The 6 Ingredients For Every Hit Pop Song

Last week, I discovered the recent Pitbull and Ke$ha collaboration, Timber. It’s hilariously formulaic, but in a way that’s more admirable than anything–despite being not too far removed from what a parody of a Ke$ha and Pitbull song might sound like, it’s all but guaranteed this will be one this winter’s biggest hits:


After listening to this gem 30+ times this weekend, I noticed that Timber draws upon many characteristics exhibited by a number of other recent hits. With that, here’s a look at the 6 crucial ingredients for pop music success:

1. Men Talking About Drinking Excessive Amounts Of Alcohol, Despite Being Slightly Too Old To Be Celebrating That Type Of Lifestyle

The men listed below represent some of the biggest names in music today. Not all are pop stars, but they’ve all arguably dabbled in music that can easily be construed as pop. And pretty much all of them have been a major part of songs that discuss going clubbing and drinking outrageous amounts of alcohol.

Pitbull: 31                                                                                                                               Flo Rida: 34                                                                                                                         Usher: 35                                                                                                                             Justin Bieber: 19                                                                                                             Justin Timberlake: 32                                                                                                     Jay-Z: 43                                                                                                                         Kanye: West: 36                                                                                                               Avicii: 24                                                                                                                                 Eminem: 41                                                                                                                             Drake: 27                                                                                                                             Bruno Mars: 28

The numbers next to each connote their ages. If you are over 28, not a famous pop star, and are constantly bragging about how wasted you’re getting without exhibiting any concern for the future, people will likely think you have a serious problem.

2. Four Chords

This item is one step removed from common knowledge, but a necessary “ingredient” for every pop song given that it explains why they all sound exactly the same. Die Young is Good Feeling is to Timber is to Levels, because they’re all pretty much the same song. The electro-pop craze has lent itself to the very specific sound (as demonstrated by the songs above), but this has been going on for quite sometime. Axis of Awesome captures this quite tremendously: 


3. Very Simple Hooks That Would Make For Hilarious Poetry

The hook for Timber:

It’s Going Down                                                                                                                     I’m yellin’ timber                                                                                                                   You Better Move                                                                                                                 You Better Dance

Let’s make a night                                                                                                                   You won’t remember                                                                                                             I’ll be the one                                                                                                                       You won’t forget       

To further prove this point via my own confirmation bias, the hook for Lady GaGa’s recent hit, Applause: 

I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause
Live for the applause-plause
Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me
The applause, applause, applause

4. Rampantly Inflated Reality

Pop songs from the Pitbull/Flo Rida/Usher school of clubbing in Miami are notorious for telling you how luxurious your life is, and how you should be celebrating by spending thousands of dollars on bottle service and and super-shiny VIP glasses. Aziz Ansari tackled this brilliantly in his most recent special, in which he developed his own song to parody the real ones:


5. Soon To Be Outdated Metaphor Hashtaggery

First splashing on the scene with lyrics like “Is your game M.V.P. like Steve Nash?“, hashtag lyricism became a staple of pop music beginning in the mid-aughts. It then exploded between 2009-2011, during which time every single white college YouTube rapper tried to make a name for himself with increasingly ridiculous references like “My mind is a mystery, call me Conan Doyle,” or “You No Longer A Chief, Brodie Croyle.”

Our case study offers two hashtag metaphors, both incredibly current, that will most certainly be outdated by 2018:

  • I have ’em like Miley Cyrus, clothes off
    Twerking in their bras and thongs, timber
  • Club jumping like LeBron now, Volí

6. A Willingly Compliant Local “Hit Music” Station

Which will proceed to shove the song down your throat with a veracity worthy of someone who keeps telling you that you haaaave to watch the latest Rob Ford video.

Sadly, the overplaying epidemic means that within two months time, none of us will like Timber. So let’s celebrate it now, and party like it’s our last night on earth.

Usher, Usher. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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