The Most Timeless Songs Of All Time
August 25, 2015 9:50 AM   Subscribe


 
(*) for certain values of timeless that include Spotify's limited catalog and audience
posted by entropicamericana at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


It is a shame that the Beatles (among others) are not on Spotify. I would be curious to see if the Beatles' influence is finally waning now that the Boomers are getting older.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is so flawed/biased that I can't even begin to ... oh never mind.
posted by slacy at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


It is a shame that the Beatles (among others) are not on Spotify. I would be curious to see if the Beatles' influence is finally waning

The Beatles' influence will wane to the extent that they continue to milk the boomers' desire for physical media, and ignore younger peoples' streaming habits.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


Spin Doctors, “Two Princes”

really?
posted by thelonius at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


for certain values of timeless that include Spotify's limited catalog and audience

Which is actually addressed in TFA but amazingly sometimes even imperfect data leads to interesting observations.
posted by Phire at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


Ah geez, sorry guys I'm probably responsible for 52 million of those Mr Brightside plays.
posted by Jimbob at 10:06 AM on August 25, 2015 [19 favorites]


I am glad to learn that I'm not the only person who unironically loves Wonderwall. And even with the incomplete data set, it's interesting to look at the long-term trends, and how random songs (Don't Stop Believin', Bohemian Rhapsody) get stuck in the zeitgeist) and end up more popular long-term.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:07 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, this is some absolutely beautiful dataviz here. I can sort of squint and see how it was all put together, but I am still in awe of the scale of the effort that's gone into this. Would love to see the Github repo for this, but would also not at all blame the author if they decided to sell this to Spotify or Songza or something for a buttload of money.

Seriously, look at the intersection of Billboard and Spotify data for the 2013 graph at the bottom and tell me that's not fascinating.
posted by Phire at 10:09 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Spin Doctors, “Two Princes”

really?


That's what they said now.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2015 [42 favorites]


'No Diggity' is responsible for most of the millions of plays Ed Sheeran gets as well.
posted by colie at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2015


It's a shame that Mike Myers and Dana Carvey don't see a penny of that Bohemian Rhapsody money. Without Wayne's World, I bet that song isn't even a blip on these graphs.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:12 AM on August 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


That's what they said now.

I soften the pain by singing the words to "Sweet Home Alabama", which work over all Spin Doctors songs, to it.
posted by thelonius at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with Rock Steady there. I love Bohemian Rhapsody, but Wayne's World is hugely important to its lasting popularity.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2015


I have a feeling Mike Myers will scrape by somehow.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:16 AM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know what isn't featured? Grunge. Grunge (apart from Nirvana) has almost completely disappeared from the cultural landscape, which sort of surprises me. On the other hand I always hated grunge so I am not too upset.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:17 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Only time will tell if Why Can't This Be Love will stand the test of time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:18 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elementary Penguin: It is a shame that the Beatles (among others) are not on Spotify. I would be curious to see if the Beatles' influence is finally waning now that the Boomers are getting older.

If Let's Loop top Loopers (who don't look like baby boomers) are any indication, The Beatles aren't going away (I could have sworn there were more than two loopers who listed the former mop-tops as favorite bands, but they're on the top two).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2015


For the longest time I couldn't keep the Gin Blossoms and the Goo Goo Dolls straight and I though they were one band that produced some good songs and some bad songs, but then it turns out that they were two bands it was just that the Goo Goo Dolls weren't very good and what I'm saying is how is "Iris" the second most played song of the 90s?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:24 AM on August 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


The two Linkin Park songs appearing in the top ten of the 'Present-day Popularity of Five Decades of Music' chart show us that there really is no hope for humanity. Fire up your nukes, Generals, and let's rebuild civilization from scratch.
posted by item at 10:24 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Two really big sources of bias:
1. incomplete coverage which is noted.
2. playlists. A song's popularity might be boosted by virtue of sitting on one or more really popular playlists. Also, its position on the playlist will influence its playcount.

On the whole this data is shit.
posted by simra at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Your favorite data set sucks.
posted by chavenet at 10:32 AM on August 25, 2015 [18 favorites]


Nothing about this confuses me more than the 15 million plays on Lou Bega's Mambo #5.
.____.

(Edit: Ha! I didn't even notice the thread preceding this one...)
posted by bigendian at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have been responsible for at least 20% of the Juicy plays for Notorious
posted by glaucon at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


playlists. A song's popularity might be boosted by virtue of sitting on one or more really popular playlists. Also, its position on the playlist will influence its playcount.

I don't understand how this biases the data. If a song is on a playlist and gets listened to a lot, it's still getting listened to a lot, which is what the graphs are trying to measure.

I guess I want to know what sort of data set could measure this better.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some of what's on there is completely fascinating, but let Darude's Sandstorm serve as a warning to all: when you use only one era's statistics to chart timelessness, you will wind up with false positives derived from memes. If he had run this test 8 years ago he would have given the #1 spot to Rick Astley.
posted by shmegegge at 10:34 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


FWIW, my 14-year-old now owns the following "retro" t-shirts: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182. She recently downloaded a bunch of my Beatles mp3s to her iPhone.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe Mambo #5 is first on a playlist containing the greatest hits of the greatest band ever- let's call that band Rush, shall we? People launch the playlist to hear Rush, not Mambo #5, but are too lazy to skip ahead...
posted by simra at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess we still do remember "Regulate" and Warren G. Who knew? 1993 must have been a sweet summer indeed.
posted by Frowner at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


still seems like a better data set than, say, radio plays. no data sets are perfect, but i thought this was interesting for what it was and a pretty good manipulation of the available data. also sorry rush didn't rank as high as you wanted them to.
posted by nadawi at 10:41 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe Mambo #5 is first on a playlist containing the greatest hits of the greatest band ever- let's call that band Rush, shall we? People launch the playlist to hear Rush, not Mambo #5, but are too lazy to skip ahead...

But then why not just make a playlist of Rush songs? If you typed "Rush" into Spotify's search engine you could use the artist page and make a playlist of only Rush.

I mean, the Mambo #5 music video has 21 million views on YouTube, and that's just one. It's a popular song!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe Mambo #5 is first on a playlist containing the greatest hits of the greatest band ever- let's call that band Rush, shall we? People launch the playlist to hear Rush, not Mambo #5, but are too lazy to skip ahead...

Maybe they're coming for other Lou Bega songs and just give "Mambo #5" a listen before getting to the real target. Maybe they really want to hear "Gentleman" or "Tricky Tricky"? What then?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Slapped some of these onto a Spotify playlist. It's sort of the opposite of timeless, everything on these lists jumps out at you as embodying its moment in time.
posted by graymouser at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


"If you choose not to decide / You still have made a choice."
posted by radiosilents at 10:43 AM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


One way to normalize the data would be to ignore plays from public playlists- what are users listening to on their personal playlists? Public playlists are an odd analogue of radio programming- not nearly as biased but introducing weird artifacts like Mambo#5 getting (hypothetically) boosted by Rush.
[btw, I don't mean to pick on Mambo#5 or have sour grapes about Rush.]
posted by simra at 10:47 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe they're coming for other Lou Bega songs and just give "Mambo #5" a listen before getting to the real target. Maybe they really want to hear "Gentleman" or "Tricky Tricky"? What then?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on August 25 [+] [!]


I just want to make it clear that he is not kidding nor did he have to look these up; he really does listen to a lot of Lou Bega. The only thing that makes living with him tolerable is...oh wait shit.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:47 AM on August 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


Then again, maybe all this shows is that the 90s were just an awful period for music.
posted by simra at 10:50 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just want to make it clear that he is not kidding nor did he have to look these up; he really does listen to a lot of Lou Bega. The only thing that makes living with him tolerable is...oh wait shit.

I'm also responsible for at least three of 2014's 88 Spotify plays for "He Loves U Not." I'm really the worst.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:51 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is entirely anecdotal, as I work in a small record shop in a college town, but generally speaking, a lot of this data holds true for what I sell physical copies of* as well.

Grunge. Grunge (apart from Nirvana) has almost completely disappeared from the cultural landscape, which sort of surprises me.

The idea of neo-Grunge flares up every few years in a trend piece, though it hasn't really caught on. Otherwise, the 90s revival is huge right now, but way more of it sounds like indie pop and shoegaze (and we're kind of sort of redoing trip-hop right now, I guess?)than like Mudhoney.* Looming on the immediate horizon seems to be another pop punk/ emo revival that I would dread if I were fifteen years younger and still worried about keeping up to date with the zeitgeist.

*Especially, though not entirely, vinyl.
**Fun fact: I have not sold a Pearl Jam record (any format) to a customer under thirty-five in probably ten years.
posted by thivaia at 10:52 AM on August 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


Then again, maybe all this shows is that the 90s were just an awful period for music.

Not that we needed science or big data to tell us that, duh.
posted by chavenet at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


still seems like a better data set than, say, radio plays. no data sets are perfect, but

In terms of (for lack of a better term) good time music, I'd be far more interested in a survey of wedding DJs.

Then again, maybe all this shows is that the 90s were just an awful period for music.

I beg to differ. You just needed the right drugs.
posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]




THE LARGEST VOCABULARY IN HIP HOP

Also interesting! Doubtless controversial!
posted by chavenet at 10:58 AM on August 25, 2015


I think the thing that stuck out the most here was mention of Pearl Jam. They were a big part of my high school and college listening but I've all but forgotten them; I have no idea the last time I played a full album by them.

I just checked my Last.fm, which has plays from me for near a decade. I liked none of these bands as much as PJ back in the mid 90s, yet:
The Smashing Pumpkins: 130
Nirvana: 130
Soundgarden: 53
Pearl Jam: 49

[This misses a lot of plays, but I bet the Smashing Pumpkins would come out further ahead with plays from more sources; I played Mellon Collie complete on CD a couple weeks ago!]
posted by mountmccabe at 11:06 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


As much as Mambo #5 has awful politics, I have fond memories of it playing way too much on the Disney Channel.
posted by Phire at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2015


the people's key
posted by thelonius at 11:13 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looming on the immediate horizon seems to be another pop punk/ emo revival

Can confirm: the upcoming 5SoS album is produced (and co-written) by John Feldmann of Goldfinger and also features songs written by the Madden brothers (Good Charlotte) and David Hodges (Evanescence).
posted by uncleozzy at 11:13 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would be curious to see if the Beatles' influence is finally waning now that the Boomers are getting older.

I think the Beatles are bigger now than they've been in a while. They enjoyed a big revival in the 2000s thanks to a remastered box set release, things like the Beatles Rock Band game, and finally releasing on iTunes.

Honestly, what's tired and old at this point is the hoary punk anti-Beatles pose. We get it guys, you were against the Establishment they represented in the 70s, but that fight's over and gone. They're just a band, they made some great music, people like listening to it.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:17 AM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fun fact: I have not sold a Pearl Jam record (any format) to a customer under thirty-five in probably ten years.

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


By the way, we are now further from Nevermind (24 years) than Nevermind was from Abbey Road (22 years).
posted by Rock Steady at 11:32 AM on August 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Maybe they're coming for other Lou Bega songs

I have been playing the bike horn Mambo #5 for everyone that comes within a 20 foot radius of my office and one guy insists that the rest of the album includes some real gems, that it's actually worthwhile. As someone who purchased a lot of dismal albums by one hit wonders in the pre-mp3 days.....I want to believe. But I am struggling to put in the effort only to be hurt again. Where is that Lou Bega Deep Cuts FPP for which metafiter thirsts? Bulgaroktonos, I'm looking at you.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 11:41 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Really interesting article, thanks for posting it!
posted by bookdragoness at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2015


Also interesting! Doubtless controversial!

chavenet, that got posted on MeFi a while back.

FTA: "popularity is so much more than song quality."

Clearly. In my circles, timeless means that the song's themes reach across decades, and the music itself is so well done that your parents can get down to it, you rock it, and your kids nod to it. Stevie Wonder. Earth, Wind & Fire. Michael Jackson. He references Ra and notes he's not on there and laments it but shrugs. If you don't understand Microphone Fiend is a timeless classic, a song that has been sampled and had interpolations and references done so many times in hip hop that it isn't something that can be fully documented, well you've got a problem. Or rather, you're not measuring what you think you are. That song is hip hop. That song birthed a thousand others. The attitude alone affected generations, flowed through each decade, exists today, and will persist. People rapping it at their jobs, people on corners, guys at the court, in school, on the bus. I Got Soul. Aside from the people who think it's Timbo, start saying the phrase "It's been a long time.....", and a crowd will belt the words "I shouldn'ta left you" right back. From 87-88 til infinity.
posted by cashman at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


As someone who purchased a lot of dismal albums by one hit wonders in the pre-mp3 days.....I want to believe.

Interestingly, Mambo Number 5 was the first MP3 I ever illegally downloaded, followed shortly (well shortly by 1999 dial up standards) by Blue by Eiffel 65. That said, my journey into Lou Bega's other work didn't start until I stole the music in a more standard fashion, by sneaking into my roommates room when he was away and copying them off his computer.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah geez, sorry guys I'm probably responsible for 52 million of those Mr Brightside plays.

Well, that can't be possible, because at least 10 million of those are mine.

Seriously, though, I am probably responsible for at least half of Losing My Religion's 22 million plays, since I cried to it on repeat for six months before admitting I was an atheist.

I know, I know, that's not even what the song is about. Try telling that to 22 year old me.
posted by Catenation at 12:17 PM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


The play counts reported are only for 2014.

Though that seems really weird, as "Losing My Religion" is currently at 57 million plays. And "Mr. Brightside" is at 112 million. That means 2014 was responsible for 39% of all-time plays on Spotify of "Losing My Religion" and 48% of "Mr. Brightside" plays.

Which just illustrates how little time Spotify has been around (since 2008) and how quickly it has been growing.

Numbers from their Wikipedia article:
September 2010 - 10 million users, 2.5 million paid
December 2012 - 20 million users, 5 million paid
January 2015 - 60 million users, 15 million paid
June 2015 - 75 million active users, 20 million paid

(For each paid users are included in the total users)
posted by mountmccabe at 12:34 PM on August 25, 2015


And "Mr. Brightside" is at 112 million.

Huh, and I didn't even know the Killers had a song other than "Human."
posted by chavenet at 12:39 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


...Baby One More Time
14,753,147 plays


it me
posted by kagredon at 12:43 PM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Smashing Pumpkins has aged shockingly well. Pearl Jam not so much. Soundgarden is now banned.

The 90s were not, emphatically not, a wasteland for music. A lot of groundbreaking rock, electronic, and hip hop came out of the 90s, and a lot of it is still very vital and relevant. Not Black Hole Sun though.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:50 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


The two Linkin Park songs appearing in the top ten of the 'Present-day Popularity of Five Decades of Music' chart show us that there really is no hope for humanity. Fire up your nukes, Generals, and let's rebuild civilization from scratch.

a good portion of that is probably just this guy though
posted by kagredon at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how many of the older songs that outperform on Spotify were also on the Forrest Gump Soundtrack. So far I'm seeing "California Dreamin'", "Fortunate Son", and "Sweet Home Alabama".
posted by clawsoon at 12:56 PM on August 25, 2015


It does (indirectly) point out for a lot of genres how the Top 40 has become beside the point. Artists that headline big festivals and sell out big venues have can easily have zero Billboard-charting singles.
posted by MattD at 12:57 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


"He Loves U Not" is a stone banger and anyone who disagrees deserves nothing less than endless Pearl Jam songs on their inner playlist.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:03 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Smashing Pumpkins has aged shockingly well. Pearl Jam not so much.

Smashing Pumpkins went all-in on pop hooks. Pearl Jam eschewed them. That's why "1979" and "Tonight, Tonight" will be played into the ground for the next 100 years while "Spin The Black Circle" is barely heard anymore.

On the other hand, Bush is barely seen on the list. We thought they were disposable in 1995, and turns out we were right.
posted by dw at 1:07 PM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Iris" being #3 on the 90s list is a reminder of just how badly Billboard insisting on hewing to sales numbers completely fucked over a bunch of mid-90s artists.
posted by dw at 1:23 PM on August 25, 2015


I know we're all posturing to show our music cool here, but anyone who's surprised at how high up "Iris" is clearly did not go to middle/early high school in the US in the late 90s.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:28 PM on August 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Oh I definitely did (1998-2002, prime "Iris" years), I know how ubiquitous it was at the time, it's just surprising that it lived on.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:31 PM on August 25, 2015


I wonder if it's partially also because "Iris" gets recommended a lot as a first guitar song to learn, and so the people who went to high school around that time will pass that recommendation on to their younger siblings or children, and so on.
posted by Phire at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


So far as popularity and Pearl Jam are concerned, I always note when I rent a car with SiriusXM working in it that there is a Pearl Jam station. There's also a Jimmy Buffet station and one for Willie Nelson. Maybe just barely tenable niches?
posted by ericales at 1:41 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


A song's popularity might be boosted by virtue of sitting on one or more really popular playlists. Also, its position on the playlist will influence its playcount.

Especially since Spotify has changed recently to highlighting "moments" and fitness and canned playlists vs. the social playlist-sharing features. Some fraction (how much?) of these plays are how much an algorithm or a Spotify intern likes a given song.

Still, it's better than old Hot 100 ranks at estimating the longevity of a given song. Probably karaoke statistics are better still.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:53 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


If karaoke statistics come into play then my favorite bands are NIN, Live, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Pulp.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:00 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Surely "Slide" is the definitive Goo Goo jam?
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:02 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Someone should invent Karaokify, if it doesn't already exist. Instant access to a karaoke track for any song, so you and your friends can have a karaoke party anywhere, any time.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:03 PM on August 25, 2015


There are half a dozen karaoke channels for Roku... though I have not yet tried them.

And it's not karaoke but now that MusicMatch has partnered with Spotify you can get synced lyrics for much of the standard catalog. The real vocals still play, of course, but you can still sing along.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:10 PM on August 25, 2015


The Beatles' influence will wane to the extent that they continue to milk the boomers' desire for physical media, and ignore younger peoples' streaming habits.

No, the one whose influence is waning and will continue to wane is Prince, as much as I love the dude and wish his influence to be passed down ad infinitum to future generations of music freaks. He's the one who's wholly withdrawn all his music from every streaming service AND YouTube and plunked it all into the walled garden that is Tidal.

I, along with 10-year-olds whose mommies and grammas listened to the Beatles when they were 10 can still find the Beatles proliferating all over YouTube (just found 7 or 8 different instances of "Good Morning Good Morning" without even trying, and that's a comparative obscurity), which is really the de facto streaming "service" for those who don't want to pay $10 a month for Spotify. And that's not including all the solo material, either. I predict that "Let's Go Crazy" and "Raspberry Beret" will fade long before "Fool on the Hill" and "Eleanor Rigby."
posted by blucevalo at 2:28 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I note that a lot of these songs are very popular karaoke choices. A chicken and egg situation, perhaps?
posted by zug at 2:31 PM on August 25, 2015


blucevalo - while your argument is sound, Prince has a pretty massive presence as an icon on Tumblr/Twitter, and many of The Yoof's favourite artists worship him. It's easy to imagine a kid who streams Janelle Monae, Dev Hynes, The Weeknd getting into Prince - and finding his songs harder to locate might add to the allure.

(Some rogue googling found that even a Jonas Brother is claiming Prince as an influence. I don't think we can write him off yet).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:37 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


bluecevalo: I, along with 10-year-olds whose mommies and grammas listened to the Beatles when they were 10 can still find the Beatles proliferating all over YouTube ... which is really the de facto streaming "service" for those who don't want to pay $10 a month for Spotify.

Until YouTube seriously ups their ads to drive people to their ad-free subscription service.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:48 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


While looking at one service is interesting, I'd also love to see cross-service comparisons (iTunes vs Spotify vs YouTube vs Google Play Music All Access, etc). That would also help tease out the audience biases to some extent (which is almost certainly age biased as they note, but probably also country/location and even pre-biased by musical taste for underrepresented genres).

[I'm curious what their music base is like, but not enough to sign up]
posted by thefoxgod at 3:05 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something to note: the demographics of people streaming vs using other systems to listen to music is just starting to broaden to the point that this kind of survey is accurate. There have been more streaming loops so far in 2015 than happened in all of 2014. And with two major streaming services coming out the past couple months we'll have a better sense of what actually timeless tracks are.

2. This kind of survey is why I think we'll see a move away from big pop acts towards signing and promoting smaller more experienced artists to multi album deals. The middle class album artist is the long tail of streaming revenue for record companies.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:47 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder how many/which songs get a boost from being popular workout playlist songs. There's a bunch of songs that have inched their way to the top of my most-played playlists not because they're my zomg favorite song ever, or because I think they're quality pieces of music, but because they had/have long lives on my workout playlists.

Also, what is with Mr. Brightside? I wouldn't necessarily call myself a fan of The Killers. I like them just fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy a new album by them, or seek them out on my own. And yet, Mr. Brightside is one of my top-played songs too. Like, I am physically incapable of skipping that song if it comes up on my iPod. Not only am I incapable of skipping it, I will get into it, if it's playing. Like, singing along, head bopping, into it. I don't recall it being that ubiquitous back when it was released.
posted by yasaman at 4:01 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


and a lot of it is still very vital and relevant. Not Black Hole Sun though.

this take is still pretty darned fresh to my ears.
posted by philip-random at 4:11 PM on August 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


My point about "Iris" is that it spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, but because Billboard only tracked physical single sales on the Hot 100, it failed to chart until Billboard finally changed the algorithm late in 1998. Had that algorithm been in place, "Iris" probably would made a run at the "most weeks at #1 on the Hot 100" record.

(Another note... it wasn't a hit in the UK originally, but was re-released several times, ultimately reaching #3 in 2011. I bet that's driving part of the high play level.)

(And with that, I'm listening to "Iris" on Spotify. Damn you all.)
posted by dw at 5:02 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


You stream just to know you're alive.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:42 PM on August 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


In other words, Oasis lost the britpop battle, but won the britpop war.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:45 PM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Going down the Goo Goo Dolls rabbit hole, here they are being interviewed on the local Buffalo TV show Randi's Cat's Pajamas around the time their first album was released in 1987. It is very 1980s.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:53 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Liked this, but couldn't figure out from the article: does Spotify provide any way to normalize by Time-Spent-On-Spotify? Presumably that's going to be more of an issue as catalogs start dropping on and off streaming services like movies on Netflix, no?
posted by deludingmyself at 6:45 PM on August 25, 2015


Goo Goo Dolls had one good song. Long Way Down. Am I the only one who thought so?
posted by 1adam12 at 6:47 PM on August 25, 2015


No, the one whose influence is waning and will continue to wane is Prince, as much as I love the dude and wish his influence to be passed down ad infinitum to future generations of music freaks.

Come here to Minneapolis, where the purple flag flies on forever.
posted by jonp72 at 7:31 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Goo Goo Dolls had one good song. Long Way Down. Am I the only one who thought so?

I remember liking just that plus maybe "Flat Top" but maybe that was only my friend Jason and I'm really trying to resist going down a Goo Goo Dolls wormhole so.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:35 PM on August 25, 2015


Don't Stop Believin'? Really? Can we please get like a 10 year moratorium on semi-to-fully ironic plays of that song?
posted by Gymnopedist at 7:55 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


People may start playing Don't Stop Believin' with ironic intentions, but it is fully sincere by the last "hold on to the fee-lee-heeeen'." That is the blessing, and the curse, of Don't Stop Believin'.
posted by kagredon at 8:20 PM on August 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Maybe I just need a 10 year moratorium, for I have lost the ability to "hold on to the fee-lee-heeeen'." :(
posted by Gymnopedist at 9:45 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Weird that Pavement hasn't come up in this discussion.

Just sayin'.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:02 PM on August 25, 2015


and you're our fact-checking cuz
posted by kagredon at 11:35 PM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, I had to check, because I don't understand why anyone would ever choose to listen to that Journey song, and Wikipedia suggests it's almost completely unavoidable if you live in America, true? I'd wonder why people would then want to hear it at home (or yeah, ever), but I guess fans of Glee (or The Sopranos, or the White Sox, or Hillary Clinton, or even Newt Gingrich) might want to have a little moment with it again. It seems you guys can't stop believin'.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:29 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Part of what makes Don't Stop Believin' such a great karaoke tune, I think, is that it's got this really singable, but unsatisfying, pre-chorus that repeats quite a few times -- in between guitar solos, of course -- and doesn't get to the chorus until almost 3:30. By the time it gets there, everybody has such blue balls that they can't help but sing along.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:42 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it's pretty much the perfect wedding song.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:19 AM on August 26, 2015


People may start playing Don't Stop Believin' with ironic intentions, but it is fully sincere by the last "hold on to the fee-lee-heeeen'." That is the blessing, and the curse, of Don't Stop Believin'.

Yeah I'm not sure when the last time someone really played it ironically, but these days it just a song everyone loves except the people who hate it. I've seen Journey in concert, and obviously I love it, but I feel like we're due for a "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" revival, like when "Separate Ways" got really popular a few years back.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2015


"Separate Ways" is a fantastic tune. I'm going to play it right now.
posted by mkb at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am really confused by these charts.

"Knockin' Da Boots" from 1993 look like it has around 10 million plays from the [1993] Tracks: Historic Billboard Performance vs 2014 Spotify Plays visualization.

But if one searches H-Town on the Present-day Popularity of Five Decades of Music you see a play count of 1,014,156 for "Knockin' Da Boots." And this actually fits with what I see listed for the song right now on Spotify, 2,249,878. [Well, call it 2,249,879 by the time I post this].

The 2014 Spotify Plays visualization seems to be thrown together very loosely. Directly to the left (which should be fewer plays) of "Knockin' Da Boots" is "Real Muthaphuckkin G's" by Eazy-E, yet the play count here is 3,354,042 per the above chart (which fits with the current count of 6,648,488 (+1)).
posted by mountmccabe at 4:24 PM on August 26, 2015


Also, to skew 2015 data: If You Choose Not To Listen To Popular Playlists... (URI: spotify:user:1236893927:playlist:48XWkfFJHBUJo75ts6UiPW )

I included, in order, every single song named, quoted, or linked to in this thread other than those by The Beatles and Prince. I did not include anything from other bands or albums (as opposed to songs), though if I can get through this playlist I might fill it out.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:21 PM on August 26, 2015


I heard Don't Stop Believin on the radio this morning and it was very satisfying. Eat it, haters.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:13 AM on August 27, 2015


I made until last year without realizing that song was even called "Separate Ways", and then in my ignorance I titled one of my own songs "Separate Ways", and then I noticed people were making Journey references, and then I spent most of the rest of the subsequent year bearing a grudge - which has not really subsided - against Journey for using my damned song title.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:25 AM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


FOUL!

The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" is from 1988. It became popular in North America in 1993 due to its inclusion on the Benny & Joon soundtrack.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2015


Sorry to be late to the party, but this measure sucks. Timelessness is about how well a song stands the test of time. The key word there is STANDS. To measure that you need to know how often it was played when it was new and how that frequency declines over time.

When I was looking at the list I was thinking to myself "Well, like Mambo #5. It was EVERYWHERE! If everyone hates that song now and it's lost 99.9999% of it's play frequency but it still gets .0001% because it shows up on random playlists for people who listened to...and people can't be bothered fast-forwarding it, it would still show up as popular because .0001% of what it was in those horrific months is still a lot."

And then I thought...

"Yes, but there's no way anyone is still playing Mambo #5...what other example can I use...?"

And of course, there it is. I think Mambo #5 irrefutably demonstrates that this method sucks. Mambo #5 is not timeless (seriously, it's time was a matter of months, terrible terrible months). And there are songs that were popular within niches of music that are as popular now as they were when first released within people who know and like that niche. Those are the timeless ones. These are just songs that have broad appeal long after their release. Broad appeal and old is not the same as timeless.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:58 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mambo #5 is in fact timeless, though.
posted by kagredon at 5:45 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Definitely, in some Lovecraftian sense.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:43 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


after posting this i've actually had a handful of people, including my indie rock/shoegaze husband (!!!), tell me that in the last 30 days they have sought out and played mambo #5 on spotify....so maybe it's that we're getting a better measure of what is actually timeless vs what people will freely admit to listening to without prompting.
posted by nadawi at 6:48 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]



I heard Don't Stop Believin on the radio this morning and it was very satisfying. Eat it, haters.

Well, if you're going to be so snide about it, then I guess I must repeat myself:

That Journey song about keeping on believing. That's genuinely foul all the way, from the bullshit sheen of the production to the processed cheese of the sentiment. Those fuckers had given up believing long before they wrote or performed it. They hate you. The only thing they ever loved was themselves and cocaine.
posted by philip-random at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


tbh the only thing more satisfying than a cheesy pop song is feeding on the hate of dour bores who think I care about their opinions on why cheesy pop songs are ruining society
posted by kagredon at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I love cheese. That Journey song is cheez whiz.
posted by philip-random at 8:53 PM on August 27, 2015


there's a time and a place for cheez whiz too, y'know.
posted by kagredon at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The theory is that "Mambo No. 5" had fifteen million plays in one year - and 33.6 million plays overall at the present - because people were too lazy to hit skip? On what playlists? No one is actually making playlists of Rush's Greatest Hits and including "Mambo No. 5." There's no epidemic of trolling people with that song. I'm sure it's on some 90s Hitz! playlists and some wedding dance songs, but it's not going to be a serious outlier. It's going to be on playlists with similar songs.

If a fifteen-year old track is in the top 200 songs from 1950-2005 played in the year 2014 I'm going to conclude intent was involved. I'm going to do the same for the other tracks that have gotten that kind of play.
posted by mountmccabe at 11:20 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Phhheh. Whatever to this smack talk about grunge.

Then again, maybe all this shows is that the 90s were just an awful period for music.

I don't think I can take you seriously when you say that they 90s were bad but you completely ignore the shitshow that was early 2000s pop music.
posted by i feel possessed at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's always good music, and bad. But I'm of the opinion that, with a few exceptions, the 90s ended terribly pop-wise. Almost as if the great lords of the music biz had a deal with Satan that a certain magnitude of sonic sewage had to be released unto the culture before the break of the new millennium. This, of course, meant that there was a certain amount of carry through into the early 00s. Meanwhile Napster was erupting so it didn't really matter. Folks were so busy downloading the entire history of pop music that they hardly noticed the direness of the now.
posted by philip-random at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2015


No one is actually making playlists of Rush's Greatest Hits and including "Mambo No. 5."

I confess I can't get Spotify to work, so I don't know the details of how it operates. However, what I was envisioning wasn't people creating such lists, but this song ending up on auto-generated lists -- people who listened to this song also listened to, or hits of the 90s" "ubiquitous songs at the mall" or what have you.

If a fifteen-year old track is in the top 200 songs from 1950-2005 played in the year 2014 I'm going to conclude intent was involved.

I think my larger point was that even if this is true -- even if I completely misunderstand Spotify and every single play was sought out specfiically by the person who heard it and requested at the very moment they heard it -- that isn't a measure of timelessness. You can't tell me that one variable (song play) is orthogonal to another (time) without doing an analysis that includes both variables. If you're going to tell me you have data showing that a song is timeless, that better be data showing that the popularity of the song hasn't dropped precipitously over time, which means you need to know it's popularity at the time on a comparable scale, not just now.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:33 PM on August 28, 2015


Yeah, the 90s/00s cusp was when nu-metal peaked, much of which was pretty awful.
posted by kagredon at 5:58 PM on August 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Spotify doesn't really have auto-generated playlists, but it isn't entirely on-demand, thoughtfully chosen listening. There are playlists that contain "Mambo No. 5" but the song makes sense on a Hits of the 90s or Songs From The Mall or Best Lou Bega Ever. And those playlists will only play if someone chooses one. Neither this song nor any other is forced upon us; I've been on Spotify for nearly 3 years and have exactly 7 plays of Lou Bega songs; all in the last week associated with this thread. None of the half dozen 90s playlists I have include "Mambo No. 5;" same with the wedding playlists I've made.

But you're right, the mechanics don't really matter if you're looking for literal timelessness, or anything close. And re-reading your previous comment I realize I missed much of what you were saying I'm not sure I agree that a strict standard would even apply to niche records. And even looking for relative timelessness it would be nigh impossible to find reasonable information on and it'd be of little interest to anyone outside those areas. [I mean, I would find this more interesting if it focused on the niche genres I pay attention to, but this would be a negative for most everyone else].

The article is about relative timelessness. And it focuses on pop music so it maybe should have been titled "The Most Timeless Popular Songs of All Time." And the take-away isn't that the highlighted songs are as popular today as they were when they came out, just that today they're the most popular songs from their era. "Mambo No. 5" was the 7th most streamed song from 1999; that's not something I would have guessed.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:31 AM on August 29, 2015


Yeah, the 90s/00s cusp was when nu-metal peaked, much of which was pretty awful.

Remember that one, though, that went jug jug JUG ja jug-a-jug, jug-jug-jug, ja jug-a-jug SQUEEE, I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. That was straight off the streets.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:03 PM on August 29, 2015


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