There are two major ways to quantify the popularity of a song… its peak popularity and its timelessness. That first category is easy to measure. All you have to do is look at its placement in the charts, its radio play and sales, and so on. Measuring timelessness, however, has always been a bit more anecdotal. A gentleman named Matt Daniels has sought to change that, and, based on this wonderful research, he by and large has.
The overarching, fatuous goal of “The Most Timeless Songs of All-Time” is to prove the timelessness of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Then, Daniels went out and did it. It’s a real, deep, detail-rich collection of infographics and data that we highly recommend you check out. In short, though, Daniels has used Spotify to track how often older songs were played in 2014. In doing so, he showed that “No Diggity” is the fifth-most played song from the ‘90s, thereby proving that it is timeless. For the record, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is blowing every other ‘90s song away.
The piece doesn’t just measure the popularity of ‘90s songs, as it includes the current playcount data for most of the Billboard Hot 100 hits from 1950 until 2005. It is, of course, not perfect. As Daniels points out, The Beatles and Taylor Swift aren’t on Spotify. Neither are Silver Jews, but that’s not relevant to this. Daniels also used his findings, juxtaposing the current playcounts and original chart placement of the songs measured, to determine trends that would help predict which modern songs would be considered timeless in the future. Here’s the bad news: Children of the future could be listening to Nickelback without any of the negative connotations we associate with them in this modern era of ours. Perish the thought.
Again, the infographics on this piece are great, and the data is searchable. You can find all sorts of fascinating bits of information. For example, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is the 22nd most-played song from the database. It’s the second-highest playcount for a one-hit wonder, behind “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, which is the Rocky song, hence it being so high on the list. “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits seems inordinately high, as it is the third most popular song from the ‘70s. Internally, we’ve presupposed this is because it appeared on one of the Guitar Hero games. Also, the most popular ‘50s songs include a disproportionate number of Christmas songs.
In the end, perhaps the most jarring piece of information is that the most timeless song ever is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, which is old enough to be thought of in terms of timelessness. We’re all slowly dying. No diggity.