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IDEAS | Derrick Rossignol

Why Gene Simmons doesn’t get music

Patrick Garvin

Rock icon Gene Simmons and New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik don’t have much in common, but new data prove they are both very, very wrong about music.

“Rap will die,” Simmons famously told Rolling Stone this year. “Next year, 10 years from now, at some point, and then something else will come along.” Gopnik, for his part, coined the Golden Forty-Year Rule. “The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between 40 and 50 years past,” he wrote.

Does this mean musical tastes are not only repeating, but also cyclical?


Nope. Not even close.

Instead, data show that decades define the dial.

We analyzed the genres that appeared on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts, from 1985 to 2015, and the patterns are revelatory.

Although not as popular on the charts today as it was in 2005, when an astounding 43 of the top 100 songs were hip-hop, rap music has actually been on a resurgence since 2013. Sorry, Gene.

We also learned that country music has declined from its peaks in 2011 and the early 2000s, and that rock has dropped in popularity since its 1996 or 2007. If Gopnik’s cycles in music truly do exist, it would seem they occur over an approximate 10-year period rather than a 40-year to 50-year window. The shorter interval agrees with the widely held belief that music history is so often defined by decades.

Explore the data for yourself, but beware, popular music’s colorful history has caused some of the songs to not be safe for work.

Derrick Rossignol is a freelance writer.