Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tracks 1 and 4?

Recently a friend of mine claimed that the strongest tracks on an album tend to be tracks 1 and 4. Not every time of course, but a general trend. I immediately disagreed, thinking that 1 is usually strong but 4 is not. I reckoned that track 3 was more likely to be in the top two songs on an album.

I did some analysis on this. I looked at every album that I am confident enough to pick the best two songs from (i.e. I had to know the whole album well). Here are the numbers of times that each track appears in the best two on an album:

Track 1 – 55
Track 2 – 23
Track 3 – 31
Track 4 – 20
Track 5 – 19
Track 6 – 23
Track 7 – 17
Track 8 – 10
Track 9 – 3
Track 10 – 9
Track 11 – 6
Track 12 – 6
Track 13 – 2

Track 1 tends to be strongest, followed by 3. I rest my case.

However, there is something much more revealing about these numbers. Just look at the decline after track 7.
I have a theory that what makes something a truly brilliant album is a very strong last third. Most albums lack this, as partly indicated by these results.
Loads and loads of albums start well, but after the first 4 or 5 tracks (once the singles are used up!), they decline. The best albums do not decline, they maintain the high standard.


Chris Juby said...

I love that you did that!

I wonder if the slight rise at track 6 has anything to do with it traditionally being the track 1 of the B-side - do artists still (subconsciously?) structure albums that way even in the CD and mp3 age..?

And I totally agree about the last third. Probably my favourite album of the 00's - Funeral by Arcade Fire - has its big single at 7 and its strongest track at 9.

What are your stats for the number of times the last song is in the top 2?

Unknown said...

Only 7:

Anberlin - Cities - Fin

British Sea power - Open Season - True Adventures

Delirious - Cutting Edge 2 - Obsession

Keane - Hopes and Fears - Bedshaped

Live - Birds of Pray - What are we fighting for?

Matt Redman - Passion for your name - Better is one day

Sixpence NTR - Divine Discontent - Million Parachutes

Interesting idea about track 6 - it's a possible explanation. I was surprised by the stat, I didn't expect track 6 to be that high. However, given my limited sample, I don't think the rise from 20/19 to 23 is really significant.