Again (Hip Hop/Rap)
  • Trap Queen (Hip Hop/Rap)
  • Hey Mama (Dance/Club/Electronic): Primarily via Nicki Minaj’s vocal.
  • Time Of Our Lives (Dance/Club/Electronic): Primarily via Pitbull’s vocal.
  • Bad Blood (Pop): Primarily via Kendrick Lamar’s vocal.
  • Uptown Funk (R&B/Soul): Primarily via Mars’ “Oops up-side your head” influenced vocal in the bridge.

Trap’s prominence in the Top 10 increased from a lowly 5% up to 26% of songs, which was its highest level in over a year. Trap was primarily featured in songs stemming from the Hop Hop/Rap primary genre category, but also traversed into the Dance/Club/Electronic and Pop genres as well. The commonality that all of these songs share is the 808 styled kick/bass in the mix. They include:

  • Bad Blood (Electropop, Hip Hop/Rap, Trap)
  • G.D.F.R. (Hip Hop/Rap, Jazz, Trap)
  • Hey Mama (Dance/Club/Electronic, Blues, Electropop, Hip Hop/Rap, Trap, World)
  • Nasty Freestyle (Hip Hop/Rap, Trap)
  • Trap Queen (Hip Hop/Rap, Electro, R&B/Soul, Trap)

Another key commonality that ALL of the quarter’s hits share is the meticulous manner in which distinct sub-genres and influencers are fused with one another. This can be achieved through sectional assignments, where a specific section of a song will possess a specific sub-genre influence, or by the “blend,” where specific or multiple sub-genres are in effect throughout the entire song. A couple of great examples from Q2-2015 are Hey Mama and Shut Up And Dance:

Hey Mama

The entire song features an Electropop/Club type vibe. The Blues influence is put into effect via the 1940’s “Rosie” sample that appears at the beginning of the song and at the end of each chorus. Hip Hop/Rap and World (Trinidad) is in effect in the verse and pre-chorus sections primarily due to Minaj’s vocal characteristics. R&B/Soul plays a minor role in the chorus sections due to Rexha’s vocal style, which is a combination of Pop and R&B. As for Trap, its influence is primarily felt in the verse and pre-chorus sections due to the characteristics of the sub bass.

Shut Up And Dance

The entire song possesses a late 1970s/early 1980s Retro vibe a la Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, and The Cars. The intro, chorus 1, instrumental break 4 and chorus 4 feature a U2 influence via the “Where The Streets Have No Name” styled guitars. The Funk influence is put into effect via the characteristics of the electric guitar in the instrumental break and verse sections. Dance and Power Pop are most prominent in the chorus sections. The pre-chorus is the most straight ahead Rock section due to the the powerful guitars and associated Rick Springfield/Pat Benatar vibe. The synth solo section (instrumental break 3) is heavily influenced by the Cars, and features Dance, Funk, Power Pop, and New Wave influences as well.

These are just a few of the many highlights culled from our Q2-2015 Hit Songs Deconstructed Genre Report. To view the full report, click here.