June 10, 2020

Three Lessons the Millennium Has Taught Us about Popular Music

As specialists in researching new music, Integr8 is generally focused on what’s happening today in contemporary music. However, there are times when clarity about the present comes from understanding the patterns of the past.

Now that so much of what’s to come seems uncertain, it seems like the perfect time to take a trip through time to see what we can learn about the future.

So, we examined every song that became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 from 2000 through 2019. We figured the last 20 years in music from Santana’s “Smooth” to Post Malone’s “Circles” might uncover some big picture trends that could help you program your station into the 2020s.

Here are three lessons from the past two decades to keep in mind in our new decade.


From 2000 to 2005, the number of pure pop songs to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 sank steadily from a third of all hits to only 9%. In 2005, however, pop songs once again became huge hits, thanks to Kelly Clarkson. Then came Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Bruno Mars. From 2005 to 2014, Pop’s share of the top 10 hits each week grew until Pop once again filled the majority of top 10 chart spots each week.

The lesson? Don’t count out mass appeal pop. Eventually, it always comes back.


While Pop was declining, Hip Hop was ascending. From 2000 to 2005, Hip Hop doubled its share of the top 10 songs thanks to Nelly, Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Then for the next 10 years, Hip Hop—particularly the pure Hip Hop that is less likely to cross over to CHR—declined. By 2014, the most successful Hip Hop artist was a white Australian who learned to rap in Atlanta (Iggy Azalea). Then came Fetty Wap, Drake and Lil Uzi Vert who redefined the genre, followed by Post Malone, who helped bring those new trap sounds further into the mainstream.

The lesson? From Jazz to the Rhythm and Blues that birthed Rock ‘n’ Roll to Hip Hop, the cutting-edge music of the African-American community has always played a pivotal role in the evolution of America’s popular music. That tradition isn’t changing.


As is always the case with emerging music styles, EDM wasn’t really new when David Guetta and Calvin Harris broke into the Top 10, followed by DJ Snake, Major Lazer and Avicii.  Deadmau5 and Skrillix had passionate appeal among young underground fans during the 00s.

So what pushed EDM into the mainstream in 2010?

The emergence of EDM as a mass-appeal genre with superstar DJs occurred at the same time the millennial generation took total control of popular music, which we explained recently in The Generational Music Cycle. Throughout the 00s, the millennial generation were the primary consumers of contemporary music, but most artists were still from Generation X. 2010 marked the moment when the millennial generation became both the dominant consumers and creators of contemporary music. With it, those underground sounds that were previously the province of “the weird kids” went mainstream.

As the 2010s unfolded, fewer pure EDM titles became Top 10 hits not because the style became less popular, but because the stylistic elements of EDM became a core component of mainstream pop.

The Lesson? The underground sounds of a new generation often become the mainstream sound of pop music a few years later. Just as the millennial generation made their mark on popular music by making EDM a mainstream sound, we’re on the cusp of the next generation making their mark on popular music. To see where pop music might be headed, check out our previous post, “How The Homelanders Will Soon Change Popular Music.”

There’s a fourth lesson we can learn from the first 20 years of the millennium that deserves a deeper evaluation—that genres really can die. We’ll tackle that lesson in our next port.

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