Louisvillians and residents of Johor Bahru, Malaysia, have a similar taste in music.
That’s according to a project by the BBC that looks into which songs people try to identify on their smartphones. The BBC teamed up with Shazam, which makes an app that allows listeners to figure out the name of the song and artist they’re hearing.
Johor Bahru, about 9,600 miles away, on the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, shares four of its top 10 songs with Louisville, including Adele’s “Hello,” the most-searched song across the globe. Of the Louisville-Johor Bahru relationship, the project explains: “We searched Shazam’s data for distant towns with a similar taste in music. This is the furthest place, on a different continent, with the highest number of matches for top-10 songs.”
According to the BCC, Adele’s song was in the top 10 of more than half of the 4,900 cities the news agency included in the survey.
“Hello” ranked in the top 10 in Louisville and Lexington, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, Mumbai and Beijing. It ranked in the top 10 on all permanently inhabited continents. In small European towns such as Emden, Germany. And big African cities such as Lagos, Nigeria. It ranked near the top in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, and Teheran, Iran. In Gaza and in Jerusalem.
Appeal and marketing prowess
Adele’s success is the result of her talent and her label’s marketing muscle, said Diane Pecknold, associate professor in women’s and gender studies at the University of Louisville.
A voice can be very appealing, and Adele “has a beautiful, compelling voice,” Pecknold said. “But there are undoubtedly other singers with stunning voices around the world who we will never hear.”
Pecknold said she loves Adele’s song, but doubts that it would enjoy the same success if the singer had been Nigerian or if she had signed with a small, independent music label, or if the song had not been produced as a mainstream, Western pop song.
Western music labels have simply been better at exporting their product than others, Pecknold said.
Creating a global star such as Adele requires the “unpredictable convergence of talent … and the ability to project that talent.”
Musical twin towns
The BBC website allows users to find their “musical twin towns” or “far-flung places with similar tastes in pop.”
“So Nuuk in Greenland — the world’s northernmost capital — can be partnered with Surabaya, Indonesia, where the average temperature is above 23C,” the news agency wrote. “The residents of Sulaymaniyah in Iraq have kindred spirits 9,100 miles away in Victoria, Chile while Bournemouth (England) shares its musical DNA with Abu Dhabi, thanks to a shared love of London-based hip-hop trio WSTRN and their underground smash ‘In2.’”
Another of Louisville’s musical twin cities — and much closer than Johor Bahru —is New York City, which shared with Louisville 7 of its top 10 songs. With Lexington, Louisville shared “only” five songs, though residents of both cities searched for (or listened to) Alessia Cara’s “Here” more than any other song.
Pecknold said that some of the overlap between cities can be easily explained: A Spanish-speaking song at the top of the charts in Casablanca, Morocco, is not so surprising when one considers Morocco’s proximity to Spain and the regions’ centuries of entanglements. Border countries also share many TV shows and radio stations, so the presence of English-speaking songs at the top of Mexico’s charts is as unsurprising as the presence of a French song at the top of the German charts.
Which song catches on where, however, is much more difficult to predict.
Check out Louisville’s top 10:
Other top songs around the region and globe:
- Indianapolis: Hide Away by Daya.
- Cincinnati: California by Colonel Young feat. T.I., Young Dolph & Ricco Barrino.
- Riyadh: Blach, Blach by Jamila.
- Moscow: Don’t Be So Shy by Jimany.
- Luanda, Angola: Get Down by Dj Mshega ft Busi N.
- Beijing: Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith.
- Casablanca: Ay Vamos by J. Balvin.
- Mexico City: Reality by Lost Frequencies feat. Janieck Devy.
- Rio de Janeiro: Photograph by Ed Sheeran.
- Mumbai: Baaki Baatein Peene Bad by Arjun Kanungo feat. Badshah.
- Koror, Palau: I See Fire by Addal feat. Jasmine Thompson.
- Dublin: Be Right There by Diplo & Sleepy Tom.
- Cologne, Germany: Catch & Release (Deepend Remix) by Matt Simons.