A look at why some songs are more popular on the air waves
n DECEMBER 1964, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin began playing on radio, sung seductively by two Californian lads Medley and Bobby Hatfield. Those two guys are the Righteous Brothers and back in 1999, their song made 20th Century’s most played song on the radio with eight million plays — if you played it back to back, it would last 45 years! Off air, It’s A Small World holds the record with 48,618,000 plays to date.
Trigam Mukherjee, of Radio Indigo says that it is about a song being radio-friendly. “Take the mega hit Stairway to Heaven. It’s really not a radio song. It was 13 minutes long and wasn’t even played on radio until its remastered five-minute radio edit version appeared.” he tells us, adding, “Tunes like Royals, Let Her Go, Chillin’ It and Roar are ruling the charts because they are ‘safe’ sounds. They can be easily sung, and lip-synced – they’re essentially karaoke material,” he tells us, explaining that even EDM artistes are including lyrics to aim for wider radio appeal.
Top of the charts
Amongst the top 100, artistes such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, and Frank Sinatra dominate the list, with newer musicians like Bryan Adams and Queen fighting for space — all of them ear candy! Surprise artistes like Eddie Rabbit with the retro I Love A Rainy Night and Michael Bolton’s How Am I Supposed To Live Without You also feature on the most-played list. Experts describe these songs as earworms (or “ohrwurms”, as they’re called in Germany) which means the tunes trigger the brain’s auditory cortex, leaving you wanting to listen to them repeatedly.
Rakesh Kumar, RJ at Radio One says, “If you play something totally unheard of, it won’t do well at first. Then the more people listen, the more ear worms they get.” It is perhaps the reason that a Honey Singh song mightn’t do as well on its own as when it catches you by surprise at a traffic light. “Songs that have good melody do well. They carry a generic likability,” he informs, comparing music to a relationship that goes stale once you get enough of a person, and their quirks are just not as exciting any more. So radio’s surprise factor is what clicks.
For 2014, radio never sounded more ‘Happy’ than it did in the first half of our year. Pharell Williams’ catchy tune currently is at the top of the Nielsen BDS’ report (a tracking system initiated in 1990 in USA) with 5,71,000 plays. Mukherjee belives though, that Happy is a phenomenon widely influenced by social media. After watching people ‘happily dancing and singing to it, it’s positive vibe is just addictive and very contagious’.
John Legend’s ballad, All of Me ranks second, Katy Perry’s Dark Horse, third, Lorde’s Team, fourth, and One Republic’s Counting Stars makes up the top five, thus far.