People try to understand the weather by watching precipitation, cloud cover, and storm systems move across a doppler radar map like this one from the National Weather Service:
People also decide what to listen to every day.
What if we were to view the biggest recording artists like weather systems? Could we observe “Hurricane Lorde” and other musical phenomena sweep across the country, state by state?
To create an interactive map of artists with chart-topping songs as they break out across the country, Paul Lamere, director of developer platform for The Echo Nest at Spotify, identified the most popular artist on Spotify in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, for every day of the year. (Sorry, DC — you’re in the state counts, but not on the maps, because you’re too small.)
As usual, we didn’t know what we’d find in the data until we looked.
Now that we have looked, it’s clear that the top recording artists are not unlike the weather, in the sense that they appear to spread by region sometimes. You can watch the action by pressing the Play button at the top left of the maps, or click through each day of popular music for all of the states. However, unlike a weather system, a single artist sometimes appears out of nowhere to blanket nearly the whole country overnight, as you’ll see below.
Following are some stats and trends of possible interest that we’ve gleaned from the data so that you don’t have to click through all of the pages unless you want to. Note that you can play the music in all of these maps. To hear any artist, just click on their state. In some cases, their top song in one state differs from their top song in another state:
Lorde Swoops All Over The Map For Four Months
On the first day of the year, Drake held down the country’s southern regions, coast to coast. Northern states preferred Lorde, Eminem, or Katy Perry. However, the rest of the month mostly belonged to Lorde, who spread mostly from the Northwest, gradually taking over most of the country.
Storm System Bruno Mars
On February 3, the day after he rocked the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Bruno Mars swept the entire map (except for Rhode Island, which kept listening most to Lorde). The next day, Lorde regained her Northwestern stronghold, with areas of Katy Perry making inroads in the midwest and Maine, and Drake making a strong comeback in the southeast. But Bruno Mars’ “Superbowl Bump” made him the top artist in various states across the country in the following days (see also: The Bonnaroo Bump).
Throughout the rest of February, though, Lorde’s back on top throughout most of the country outside of the Drake-loving Southeast.
February 26th is an interesting day, with lots of disagreement among the states about what to listen to the most. Lorde held down 26 states, Beck 15, and Schoolboy Q 8, followed by Luke Bryan hanging onto North Dakota, Drake holing up in Florida.
A Great Swath of Pharrell Williams
Lorde’s dominance continued unabated in most places until the appearance of Pharrell Williams on March 3 in California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey (with Luke Bryan still clinging onto North Dakota).
Hurricane Pharrell Williams had spread to 47 of the 50 states by March 6, before a more varied mix of musical weather moved in.
On March 11, Imagine Dragons appeared as the most popular artist in Idaho — a state it would hold onto for most of the next few weeks, even as other states oscillated between Katy Perry, Lorde, Drake, Eminem, and in Louisiana, Kevin Gates.
During that span of time, she lacked the majority of states for only about a week’s worth of time, due to Foster The People taking top honors on March 18–19 and Katy Perry claiming the most states on March 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30, and April 5.
May brought a flowering of new musical weather systems emerging throughout various regions of the country. Then, on May 19, a Coldplay front appeared in 23 states. Four days later, Iggy Azalea broke out all over the eastern seaboard.
Ed Sheeran Tops Charts in All 50 States
However, Iggy Azalea is still the most popular in the most states. (Remember, some of these states are not as populous; this is about being the most popular in each state regardless of its population, not overall popularity nationwide or even distinctive listening per state.)
Here’s the most popular artist from every state on August 25, when she was the most popular artist, but only in in ten states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, plus New Mexico:
You can get started where we left off with our observations, or start from the beginning of 2014. Click through slide by slide, or press the Play button at the top left to watch time unfold at one second per day.
There’s plenty of “weather” to explore — and, again, you can click any state to hear its favorite song.