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Looking for love on the Billboard Hot 100: 2017

Love songs made up a third of the songs on the year-end chart, but only one was by a black artist

Where did the love go? Specifically, what happened to popular black love songs?

The year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts are widely regarded as the best measure of America’s most popular songs. We compiled numbers from the Billboard charts for the last five years (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), and for 10-year intervals over the past 50 years (1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009). These charts show a decrease in love songs by black performers. (To see our story on the reasons behind the change, click here.)

How did we define a love song?

Love songs give voice to humanity’s most powerful emotion, that alchemy of need, companionship and commitment that can include, but also transcends, the physical. Songs that only talk about sex are not counted as love songs. Songs that talk about heartbreak, lost love, etc. are counted as love songs. Our definition of love songs includes those dealing with dysfunctional aspects of love: domestic and emotional abuse, cheating, and other unhealthy or harmful situations. We call these songs “tainted love.”

We recognize the subjective and malleable nature of “black music.” Is the salsa remake “I Like It” by Afro-Latino Cardi B an example of “black music”? What about work by Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny or the Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin? Reasonable people can disagree … but Cardi B says “n—a” in the song, so that’s gotta be black music. We include Bruno Mars as making black music because he’s way too fonky.

Songs by white performers that “feature” black artists are not counted as work by black artists on our list. Nor are songs by white artists who perform in a black style (with the non-negotiable exception of Bobby Caldwell). We are analyzing black music. Nothing by Post Malone is black music, even if he has a black artist performing on that particular song. Same for Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake, etc. We do not count Eminem as producing black music because his fan base is overwhelmingly white. Don’t @ me.


Here are the receipts for 2017:

Guide to reading the chart: Black artists are in bold, love songs are all CAPS, and rap songs are in italics. On the year-end Billboard Hot 100 for 2017, there were:

42 songs by black artists.

Of that 42, there was 1 (tainted) LOVE SONG BY A BLACK ARTIST

There were also 32 LOVE SONGS BY OTHER ARTISTS

    1. Shape of You (Ed Sheeran)
    2. Despacito (Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber)
    3. That’s What I Like (Bruno Mars)
    4. Humble. (Kendrick Lamar)
    5. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS (The Chainsmokers & Coldplay)
    6. Bad and Boujee (Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert)

Bruno Mars during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Feb. 12, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS

    1. CLOSER (The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey)
    2. Body Like a Back Road (Sam Hunt)
    3. Believer (Imagine Dragons)
    4. Congratulations (Post Malone feat. Quavo)
    5. SAY YOU WON’T LET GO (James Arthur)
    6. I’m the One (DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne)
    7. XO Tour Llif3 (Lil Uzi Vert)
    8. Mask Off (Future)
    9. Unforgettable (French Montana feat. Swae Lee)
    10. 24K Magic (Bruno Mars)
    11. STAY (Zedd & Alessia Cara)
    12. Wild Thoughts (DJ Khaled feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)
    13. Black Beatles (Rae Sremmurd)
    14. Starboy (The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk)
    15. Location (Khalid)
    16. ATTENTION (Charlie Puth)
    17. There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back (Shawn Mendes)
    18. Bodak Yellow (Cardi B)
    19. Redbone (Childish Gambino)
    20. I DON’T WANNA LIVE FOREVER (Zayn & Taylor Swift)
    21. IT AIN’T ME (Kygo & Selena Gomez)

Khalid performs during the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards pre-show at The Forum on Aug. 27, 2017, in Inglewood, California.

Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images

    1. iSpy (KYLE feat. Lil Yachty)
    2. ISSUES (Julia Michaels)
    3. Scars to Your Beautiful (Alessia Cara)
    4. 1-800-273-8255 (Logic)
    5. Slow Hands (Niall Horan)
    6. LOVE ON THE BRAIN (Rihanna)
    7. I Feel It Coming (The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk)
    8. Bounce Back (Big Sean)
    9. Strip That Down (Liam Payne feat. Quavo)
    10. Fake Love (Drake)
    11. DON’T WANNA KNOW (Maroon 5 feat. Kendrick Lamar)
    12. Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor Swift)
    13. Castle on the Hill (Ed Sheeran)
    14. Bad Things (Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello)
    15. PARIS (The Chainsmokers)
    16. Side to Side (Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj)
    17. Rockabye (Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie)
    18. Feel It Still (Portugal. The Man)
    19. LET ME LOVE YOU (DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber)
    20. Sorry Not Sorry (Demi Lovato)
    21. Bank Account (21 Savage)
    22. Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Justin Timberlake)
    23. Mi Gente (J Balvin & Willy William feat. Beyoncé)
    24. Thunder (Imagine Dragons)
    25. T-Shirt (Migos)
    26. Rake it Up (Yo Gotti feat. Nicki Minaj)
    27. MERCY (Shawn Mendes)
    28. Tunnel Vision (Kodak Black)
    29. Rockstar (Post Malone feat. 21 Savage)
    30. IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW (Brett Young)
    31. Heathens (twenty one pilots)
    32. NOW OR NEVER (Halsey)
    33. Caroline (Aminé)
    34. Rolex (Ayo & Teo)
    35. DNA. (Kendrick Lamar)
    36. JuJu on That Beat (Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall)
    37. Swang (Rae Sremmurd)
    38. Passionfruit (Drake)
    39. Loyalty. (Kendrick Lamar feat. Rihanna)
    40. PRAYING (Kesha)
    41. Goosebumps (Travis Scott)
    42. COLD (Maroon 5 feat. Future)
    43. Broccoli (D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty)
    44. Slide (Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)
    45. WHAT IFS (Kane Brown feat. Lauren Alaina)
    46. Chained to the Rhythm (Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley)
    47. FEELS (Calvin Harris feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean)
    48. ALL TIME LOW (Jon Bellion feat. Travis Mendes)
    49. HURRICANE (Luke Combs)

Travis Scott performs on stage during the MTV EMAs 2017 held at The SSE Arena, Wembley on Nov. 12, 2017, in London.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

  1. TOO GOOD AT GOODBYES (Sam Smith)
  2. Young Dumb and Broke (Khalid)
  3. Magnolia (Playboi Carti)
  4. Love Galore (SZA feat. Travis Scott)
  5. Drowning (A Boogie Wit da Hoodie feat. Kodak Black)
  6. STARVING (Hailee Steinfeld & Grey feat. Zedd)
  7. Both (Gucci Mane feat. Drake)
  8. WHAT ABOUT US (P!nk)
  9. Swalla (Jason DeRulo feat. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign)
  10. Slippery (Migos feat. Gucci Mane)
  11. Sign of the Times (Harry Styles)
  12. WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE (Adele)
  13. MALIBU (Miley Cyrus)
  14. Down (Marian Hill)
  15. NO PROMISES (Cheat Codes feat. Demi Lovato)
  16. TREAT YOU BETTER (Shawn Mendes)
  17. I Get the Bag (Gucci Mane feat. Migos)
  18. SMALL TOWN BOY (Dustin Lynch)
  19. Every Day We Lit (YFN Lucci feat. PnB Rock)
  20. HAVANA (Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug)
  21. WHAT LOVERS DO (Maroon 5 feat. SZA)
  22. DO RE MI (blackbear)
  23. Look At Me! (XXXTentacion)
  24. THE FIGHTER (Keith Urban feat. Carrie Underwood)

Liner Notes

Source: Chart ranking by Billboard. Categorization by race and subject matter by Jesse Washington and Taylor Thomas for The Undefeated.

Jesse Washington is a senior writer for The Undefeated. You can find him giving dudes the bizness on a basketball court near you.