Music News

Hitsville, by the numbers

You don't need a half-wit music critic to tell you it's been a remarkable year for America, one historians will be discussing and researching for centuries to come. War, financial collapse, politics, technology: All have been dinner-table topics for many Americans. Racial barriers in 2008 were demolished by a Midwestern black man, and gender barriers were hurdled by an Arkansan and an Alaskan. Democracy has a few awesome new dance moves rolling into the Obama presidency, and it'll be a feast for the wonks to break 'em down. It's for these wonks that we've done some number crunching. When future pointy-headed academics are scouring data in attempts to better understand America, might it not be instructive to offer a snapshot of a different sort, one that attempts to explain the People and their mindset from a quasi-statistical/analytical ethnomusicosociological perspective? Specifically, let's address the population in a head and/or heart space it cares deeply about: through its music. How does it sing and dance? Who does this singing? Who best moves our collective booty and strokes our heartstrings? I've been crunching Billboard album and singles chart data in order to better understand Who We Are in 2008. I've compiled information on every artist who cracked the Top 10 album chart and the Hot 100 singles chart this year. I've researched each artist and tallied the lot of them based on a number of factors, including gender, ethnicity, nationality, state of origin (if American) and record label. I've then analyzed these numbers. What follows are some conclusions. (Note to Nate Silver: I'm a lowly music journalist who can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and use a calculator -- but not much else. Let this serve as a springboard. Margin of error: 4 percent. Results reflect chart positions up to and including the Dec. 6 issue of Billboard.) Download the chart to check out the stats.
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Randall Roberts
Contact: Randall Roberts

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