Are There "Good" Song Years?


Do worship songs, like wines, enjoy good years? Do they suffer through bad years?

Every week I like to look at the Top 20 songs downloaded in different countries or regions from CCLI’s SongSelect application. It’s an interesting pursuit, and sometimes it offers unique insight. Some things remain the same week over week (anyone care to guess how long “10,000 Reasons” has been the #1 download in the US?).

And some things change in dramatic and inexplicable ways.

This week I focused on SongSelect downloads from the US, and I decided to compare songs by their copyright year. When I did this an interesting (and completely unscientific) pattern emerged: different years are better or worse at bearing crops of popular songs, not unlike the way different years produce different crops of wines.

The list from the US looked like this (bear in mind that this is just one week’s snapshot—every week varies):

  1. 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
  2. This Is Amazing Grace
  3. Lord I Need You
  4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
  5. How Great Is Our God
  6. Cornerstone
  7. One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)
  8. Our God
  9. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  10. Holy Spirit
  11. Revelation Song
  12. Mighty to Save
  13. Forever Reign
  14. Blessed Be Your Name
  15. Jesus Loves Me
  16. Here I Am to Worship
  17. How He Loves
  18. In Christ Alone
  19. The Stand
  20. How Great Thou Art

Just for grins I arranged these songs by their initial copyright date, and this is what I discovered:

  • Great Songs Never Die: The oldest song on the list is “How Great Thou Art,” by Stuart Wesley Keene Hine and circa 1949 (this year may not have produced a bumper crop of current Top 20 songs, but the one it did produce has certainly got some staying power)
  • Good Years Come In Groups: 2004, 2005 and 2006 each contributed 2 songs to the current Top 20
  • The Millenium Was OK: the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 all produced at least one song still in the Song Select Top 20 today (“Blessed Be Your Name,” “Here I Am to Worship,” and “In Christ Alone”)
  • Followed By A Short Drought: after this string from 2000 through 2002, the year 2003 produced zero songs still in this week’s Top 20 (would we call it a “bad song year”?)
  • And Then A GREAT YEAR Comes Along: 2011 was a fantastic year for worship songs, producing 4 of the Top 20 (“10,000 Reasons,” “Lord I Need You,” “Cornerstone,” and “Holy Spirit”)
  • When “Great” Happens, It Happens Globally: This success from 2001 was a worldwide phenomenon, with these 4 songs having been translated, all together, 14 times for Song Select user charts
  • Like Wines, Great Songs Need a Little Time: Only one of these songs was from 2014, and that was Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Loves Me

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not a lot of science behind this short stroll, and that there’s not a lot of practical application for the data, either. I wouldn’t want to build any forecasts off one week’s worth of SongSelect data. Great worship songs, after all, can’t always be cultivated like great wines.

But if you live for worship music and are also intrigued by numbers, it’s sure an interesting stroll.


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