BBC News

Musical 'twin cities' emerge from data

By Mark Savage
Music reporter

image captionDrake, Louane and Adele all proved popular in the month-long survey of Shazam's users

Beyonce is big in Sudan. Brazilian songwriter Rodrigo Amarante has found fame in Uzbekistan. Leo Sayer is popular in Peru.

Those are the surprising results of a BBC project looking into the music people search for on their phones.

The data was provided by Shazam - a company that helps its 100 million users to identify any song they hear by playing an excerpt into their phone.

Overall, Adele's Hello was the most-searched for song globally.

The track made it into Shazam's top 10 in 2,578 cities last November - more than half of the 4,900 locations sampled.

Perhaps as a result, Lionel Richie's track of the same name was also being looked up in Angola and Iran.

Other popular songs included Major Lazer's Lean On (in the top 10 for 1,062 locations) and Drake's Hotline Bling (777).

image copyrightReuters
image captionMeghan Trainor's Like I'm Gonna Lose You was Shazamed in dozens of countries

The BBC has used the data to discover musical "twin towns" - far-flung places with similar tastes in pop.

So Nuuk in Greenland - the world's northernmost capital - can be partnered with Surabaya, Indonesia, where the average temperature is above 23C.

The residents of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq have kindred spirits 9,100 miles away in Victoria, Chile while Bournemouth shares its musical DNA with Abu Dhabi, thanks to a shared love of London-based hip-hop trio WSTRN and their underground smash In2.

The data vividly illustrates the global influence of Western pop - with artists like Meghan Trainor, Calvin Harris, Taylor Swift and Drake being searched for in Bangladesh, China, Kazakhstan and Peru.

Artists who don't sing in English are largely local phenomena. Russian star Motte mad the top 10 nearly 100 times, largely thanks to the hit song Everything - but those searches were restricted to Russia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

image copyrightBlackStar TV
image captionRussian pop singer Motte was a popular choice in the former Soviet Union

Similarly, Francophone artist Louane - a former runner-up on The Voice France - sees the success of her song Avenir restricted to Austria, Germany and Ivory Coast (but not her home country, France, where it had been released earlier in the year).

Meanwhile, all of the top 10 songs "Shazamed" in the UK and Australia were performed in English - and the same was largely true in the US, except for a handful of Spanish tracks.

The data also throws up a few bizarre anomalies. Why was Leo Sayer's More Than I Can Say the most sought-after song in Cerro de Pasco last November? How do you explain the surge in interest in Aaron Copland's 1944 Orchestral suite Appalachian Spring amongst the citizens of Waycross, Georgia?

And why are so many people unable to identify Adele's Hello?

[Update: Some readers have pointed out that Shazam can be used to look up lyrics and create playlists, which may help to explain Adele's prominence.]

Related Topics

  • Music

More on this story

  • Your musical twin town