Add a dash of dancehall. Sprinkle in equal parts male and female vocals. And, mash-up pop, dance and alternative, and you have the recipe for a hefty portion of top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits in 2016.
On the latest episode of the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, hosted by Billboard co-director of charts Gary Trust, Hit Songs Deconstructed creators Dave Penn and Yael Penn look at the songwriting and production trends and more that have defined some of this year’s biggest songs, by, among others, Rihanna, Drake and Sia.
The Penns go further in-depth on three songs specifically: The Chainsmokers‘ “Don’t Let Me Down,” featuring Daya, Meghan Trainor‘s “No” and Prince‘s “When Doves Cry,” all of which have hit the Hot 100’s top 10 this year.
For “Down” by The Chainsmokers, who earn their first Hot 100 No. 1 this week with “Closer,” featuring Halsey, their prior smash soared to No. 3 driven by what Dave refers to as “cross-genre pollination,” given its blend of EDM synths and alt-rock guitars. Trainor’s “No,” also a No. 3 hit, infuses “hook maximization,” while the classic “Doves,” a five-week No. 1 in 1984 which returned to hit No. 8 following Prince’s April 21 passing, also skillfully balances a variety of sounds, with Penn calling the late legend a “master eclectic craftsman.”
Despite these three songs’ complexities, they cut through thanks to their similarity to other hits while sporting unique traits, all wrapped in a mass-appeal package; i.e., “push[ing] the boundaries of what’s been done before,” says Dave. Citing that melody is still the biggest ingredient for pop hits, essential is “making them come across in an easy-to-digest manner so they connect.
“Blending familiarity and originality, that’s the real brilliance of these hits.”
A sampling of previous episodes with host Gary Trust:
Lionel Richie on “Endless Love” (hosted by Trevor Anderson) / Chubby Checker on the Hot 100’s All-Time No. 1, “The Twist” / Perez Hilton / Dave Cobb & Jed Hill on Americana Music (hosted by Jim Asker) / Original MTV VJ Martha Quinn / RCA’s Joe Riccitelli on Britney Spears & Justin Timberlake / Hit Songs Deconstructed on Drake & Selena Gomez
Enjoy the entire latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more, as we continue to look at why what’s on the charts … is on the charts. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!