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The Echo Nest: What's the real song of the summer?

September 14, 2013|By Ryan Faughnder
  • Could Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us" really be the summer's hottest jam? Paul Lamere, of the music data company the Echo Nest, tries to argue, yes.
Could Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us"… (Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images…)

Hate those "Blurred Lines"? Gotten over "Get Lucky"?

Those songs have been crowned the "song of the summer" by various taste-makers. But according to analysis by the music data mining company the Echo Nest, neither of those tunes, nor the ubiquitous One Direction smash "Best Song Ever," truly deserve the coveted title. 

The Echo Nest's Paul Lamere, director of the company's developer platform, looked at what songs were played the most times on streaming services, including Spotify, Rdio and YouTube.

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Using that narrow data set, the No. 1 song is -- wait for it -- "Can’t Hold Us" by the rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

"Can't Hold Us" was played 1.79 million times by nearly 333,000 people, according to Lamere's numbers. Second place was the synth-powered "Radioactive" by the Las Vegas group Imagine Dragons, which got 1.7 million plays.  

Billboard understandably decided on Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" as the ultimate summer mega-hit for 2013, taking sales numbers, radio plays and streaming data into account. 

Lamere argues that the number of plays by listeners is a more reliable metric. "Blurred Lines" actually came in third place in the Echo Nest's rankings, but "Get Lucky" came in far behind at No. 13, while "Best Song Ever" landed at No. 74.

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It's easy to argue that the number of plays on streaming services really isn't the determining factor of a song's place in the zeitgeist. "Blurred Lines," along with its racy video, sparked a cultural conversation over its sexual content and treatment of women that can't be measured in play counts. 

Lamere acknowledged this is a blog post explaining the data. "Perhaps 'Blurred Lines' is the Song of the Summer in that it best captured the vibe of 2013, but my vote, and the data say that the real song of the summer was Macklemore’s 'Can’t Hold Us,'" Lamere wrote. 

Lamere also tried to calculate which artists' fans were the most "passionate" about the favorite songs by comparing the number of plays to the number of people doing the streaming.

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Using that method, artists such as Avicii and Lorde had the most avid followers. Avicii's electronic dance jam "Wake Me Up" generated six plays per listener, while Lorde's "Royals" drew an average of 6.4 plays from each fan. 

As it turns out, that stat is vulnerable to manipulation.

As Lamere notes, the song "Miss Movin' On" by pop girl group Fifth Harmony appeared to draw more than 16 plays per listener. But actually, that was largely because the group's fans juiced the data by playing the song on loop 24 hours a day on Rdio and Spotify.

I guess numbers can lie, after all.  

Here's the summer top 10, according to Lamere:

  1. "Can’t Hold Us" – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  2. "Radioactive" – Imagine Dragons
  3. "Blurred Lines" – Robin Thicke
  4. "When I Was Your Man" – Bruno Mars
  5. "Thrift Shop" – Mackmore & Ryan Lewis
  6. "Holy Grail" – Jay Z
  7. "Just Give Me A Reason" – P!nk
  8. "Treasure" – Bruno Mars
  9. "Mirrors" – Justin Timberlake
  10. "We Can’t Stop" – Miley Cyrus


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