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The Beat Goes Static: A Tempo Analysis of U.S. Billboard Hot 100 #1 Songs from 1955—2015

The Billboard Hot 100 is a rich source of information for tracking musical trends. Using available data analysis tools, we devised a method to accurately track tempo throughout a song. In this paper we demonstrate through an analysis of all number one songs from the chart that tempo variation within a song has declined over a 60-year period. In the 5-year span from 1955–1959, the average standard deviation of tempo was 5.01 beats per minute, or about 4.8%. Conversely, from 2010–2014, the average standard deviation was less than 1 beat per minute, or only about 0.85% of the average tempo.

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