100 Things You Didn’t Know About the 100 Most-Streamed Songs on Spotify

100 Things You Didn’t Know About the 100 Most-Streamed Songs on Spotify
Illustration: Karl Gustafson

Half the fun of being a music fan is gathering facts about the songs you love, and even if you have super niche music tastes, several — if not many — of your favourite songs are everybody else’s favourite songs. With that in mind, we’re going to look at the 100 most streamed-songs on Spotify and share one interesting fact or tidbit that you might not have known. (Of course, the top 100 songs on Spotify will change as songs grow or fall in popularity, so consider this list a snapshot in time.) After you’re done, you’ll be a more knowledgable musical consumer and a better party guest, because when the DJ plays Harry Style’s “Watermelon Sugar,” you’ll confidently say, “Did you know this song is about the female orgasm?”

Ed Sheeran – Shape of You (2017)

According to Ed Sheeran, the most-streamed song on Spotify was written with Rihanna in mind. Then Sheeran thought it would be perfect for British drum and bass band Rudimental. His record company suggested Sheeran record the song himself, and the rest is pop history.

The Weeknd – Blinding Lights (2019)

The Weeknd and co-writer and producer Max Martin scored a massive hit with this throwback to 1980s synth-pop. It’s worth knowing that Martin has written or co-written 25 number one songs according to Billboard’s charts, including Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Maroon 5’s “One More Night,” and Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time,” his first number one song.

Tones and I – Dance Monkey (2019)

In 2018, Tones and I (full name Toni Watson) was living in her van and playing music for tips on the streets of Byron Bay in Australia. She wrote “Dance Monkey” about busking for a rowdy crowd, and by 2019 it was a worldwide musical sensation.

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage – Rockstar (2017)

In this ode to sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, Post Malone name drops Bon Scott and Jim Morrison, both legendary rock performers known for their personal excesses. Scott, lead singer of AC/DC, died at 33 from alcohol poisoning, and Morrison, lead singer of the The Doors, died at 27 from a heart attack probably brought on by drug use.

Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved (2018)

“Someone You Loved” did not come to Lewis Capaldi easily. In an interview with NME, Capaldi says he spent six months writing the emotional ballad. It was a product of “sitting in my shed in my back garden with a piano… bashing my head over and over again.”

Drake – One Dance (2016)

The female vocals on “One Dance” are sampled from Paleface’s “Do You Mind.” According to the singer, Kyla, Drake originally planned to re-record her vocal part for “One Dance,” but the tracks were being “hacked left, right, and centre,” so the version with the sample was rushed out instead.

Post Malone & Swae Lee – Sunflower (2018)

Recorded for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this duet between Malone and rapper/singer Swae Lee is an important part of the film, but the film’s writers originally planned to use Donald Glover “Redbone.” Because that song was featured in Get Out, they commissioned an original tune from Post Malone instead.

The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – Closer (2016)

The Chainsmokers are an EDM duo from NYC. The lyrics from their biggest hit don’t celebrate the popping bottles excesses of the club-set, though. Instead, they tell a sadder, more realistic story featuring broken down cars, alcoholism, and sex on a mattress stolen from a roommate.

Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – Senorita (2019)

The slithery, Latin-influenced guitar riff at the centre of “Señorita” was created by producer Andrew Watt. Watt said it reminded him of Fleetwood Mac and José Feliciano. Mendes and Cabello are praised for their chemistry, but they actually wrote most of the lyrics over FaceTime before meeting in a studio weeks before the song was released.

Imagine Dragons – Believer (2017)

According to Imagine Dragons front man Dan Reynolds, “Believer” is a reflection of the pain in his life, including the physical pain of ankylosing spondylitis. Reynolds says he has suffered from AS, a painful type of spinal arthritis, since he was in his early 20s.

Ed Sheeran – Perfect (2017)

This love ballad was written for Sheeran’s then-girlfriend Cherry Seaborn. Ed produced the song with Will Hicks. His brother, Matthew Sheeran, arranged the strings. This is the only song in Spotify’s most-streamed list played in 3/4 time. In other words, it’s a waltz.

Billie Eilish – Bad Guy (2019)

Eilish co-wrote “Bad Guy” with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who also co-produced the track. The unique, minimalistic electro-pop sound of Bad Guy is partially due to the iconic bass sounds from a 1980s Roland TR-808 drum machine.

James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go (2016)

James Arthur’s career took off in Europe after he won the U.K. version of X-Factor, but he didn’t break big in America until 2016’s album Back from The Edge. Arthur says he was hungover when he wrote “Say You Won’t Let Go,” and the line “I held your hair back when you were throwing up” actually happened.

Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud (2014)

Ed Sheeran wrote this love ballad about his girlfriend, but not the same girlfriend he wrote “Perfect” for. This one is about Athina Andrelos. Despite this song’s lyrics about growing old together, Sheeran and Andrelos broke up in 2015.

Juice WRLD – Lucid Dreams (2018)

“Lucid Dreams” was officially released on Interscope Records in May 2018, but rapper/singer Juice WRLD (Jarad Anthony Higgins) first released the song on his SoundCloud in June 2017. Higgins died following a drug overdose on December 8, 2019 at only 21 years old.

Drake – God’s Plan (2018)

In the video for “God’s Plan,” Drake gives out nearly a million dollars to people in Miami. Drake says the video for “God’s Plan” is “the most important thing I have ever done in my career.”

Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now (2019)

English singer Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” is widely considered one of the most important tracks that kicked off the disco revival of the 2020s. The song borrows its funk bass, handclaps, string-stabs, and four-on-the-floor beat from 1970s disco. The vocal processing is pure 2019 though.

Ed Sheeran – Photograph (2014)

If you want to have a massively popular ballad written about you, date Ed Sheeran. He wrote this song about his then-girlfriend Athina Andrelos and the challenges of maintaining a long-distance relationship. Sheeran says he was building a LEGO X-Wing Fighter while developing “Photograph.”

Xxxtentacion – SAD! (2018)

XXXtentacion previewed “SAD!” for months before its release at the beginning of the gaming videos he posted on YouTube. The song touches on suicide, mental illness, and the torture of being in love.

The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – Starboy (2016)

While David Bowie’s “Starman” alter ego was a space alien, The Weeknd’s “Starboy” is more down-to-earth. According to the singer, Starboy is the “braggadocios character that we all have inside of us.”

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay – Something Just Like This (2017)

This inter-generational collaboration came about when Coldplay’s Chris Martin heard the Chainsmokers playing some piano chords. He was so inspired he wrote the lyrics for “Something Just Like This” on the spot.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

The oldest song on this Spotify top 100 list by 20 years, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is an unlikely hit. Preview audiences and other industry insiders (including Elton John) who heard “BoRap” before it was released were sceptical of its chances for success, but Queen’s operatic single has clearly stood the test of time.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow (2018)

Written for 2018 feature A Star is Born, “Shallow” is more than a movie soundtrack song — it’s the central piece of music in the film. It went viral before the film was even released, with fans spreading and memeing a snippet of the song from A Star is Born’s teaser-trailer.

Justin Bieber – Love Yourself (2015)

Justin Bieber’s eff-you ballad contains stinging lines like “My momma don’t like you / And she likes everyone,” but no one knows what ex-lover Biebs wrote it about. Possibilities include Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, and Chantel Jeffries. Maybe it was “all of the above?”

Billie Eilish & Kahlid – Lovely (2018)

Eilish and Kahlid created the haunting, somber, chamber pop mood of this song through a minimalist arrangement of piano, violin, and percussion. According to Eilish, the title is ironic. “We called it that because the song was sort of really freaking depressing so then it’s like oh, how lovely,” she said.

The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – Stay (2021)

By the time Justin Bieber was 18 he was already household-name famous, and his collaborator on “Stay,” The Kid Laroi, is following in his footsteps. Laroi is 18, and this is his second Billboard number one hit. His first was “Without You” with Miley Cyrus.

John Legend – All of Me (2013)

John Legend’s ballad proves that great songs doesn’t require elaborate production. Legend’s voice on “All of Me” is accompanied only by a piano and some vocal harmonies.

Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – Havana (2017)

You know a song is absolute monster when it charts at number one in both Ireland and Uruguay. This neo-salsa banger hit the top of the charts in 23 countries total and led to Cabello being the first Hispanic singer to sell more than 10,000,000 units in the US.

Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar (2019)

Even though it’s obvious from the song and video, people have been asking Harry Styles what “Watermelon Sugar” is about since it was released in 2019. He dodged the question until 2021, when he told a concert crowd: “This song is about…. It doesn’t really matter what it’s about. It’s about, uh, the sweetness of life. It’s also about the female orgasm.”

Hozier – Take Me to Church (2013)

A departure from the frothy tunes of most pop music, “Take Me to Church” uses gospel music to drive home a point about the hypocrisy of organised religion. Consider the chorus: “Take me to church / I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies / I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife.”

Post Malone – Circles (2019)

Post Malone’s “Circles” reinforces its lyrics about being trapped in the loop of a toxic relationship through repetition within its music. Despite Malone’s repeated exhortations to “run away,” “Circles” ultimately offers no hope of escape through its lyrics or music.

Ariana Grande – 7 Rings (2019)

Grande’s audacious mega-hit lays a trap beat and a thick bass under “My Favourite Things” from The Sound of Music. If this isn’t bat-crap enough for ya, the bridge is borrowed from Notorious B.I.G’s “Gimme the Loot.”

Imagine Dragons – Thunder (2017)

In this anthemic banger, Imagine Dragons invites everyone who dissed them before they were famous to kindly kiss their collective arse. Take that, Imagine Dragon haters (of which there are strangely many).

Xxxtentacion – Jocelyn Flores (2017)

Jocelyn Flores was a teenager Xxxtentacion hired to model for his clothing company. She died by suicide soon after flying to Florida and meeting him. Flores’ family has mixed feelings about the tribute — her stepsister thanked X in a YouTube video; her aunt cursed the rapper out on Facebook.

Travis Scott ft. Kendrick Lamar – Goosebumps (2016)

At a show in Ohio in 2017, Travis broke the Guinness world record for most consecutive performances of a song by playing “Goosebumps” 15 times in a row. The record had previously been held by Kanye West and Jay Z, who played “Ni**s In Paris” 12 times in Paris in 2012.

Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3 (2017)

Producer TM88’s monster beat on “XO Tour Llif3″ came out of a wild set of circumstances. An airport shooting in Atlanta kept TM88 stranded at the airport for 10 hours, and he left his laptop charger behind. Since he couldn’t access his powerless computer, TM88 created music with a cheap, portable Beats Pill speaker, resulting in a harder, less produced sound.

“[Producing on the Pill] brings you back down to like, What if I didn’t have speakers and I had to use the Pill? Could I do it?” TM88 said.

Dua Lipa – New Rules (2017)

“New Rules” co-writer and producer Ian Kirkpatrick says the song was passed on by other artists before Lipa jumped at it. He doesn’t name names, but says that one artist passed because the song didn’t have a “substantial hook.”

Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out (2015)

The video for Twenty One Pilots’ “I don’t wanna grow up” anthem was shot in band founder Josh Dun’s actual childhood home.

The song is from the point of view of Blurryface, an alter-ego/fictional character who Pilot Tyler Joseph says “represents all the things that I as an individual — but also everyone around me — am insecure about.”

Marshmello ft. Bastille – Happier (2018)

Dan Smith, frontman of Bastille, says he wrote “Happier” for Justin Bieber, but ultimately the band decided to keep the song for themselves. “Happier” spread organically, with very little promotion, so its success surprised Smith, who was backpacking in India when he learned his song was taking off.

Travis Scott ft. Drake – Sicko Mode (2018)

“Sicko” has a double meaning to Drake. It refers to both the superiority of Drake and Scott compared to other artists, but it’s also slang for being from Toronto, Drake’s hometown. Toronto’s area codes are 416 and 647, and Drake has previously referred to his friends as “sickos” or “6ickos”

Kendrick Lamar – Humble (2017)

“Humble” won the Grammy award for Best Rap Song in 2017, as well as three other awards that night. The 2014 Grammy Awards were a different story for Lamar, though. That year, mildly amusing rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won three out of the four rap awards and best new artist, beating Lamar in each category. Macklemore texted Lamar to apologise. Unlike Lamar, neither Macklemore nor Lewis never won a Pulitzer Prize.

Justin Bieber – Sorry (2015)

“Sorry” is the result of a collaboration between Bieber, songwriter BloodPop, and producer Skrillex. According to BloodPop, “Sorry’s” beat speaks as much as the lyrics: “The beat is saying moving forward, and apologizing, can be exciting and fun,” BloodPop said.

Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MØ – Lean On (2015)

“Lean On” is a true multinational project: Major Laser is American, DJ Snake is French, and singer MØ is Danish. In 2015, “Lean On” was Spotify’s most-streamed song, but it has been surpassed by 42 other tracks as of 2022.

Passenger – Let Her Go (2012)

British folker Passenger’s real name is Michael David Rosenberg. He was in a band called “Passenger,” and when he left, he took the name. Passenger/Rosenberg says it took him less than an hour to write “Let Her Go.” Before hitting it big, he was a busker in Europe “making no money.”

Post Malone – Better Now (2018)

The lyrics to break-up song “Better Now” are detailed and specific — Malone mentions his aunt and uncle, his brothers, and his ex-lover’s socks — but he’s never publicly revealed who he wrote this song about.

Saint Jhn – Roses (Imanbek Remix) (2019)

The original version of “Roses” came out in 2016, but it didn’t go large until Kazakh producer Imanbek remixed it a few years later. Some of the song’s success can be credited to TikTok, where the song was played over 4.5 billion times in April 2020 alone.

DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – Let Me Love You (2016)

It took a total of nine writers to pen “Let Me Love You.” It shot up to number one in one in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and Switzerland. Rumour has it the song is about Bieber’s ex Selena Gomez, although this has never been confirmed.

Glass Animals – Heat Waves (2020)

Unlike most troubled relationship songs, in “Heat Wave,” all the anger is self-directed, with the narrator blaming himself entirely for break-up. The music rises and falls in intensity and complexity, mimicking the motion of actual waves.

Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up (2013)

“Wake Me Up” was such a stylistic departure for Swedish DJ and record producer Avicii, that the song’s first performance, with a full band, at a Miami electronic music festival reportedly confused and angered half the audience. Spin called the music set a “Bizarrely twangy Mumford & Sons reinvention.”

Alan Walker – Faded (2015)

According to DJ Alan Walker, the meaning of “Faded” is open to interpretation. “I would describe ‘Faded’ as a happy yet emotional song, appropriate for both sad and/or uplifting occasions… the meaning can be interpreted freely by the listener,” Walker wrote.

Post Malone ft. Quavo – Congratulations (2016)

“Congratulations” was inspired by the 2016 Summer Olympics. Malone and producers Frank Dukes, Metro Boomin, and Louis Bell were watching the games and were moved to write an anthemic, triumphant song. The lyrics are not about Olympians though; they’re entirely self-congratulatory.

The Chainsmokers ft. Daya – Don’t Let Me Down (2016)

The vocal part of “Don’t Let Me Down” was originally offered to Rihanna, who turned the Chainsmokers down. They then turned to relatively unknown singer Daya. Chainsmoker Alex Pall told Rolling Stone, “Young unknown artists have this hunger — they’re willing to work really hard.”

OneRepublic – Counting Stars (2013)

Rock band OneRepublic has been around so long, its first taste of success came via MySpace. They’ve released five major label albums since their 2006 debut, resulting in a slew of hit songs, but “Counting Stars” is their biggest to date.

Mike Posner & Seeb – I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix) (2015)

Mike Posner originally recorded this song accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. According to Posner, the titular event actually happened. “Ibiza” details what it’s like to be a one-hit wonder, but outperformed Posner’s “one hit,” 2010’s “Cooler than Me.

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber – Despacito (Remix) (2017)

The original version of “Despacito” was released in 2015. Justin Bieber heard it in a club in Columbia and contacted Fonsi to tell him he wanted to remix it. This is the first time Bieber has sung in Spanish.

Sam Smith – Stay With Me (2014)

The lyrics to this gospel-tinged, blue-eyed soul single were inspired by a one night stand. The music, according to Jeff Lynn and Tom Petty’s, was “inspired” by their hit “Won’t Back Down.” Petty and Lynn ended up with a 12.5% songwriting credit for “Stay with Me,” although Smith maintains the similarity between the two songs is a coincidence.

Shawn Mendes – Treat You Better (2016)

If you like populating pop songs with real people, consider this: In the Netflix documentary Wonder, Mendes said all the songs in his back catalogue are about his now-girlfriend singer Camila Cabello. When Mendes met Cabello, she was dating singer Austin Mahone. So this “I’d be better than your boyfriend” song ultimately has a happy ending.

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – I Don’t Care (2019)

In terms of personal style, Bieber and Sheeran are opposites, but they have one thing in common: Performing monster songs that are listened to around the world. “I Don’t Care” is the odd couple’s fourth collaboration.

Vance Joy – Riptide (2013)

An unlikely hit, “Riptide” is the only song on Spotify’s top 100 list built around a ukulele riff. It’s also not the only song that references Michelle Pfeiffer. The other is at #62 on Spotify’s chart: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mar’s “Uptown Funk.” Joy’s song came out first though.

Halsey – Without Me (2018)

Halsey’s real first name is “Ashley,” and the singer says that all her songs were written from her alter-ego’s point-of-view until she recorded “Without Me.” She dropped the character to honestly tell the story of her relationship with rapper G-Easy.

Ariana Grande – Thank U Next (2018)

Grande’s “Thank U Next” is a unique take on the breakup song. She thanks her exes for the lessons they taught her. Whether this is passive-aggressive or not is an open question, but during the song, she name drops exes Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Malcolm “Mac Miller” McCormick, and Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson.

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk (2014)

It took Ronson 82 takes to nail the slippery, funked-out guitar line in “Uptown Funk.”

“The plan was for me to record my guitar part by lunch. Lunchtime comes around and I still haven’t nailed the part. We go out and in the stress of finishing this song I fainted in the restaurant. I threw up three times. Jeff had to carry me back to the studio,” Ronson told Yahoo!

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “They Can’t Hold Us” (2011)

Macklemore and Lewis’ first single, “Thrift Shop,” reached the number one spot on Billboard’s chart without the duo being signed to a major label. “They Can’t Hold Us” reached number one a few months later, making them the first duo to ever have back to back number ones with their first single releases.

The Weeknd – The Hills (2015)

A buzzing bass line punctuated by screams give “The Hills” an ominous vibe, as does its subject matter: A hedonistic celebrity destroying his life for thrills. The Hills of the title have a double meaning: The Hollywood Hills and the hills in Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece The Hills Have Eyes.

Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes (2017)

According to Sam Smith, this poor-me tearjerker is autobiographical. When asked in a radio.com interview how to get good at goodbyes, Smith offered the following advice: “The first thing you do is you drink and go out with your friends and actually try to forget about him and then you sit with yourself and grieve.”

French Montana ft. Swae Lee – Unforgettable (2017)

French Montana, aka Karim Kharbouch, moved to the South Bronx from Morocco when he was 13. His family struggled in their new country, but he promised his mother he would reward her sacrifice by doing something unforgettable. Montana told this story in full on his Instagram when he released “Unforgettable.” The video, by the way, was not shot in Morocco; it was filmed in Uganda.

Roddy Ricch – “The Box” (2019)

Compton rapper Roddy Ricch’s unapologetic gangsta throwback “The Box” sold over ten million units, earning Ricch the Recording Industry Association of America’s Diamond Certificate. Ricch created the song’s distinct “squeak” in the studio and the sound went viral on TikTok.

Maroon 5 – Memories (2019)

Like many hit songs, “Memories” lifts its chord progression from Pachelbel’s “Canon In D Major.”

According to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, “We wrote this song to bring people together. It’s an important message for right now.” Mission accomplished, Adam.

Shawn Mendes – Stitches (2015)

This song’s central message — that emotional injuries are as damaging as physical ones — is underscored by the main riff. Mendes and his producers left in the sharp screeching sound of the guitarist switching chords, which sounds like a knife cutting through the air.

The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather (2012)

“Sweater Weather” was released in 2012, but it got a huge boost in streams when it was discovered and made viral by TikToker in 2020. In November 2020 alone, “Sweater Weather” was streamed over five million times on Spotify.

24kGoldn & Iann Dior – Mood (2020)

This pop-rap confection combines throws a ton of disparate influences in its musical blender. It’s got an indie rock style guitar line, trap drums, and a throwback 808 bass line. According to Dior, “We made ‘Mood’ playing Call of Duty and drinking beer.”

Xxxtentacion – Moonlight (2018)

Released after Xxxtentacion’s murder, “Moonlight’s” music box sample gives the song a haunted feel. It’s tied with “Falling Down” for the artist’s third highest-charting song on Billboard’s charts, behind “Sad!” and “Don’t Cry.”

Sia – Cheap Thrills (2016)

This song’s distinct boom-ch-boom-chk beat is influenced by dembro/reggaetone sounds derived from African and Latin rhythms. According to Sia, “Cheap Thrills” was rejected by Rihanna before Sia decided to record it herself, a running theme on this list.

Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U (2021)

Rodrigo’s third single, “Good 4 U” combines a slinky bassline with an ethereal female choir, but it takes off into the stratosphere when the pop/punk chorus drops. Previously known as an actress, Rodrigo was only 17 years old when this song came out.

Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers Licence (2021)

Rodrigo says her teen-angst power ballad “Drivers Licence” was influenced by Taylor Swift and Lorde. It was the debut single from her album Sour.

Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B – Girls Like You (2018)

Famous women featured in the “Girls Like You” video include Gal Gadot, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello, Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Millie Bobby Brown, Mary J. Blige, Elizabeth Banks, and Ashley Graham. The video also features Adam Levine’s baby daughter, Dusty Rose.

Imagine Dragons – Demons (2012)

“Demons” spent 61 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, making Imagine Dragons the first artists to have two songs that spent over 60 weeks on the chart. The video is dedicated to Tyler Robinson, an Imagine Dragons fan who died of cancer at 17 years old.

The Killers – Mr. Brightside (2004)

The Killers’ singer Brandon Flowers says the vocals on “Mr. Brightside” were inspired by punk pioneer Iggy Pop’s delivery on “Sweet 16,” but he didn’t quite hit the mark. “I have a sweeter voice than Iggy, and I was a kid, so it came out the way it did,” Flowers told Rolling Stone.

Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like (2016)

According to “That’s What I Like” co-writer Jonathan Yip, the song’s music was determined by Mars’ dance moves.

“He kept saying, ‘It needs to make me bounce, it needs to make me move a certain way.’ And he would move, and be like that’s it. This is it. He’d be like, ‘I don’t want it to make me move another way,’” Yip told Billboard.

Eminem – Lose Yourself (2002)

Written for the movie 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” is told from the point-of-view of main character B. Rabbit. The song won the 2003 Academy Award for Best original song, but Eminem didn’t perform it at the ceremony, nor was he there to accept the award. He made up for his absence with a performance of “Lose Yourself” at the 2020 Oscars.

Lukas Graham – 7 Years (2015)

“Lukas Graham” is the name of this Danish band and its lead singer. According to Lukas Graham (the man, not the band) breakout hit “7 Years” was inspired by his father. Graham says he wouldn’t have written it if his father hadn’t died in 2012.

Rockstar ft. Roddy Ricch (2020)

The lyrics of “Rockstar” are partly autobiographical. The line “My daughter a G, she saw me kill a ni**a in front of her before the age of two” is based on an encounter at North Carolina Walmart in which DaBaby shot and killed Jaylin Craig. DaBaby says the shooting was in self defence, but a recently released surveillance video casts doubt on his claim.

Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name) (2021)

The imagery in the video for Lil Nas X’s “Montero” seems designed to offend. It combines religious themes with open sexuality. The provocation worked: The video and song were denounced by the governor of South Dakota, conservative commentator Candace Owens, pastor Mark Burns, and many others.

Oasis – Wonderwall (1995)

According to Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, “Wonderwall” is about an imaginary friend. Responding to widespread media speculation that the 90s-defining song was about his wife Meg Mathews, Gallagher told BBC, “How do you tell your Mrs, it’s not about her once she’s read it is? It’s a song about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.”

Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee – Despacito (2017)

Fonsi and Yankee are the only artists to appear twice on Spotify’s Top 100 list for different versions of the same song. Fonsi told Rolling Stone he wrote the song on a Gibson Emmylou Harris signature guitar.

Lauv – I Like Me Better (2017)

This sparse, guitar-and-handclaps chorus of “I Like Me Better” is contrasted with a repeated hook played on what sounds like a synthesiser, but according to Lauv, it’s actually his voice, recorded on the memo app of his iPhone.

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth – See You Again (2015)

The unlikely collaboration between rapper Khalifa and balladeer Puth began when Puth was asked to put together a melody in tribute to actor Paul Walker for the film Furious 7. Khalifa’s part was added later.

Bad Bunny ft. Jhay Cortez – Dákiti (2020)

After Bad Bunny dropped the word on his Instagram page, there was much speculation about what “Dákiti” means. Fans said it meant “empowerment” or “euphoria,” among other things, but it’s actually the name of both a beach and a bar in Bad Bunny’s native Puerto Rico.

Cardi B, Bad Bunny, & J Balvin – I Like It (2018)

The sample for this blend of salsa and trap music came from Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That.” Cardi B and her producers chose it to pay homage to Cardi’s latin heritage.

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop the Feeling (2016)

This infectious, disco-tinged pop song was written for the 2016 movie Trolls. Timberlake was the executive music producer for the soundtrack to the kids’ film too. According to Timberlake, “We thought this was a great opportunity to do a modern disco song. I think that disco is a really under-appreciated genre.”

5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood (2018)

According to 5 Seconds of Summer vocalist/drummer Ashton Irwin, the band was going for sad new wave. “I loved that new wave could be really melancholy, but also up…It had romanticism and anger, but also energy and colour. That’s exactly what we wanted for our new music,” Irwin told Alternative Press.

Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss (2018)

This collaboration came about after a chance meeting at a party between Lipa and Harris. The music owes a heavy debt to 1990s dance music styles and sounds, incorporating elements of house, euro-disco, UK garage, and other retro styles.

Jason Mraz – I’m Yours (2008)

Ukulele Magazine estimates that millions of uke players have learned Mraz’s upbeat hit and that it’s the most-tabbed song for the instrument on the internet, but Mraz doesn’t play a ukulele on the track; it’s a guitar. Mraz says the song was inspired by Hawaiian music and he’s played ukulele on other tracks, but it’s a guitar on “I’m Yours.”

Twenty One Pilots – Heathen (2016)

Although “Heathens” was written for the 2016 movie Suicide Squad, Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph wanted to make something more than a movie tie-in song.

“Even though the themes in the movie inspired the beginning of it, as the lyrics came together, and as the song came together, I realised, like, this was our song,” Joseph said.

Maroon 5 – Sugar (2014)

In the video for “Sugar,” Maroon 5 surprise wedding guests across Los Angeles by showing up uninvited to play the song. Worried that the wedding crashes could ruin someone’s special day, Adam Levine hit on the idea of performing an acoustic version of Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” for each bride and groom with the cameras off. If there were any complaints, they were not made publicly.

BTS – Dynamite (2020)

“Dynamite” is BTS’s first song sung entirely in English, but only one member of the band, RM, is fluent in the language. The rest sung the lyrics phonetically, just like Abba did in the 1970s.

Post Malone – I Fall Apart (2016)

“I Fall Apart” didn’t chart until nearly a year after it was released. The song was never planned as a single, but video of a 2017 performance of the song went viral, gaining nearly 8 million views on Facebook.

Dua Lipa & DaBaby – Levitating (2020)

To fully realise the throwback sound of this nu-disco banger, co-writer Stephen Kozmeniuk decided to use retro instruments to record it. The opening riff is played on a Roland VP-330 vocoder/string machine that came out in 1979.

Billie Eilish – When the Party’s Over (2018)

Although the only sounds on this song are piano, bass, and vocals, recording it was anything but simple. The final version of “When the Party’s Over” has around 100 vocal tracks, and it took Eilish 80 takes to nail the word “don’t” that opens the song.

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive (2012)

To underscore the apocalyptic lyrics of “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons mixed together the toughest aspects of dubstep, EDM, and alternative rock, but it’s not meant to be a depressing song.

“It’s very masculine, powerful-sounding song,” Dragon Dan Reynolds told Mtv, “but generally speaking, it’s a song about having an awakening; kind of waking up one day and deciding to do something new, and see life in a fresh way.”

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