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The life cycle of a hit song

The life cycle of a hit song

By Stan Sy

Just three months ago, we were all going nuts over 24K Magic (both the single and the album). It seemed Bruno Mars had saved music in 2016 from the endless regurgitation of EDM hits from the likes of the Chainsmokers and Major Lazer. Tracks like “Chunky” and “Versace on the Floor” were so fresh because they were basically a redux of ‘90s R&B and New Jack Swing, appropriated for this generation.

Fast forward to today and just about everybody is sick of “Versace on the Floor.” We get it, Bruno. You’re telling your boo to strip and you’re getting some tonight. We all get it. But how did we get here? How did we get to this point where we’re just so tired of a song we were fawning over some three months ago?

Let’s go through the life cycle of a song as it goes from the next big hit to oversaturated, through these simple steps:

Step 1: Discovery

All roads have to begin somewhere. And all hits have to be discovered. Whether you find them on Spotify, YouTube, the artist’s own social media, or the feed of your hipster friend who’s always a step ahead of the game, there’s bound to be someone (or something) that’ll lead these songs right to your Facebook timeline.

Step 2: Airplay

Depending on how huge the track is, how massive the artist’s following is, or how/when they release the track, it won’t be long until it gets airplay on radio stations. It usually starts with the stations whose brands hinge on them being the first to play the hits. From there, listeners will start requesting these songs over and over again. Channels like MYX and MTV Pinoy will be playing the song’s music video, and the song will slowly be beaten into your consciousness.

Step 3: Follow the Leader

By this point, most people will have at least heard of the song, if not the song itself. Pretty much every radio station will have it on its rotation. Even stations whose playlists aren’t exactly current will be forced to pick it up because of the song’s fame. I mean, even those station managers can’t be that dense, right?

Every Spotify playlist that’s inclined towards the current hits will more than likely have the new track on. So expect to hear it everywhere from your favorite coffee shops, bookstores, boutiques, or even your favorite salon.

Step 4: Memes

Nothing is viral or a hit if there are no memes made out of it. And given our sense of humor as Filipinos, it shouldn’t take long for people with too much time on their hands to make memes out of your new favorite pop song. From the puns to the parodies to the skits, you’ll just know it’s reached its point because by now, you’ll begin to hate the first few notes of the damn song.

Step 5: Germination

This is also known as peak saturation. It’s when all the radio stations pick it up and include it in their playlists. Remember the point when you started hearing “Starving” and “Closer” even on the masa stations? That’s when you realize that everybody is playing it. Everybody’s listening to it. Pretty soon, you’ll hear your neighborhood parochial school play it during the annual Teacher’s Day or Christmas Day celebration as kids sing along to these songs they don’t know the meanings of.

This is also when you’ll start hearing all these remixes. From the requisite bossa nova covers (that make sure certain local artists can continue to make a living under their labels) to the trap remixes you’re bound to hear endlessly on jeepney boom boxes, we Pinoys will never find enough ways to put our own “creative spin” to these tracks.

We can’t forget the noontime shows either. You’ll know a song’s hit peak saturation when all these local artists and hosts start singing poorly arranged covers of these songs on live television, with the lyrics flashing at the bottom so you can sing along with them.

Step 6: Mashups

Yes, these are still a thing. And yes, it’s another way for people on social media to prove that they’re so creative. “Oh, let me take this overplayed Calvin Harris song and mash it up with this overplayed Chainsmokers song!” You get the idea.

Step 7: Fast Forward

After everything that’s happened, you’ll find that the song is as present in your life as the news about the war on drugs. At which point, you’ll realize that if the song is still on your Spotify playlist, you might as well just skip it when it plays. Or even better, just move on and DELETE DELETE DELETE.

This is a vicious cycle, after all. And after some time, when all the brouhaha’s died down, we’ll look back fondly on the song as part of DJ Earworm’s mashup of mashups by year’s end. We’ll associate it with the state of music in the year it came out and either glorify it for what it’s worth, or curse it for the endless LSS it gave us.

Welcome to pop music.

Photo from Bruno Mars’s Facebook


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