Data-backed analysis about love songs through the decades on Billboard and what’s hot on wedding playlists right now.
NOTE: This article was first published on the Wedding MusicLetter.
This article explores the evolution of love songs and wedding music in the United States, spanning decades from 1960 to August/September 2023. By analyzing search trends, user-generated playlists on Spotify and Apple, and Billboard hits, we uncover the impact of music streaming services, historical events, and beloved artists on the world of romance in music.
Join me on a musical journey through time, from timeless classics to contemporary wedding playlists.
To preface: Who is writing the article? I am Matt Campbell, founder/editor of My Wedding Songs – a website of song suggestions since 2017. The website consists of 600+ playlists by eras, genres, love songs, moments of a wedding ceremony and reception, and much more. I research wedding playlists, and trending songs, and converse with wedding DJs to create the lists. My knowledge is influenced by being a wedding DJ in the nineties, continued relationships with wedding professionals, and real data.
Table of Contents:
- Google Searches
- Impact of Technology
- Influence of Movie/TV Soundtracks
- Billboard Charting Songs
- Wedding Songs from the Top Wedding Playlists
- Future Predictions
- Key Findings
I do realize that there are differences in wedding trends that can vary by region within the United States. Weddings taking place by locals in San Diego, California versus Missoula, Montana versus Atlanta, Georgia will have differing tastes in music.
As of August 2023, a whopping 91.85% of all search queries are conducted on Google across all search engine providers. (Source: StatCounter)
What is the trend of the number of searches on Google for the terms “wedding music” and “wedding songs” from 2004 to September 2023 in the U.S.? See the below graph. (Source: Google Trends)
Two points of interest are noted on the graph. The first arrow on the left marks the opening of Spotify in the U.S. in July 2011. The second arrow on the right marks when TikTok launched in the U.S. in September 2017.
First and foremost, we can deduce people are moving from researching music on Google search to directly on music platforms. The ability to create your own playlists and view others’ curated wedding playlists on streaming services has also had an impact on the lack of need to use Google to create wedding playlists.
You will also see a large drop in searches starting in March 2020. Searches do not return to some normality until April-May 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic did have an impact on the number of couples planning their wedding music on Google.
Impact of Technology
The use of social media and streaming services and their apps have had a HUGE impact on how everyone consumes music – and plays at weddings.
TikTok is having such a large impact on music that in September 2023, TikTok and Billboard are now collaborating on a chart of trending TikTok songs.
The top streaming apps by the number of subscribers (Source: Business of Apps)
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
With so many people discovering music on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, etc., and streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. – the times have changed from discovering music through radio stations and MTV.
Influence of Movie/TV Soundtracks
The profound impact of cinema and television on wedding music necessitates its inclusion in this discussion.
- Twilight Saga has influenced weddings with songs “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and “Turning Page” by Sleeping At Last are still played during wedding ceremonies a decade after release.
- The recently released Barbie movie had many couples requesting “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa and the return of “Barbie Girl” by Aqua into wedding dance sets.
- The TV show The Office had a wedding episode with the processional song being changed to the excitement of Chris Brown’s love dance hit “Forever”. Watch here Even though Brown has an unsavory personal life, this song is incorporated on many wedding day playlists today.
Billboard Charting Songs
Here is a chart showing the percentage of Billboard Hot 100 hits with “Love“, “Marriage”, or “Wedding” in the title from 1960 to 2022. (Source: Chris Dalla Riva of Can’t Get Much Higher)
Here is a chart showing the percentage of Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits with “Love” in the lyrics from 1960 to 2022. (Source: Chris Dalla Riva of Can’t Get Much Higher)
- Love songs have been a staple of popular music for decades. The percentage of Billboard Hot 100 hits with “Love” in the lyrics has been consistently high, even during the sharp decrease in the late 1990s and early 2000s and again in the 2007/2008 timeframe.
- The popularity of love songs has fluctuated over time. There was a small increase in the percentage of Billboard Hot 100 hits with “Love”, “Marriage”, or “Wedding” in the title from 1960 to 1994, followed by a sharp decrease from 1994 to 2000. The decrease continued until 2018 when it starts to increase again.
- The percentage of Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits with “Love” in the lyrics has also fluctuated over time. It stayed pretty steady from 1960 to 1985, then saw a big increase from 1985 to 1993. From 1993 to 2020, there was a gradual decrease, followed by a drop-off from 2020 to 2022.
It is difficult to say definitively why these fluctuations have occurred. However, there are a few possible explanations:
- Changes in social norms and values. The 1960s and 1970s were a time of great social and cultural upheaval, and this may have been reflected in the type of music that was popular at the time. Love songs were still popular, but they were often about the challenges and complexities of love in a changing world.
- The rise of new musical genres. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the rise of new musical genres such as hip hop and grunge. These genres often dealt with different themes than love songs, such as social and political issues.
- The changing nature of the music industry. In recent years, the music industry has changed dramatically due to the rise of streaming and social media. This has made it easier for artists to reach a global audience, and it has also led to a more diverse range of music being popular.
- According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the 1990s was the longest economic expansion in the history of the United States until the 2009-2020 expansion, lasting exactly ten years from March 1991 to March 2001.
- COVID-19 did affect popular hits with love in the lyrics with a massive decrease during and afterwards. One of the causes could be that dating couples decided to break up during the economic shutdown because they could not be together IRL. Then, once COVID-19 confinements ended, people were more about experiencing life than being in relationships.
It is also worth noting that the percentage of Billboard Hot 100 hits with “Love”, “Marriage”, or “Wedding” in the title is just one measure of the popularity of love songs. Other factors, such as the number of streams and downloads that love songs receive, could also be considered.
Overall, the data suggests that love songs have remained a popular genre of music for decades, even though their popularity has fluctuated over time. It will be interesting to see how the popularity of love songs continues to evolve in the future.
Wedding Songs from the Top Wedding Playlists on Spotify and Apple Right Now
(Original Playlist Data Source: Rutger Ansley Rosenborg of the Forest.)
The top 100 songs are sorted by the number of times a song appears on a wedding playlist on Spotify and Apple.
- Mr. Brightside – The Killers – 266100
- Take on Me – a-ha – 256000
- I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas – 253100
- One Kiss – Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa – 250700
- Perfect – Ed Sheeran – 233100
- Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi – 224100
- Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey – 222900
- All of Me – John Legend – 219200
- Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars – 216500
- Don’t Stop Me Now – Remastered 2011 – Queen – 214800
- Dancing Queen – ABBA – 208100
- I’m Yours – Jason Mraz – 206400
- Get Lucky Radio Edit – Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers – 198000
- Say You Won’t Let Go – James Arthur – 195600
- Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) – ABBA – 191600
- Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars – 190500
- Rolling in the Deep – Adele – 188700
- All Star – Smash Mouth – 188100
- Here Comes The Sun – Remastered 2009 – The Beatles – 186100
- Toxic – Britney Spears – 184400
- Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran – 182700
- September – Earth, Wind & Fire – 176100
- We Found Love – Rihanna, Calvin Harris – 175800
- Happy – From “Despicable Me 2” – Pharrell Williams – 173400
- Wonderwall – Oasis – 170300
- Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen – 168900
- This Girl (Kungs Vs. Cookin’ On 3 Burners) – Kungs, Cookin’ On 3 Burners – 167300
- Wannabe – Spice Girls – 166000
- CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! (Original Song From Dreamworks Animation’s “Trolls”) – Justin Timberlake – 163400
- Crazy In Love – Beyoncé, JAY-Z – 160100
- Feel So Close – Radio Edit – Calvin Harris – 158500
- American Boy – Estelle, Kanye West – 158100
- Under Pressure – Remastered 2011 – Queen, David Bowie – 157200
- Dancing in the Moonlight – Toploader – 157100
- I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) – Whitney Houston – 156900
- Island In The Sun – Weezer – 155500
- Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley – 150500
- Adore You – Harry Styles – 150200
- Best Part – Daniel Caesar, H.E.R. – 150200
- Cake By The Ocean – DNCE – 150100
- Mambo No. 5 (a Little Bit of…) – Lou Bega – 148400
- A Thousand Years – Christina Perri – 146900
- What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction – 144200
- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers – 142800
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell – 138600
- I Want You Back – The Jackson 5 – 132200
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida – 130300
- Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper – 127300
- Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus – 123700
- California Gurls – Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg – 123200
- Freed From Desire – Gala – 123000
- …Baby One More Time – Britney Spears – 119800
- Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis Presley – 117400
- If the World Was Ending – JP Saxe, Julia Michaels – 114700
- Believe – Cher – 113800
- Get Busy – Sean Paul – 112100
- Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners – 110600
- Roxanne – The Police – 110200
- Marry You – Bruno Mars – 109300
- U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer – 109100
- Walking On Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves – 104300
- Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond – 103700
- You Are The Reason – Calum Scott – 102500
- Stuck with U – Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber – 102200
- Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John, Kiki Dee – 100400
- Better Together – Jack Johnson – 99800
- You Make My Dreams – Daryl Hall & John Oates – 98700
- Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham! – 98500
- Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) – Beyoncé – 97900
- No One – Alicia Keys – 96000
- Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Single Version – Michael Jackson – 95700
- More Than A Woman – From “Saturday Night Fever” Soundtrack – Bee Gees – 93000
- You’re The One That I Want – From “Grease” – John Travolta, Olivia Newton -John – 92900
- Daddy Cool – Boney M. – 89500
- You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon – 87600
- Don’t You Want Me – 2002 – Remaster – The Human League – 87300
- Rehab – Amy Winehouse – 85800
- Footloose – Kenny Loggins – 83500
- Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith – 82300
- 10,000 Hours – Dan + Shay, Justin Bieber – 82000
- My Girl – The Temptations – 80300
- What Lovers Do – Maroon 5, SZA – 80200
- Hey Jude – Remastered 2015 – The Beatles – 79500
- Twist And Shout – Remastered – The Beatles – 78800
- Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis – 78600
- Lover – Taylor Swift – 77800
- Kiss – Prince – 77400
- At My Worst – Pink Sweat$ – 74500
- Angels – Robbie Williams – 74300
- Valerie – Version Revisited – Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse – 73000
- (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes – 72300
- Let’s Stay Together – Al Green – 71700
- Everywhere – 2017 Remaster – Fleetwood Mac – 71300
- P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – Michael Jackson – 71000
- Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship – 70700
- At Last – Etta James – 70700
- Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry – 70500
- Love On Top – Beyoncé – 67700
- Lucky – Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat – 67500
- Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton – 65700
Spotify Playlist of the Top 100 Wedding Songs
Observations from the list:
Artists who appear on the list most.
- Beyoncé (3 times)
- Beatles (3 times)
- Bruno Mars (3 times)
When were the songs released?
- 1960-1969: 9 songs (9%)
- 1970-1979: 14 songs (14%)
- 1980-1989: 20 songs (20%)
- 1990-1999: 10 songs (10%)
- 2000-2009: 19 songs (19%)
- 2010-2019: 25 songs (25%)
- 2020-2023: 3 songs (3%)
Interesting brand-spanking new songs are not included on user-curated wedding playlists on Apple and Spotify.
However, each decade prior to 2020 is well represented with the most being from 2010-2019.
Note: there are no songs prior to 1960.
What are the most popular music genres?
*Please note that these genre categorizations are somewhat subjective, and some songs may fit into multiple genres.
- Pop: 22% (22/100)
- Rock: 14% (14/100)
- R&B/Pop: 6% (6/100)
- Alternative Rock: 3% (3/100)
- Dance-Pop: 3% (3/100)
- Funk/Disco: 3% (3/100)
Right now artists are having a difficult time making a living by producing music. Something must change in the music industry so that artists are able to take back ownership of royalties from their music. The most jarring fact is musicians with one million or more monthly streams—roughly 1,723 or 0.4%—can rely solely on streaming income. (Source)
As we all know, youths believe that if something is not shared on social media it never happens. I think there will be a widespread growth of couples who will be able to capture their weddings via live streams on social media. Then, they will utilize AI tools to segment the videos into moments for sharing on social media at the celebrations. This could be done by the couple themselves or as a service.
The use of AI technology in creating playlists will only increase and improve. In the future, you will have the ability to input your favorite music into an AI tool, connect your friends’ already curated playlists into the AI tool, and output a music playlist that will not only satisfy the couple’s wants but also their guests!
If you look at the trending songs on streaming services, there has been an increase in Latin flavor, Afrobeats, K-pop hits, and other non-English songs in the past few years. This will only increase. Wedding music playlists in the United States will only continue to be more culturally diversified.
Lastly, you will see a massive increase in the use of AI by the general public to create their own music. This will include creating custom wedding songs that tell their story for formal dances, such as the first dance and parent dances, and for creating love songs. This could be very damaging for custom song services such as Songfinch and Songlorious. Instead, we will see growth in AI music-creating websites like TuneFlow and Boomy.
To wrap things up – The key findings from the report on the evolution of love songs and wedding music in the United States, spanning from 1960 to August/September 2023, are as follows:
- Google Searches:
- A significant shift from using Google to search for wedding music has occurred over the years, with people now preferring to directly access music platforms like Spotify and Apple to create and discover wedding playlists.
- The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the number of couples planning their wedding music, with a noticeable drop in searches in March 2020, gradually returning to normal in April-May 2021.
- Impact of Technology:
- The advent of social media and streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube has drastically changed how people consume music.
- TikTok’s influence on music is so substantial that TikTok and Billboard have collaborated on a chart for trending TikTok songs.
- Influence of Movie/TV Soundtracks:
- Cinema and television have significantly influenced wedding music, with songs from movies and TV shows becoming popular choices for wedding ceremonies and receptions.
- Billboard Charting Love Songs:
- Analysis of Billboard data shows the number of number-one hits with love in the lyrics has hovered around 60 percent.
- Factors influencing these trends include shifts in musical genres, the rise of music videos, and the diversification of music themes.
- Wedding Songs from Top Playlists:
- The report lists the top wedding songs from Spotify and Apple playlists, ranked by the number of times they appear on these playlists.
- Artists such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, and Stevie Wonder appear multiple times on the list.
- The majority of songs are from all decades starting in 1960. This tells us that people don’t just like one specific genre. They like multiple music genres.
- Most Popular Music Genres:
- The report categorizes the songs on the wedding playlists into genres. The most popular genres include Pop/Rock, R&B/Pop, and Pop, with a variety of others also represented.
These findings offer insights into how technology, cultural shifts, and media influence have shaped the landscape of love songs and wedding music in the United States over the decades, highlighting the evolving preferences of couples in choosing their wedding soundtrack.