Anatomy of a Hit

Cat Cohen's Hit Song Analysis -

Cat analyses the top hits of each year dating back to 1999, reviewing the hits and delves into their anatomy to explain how they are structured and why they are today's hits (and may continue to be hits well into the future).

2017
Ed Sheeran—Castle On The Hill
Album Cover: Divide
Castle On The Hill” is a skillfully written, imagery laden, and powerfully sung folk-pop ode to coming of age in the English countryside. Read Why the song
Castle On The Hill
is a hit →
Bruno Mars—Versace On The Floor
Album Cover: 24K Magic
Versace On The Floor” is an impeccably written, artfully sung neo-R&B-pop sexy romantic ballad laden with sophisticated sensual imagery and memorable uplifting music. Read Why the song
Versace On The Floor
is a hit →
2016
Justin Timberlake—Can't Stop The Feeling
Album Cover: Single
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” is one of happiest, best put-together pop-dance recordings on the charts in a long while. Read Why the song
Can't Stop The Feeling
is a hit →
The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey—Closer
Album Cover: Closer
A hip sexy song about two ex-lovers hooking up spontaneously after spending a long time apart. Read Why the song
Closer
is a hit →
2015
The Weeknd—Can't Feel Your Face
Album Cover: Beauty Behind The Madness
“Can’t Feel my Face” is a well-written and flawlessly produced energetic disco-funk dance hit from R&B newcomer The Weeknd. Read Why the song
Can't Feel Your Face
is a hit →
Adele—Hello
Album Cover: 25
“Hello” is a well-crafted and produced emotional recording that shows Adele is back stronger in voice and more expressive than ever. Read Why the song
Hello
is a hit →
2014
Meghan Trainor—All About That Bass
Album Cover: Title
A high-spirited bubble gum pop recording with a playful message of self-acceptance hidden in its frivolity. Read Why the song
All About That Bass
is a hit →
John Legend—All Of Me
Album Cover: Love In The Future
John Legend’s most positive love song to date, one that evokes the beauty, sensuousness, and passion of romantic love. Read Why the song
All Of Me
is a hit →
Magic—Rude
Album Cover: Don't Kill The Magic
“Rude” is an excellent reggae-pop recording by a uniquely gifted underground Canadian group with its contemporary sound and lyrics Read Why the song
Rude
is a hit →
Sam Smith—Stay With Me
Album Cover: In The Lonely Hour
Smith delivers a classic expressive soulful song about unrequited love. Read Why the song
Stay With Me
is a hit →
One Direction—Story Of My Life
Album Cover: Midnight Memories
“The Story Of My Life” is a sad passionate song of about the end of a deeply felt love relationship. Read Why the song
Story Of My Life
is a hit →
2013
Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell Williams—Blurred Lines
Album Cover: Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke’s "Blurred Lines” was the controversial party hit of summer 2013. Read Why the song
Blurred Lines
is a hit →
Demi Lovato—Heart Attack
Album Cover: Demi
Lovato’s high-voltage electro-pop hit is a state of the art intense and emotional expression of a young woman struggling not to fall in love. Read Why the song
Heart Attack
is a hit →
Pink feat. Nate Ruess—Just Give Me A Reason
Album Cover: The Truth About Love
Pink and Nate Ruess (lead singer of “Fun”) team up in this classy pop-rock love ballad. Read Why the song
Just Give Me A Reason
is a hit →
Lorde—Royals
Album Cover: Pure Heroine
Royals,” an edgy teen feminist anthem, is one of the most refreshingly original songs of the year. Read Why the song
Royals
is a hit →
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert—Same Love
Album Cover: The Heist
“Same Love” is a soulful sung-rap recording that makes a strong civil rights case for same sex couples and marriage equality. Read Why the song
Same Love
is a hit →
Bruno Mars—When I Was Your Man
Album Cover: Unorthodox Jukebox
Bruno Mars sings an expressive straightforward self-confessional pop ballad about romantic regret. Read Why the song
When I Was Your Man
is a hit →
2012
Train—DRIVE BY
Album Cover: California 37
An emotional song expressing regret after a romantic breakup. Read Why the song
DRIVE BY
is a hit →
Mumford & Sons—I Will Wait
Album Cover: Babel
A quirky, idealistic folk-rock song paying tribute to a relationship in a style reminiscent of traditional folk music updated for a contemporary audience. Read Why the song
I Will Wait
is a hit →
Kacey Musgraves—Merry Go 'Round
Album Cover: Same Trailer Different Park
Relative newcomer Musgraves has a winning social commentary country-pop hit on her hands Read Why the song
Merry Go 'Round
is a hit →
Kelly Clarkson—Stronger
Album Cover: Stronger
An empowering anthem to finding the strength to recover from a failed romantic relationship. Read Why the song
Stronger
is a hit →
Frank Ocean—Thinkin Bout You
Album Cover: Channel Orange
A unabashedly romantic sweet soul ballad about the tender vulnerable feelings of young love. Read Why the song
Thinkin Bout You
is a hit →
fun. featuring Janelle Monae—We Are Young
Album Cover: Some Nights
A quirky indie power pop ode to the young urban night owl life style. Read Why the song
We Are Young
is a hit →
Flo Rida—Wild Ones
Album Cover: Wild Ones
A celebratory song of adventurous spirits looking to connect for a wild night of romantic-sexual connection Read Why the song
Wild Ones
is a hit →
2011
LADY GAGA—BORN THIS WAY
Album Cover: BORN THIS WAY - proj. May 2011
Lady G’s supposed gay anthem is more about herself than the group she purports to represent. Read Why the song
BORN THIS WAY
is a hit →
Maroon V/Christina Aguilera—Moves like Jagger
Album Cover: Hands All Over
A refreshing burst of playful sexy disco-pop that perfectly showcases two of today’s top recording stars. Read Why the song
Moves like Jagger
is a hit →
Adele—Someone Like You
Album Cover: 21
Adele’s powerful emotionally sorrowful song delivers her straight from the gut soulful style and performance while it crosses many pop genres. Read Why the song
Someone Like You
is a hit →
2010
Katy Perry/Snoop Dogg—California Gurls
Album Cover: Teenage Dream
2010’s hot dance groove hit ala Prince with an updated ode to California Dreaming, Surf City, and Hot Fun In The Summertime all rolled into one. Read Why the song
California Gurls
is a hit →
Eminem/Rihanna—Love The Way You Lie
Album Cover: Recovery
A sung-rap conflicted plight of a couple who hurt each other as much as they love one another. Read Why the song
Love The Way You Lie
is a hit →
Lady Antebellum—Need You Now
Album Cover: Need You Now
A poignant country ballad about needing to remedy one’s late night loneliness. Read Why the song
Need You Now
is a hit →
Melissa Lambert—The House That Built Me
Album Cover: Revolution
A touching nostalgic song about revisiting one’s childhood home and reliving many of the memories that it brings up. Read Why the song
The House That Built Me
is a hit →
2009
Carrie Underwood—Cowboy Casanova
Album Cover: Play On
Carrie Underwood outdoes herself with this sassy uptempo country rocker about a cowboy too hot to handle. Read Why the song
Cowboy Casanova
is a hit →
Owl City—Fireflies
Album Cover: Ocean Eyes
Owl City offers up a refreshingly new youthful electronica sound with an intelligent earth friendly message. Read Why the song
Fireflies
is a hit →
Lady Gaga—Just Dance
Album Cover: The Fame
Lady Gaga delivers a hot fun campy trip that grabs and keeps the dancer and dance music listener from start to finish. Read Why the song
Just Dance
is a hit →
Beyoncé—Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Album Cover: I Am....Sasha Fierce
Beyonce releases yet another lively single dance hit that goes all the way to the Grammys. Read Why the song
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
is a hit →
Michael Jackson—This Is It
Album Cover: This Is It
A release from the late Michael Jackson archives shows how his writing and singing are still relevant some twenty-five years after this was originally recorded. Read Why the song
This Is It
is a hit →
2008
Leona Lewis—Bleeding Love
Album Cover: Spirit
A powerfully soulful and emotional hurt love song that catapulted Leona Lewis to the top of the charts. Read Why the song
Bleeding Love
is a hit →
Katy Perry—I Kissed A Girl
Album Cover: One Of The Boys
Katy Perry’s rebellious cutting edge record about testing the waters of same sex affection. Read Why the song
I Kissed A Girl
is a hit →
Sara Bareilles—Love Song
Album Cover: Little Voice
On many levels Sara Bareilles delivers one of the best contemporary love songs of the past few years. Read Why the song
Love Song
is a hit →
Taylor Swift—Love Story
Album Cover: Fearless
Taylor Swift’s song of young romantic desire twists the tragedy of the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet with a fairytale ending. Read Why the song
Love Story
is a hit →
2007
Plain White T's—Hey There Delilah
Album Cover: All That We Needed
Plain White T’s uniquely written song of college romance has the intimate personal quality of a love letter. Read Why the song
Hey There Delilah
is a hit →
Alicia Keys—No One
Album Cover: As I Am
Alicia Keys blockbuster hit that many young (and not so young) couples may make their own special love song. Read Why the song
No One
is a hit →
Amy Winehouse—Rehab
Album Cover: Back to Black
Britain’s bad girl takes us on a retro journey to a detox center with lots of attitude in this modern lounge lizard classic. Read Why the song
Rehab
is a hit →
2006
Mary J Blige—Be Without You
Album Cover: The Breakthrough
Mary J Blige sings her heart and soul out on this R&B classic song about staying with her man. Read Why the song
Be Without You
is a hit →
Nelly Furtado With Timbaland—Promiscuous
Album Cover: Loose
Nelly Furtado hip hops her way to a dance hit with clever lascivious playfulness and attitude. Read Why the song
Promiscuous
is a hit →
Ne-yo—So Sick
Album Cover:
Ne-Yo shows that not only can he write hits for others, he can do the same for himself with this romantic lament. Read Why the song
So Sick
is a hit →
Brad Paisley—The World
Album Cover: Time Well Wasted
In this uptempo country-rocker Brad Paisley values the woman in his life even if the rest of the world doesn’t see how special sh Read Why the song
The World
is a hit →
Rascal Flatts—What Hurts The Most
Album Cover: Me And My Gang
This sad lament of lost love propelled Rascal Flatts to the top of the country charts and launched their career for good. Read Why the song
What Hurts The Most
is a hit →
James Blunt—You're Beautiful
Album Cover: The Bedlam Sessions
A simple touching song from a refreshing if one-hit wonder. Read Why the song
You're Beautiful
is a hit →
2005
Green Day—Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Album Cover: American Idiot
Green Day releases a haunting record that dominates the charts and Grammy Awards in 2005 for good reasons. Read Why the song
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
is a hit →
Kelly Clarkson—Since U Been Gone
Album Cover: Breakaway
Kelly Clarkson sings young adult angst the way it needs to be expressed,  honestly and with just enough edgy attitude that we really feel the chip on her shoulder, all her hurt and disappointment. Read Why the song
Since U Been Gone
is a hit →
Mariah Carey—We Belong Together
Album Cover: The Emancipation of Mimi
Mariah Carey outdoes all her past performances with this hip written, styled, and phrased song of romantic regret.  Read Why the song
We Belong Together
is a hit →
2004
Usher—Burn
Album Cover: Confessions
Usher confesses truly from the heart and soul about the conflict of his emotions in one of his tortured love relationships. Read Why the song
Burn
is a hit →
Evanescence—My Immortal
Album Cover: Fallen
Evanescence's moody teen angst recording hits the pop charts with its dark expressive classical rock music and somber theatrical lyrics. Read Why the song
My Immortal
is a hit →
Gretchen Wilson—Redneck Woman
Album Cover: Here For The Party
Gretchen Wilson launched her career with this anthem-like hit for all rebellious country woman who refuse to be the southern belle stereotype, yee-haw! Read Why the song
Redneck Woman
is a hit →
2003
Beyonce—Crazy in Love
Album Cover: Dangerously in Love
Beyonce excites dance audiences with her playfully seductive and compelling case for being out of control over her current love interest. Read Why the song
Crazy in Love
is a hit →
Toby Keith—I Love This Bar
Album Cover: Shock 'N Y'all
Toby Keith records a joyful rowdy ode to barroom customers everywhere complete with crowd noises and a colorful cast of characters. Read Why the song
I Love This Bar
is a hit →
Dido—White Flag
Album Cover: Life For Rent
Dido takes her arty lyrics with attitude to a new commercial level with this determined to get over it love song. Read Why the song
White Flag
is a hit →
2002
Avril Lavigne—Complicated
Album Cover: Let Go
Avril Lavigne turned this well written song into a breakthrough hit that crossed a touch of youthful punky attitude with middle of the pop. Read Why the song
Complicated
is a hit →
Norah Jones—Don't Know Why
Album Cover: Come Away With Me
Norah Jones smashes her way onto the pop charts with this out of left field jazzy hit. Read Why the song
Don't Know Why
is a hit →
Eminem—Lose Yourself
Album Cover: Curtain Call
Eminem takes the rap genre into a new crossover direction with this gripping and revealing story he recorded for a film. Read Why the song
Lose Yourself
is a hit →
Alan Jackson—Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Album Cover: Drive
In the wake of 9/11 this song was perhaps the most memorable and straightforward. Read Why the song
Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
is a hit →
2001
Train—Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)
Album Cover: Drops Of Jupiter
Train's abstract arty and catchy initial hit broke many rules yet established this rock group's presence on the charts for some time. Read Why the song
Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)
is a hit →
Craig David—Fill Me In
Album Cover: Born To Do It
Craig David takes his cutting edge house/jungle music meets R&B to the pop charts with this playful love romp. Read Why the song
Fill Me In
is a hit →
Pink—Get The Party Started
Album Cover: Missundaztood
Pink's classic party with attitude dance hit that propelled her to stardom. Read Why the song
Get The Party Started
is a hit →
2000
Faith Hill—Breathe
Album Cover: Breathe
Faith Hill's soft sexy ballad successfully crosses from country to pop and greatly expands her audience. Read Why the song
Breathe
is a hit →
Macy Gray—I Try
Album Cover: How Life Is
Macy Gray's sassy R&B record updates an older style of soul music and brings it back to the charts. Read Why the song
I Try
is a hit →
Sisqo—Incomplete
Album Cover: Unleash The Dragon
Sisqo seemed to be just a hot flash in the pan with his "Thong Song", but this ballad of romantic regret shows he can really sing. Read Why the song
Incomplete
is a hit →
Destiny's Child—Say My Name
Album Cover: The Writing's On The Wall
Destiny Child's cleverly conceived, written and produced dance hit blazes its way to the charts carving out new territory in pop and dance recordings. Read Why the song
Say My Name
is a hit →
Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)—Smooth
Album Cover: Supernatural
This hot flavored sensual dance record was an international hit that expanded Santana's popularity to a new generation of fans. Read Why the song
Smooth
is a hit →
1999
Ricky Martin—Living La Vida Loca
Album Cover: Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin's blockbuster dance hit successfully crossed over salsa and 60s rock to launch the first wave of the "Latin Invasion" of pop at the end of the 90s. Read Why the song
Living La Vida Loca
is a hit →

 

 
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