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Drake Sparks Hip-Hop’s Rebound: The State of the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 Through Q3 2021

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 through the first three quarters of 2021?

Hit Songs Deconstructed, which provides compositional analytics for top 10 Hot 100 hits, has released its State of the Hot 100 Top 10: Q3 2021 report.

Here are five takeaways from Hit Songs Deconstructed’s latest in-depth research.

Hip-hop over pop: Through the first three quarters of 2021, hip-hop was the most popular primary genre in the Hot 100’s top 10, with a 41% share of all top 10s. Pop ranked second, at 36%.

Hip-hop pulled ahead of pop after pop led 41% to 34% in the year’s first half. Helping ignite the turnaround? The Sept. 18-dated Hot 100, when Drake claimed a record nine concurrent top 10s, all from his album Certified Lover Boy, which launched that week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Leading his haul, “Way 2 Sexy,” featuring Future and Young Thug, soared in atop the Hot 100 that frame.

Hip-hop won a tight battle in the Hot 100’s top 10 for all of 2020 (41% vs. 40%), after pop took 2019 (48% vs. 34%) and hip-hop led in 2018 (59% vs. 24%, a relative landslide thanks in part to, again, Drake’s dominance that year).

Guys’ gains: Songs with exclusively male lead vocals dominated the Hot 100’s top 10 in Q1-Q3 2021, accounting for a 73% claim of all top 10s. Titles with exclusively female lead vocals drew a 19% share.

The gap between the two widened slightly from a 69% vs. 23% split in all of 2020. Men also won by similar, though somewhat less decisive, margins in 2019 (62% vs. 22%), 2018 (63% vs. 23%) and 2017 (58% vs. 23%).

Meanwhile, songs mixing male and female lead vocals, such as The Weeknd and Ariana Grande’s remixed “Save Your Tears,” remained below 10% among all Hot 100 top 10s through the year’s first nine months, in line with an 8% share for such hits in 2020. That’s down noticeably from 16% in 2019 and 23% in both 2018 and 2017.

Time for a change: The most common song length for a Hot 100 top 10 in the first three quarters of 2021? Under 3 minutes, with a 37% share. The ranking reflects a worst-to-first nearly five-year turnaround, as in 2017 such a length placed last (9%). Notably, The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s “Stay,” at just 2:21, reigned for seven weeks beginning in August.

Songs of 3-to-3:29 minutes in length fell to second in Q1-Q3 2021, after leading in all of 2020, down more than double from 53% to 24%.

Meanwhile, top 10s over 4 minutes again placed last over the year’s first three quarters, as in 2020 and 2019. Still, such songs made gains from 7% to 8% to 17% in that span (and with Q4 already including one record-breaking entrant).

Hold your applause: Synths remained the most prominent instrument in Hot 100 top 10s through the first three quarters of 2021. Not only has the sound led each year since 2017, it has risen in share from 75% to 81% to 91% to an even more dominant 95% since 2018.

Notably on the decline? Hand claps. After appearing in 80% of top 10s in 2017, and between 60 and 69% in 2018-20, they fell to 44% in the first three quarters of 2021. Still, a hand for top 10s this year featuring such, well, handiwork, including Dua Lipa’s No. 2-peaking “Levitating.”

‘Good days on my mind …’: Perhaps unsurprisingly, given 2020-21, songs with an introspective lyrical theme have increased among Hot 100 top 10s in that span. Such hits, including SZA’s “Good Days,” Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut in the Ocean” and Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits,” logged a 29% share in Q1-Q3 this year, a high since 2017 and rising from 21% last year and more than tripling from 9% in 2017.

Meanwhile, love/relationships led all lyrical themes among top 10s in the first nine months of 2021, mirroring its top-ranking 49% share in 2020.