The Evolution Of Popular Music By Year (1890-2009)


After some good feedback from my historical look at dances, I decided to turn my attention to popular music. It turns out there are a generous amount of websites which have recorded, or uploaded recorded data, on the most popular music, during a given year. The main websites I used for sources were “Musicoutfitters” and “”. This link will explain how Musicoutfitters compiled all the information regarding their pop charts.

However, Musicoutfitters only got me so far. For older data, which I should stress out, was very difficult to compile, besides that I cannot guarantee with 100% certainty that it was THE most popular song, only that it was one of THE most popular songs, I had to resort to several other websites and more google searches than I had wish for in order to make sense of it all.

Now I will present the list of all the artists and respective songs used. Do note that there is a striking difference between the authors of a song/music and the performers i’ve chosen to illustrate in the video, due to obvious technological reasons given that some are very old pieces. Here I will place the original authors of each popular song. A quick youtube search should reveal some examples of contemporary forms of the music, which are the ones I used (to the least extent possible, for authenticity reasons).

1890- Sleeping Beauty Waltz – Tchaikovsky
1891- The Laughing Song – George W. Johnson
1892- Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow-Wow – Dan W. Quinn
1893- Good Morning to All (Happy Birthday) – Patty Hill
1894- I’ve Been Working On The Railroad – Unknown
1895- King Cotton March – John Philip Sousa
1896- When The Saints Go Marching In – Katherine E. Purvis & James M. Black
1897- Stars and Stripes Forever – John Philip Sousa
1898- The Rosary – Unknown/Robert Cameron Rogers?
1899- Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin
1900- Strike Up The Band (Here comes the sailor) – Unknown
1901- Yale Boola! (March and two step) – Unknown
1902- The Entertainer – Scott Joplin
1903- Any Rags? – Unknown
1904- I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy – George M. Cohen
1905- I Love a Lassie – Harry Lauder
1906- Grand Old Flag – George M. Cohen
1907- Harrigan – George M. Cohen
1908- Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Jack Norworth & Albert Von Tilzer
1909- Swing Low Sweet Chariot – Fisk, Jubilee Singers
1910- America The Beautiful – Unknown
1911- Some of These Days – Sophie Tucker
1912- Frankie and Johnny – Unknown
1913- When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – Chauncy Olcott
1914- St. Louis Blues – W.C.Handy
1915- Carry Me Back to Old Virginny – Alma Gluck
1916- I Ain’t Got Nobody – Roger Graham, Dave Peyton & Spencer Williams
1917- Livery Stable Blues – The Original Dixieland Jazzband
1918- Tiger Rag – The Original Dixieland Jazzband
1919- Swanee – Al Johnson
1920- Crazy Blues – Mamie Smith
1921- My Man – Fanny Brice
1922- Sally Gooden – Eck Robertson
1923- Down Hearted Blues – Bessie Smith
1924- Rhapsody In Blue – George Gershwin
1925- St. Louis Blues – Bessie Smith
1926- Bye Bye Blackbird – Gene Austin
1927- Star Dust – Hoagy Carmichael and his pals
1928- West End Blues – Louis Armstrong
1929- Wildwood Flower – The Carter Family
1930- Mood Indigo – Duke Ellington
1931- Minnie The Moocher – Cab Calloway and his Orchestra
1932- Take My Hand – Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey
1933- Stormy Weather – Ethel Waters
1934- Tumbling Tumbleweeds – The Sons of the Pioneers
1935- Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye) – The Carter Family
1936- Cross Roads Blues – Robert Johnson
1937- Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman
1938- God Bless America – Kate Smith
1939- Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday
1940- In The Mood – Glenn Miller & His Orchestra
1941- Frenesi – Artie Shaw
1942- White Christmas – Bing Crosby
1943- Paper Doll – Mills Brothers
1944- Swinging on a Star – Bing Crosby
1945- Sentimental Journey – Les Brown with Doris Day
1946- The Gypsy – The Ink Spots
1947- Heartaches – Ted Weems
1948- Buttons and Bows – Dinah Shore
1949- (Ghost) Riders In the Sky – Vaughn Monroe
1950- Goodnight Irene – Gordon Jenkins & The Weavers
1951- Too Young – Nat King Cole
1952- Blue Tango – Leroy Anderson
1953- Where is Your Heart (Moulin Rouge) – Percy Faith
1954- Little Things Mean a Lot – Kitty Kallen
1955- Cerezo Rosa (Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White) – Perez Prado
1956- Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
1957- All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
1958- Nel Blu Di Blu (Volare) – Domenico Modugno
1959- The Battle of New Orleans – Johnny Horton
1960- Cathy’s Clown – The Everly Brothers
1961- I Fall to Pieces – Patsy Cline
1962- Roses Are Red (My Love) – Bobby Vinton
1963- Surfin’ USA – The Beach Boys
1964- I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
1965- I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
1966- The Ballad of the Green Berets – Sgt. Barry Sadler
1967- To Sir With Love – Lulu
1968- Hey Jude – The Beatles
1969- Aquarius – Fifth Dimension
1970- Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon & Garfunkel
1971- Joy To The World – Three Dog Night
1972- The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack
1973- Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree – Tony Orlando & Dawn
1974- The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand
1975- Love Will Keep Us Together – The Captain and Tanille
1976- Silly Love Songs – Paul McArtney and Wings
1977- Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright) – Rod Stewart
1978- Shadow Dancing – Andy Gibb
1979- My Sharona – The Knack
1980- Call Me – Blondie
1981- Bette Davis Eyes – Kim Carnes
1982- Physical – Olivia Newton
1983- Every Breath You Take – The Police
1984- When Doves Cry – Prince
1985- Careless Whisper – George Michael
1986- That’s What Friends Are For – Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Glady Knight
1987- Walk Like An Egyptian – The Bangles
1988 – Faith – George Michael
1989- Look Away – Chicago
1990- Hold On – Wilson Philips
1991- (Everything I do) I Do It For You – Bryan Adams
1992- End of the Road – Boyz II Men
1993- I Will Always Love you – Whitney Houston
1994- The Sign – Ace of Base
1995- Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
1996- Macarena – Los Del Rio
1997- Candle In the Wind – Elton John
1998- Too Close – Next
1999- Believe – Cher
2000- Breathe – Faith Hill
2001- Lady Marmalade – Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kin, Mya & Pink
2002- A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
2003- Crazy In Love – Beyoncé Knowles feat. Jay-Z
2004- The Reason – Hoobastank
2005- We Belong Together – Mariah Carey
2006- Bad Day – Daniel Powter
2007- Irreplaceable – Beyoncé Knowles
2008- Low – Florida feat. T-Pain
2009- Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas

So let me start by doing some very basic observations.

The first one is obviously the lack of sexism in popular tastes since late 19th century. The number of women that have made it to the top roughly equals the number of men. Its also apparent the “pendulum” effect in the collective taste of the US.A. This effect simply means that there is a perceived change by year from male performers to female performers. In fact. the greatest contrast is only found in periods of 4 years (for example, fours years in a row in which male performers consistently achieve the top place), but eventually a female performer will appear in the next year as the top performer.

That being said, you should also note that the beginning of the 21st century (commonly refered to as “the two-thousands” or “the noughties”) has experienced the greatest number of top female performers.

Another curious observation is how the last top song to be entirely instrumental was in 1955 by Perez Prado. Since then, no other instrumental song has made it as the top of its year.

A much more curious observation, though, is how extremely sucessful performers and bands have not made it to the top. This is more shocking with the so called “King of Pop” Michael Jackson and “Queen of Pop” Madonna. Although striking very close to the top (usually in the top 5), never has the north american public elected one of their songs as being the top popular song of a certain year.

These are some of the main observations for now. If I think of more later, or you happen to find one, feel free to share it in the comments section.

Right now the next project will consist on describing all Music genres created during this last decade (2000-2009), followed by another videeo which displays an evolutionary analysis of ALL worldwide musical genres created during the 20th century (1900s-1990s). Such second upcoming video will be less user friendly and more schematic. It wil feature the name of the genre, the decade in which it was created, its origins (from other previous genres) and a small 10 seconds sample of a song representative of that genre. My main idea is to accurately assess (within Wikipedia’s limits) how many genres have appeared per decade (my main data shows a HUGE explosion in the 1990s, with a stable growing rate ever since the 1900s) and then try to compare those results with this post and see new genres have entered (or not!) mainstream tastes and if there is any divergence in time I can trace it back to.

Thanks for all your attention and do leave some feedback, whether here or in my videos!