Radio Edit: Weird things happen on the charts when computers get involved

In February, Ariana Grande released her latest album, Thank U, Next. The week it debuted, 11 of her songs appeared on the American Billboard Top 40 singles charts.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. The same scenario played out with the latest albums from Drake and Travis Scott.

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It’s not so uncommon to see non-singles on the Billboard Singles Charts, especially after a new album from a big name artist comes out.

Since Billboard changed its charting criteria, streaming now counts toward singles play, so multiple plays of a non-single release, if played enough, can turn up on the singles charts.

Huge amounts of people were playing Grande’s full album, so a lot of her songs ended up on the charts.

thank u next ariana grande
Thank U Next, by Ariana Grande. Fans rushed her singles to the charts and are now working to rearrange them. - Republic

The algorithm used weighs on-demand play more than playlist-style plays. That is, the songs a listener chooses count more than songs chosen for the listener.

Streaming services are affecting singles play so much that listeners are gaming the system in favour of different songs.

Since Ariana Grande’s album debuted, there has been a movement from her listeners to get her current single, 7 Rings out of the top singles spot in favour of her newest single by deliberately playing it instead of 7 Rings.

And artists are now making deliberate choices when they write songs, so that the song will fit into a playlist algorithm.

Rather than making artistic choices to include material in an album, they choose to make something palatable to a computer program choosing their songs.

Odd things happen when computers are factored in to charting songs. Lately, Baby Shark by Korean children’s musician Pinkfong has been showing up in the lower end of the Billboard Top 40. Anyone with a kid knows this song and they also know it would never be heard on a pop playlist.

Yet, there it is, charting on the pop radio Top 40.

Anything that gives power back to the listener is a good thing. Though, there are still problems with computer algorithms choosing what we hear and what we don’t hear.

With playlists weighted to a certain kind of song, a certain style of music or other choices, say, like who pays the most marketing money for a song to be heard, there’s a danger of taking the power back out of a listener’s hands.

Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to

© Kamloops This Week


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