In Kuala Lumpur, it’s Camila Cabello's “Havana.” In Khartoum, it’s Ed Sheeran’s lovesick “Shape of You.” In much of the United States, SoundCloud rappers dominate — it’s Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” in Knoxville, but in Albany, it’s 6IX9INE’s “Gummo.”
Those are just a few hits gleaned from a remarkable interactive map that shows the most popular song in 3,000 cities across the world.
The distribution of hits paints a picture of a complex global music industry that is at turns intuitive and surprising. Some hits are regional, but others paint across great sections of the map, or pop up in unexpected places. Sheeran commands Western Europe — as well as Sudan and Mongolia — with the exception of Spain and France, where listeners respectively prefer the Puerto Rican songwriter Luis Fonsi and French rapper Kalash.
The top song in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is still South Korean rapper Psy’s 2012 “Gangnam Style.” (The map is based on data gleaned from YouTube, so it’s possible that it doesn’t reflect tastes in countries where YouTube isn’t a major source of music, or that don’t have rights to certain songs.) In Seoul, where the Gangnam District namesake Gangnam District is located, listeners have moved on to “Peek-A-Boo,” by South Korean pop group Red Velvet. There are also a few blanks — data isn’t available in China, for instance, where YouTube is banned, or in Cuba or North Korea.
The map was built by The Pudding, a site that wrangles large datasets into interactive visual essays. The site’s previous efforts have included a breakdown of 2,000 screenplays by the age and gender of speaking parts, and an analysis of vocabulary sizes in hip hop.