More Fun With Data

Top 10 Writers by Total Weeks at #1

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a data fanatic.  I like Tableau’s software because it takes your data and visualizes it in a variety of interesting ways.  In keeping with my project analyzing 40 years of American #1 songs, this chart looks at the Top 10 Songwriters that have the most time at the #1 position.  Mariah Carey is actually the most prolific writer, as seen on the chart above.  Let’s be fair, we all know the ‘change a word, earn a third’ rule in songwriting; what I’m trying to say is that Mariah may have written a verse here or there, but she wasn’t solely responsible for any of her songs.  Like many ‘pop’ artists, she employed many outside writers to help with the music and lyrics (I have that viz as well, and I’ll post that another day.)
Actually, if you look at this chart, a lot of the most prolific writers aren’t artists in their own right – Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwold (also known as Dr. Luke), James Harris III (also known as Jimmy Jam), who worked closely with Terry Lewis, Scott Storch – 5 of these Top 10 Writers aren’t performers in their own right, and thus are less well known to the average consumer of the music they produce.  And those ‘products’ are people like Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, etc.  You get the idea.  Apparently it takes a lot to bring a pop song to fruition.

Or that’s what ‘they’ would have you believe.  Because within the Top 10 above is one Barry Gibb.  Don’t get me wrong, Barry Gibb wrote (and produced) songs for other artists – quite a few, or else he wouldn’t have managed to be as prominent in the Top 10 as he is in the chart above.  But, as a member of the Bee Gees (his band) in the 70’s, the only other writers were his brothers Robin (represented here) and Maurice.  So, if modern pop music makes you think it takes a ‘factory’ to produce a hit single, look to an earlier post of mine about the Bee Gees and their run of #1 singles.  They wrote them without outside help, and still managed to leave a lasting impression upon the pop charts.  So, the next time you hear a #1 single, search out who the real talent behind the creation is.  Is it the singer, the group, or some outside ‘consultant’ hired to make a hit single?  If it’s the latter, doesn’t that take all the fun out of the process?

How Deep Is Your Loathe?

Well?  Sometimes you are lost for words (not lost in words, which might be similar to being lost in music) and nothing coherent seems to come out.  Is it better to say nothing at all?  Is it best to push through, and try to produce something?  Is silence golden, or is silence the silent killer? If silence actually turns out to be the silent killer, one:  that seems a bit redundant.  Two:  in which case, make noise all the time.  Not really a problem in our household.

Why am I stuck today? I’ll tell you…I spent a few hours reviewing forecasting techniques.  It’s a profession I’ve been doing for the last ten years, and sometimes you need refreshers.  Especially with terminology.  Sit me down, I know what to do…ask me to describe the terminology, I’ll say “well, you’ve got the uh…and this model is…but if you do process, uh…”  You get the picture.  This lack of ability to remember the names of some of the modeling theories has cost me a job in the past (it wasn’t really a company I wanted to work for, but still.  I don’t wanna be that guy).  Which is weird.  I like to think I’m fluent with language, but trying to remember the names of coefficients and variables seems to be a bit of a blank board where my abilities of description fail me.

However, since this is ostensibly a blog about music, how about a pretty picture?  Over the course of the past two months I’ve been compiling data about music.  Specifically, each and every #1 single in the US Top 100 chart for the years 1976-2016.  Note that this is ‘only’ the Top 100, because Billboard.com has numerous charts – hip hop/rap, R&B, rock/pop, alternative, etc.  There used to be college rock, but I think that’s been folded into the larger ‘alternative’ tag.  Needless to say, there are far too many genres that shift frequently as music changes – sometimes a sub-genre breaks off from a prior genre classification, in which case, what happens to my data from the years prior to sub-genre X becoming a classification all its’ own?  For example, rap, in its infancy, was classified either with R&B, or urban dance.  Sometimes one, sometimes the other.  Now its a much bigger musical form worthy of a genre classification by itself.  But to ‘line up’ all the data from the first time a rap single charted at #1, you’d need to extract data from other genre classifications and insert that extracted info into the rap genre category.  So, I stuck with US #1 from the Top 100.  I had 52 (sometimes 53) weeks of data to look at every year for 40 years.  And even though I haven’t been writing this blog for long, I think most of you may already have an idea of the types of music I like and the types I don’t.  Hint:  it’s not the stuff that normally gets to #1 on the US Top 100 chart.

Bee Gees, Weeks at #1 by Song

Remember yesterday I spoke of ELO, and my fondness for them, in spite of the fact tha they’re disco in disguise?  Above you’ll see a scatterplot of the total #1 singles by Bee Gees – a bona fide disco band, and one that I don’t like.  They’re far too disco for my liking, and I grew up in a time when disco was all that people thought dance music was or could be.  At some point I’ll rant about how artists in the mid-70’s were either forced, or alternatively chose, to make disco-sounding tracks, especially if they didn’t start out sounding anything close to disco-ish.

The visualization above was made using Tableau software, which I absolutely love using.  There are so many useful and also fun things you can do with it!  One of the things I did was extract the total number of Bee Gees songs to hit #1 (6 in total), and marked each one of them at the weeks they spent at #1 (Y-axis), along with year the songs hit #1 (X-axis).  This total number of hit singles, especially in such a short amount of time is actually quite a big achievement – placing Bee Gees within the Top 10 of artists (since 1976) who had multiple #1 singles.  It’s even more impressive when you look at what Barry Gibb, ostensible leader of Bee Gees, did in terms of writing and producing for other artists as well.  But that’s a visualization for another day.  That’s it from The Fault for today, go forth and make mischief.