Mining Spotify for the music that never gets old
Polygraph, a publication for thoughtful, data-driven storytelling has set out to find the most timeless songs of all-time. They’ve done this using Spotify to quantify how old music has stood the test of time.
"Until recently, it was impossible to measure the popularity of older music. Billboard charts and album sales only tell us about a song’s popularity at the time of its release.
But now we have Spotify, a buffet of all of music, new and old. Tracks with fewer plays are fading into obscurity. And those with more plays are remaining in the cultural ether.
20 years have passed since No Diggity's release. Its popularity on Spotify, relative to every other song from the 90s, is a strong signal for whether it will be remembered by our children’s children. So let's examine every song that ever charted, 1990 - 1999, and rank them by number of plays on Spotify, today.
Out of the entire catalog of music from the 90s, these are the tracks on the trajectory to survive. Some of my friends were deeply disturbed by what's been lost in time (e.g., Pearl Jam). And No Diggity isn’t just anecdotally timeless, it’s the fifth most-played song from the 90s.
Note the tracks that hardly charted on Billboard, in their day. Smells Like Teen Spirit, a track that never reached the Billboard Top 5 when it was released in 1992, is now the most-played song from the 90s.
Using Spotify plays, we can also see which rappers are still remembered from the early days of hip hop (e.g., Biggie vs. Tupac).
Past popularity doesn’t always translate into present-day popularity. Here's how that manifests across all genres and decades."