What’s up with the Charts?

Natasha explores whether chart music is still relevant to listeners, or whether modern technology has made us more focused on finding our own niche...

You’ve just left for lectures, walked out the door, headphones on, and you’re about to click ‘shuffle play’ on the top charts playlist, only to hear Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ come on…AGAIN. Although I think it’s safe to say that the trauma of Ed Sheeran’s Divide album occupying the entirety of the UK’s chart music is over, there’s still a question to be asked: what is going on with the charts these days? Are they really representative of our population’s favourite songs and artists?

First of all, let’s break down what ‘the charts’ really means. Charts music is based on the music that has been bought and streamed by (most commonly) the younger generation. However, with Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, music is generally explored through these apps. Listening to the charts on the radio and on TV has become increasingly less popular – I’d be impressed if anyone still watches those Chart programs!

So, do we still care about the charts? I think it’s safe to say that when we were young and were all ‘finding’ ourselves musically, we’d all bow down to the charts. Personally, I thought that this was the only way to discover music, and I always wanted to stay in the loop of what everyone was listening to, as well as which artists seemed to be most popular.

“What about the charts? That music became irrelevant to me”

But as I grew up, I discovered the beloved Spotify, and then Apple Music, and rather than clicking on ‘Top 40 Songs in the UK’, I’d find myself searching for the types of songs that I liked the most. For instance, an oldie like ‘With You’ by Chris Brown. After finding an artist that I liked, I would listen to more of their songs, realise that they fall under the genre of ‘RnB’, and consequently find that genre and listen to playlists in that field of music.

So, what about the charts? That music became irrelevant to me, because it never really had the type of music that I liked, it became a sound to me that was ‘generalised’ and not something I’d want to listen to.  Even one of my housemates gave me the most confused look after I asked her “Have you listened to the Charts recently?” – she simply remarked “Who even listens to that anymore?”

It also appears as though, for adolescences, the charts have a stigma of being ‘mainstream’ which obviously isn’t cool to listen to anymore. And this is kind of true. Take Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ for example. When it first came out, I loved everything about it. The beat, her voice, the music video (yes, I watched it…multiple times), and the LYRICS were too relatable. But after a while, it was being played on the radio, and then in clubs, and then in shops…and by then the song had become boring to listen to, because it had been so overplayed.

So maybe that is what the issue here is. We automatically assume that the charts represent overplayed music, music that not everyone really likes, but really it is just what’s new at the moment. And I’m sure it will soon be exhaustedly overplayed by Capital and KISS…

So, are the charts an accurate representation of what we listen to, or which artists are the most successful right now?  At the moment, at the top of the UK Charts is Drake with ‘God’s Plan’, followed by ‘These Days’ by Rudimental. And this is true on both Spotify AND Apple Music.  We also have Brit Winner Dua Lipa with ‘IDGAF’, and a little further down ‘This Is Me’ from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman (a movie that seems to be killing it at the moment).

Just by looking at the top five songs that have the highest sales on any given week, we can already see the range of genres and styles that have been represented: from rap, to pop, to musical songs, to grime. But for me, this doesn’t represent the songs that I have streamed. So what is it representing?

I think it shows us (more so) a scope of new artists and new songs that have come to the mix, and a glorification for music record companies more than anything. That’s really where the success of record companies are shown, through how popular their artists are doing with particular songs, and this is determined by how high their songs are up on the charts. But it’s not relevant for us.

Looking at the recent Brit Awards, Dua Lipa won Best Female Artist – and if we look to the charts, we can safely say that this is true, because she’s number 3, so clearly she is popular. But then you have the Foo Fighters winning Best International Band, despite none of their music appearing on the charts at the moment. Does that mean that their music is bad or unsuccessful? Well, no, as they still won a Brit AND are a band that is loved by so many – but their success is not determined by how high they currently are on the charts.

“what we define as ‘good’ music is all an acquired taste”

The charts doesn’t really determine success for these music records either then, or for these artists, or even for us with keeping up to date with music! The chart music temporarily reflects the broad scope and change of music that has been introduced with either new artists, or popular artists introducing new songs.

I’m no music genius or rap God, but what we define as ‘good’ music is all an acquired taste. Within the past year there has been an increase in popularity with grime music. With grime artists like Skepta collaborating with artists as popular as Drake, grime has instantly become a genre of music that has become more favourable to the public eye, just from it being associated with popular artists.

Music is what you make of it, so make sure it’s LIT”

We can see the impact that this has made, with Stormzy winning the Brit for Best Male Artist. But that doesn’t mean that we will automatically like grime music, only that we may be more open to it because of its association with artists that we already like.

This music industry is not narrowed to one specific list of music, and as we are getting older we are naturally becoming more curious and will want to explore the variety of genres and artists that are out there, and unfortunately, that can’t be found within just the charts.

I hear you’re giving the Charts a miss, hitting it with a diss,
But the list can show us what’s new, so what’s it to you?
Music is what you make of it, so make sure it’s LIT,
Go on, and go move, and find your own groove.

-MC Tasha

Natasha Manohar

Featured image courtesy ‘Peter Pham’ via flickr.

Image use license here.

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