As we look back on 2018, we thought we’d take a moment to explore Billboard Music’s #1 songs of the year and the tracks making the cut since its start. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018, Billboard Hot 100 uses data from sales, radio play, and online streaming in the United States to determine its rankings of popular songs.
We’ve created a MicroStrategy dossier using data from the entirety of Billboard Hot 100’s history, with a special focus on the top songs of this past year. For 2018’s top hits, we analyzed each song’s lyrical complexity using an online text analysis tool.
For those familiar with the “In My Feelings” challenge or the “God’s Plan” music video, it’s not surprising that Drake had huge success in 2018. Drake surpassed Billboard’s other #1 artists with a total of three number one songs (“God’s Plan,” “Nice for What,” and “In My Feelings”), and spent a total of 29 weeks with a song in the top position. Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B was the second-best artist of the year, spending seven weeks at the #1 spot with their hit “Girls Like You.” Coming in third with six weeks at #1 was Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next.”
Using a textual analysis tool, we explored the linguistic complexity of 2018’s hits. Lexical density is calculated by dividing the number of lexical words (that is all words excluding grammatical words like prepositions and conjunctions) by the total number of words. Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” had the highest lexical density at 44.21, while XXXtentacion’s “Sad!” had the lowest lexical density at 8.01.
Interestingly, while it used the most complex language “Perfect” used only 285 words total. Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” used the greatest number of words, 782, and incorporated the highest number of unique words, 316. Not surprisingly, “Sad!” had the lowest number of unique words, 25. Reasons for this discrepancy include the slang words and colloquial phrases used in “Sicko Mode,” which increase the linguistic complexity while “Sad!” repeats the same phrases and verses.
If you’re looking to top the charts in 2019, your best bet is to create a song using around 490 words with a lexical density of 31. Don’t forget to throw in some of the most popular words—"yeah," "na," and "ooh."
Looking at the history of Billboard Hot 100, we found some fascinating insights. Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” spent the greatest number of weeks on the Hot 100 list, with a total of 87 weeks over the course of three stints on the Hot 100 in 2012, 2013 and 2014. However, Radioactive never reached the top of the charts. Its peak position was the number three slot. Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” are tied for longest running song at the #1 position at 16 weeks.
The Beatles had the greatest number of songs on Billboard Hot 100, with 65 of the band’s songs making the cut. Taylor Swift trails just behind the Beatles, with 64 of her songs making the list. Will she beat out the Beatles in 2019 with another album drop? Stay tuned!