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New Study Finds Top 10 Hits Dominated by Synths, Lyrics About ‘Hooking Up’

Lady Gaga Performs iHeartRadio - H 2011
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Lady Gaga performs at the iHeartRadio festival in September 2011.

Among the findings of a recent report by Hit Songs Deconstructed, 79% of popular pop songs used synthesizer as the primary instrument, solos, bridges and guitars are out, casual sex is in, and the gender gap among lead singers is narrowing.

A new report on hit songwriting trends was published last week and some of its findings are fascinating, others obvious.

According to Hit Songs Decontructed, 79% of top 10 pop hits used a synthesizer as the song’s primary instrument. That’s up from 62% a year ago and seems to signal that the current electro-pop fad is here to stay -- at least a little while longer. Further boosting that theory: the fact that 88% of Top 10 songs used electric-based instrumentation. As for the least popular instrument? The guitar, which hit a low of 4% during the second quarter of 2011.

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The latter should come as little surprise seeing as the rock format continues to lose ground at terrestrial radio. Indeed, during the most recent quarter, rock songs comprised just 8% of Top 10 hits, with dance/club music accounting for half of all songs. Rap/hip-hop remains the second most popular genre influencer at 21%.

As for lyrical themes in pop music, “hooking up” is the most popular so far in 2011, prevalent in 38% of hit songs, followed by “inspirational” songs, which have steadily increased to account for 25% of the Top 10 in the second quarter of 2011, “partying/clubbing” (21%) and “love/relationships” at 17%. Curiously, any “other” categories of lyrical themes have failed to register at all, coming in at zero % so far in 2011. Last year, when music listeners were seemingly interested in a little more than sex, it was at 9%.

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But perhaps most important to note, at least where music makers and purveyors are concerned, is the gender breakdown of lead vocalists. The news: the gap is shrinking and is now almost equal. A year ago, male singers could be heard on 57% of hit songs. Today, the split is at 46%/42% male to female. Duets account for 12% of hit songs (is Nicki Minaj to thank?).

Other curious trends pointed to a steep drop in solos, down from 17% to 5% of hits, and the once popular bridge portion of a song now only exists in 42% of songs, down from 54% last quarter and 55% a year ago.

Adele's 21, Lady Gaga's Born This Way and Minaj's Pink Friday are among the best-selling albums of 2011. Some of the year's biggest hits include Black Eyed Peas' "Just Can't Get Enough," Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor," Katy Perry's "E.T.," Pitbull's "Give Me Everything," Rihanna's "S&M" and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."   

Check out more from the study here