The top 40 is dead, long live the top 43,000.

Don’t panic – as grave and confusing as that sentence sounds, your favorite pop music isn’t actually dying. It is, however, becoming less significant.

The way the world consumes popular music has been under attack since the onslaught of the pandemic. It’s become increasingly difficult to judge what the rest of the world is listening to, and data suggests that our limited exposure to social gatherings, nightlife, or even a daily commute has rendered us partially blind to what record labels, radio stations, and promoters want to endorse. So where is everyone supposed to find music without public influence driving what they’re listening to?

Well, according to Spotify’s most recent quarterly financial reports, the top 90% of streams on it’s platform don’t come from the top 40 charts like they once did long ago. They don’t come from the top 100 charts either. Or even the top 1000. 43,000 artists (not songs, but artists) are responsible for the top 90% of streams on Spotify.

If you’re struggling to understand why 43,000 is such a significant number in our current streaming era, it’s important to realize how much of a jump that number has made in such a short amount of time. Flashback to 2019 and you’d find that 30,000 artists made up the top 90% of streams on Spotify. That means these most recent results reflect a increase of 43% over just a few short months. In other words, the data would suggest that this year people are becoming more self-sufficient in their ability to discover a wider array of artists.

Why would people change their listening habits so quickly and drastically, you ask? One could make a pretty strong argument that the world’s prolonged shutdown is intensifying everyone’s need and ability to independently find new music on their own. The weight of mainstream media outlets in the music industry is therefore dissipating as listeners are clearly turning to suggestions from their friends and/or personalized playlists in order to drive an increased level of artist discovery.

So with such a significant shift in listening habits, who’s winning that 43,000-person race? The short answer is Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. “WAP” is a certified banger. The long answer however, is that for the first time since the pandemic started, the most exciting music is coming from the brave artists whose songs make us feel like life is normal again.

What does it mean to write a song about a life in a normal world? It means creating new summer bops like R3HAB’s remix of Wafia’s “Good Things” to make it sound like nightlife still exists. It means soundtracking nature’s unfaltering beauty with mild and mellow songs like Gayngs “Appeal 2 U part 1” or Faye Webster’s “Better Distractions“. It means raising your heart-rate with an exhilarating new song for your gym playlist like SG Lewis’s “Impact“, even if your gym is closed and your last workout was a class orchestrated through a Zoom call. Above all, it means leaving any songs about a pandemic at the door, because as interesting as 2020’s may be, most of us don’t need music to remind us about how difficult life has been over the past six months.

Are we back to normal? Of course not. The last three months haven’t been completely devoid of 2020’s chaos. Quite the opposite. But why not give ourselves reason to celebrate literally anything, which in this case would be the data-driven death of an outdated top 40 charting system. That being said, the following playlist uncoincidentally contains 40 of my favorite songs released over the past three months. As always, the songs are in no particular order with a restriction of only one song per artist.

The concept of time may seem a bit warped this year, but three months ago (which may seem like three years ago to some), the music world looked like it might collapse in on itself. Revisit this interesting sliver of time and the best music it had to offer: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2020: Q2 (April-June)

Remember what a summer playlist sounded like before the world was locked down? I don’t either. Let’s refresh our memory by jumping back to the best songs the third quarter had to offer in 2019: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2019: Q3 (July-September)