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Looking for love on the Billboard Hot 100: 2015

Love songs make up more than a third of the year-end chart, but only five are by black artists

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 2015:

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 2015, there were:

37 songs by black artists.

Of that 37, there were five LOVE SONGS BY BLACK ARTISTS


  1. Uptown Funk! (Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars)
  2. THINKING OUT LOUD (Ed Sheeran)
  3. See You Again (Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth)
  4. TRAP QUEEN (Fetty Wap)
  5. SUGAR (Maroon 5)
  7. Blank Space (Taylor Swift)
  8. Watch Me (Silento)
  9. EARNED IT (Fifty Shades of Grey) (The Weeknd)
  10. The Hills The Weeknd

    OMI performs during the 16th Latin Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas.

    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for LARAS

  12. Can’t Feel My Face (The Weeknd)
  13. LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO (Elle Goulding)
  14. TAKE ME TO CHURCH (Hozier)
  15. BAD BLOOD (Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar)
  16. LEAN ON (Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MØ)
  17. Want To Want Me (Jason Derulo)
  18. Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
  19. WHERE ARE U NOW (Skrillex & Diplo with Justin Bieber)
  20. Fight Song (Rachel Platten)
  21. 679 (Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz)
  22. Lips Are Movin (Meghan Trainor)
  23. Worth It (Fifth Harmony feat. Kid Ink)
  24. Post To Be (Omarion feat. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko)
  25. HONEY, I’M GOOD (Andy Grammer)
  26. I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE (Sam Smith)
  27. Good For You (Selena Gomez feat. A$AP Rocky)
  28. All About That Bass (Meghan Trainor)
  29. STYLE (Taylor Swift)
  30. Hotline Bling (Drake)
  31. Hey Mama (David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack)
  32. G.D.F.R. (Flo Rida feat. Sage tha Gemini & Lookaz)
  33. What Do You Mean? (Justin Bieber)
  34. PHOTOGRAPH (Ed Sheeran)
  35. HELLO (Adele)
  36. STITCHES (Shawn Mendes)
  37. Talking Body (Tove Lo)
  38. JEALOUS (Nick Jonas)
  39. Time of Our Lives (Pitbull & Ne-Yo)
  40. LOCKED AWAY (R. City feat. Adam Levine)
  41. Somebody (Natalie La Rose feat. Jeremih)
  42. FourFiveSeconds (Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney)
  43. Centuries (Fall Out Boy)
  44. My Way (Fetty Wap feat. Monty)
  45. Take Your Time (Sam Hunt)
  46. Animals (Maroon 5)

    Fetty Wap performs onstage during Z100’s Jingle Ball 2015 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 11, 2015, in New York.

    Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

  47. I Don’t F— With You (Big Sean feat. E-40)
  48. B—- Better Have My Money (Rihanna)
  49. Flex (Rich Homie Quan)
  50. Nasty Freestyle (T-Wayne)
  51. Only (Nicki Minaj feat. Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown)
  53. Cool for the Summer (Demi Lovato)
  54. Renegades (X Ambassadors)
  55. I Don’t Mind (Usher feat. Juicy J)
  56. Love Me Harder (Ariana Grande & The Weeknd)
  57. WILDEST DREAMS (Taylor Swift)
  58. Stay With Me (Sam Smith)
  59. You Know You Like It (DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge)
  60. UMA THURMAN (Fall Out Boy)
  61. 7/11 (Beyonce)
  63. Girl Crush (Little Big Town)
  64. Slow Motion (Trey Songz)
  65. DRAG ME DOWN (One Direction)
  66. Truffle Butter (Nicki Minaj feat. Drake & Lil Wayne)
  67. ONE LAST TIME (Ariana Grande)
  68. CHAINS (Nick Jonas)
  69. ALL EYES ON YOU (Meek Mill feat. Chris Brown & Nicki Minaj)
  70. No Type (Rae Sremmurd)
  71. RIPTIDE (Vance Joy)
  72. Classic Man (Jidenna feat. Roman GianArthur)
  73. Ex’s and Oh’s (Elle King)
  74. DEAR FUTURE HUSBAND (Meghan Trainor)
  75. Marvin Gaye (Charlie Puth feat. Meghan Trainor)
  76. LIKE I’M GONNA LOSE YOU (Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend)
  77. Habits (Stay High) (Tove Lo)
  78. The Hanging Tree (James Newton Howard feat. Jennifer Lawrence)
  79. CoCo (O.T. Genasis)
  80. Bang Bang (Jessie J., Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj)
  81. LAY ME DOWN (Sam Smith)
  82. Tuesday (i LoveMakonnen feat. Drake)

    Meek Mill performs during the Bacardi house party on Nov. 20, 2015, in Atlanta.

    Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Bacardi

  83. Hit The Quan (iLoveMemphis)
  84. Downtown (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Caz)
  85. House Party (Sam Hunt)
  86. Ayo (Chris Brown & Tyga)
  87. Kick The Dust Up (Luke Bryan)
  88. Blessings (Big Sean feat. Drake)
  89. BUDAPEST (George Ezra)
  90. Chandelier (Sia)
  91. HEARTBEAT SONG (Kelly Clarkson)
  92. DON’T (Ed Sheeran)
  93. GHOST (Ella Henderson)
  94. Here (Alessia Cara)
  95. WAVES (Mr. Probz)
  96. El Perdon (Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias)
  97. She Knows (Ne-Yo feat. Juicy J)
  98. NIGHT CHANGES (One Direction)
  99. Back To Back (Drake)
  100. HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE (Calvin Harris & Disciples)

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 journalist and documentary filmmaker. He still gets buckets.