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Hitsville, by the Numbers 

Wednesday, Dec 24 2008
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You don't need a half-wit music critic to tell you it's been a remarkable year for America, one historians will be discussing and researching for centuries to come.

War, financial collapse, politics, technology: All have been dinner-table topics for many Americans. Racial barriers in 2008 were demolished by a Midwestern black man, while gender barriers were hurdled by an Arkansan and an Alaskan.

Democracy has a few awesome new dance moves rolling into the Obama presidency, and it'll be a feast for the wonks to break 'em down. It's for those wonks that we've done some number-crunching.

When future pointy-headed academics are scouring old data in order to better understand America in late 2008, might it not be instructive to offer a snapshot of a different sort, one that attempts to understand the People and their mindset from a quasistatistical and/or an analytical ethnomusicosociological perspective?

Specifically, let'saddress the population in a head/heart space it cares deeply about: Through its music. How does it sing and dance? Who does this singing? Who best moves our collective booty and tugs our heartstrings?

I've been crunching Billboard album and singles chart data in order to better understand Who We Are in 2008. I've compiled a spreadsheet with information on every artist who cracked the Top 10 album chart and the Hot 100 singles chart in 2008. I've researched each artist and tallied the lot of them based on a number of factors, including gender, ethnicity, nationality, state of origin (if American), and record label. I've then analyzed these numbers.

What follows are some conclusions. (Note to Nate Silver: I'm a lowly music journalist who can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and use a calculator — but not much else. Let this serve as a springboard. Margin of error: 4 percent. The results reflect chart positions up to and including the Dec. 6 issue of Billboard.)

Download the chart to check out the stats.

About The Author

Randall Roberts

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