What makes a hit song a classic? This university study tries to answer that.

Artist and labels are perpetually looking for the next hit song. There are all kinds of ways to predict hits, but what is the thing (or things) that a song that makes it not just a hit but a classic?

Here’s a fun article from La Trobe University that tries to unpack this mystery.

What makes a classic song? In our research, to be published in the journal Economic Record, we have analysed every Hottest 100 song dating back to 1993. (We have also looked at 2013’s one-off Hottest 100 of the Past 20 Years and the five Hottest 100 of All Time polls.)

Overall, there was a high turnover of songs in the Hottest 100 of All Time polls (held in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2009). The rankings of the survivors also changed, with certain songs becoming more popular over time.

But some songs endured in popularity, while others didn’t. The Offspring’s Pretty Fly for a White Guy, for instance, topped the 1998 Hottest 100. But by 2013, it wasn’t even listed in the best of 20 years poll. The same is also true of four other annual winners, including the inaugural (1993) one, Asshole by Denis Leary and the 2001 Alex Lloyd tune Amazing.

However, the 1995 Hottest 100 winner Wonderwall by Oasis, went on to win the 20-year poll. Three other annual winners finished in the top 10 of the 20-year poll: Gotye’s 2011 classic Somebody That I Used to Know, and Powderfinger’s My Happiness and These Days.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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