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Song-Stats, Or How To Have A No.1 Hit

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Fraser McAlpine | 16:47 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2007

Pop experts have devoted years of painstaking research into just what it is which makes a hit record stand out from other songs, and to be honest, they often talk an awful lot of cack, using words like 'hooks', 'formula', 'vocal presence', 'phrasing' and whatnot. So, it's probably about time we cleared this thing up once and for all.


As this graph shows, hit records occur when more people buy a copy of one particular song than any other song in a given period (usually one week). The way in which these songs can be bought has changed dramatically over the years, but the process is pretty much the same. More sales = a bigger hit.

But what exactly are the common threads which draw people to buy these songs? Supposing The ChartBlog was a hot new band, with a great sound. What would we need to do in order to maximise our chart-topping potential?

To find out, we examined all of the No.1 singles since the beginning of 2006 - 29 in all - and conducted many fiendish experiments in order to distill the very essense of HIT. Or, if you're more of a maths person, to find the lowest common denominator. And BOY are some of these denominators common!

Here's the full list:
Arctic Monkeys - 'When The Sun Goes Down'
Notorious BIG featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge & Avery Storm - 'Nasty Girl'
Meck featuring Leo Sayer - 'Thunder In My Heart Again'
Madonna - 'Sorry'
Orson - 'No Tomorrow'
Chico - 'It's Chico Time'
Ne-Yo - 'So Sick'
Gnarls Barkley - 'Crazy'
Sandi Thom - 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)'
Nelly Furtado - 'Maneater'
Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean - 'Hips Don't Lie'
Lily Allen - 'Smile'
McFly - 'Don't Stop Me Now' / 'Please Please'
Beyonce ft. Jay-Z - 'Deja Vu'
Justin Timberlake - 'Sexyback'
Scissor Sisters - 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
Razorlight - 'America'
My Chemical Romance - 'Welcome To The Black Parade'
McFly - 'Star Girl'
Fedde Le Grande - 'Put Your Hands Up For Detroit'
Westlife - 'The Rose'
Akon ft. Eminem - 'Smack That'
Take That - 'Patience'
Leona Lewis - 'A Moment Like This'
Mika - 'Grace Kelly'
Kaiser Chiefs - 'Ruby'
Take That - 'Shine'
Sugababes vs Girls Aloud - 'Walk This Way'
The Proclaimers ft. Brian Potter & Andy Pipkin - '(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles'

And here's how we interpreted the data.

First we examined the names of all the acts, to see whether there's a common thread there. This was not our best experiment. When it comes to filing songs alphabetically by artist, there's really only one letter which stands out - M - and even then, not by much.

M acts - 6 hits out of 29 (McFly twice)
A acts - 3/29 (we've counted Lily Allen, cos of her surname. That's proper filing)
T acts - 3/29 (which means Take That count twice, and Justin Timberlake)
N acts - 2/29 (not counting Nelly Furtado, obv)

So, you're a little bit more likely to have a hit if your act begins with an M. Maybe even two hits, if you follow up that M with a 'cFly'. And one of their hits is a double A-side, which could bump it up even further to THREE hits, if you're being super-extra librarian-y about it.

So, having ruled out names as a key factor, we looked at the kind of acts who are actually having the hits. This was a much more fertile line of inquiry...

Bands: 13/29 (Take That & McFly twice, Sugababes/Girls Aloud count as one)
Solo: 16/29
Guest Appearances: 9/29 (including Sugababes/Girls Aloud)

Which means solo artists RULE THE CHARTS, but they OFTEN NEED TO BRING A FRIEND. What's interesting is that it doesn't seem to matter what gender you are...

Solo Girls: 7/29
Solo Boys: 8/29

CONCLUSION: The ChartBlog are already over. Lead singer Fraser M has re-branded himself as M Fraser (just in case!), and his first release is a three-way duet (or trio, if you're going to be all music professor about it) with Marilyn Manson and Madonna.

But what of the song itself? What key factors will guarantee No.1 status? Well, here are a few hit topics for songs which the ChartBlog production team (the former members of the band who aren't Fraser M. They're better looking, and more talented, but he's got that charisma thing going on, what can you do?) will need to bear in mind...

Good Topics For A Hit Song:

Bodyparts: 'Sexyback', 'Put Your Hands Up For Detroit', 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)', 'Hips Don't Lie', 'Thunder in My Heart'

Time: 'Deja Vu', 'It's Chico Time', 'Don't Stop Me Now', 'A Moment Like This', 'No Tomorrow', 'When The Sun Goes Down'

The Weather: 'When The Sun Goes Down', 'Thunder In My Heart'

Medical Matters: 'So Sick', 'Crazy', 'Thunder in My Heart', 'Sexyback', 'Smack That'

Girls: 'Nasty Girl', 'Star Girl', 'Maneater', 'Ruby', 'Grace Kelly', 'Patience'

Emotions: 'Patience', 'Grace Kelly', 'Smile', 'Crazy', 'Sorry'

Geography: 'America', 'Put Your Hands Up For Detroit'

The Big Hurrah!: 'It's Chico Time', 'Welcome To The Black Parade', 'A Moment Like This', 'Put Your Hands Up For Detroit', 'Smile'

The Big Boo!: 'No Tomorrow', 'Crazy', 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin', 'Sorry', 'Thunder In My Heart', 'Please Please', 'Maneater', 'So Sick', 'Nasty Girl'

Illogical: 'Hips Don't Lie', 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)'

CONCLUSION: Bad news is by far the most common topic for songs, often garnished with medical issues, or some reference to time or the weather. Talking about girls, or using a girl's name, is also very clever. And if you can't manage any of that, just make up something which makes no sense whatsoever, that'll always grab the attention of all the smart-arses who work in the media
(hello mum!).

So, after a lot of hard work, Team ChartBlog came up with some BRILLIANT song ideas:

BRILLIANT SONG IDEA THE FIRST: 'Raining-At-Hometime Girls'
BSI THE SECOND: 'She's Got Venomous Knees (It's A Black Summer)'
BSI THE THIRD: 'Katy's Hatey Heart Spoils My Sunny Day'

But, having faxed lyrics back and forth between ChartBlog central office, and Marilyn and Madge's people, one clear winner emerged.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the biggest hit single of 2007....

'I've Waited All My Rainy Life For A Happy Day To Land On Tina's Face In Swindon. Yay!'

Look, we've even got packshots!

M Fraser ft. Madonna & Marilyn Manson

And THAT, dear viewers, is POP SCIENCE IN ACTION.


  1. At 10:00 PM on 29 Mar 2007, Andrew Moorcroft wrote:

    awful blog, thought it was going to be a proper honest study with a good conclusion

    [Dishonesty and poor endings, thy name is ChartBlog. - Fraser]

  2. At 04:50 PM on 30 Mar 2007, Amyyy wrote:

    what else can you say.
    Pure genius. or stupidity *ponders*

  3. At 05:27 PM on 30 Mar 2007, ailise..x wrote:

    well it was good
    not tht i read all of it
    i liked the end tho..
    it was very good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  4. At 07:47 PM on 30 Mar 2007, Mandy wrote:

    Good God, it's like you know excatly what we girls have been waiting for in the music industry!
    Still, being a fan of the emo genre I would have prefered 'She's Got Venomous Knees (It's A Black Summer)'...maybe it will make it into the top 10.

  5. At 08:34 PM on 30 Mar 2007, Izzy wrote:

    hahahahahahahaha. vair funny. very clever. it made me laugh my knickers off. (Not literally of course) hahahaha. It was tres marvy. You are very clever and amusante.

  6. At 01:06 AM on 31 Mar 2007, Megan wrote:

    Gotta love it.
    great amount of, erm, intelligence to come up with that.

  7. At 01:39 AM on 31 Mar 2007, Nick wrote:

    Hahaha, I absolutely loved that Fraser. I'd definitely buy it. That would put your sales at.... well, one.

  8. At 06:29 PM on 31 Mar 2007, Flossy wrote:

    Tht was gr8!!!! V funny!!!

  9. At 06:33 AM on 01 Apr 2007, Mauro wrote:

    Rare stuff... but good for fun.

    Salute you from Rosario - Argentina.

  10. At 02:58 PM on 01 Apr 2007, ellis wrote:

    hahhaahahah legend

  11. At 05:19 PM on 01 Apr 2007, Tarz wrote:

    That would have been a really good april fools joke. I applaude you.

  12. At 06:52 AM on 02 Apr 2007, EMY HALLIWELL wrote:





  13. At 09:08 AM on 02 Apr 2007, W wrote:

    Nice ...

    I don't quite get the first bit though

  14. At 10:18 AM on 02 Apr 2007, Jenna wrote:

    Very Good.....:-) though most people don't have a clue what your on about! Made me laugh :)

    Defintley **Pure Genius**

  15. At 02:48 PM on 02 Apr 2007, kelly wrote:

    that was pure genius and i'm still stunned and amazed even though i got most of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. At 07:04 PM on 10 Apr 2007, Dharmalotus wrote:


    Finally got down to reading this chartblog and see what the hype is all about. Hilarious. haha. Question: who do I email my own take on music issues?

    [Well, you can either use the comments box under each feature or email chartblog@bbc.co.uk. Glad you like it! - Fraser]

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