Chart Beat

Pop on Top, R&B Rising: The State of the Hot 100's Top 10 in Q1 2021

Olivia Rodrigo "drivers license"
Courtesy Photo

Olivia Rodrigo "drivers license"

A look at the latest trends in the chart's top 10, as analyzed by Hit Songs Deconstructed.

What were some of the most notable trends on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart in the first quarter of 2021?

Hit Songs Deconstructed, which provides compositional analytics for top 10 Hot 100 hits, has released its Q1 2021 State of the Hot 100 Top 10 report.

Here are three key takeaways from Hit Songs Deconstructed's in-depth research.

Pop tops, R&B bounds. In Q1 2021, 42% of all Hot 100 top 10s were of primarily pop, the leading genre for a third consecutive quarter. Though down from a 48% share in Q4 2020, the genre rose from 41% in Q3 2020 (when it tied for the lead with hip-hop/rap) and 30% in Q2 2020.

The genre includes Olivia Rodrigo's "Drivers License," which debuted at the Hot 100's summit in January and reigned for eight weeks, and the chart's new No. 1 "Save Your Tears," by The Weeknd and Ariana Grande, after it first reached the top 10 in February.

Runner-up hip-hop/rap, with a 29% share in Q1 2021, has declined continuously quarter-over-quarter for the past year, dropping from 35% of the Hot 100's top 10 in Q4 2020, 41% in Q3 2020 (tying on top with pop) and a leading 48% in Q2 2020.

Pop and hip-hop continue passing the baton as the Hot 100's top primary genre. While pop holds the lead a quarter of the way through 2021, the genres tied at 41% for all of 2020. In 2019, pop took the title (48% vs. 34%), after hip-hop led in both 2018 (59% vs. 24%) and 2017 (34% vs. 29%).

Meanwhile, R&B/soul surged to a 21% share of all Hot 100 top 10s in Q1 2021, vaulting from 4% in Q4 2020. It claimed 6% in Q3 2020 and 13% in Q2 2020. Notably among the genre, "Leave the Door Open" by Silk Sonic, the duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, debuted in the top 10 in March on its way to No. 1.

They're instrumental in hits. Nineteen instruments can be heard in Hot 100 top 10s in Q1 2021, with three continuing a heavy prominence: drums/percussion, non-bass synth and synth bass, with each played in over 90% of hits in that span.

Still, atypical sounds found their way to the Hot 100's top 10 in January-March, including harp (on Drake's "Lemon Pepper Freestyle," featuring Rick Ross), organ (Justin Bieber's "Holy," featuring Chance the Rapper) and sitar (CJ's "Whoopty").

Produce(r) dept. The most popular size for a production team on a Hot 100 top 10 in Q1 2021? Three members, with a 38% share in the year's first quarter, ahead of two credited producers (25%) and one (21%).

Mixing boards are showing more fingerprints, as production teams of three jumped to the top rank in Q1 2021 (again, 38%) from third place for all of 2020 (doubling from 19%). Trios swapped spots with single-billed producers in that stretch, as the latter tumbled from first place (41%) to third (again, 21%).

(Production teams of two held in second place, slipping slightly from 29% in 2020 to 25% in Q1 2021.)

"Save Your Tears" represents the Q1 2021 majority, with three producers: Oscar Holter, Max Martin and The Weeknd.