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Here’s How America’s Taste In Music Has Evolved Over The Past 50 Years

Just in time for the Grammys, we looked at data from the Billboard Hot 100 to find out how the public's appetite for genres like rock, pop, hip-hop and soul have changed over time
Feb 06, 2015 at 8:17 PM ET
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Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett bridge the generation gap.

Looking at the performances lined up for the Grammy’s this Sunday, some familiar names crop up: Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Chris Martin, Sia, Beck. Each is a distinct artist in their own right, but they reside relatively close to one another on the spectrum of pop, rock and R&B.

Has the U.S.’s taste in popular music changed over time? We tracked every song that has ever charted on Billboard’s annual Hot 100 since the list’s inception in 1965 to measure the public appetite for various genres through the years.

While not always surprising—both rock and pop have performed pretty consistently—there are some interesting patterns. For example, country was riding high in the 1960s and 1970s but took a nosedive in the mid-’80s, before experiencing a renaissance in the early 1990s.

R&B has also been a solid performer, but it may have peaked in the mid-’90s. 1993 was also the year that hip-hop entered the mainstream in a big way. Dance seemed to profit from the death of disco, but really came into its own in 1990. Soul and folk had been on a slow, shared decline but the latter has had a reprieve in recent years thanks to the popularity of acts like The Lumineers.

Here, then, is the ever-changing landscape of music in the U.S.: