Listen up! Shazam shares our 2013 stats, and makes some bold 2014 predictions

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Action Bronson, an enigmatic sous chef and rapper from Queens, is one of Shazam's picks to rise to the top in 2014. (Photo: Sidney Bernstein)

Shazam, the magical app that tells you what music is playing, released a set of predictions for breakthrough artists in 2014. The Shazam music team created a pool of potential artists based on their tastes, and then used quantitative data to rank them, creating a list of artists you may not know now, but who they believe will achieve fame in the next year.

But before we drive into some 2014 predictions, we have to look back on 2013.

The most Shazamed songs

You probably don’t remember 2013 by the songs you went around Shazaming, but the platform sure does. All of the most Shazamed songs are pretty obvious; most of them also fall in the biggest hits of summer category – like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (17.8 million Shazams worldwide) and Lorde’s “Royals” (9.4 million).

Of course, you can’t talk about breakout music stars of 2013 without mentioning Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Hits “Thrift Shop” (13.6 million), “Can’t Hold Us” (11.9 million), and “Same Love” (3 million – but that’s the U.S. only) saw a lot of Shazam love.

shazamSome surprises – by the numbers

But there were also a few much-Shazamed songs that could surprise:

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” was Shazamed 14.7 million times, even though it was only relatively recent released (that makes it the second most Shazamed song this year).

Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” was Shazamed 11.8 million times … and I had to think pretty hard for a second here to remember that song at all.

Passenger’s “Let Her Go” was Shazamed 9.2 million times (which I am uncertain I’ve heard … but hey, I guess that confusion is exactly why people Shazam.)

Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” was Shazamed 3.2 million times … but only in the U.S. It didn’t break the top 10 for the rest of the world. Apparently everyone else knows Imagine Dragons when they hear it, or don’t care for the band. 

International difference of opinion

There were a handful of differences between what U.S. and international listeners were Shazaming. Avicii and Daft Punk had more users the globe-over Shazaming, while Calvin Harris and Drake proved more popular stateside than elsewhere. The universal Shazam-worthy subjects? Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Justin Timberlake fell in the number one and number nine spots, respectively, on the U.S. and global lists of most-Shazamed artists.

TV shows that inspire us to Shazam

Obviously, music award shows get us Shazaming, but the app was able to track certain TV episodes to breakout hits. For instance, Breaking Bad got 43,000 people to Shazam Bad Finger’s “Baby Blue,” and The Walking Dead caused 300,000 to tag Ben Howard’s “Oats in the Water.”

Other shows that made us whip out our phones include Grey’s Anatomy, Family Guy (really?), Glee (obviously), and Sons of Anarchy.

So … what about next year?

Action Bronson, a Wu-Tang influenced rapper and former chef from Queens, is one of the artists to watch — and anyone who heard his mixtape “Rare Chandeliers” or his EP “Saab Stories” understands why he’s poised to break out. Rappers Kid Ink and Rich Homie Quan also made the list, as did singer August Alsina, whose track “I Luv This Shit” made the list of Most Shazamed Tracks in 2013. (As you can tell, Shazam is trying to make the verb “shazamed” happen and I’m OK with it.) Enigmatic pop singer Banks is cited as one to watch, as is London soul singer Sam Smith. Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale’s second career as a country star is looking auspicious, and Shazam thinks Dutch DJ Martin Garrix is going to have a big 2014.

Just to make things convenient, you can listen in right here. 

These artists have reason to believe in the power of Shazam’s predictions — the company correctly used data analyses to anoint Lana del Ray, A$AP Rocky, and Haim as artists to watch before they broke through. The company also correctly predicted that Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s ubiquitous “Blurred Lines” would qualify as “Sounds of Summer.”

Of course, it’s impossible to predict everything that will happen in music, and while Shazam has a strong track record, it’s not perfect. Shazam didn’t quite predict the expansive success of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who had three of the most Shazamed songs in 2013, nor did it see Lorde’s “Royals” coming. Plus, the algorithm is basically just what’s getting tagged, what’s trending, and what the editors like — it’s not some precise formula. So while the music discovery tool can use its data as a prediction engine for artists already on their way up, it certainly can’t predict everything.

Shazam is a remarkable app, and it will be interesting to see how many of its predicted stars rise in 2014. As the service continues to grow in popularity and its data analysis becomes more sophisticated, I’m eager to see whether the company will get even more accurate at predicting who will blow up as a musician.

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