Only two of last year’s biggest hits were written without outside help. Guess who?

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Nope, for once, it’s not Adele.

Some will see this as evidence of a masterclass in A&R.

Others will see it as a sad indictment of the over-manufactured world of modern pop.

MBW has analysed the Top 10-selling tracks across the US, UK and Australia last year to see which of these hits were written solely by their featured artist.

There are 16 tracks featured across the three Top Tens in total, and just two of them were completely self-penned by the person officially performing them.

The first is Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen, the seventh most downloaded song in the US last year, according to Nielsen.

Not only was this track 100% written by Fetty Wap, aka Willie Maxwell, but it was also solely produced by Tony Fadd. Impressive.

The other track amongst the 16 solely written by an artist was Hozier’s Take Me To Church, the No.3 biggest single in the UK in 2015 despite originally being released back in 2013.

It was also the No.4 track in Australia last year, largely owing to its persistent popularity on streaming services such as Spotify.

As for the other 14 tracks – or the other 87.5% for stat fans – they all involved a third-party songwriter who was not a featured artist.

This cross-pollination appears to be more organic in some cases than in others.

Major Lazer’s Lean On, for example, wouldn’t be the song we know today without an instrumental written by Jr Blender, a long-time collaborator and friend – but not a featured performer.

Elsewhere, throughout the below Top 10s, you’ll spot some regular industry songwriting hit machines, from Max Martin to Dr Luke and Jeff Bhasker.

The biggest hit in all three territories was Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ omnipresent Uptown Funk, co-written with Bhasker, Philip Lawrence and others.

It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that this week the music business lost a universally beloved hero in David Bowie.

Here are just a few of the tracks Bowie wrote all on his own (aided by some stellar production and musicians, of course): Starman, Changes, Life On Mars?, The Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Let’s Dance, Modern Love, Absolute Beginners and Sound & Vision.

All massive hits. There were many more like them.

See? It can be done.


US Top 10 (Billboard/Nielsen Digital Songs)

  1. Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars – ‘Uptown Funk’ (Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars + Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence and more)
  2. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran + Amy Wadge)
  3. Wiz Khalifa feat Charlie Puth – See You Again (Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth + DJ Frank E and Andrew Cedar)
  4. Adele – Hello (Adele + Greg Kurstin)
  5. Maroon 5 – Sugar (Maroon 5 + Dr Luke, Cirkut and more)
  6. Walk The Moon – Shut Up And Dance (Walk The Moon + Ben Berger and Ryan McMahon)
  7. Fetty Wap – Trap Queen (Fetty Wap aka Willie Maxwell)
  8. Omi – Cheerleader (Omi + Mark Bradford, Ryan Dillon and more)
  9. The Weeknd – The Hills (The Weeknd + Ahmed Balshe, Emmanuel Nickerson)
  10. Taylor Swift feat Kendrick Lamar – Bad Blood (Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar + Max Martin, Shellback)

UK Top 10 (Official Charts Company)

  1. Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars + Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence and more)
  2. Omi – Cheerleader [Felix Jaehn Remix] (Omi + Mark Bradford, Ryan Dillon and more)
  3. Hozier – Take Me To Church (Hozier)
  4. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do (Ellie Goulding + Max Martin, Savan Kotech and more)
  5. Wiz Khalifa ft Charlie Puth – See You Again (Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth + DJ Frank E and Andrew Cedar)
  6. Adele – Hello (Adele + Greg Kurstin)
  7. Major Lazer ft Mo & DJ Snake – Lean On (Major Lazer, MØ & DJ Snake + Martin Bresso, Jr Blender)
  8. James Bay – Hold Back The River (James Bay + Iain Archer)
  9. Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean (Justin Bieber + Jason Boyd, Mason Levy)
  10. Justin Bieber – Sorry (Justin Bieber + Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter)

Australia Top 10 (ARIA)

  1.  Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars + Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence and more)
  2. Omi – Cheerleader [Felix Jaehn Remix] (Omi + Mark Bradford, Ryan Dillon and more)
  3. Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth – See You Again (Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth + DJ Frank E and Andrew Cedar)
  4. Hozier – Take Me To Church (Hozier)
  5. Adele – Hello (Adele + Greg Kurstin)
  6. Major Lazer Featuring MØ & DJ Snake – Lean On (Major Lazer, MØ & DJ Snake + Martin Bresso)
  7. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do (Ellie Goulding + Max Martin, Savan Kotech and more)
  8. Walk The Moon – Shut Up & Dance (Walk The Moon + Ben Berger and Ryan McMahon)
  9. Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean? (Justin Bieber + Jason Boyd, Mason Levy)
  10. Rihanna, Paul McCartney & Kanye West – FourFiveSeconds (Paul McCartney, Kanye West + Dallas Austin, Kirby Dockery and more)

Music Business Worldwide

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  • john truelove

    Looking at it another way, it’s interesting that every single artist in this list (except, I think, Rihanna) is credited as a songwriter.

    • KingRichard22

      Sometimes, they’re just automatically credited because they & the songwriter have agreed to (or one coerced the other into) “helping each other out..”

  • Nat Newham

    Why should it matter? Many of the stars of the 50’s/60’s had hits written for them. It’s only post-Beatles that we’ve developed this snobbery over acts writing their own tunes!

  • Bruce Hawes

    Adele, Taylor Swift, Mr. consistency, Bruno Mars, and now perhaps Drake are the kind of artists who performs music targeted to all age groups. But what MBW fails to mention is that the songs that it has listed are the least recognized songs in the 21st century, globally. If you are a teenager you would think that these songs were greatest of all time. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” is better recognized and remembered by the general public.

    The problem with the music industry and its artist-signing corporate policies is that it forgot to include artists that is targeted to a 35 and above age group that actually buys music. The age categorized poling consensus clearly shows that “MILLENNIAL” age group generally won’t but music, they prefer to find it and spin it on YouTube for free. And they mostly say that they won’t get a music streaming subscription plan because it disrupts their teenage lifestyles.

    This is not good news for any streaming music service company. And the slanted age groups that the industry is only promoting is bad news for our industry overall.

  • Bruce Hawes

    The industry has already lost 60 percent of its revenue. The industry should be enjoying a 60% increase in sales or revenue above its current corporate valuation. But the industry has closed its doors to a diverse music industry. So you better be 10 years old or a biker to find new music that everyone would want to hear.

    As far as social network presence goes: Chris Brown expressed his frustration about his “Royal” album not getting Adele type of sales he first week it was out. He only sold 180,000 units worldwide at that point. He has 20 million followers on Twitter. But that will only get an artist and its label 1% immediate ROI response in terms of sales. Deal with it. The rest of us do.

    Major music labels are making up for the loss of sales to streaming services with co-branding deals for their label’s products. And labels wonder why artists are going independent? That is because co-branding is good for the corporation but not so much for the rest of the artist-roster, The sponsors boost the corporate profits and valuation in the billions. But the truth is these number really disguise the fact the labels are paying and receiving respectively for each of the other artists that are on their rosters, less royalties. Only a handful are getting paid.

    Outside of Hollywood, the rest of the world is filled with young adults, middle age married couples, and seniors who still love to hear new music by an artist that are not have a tattooed, or is mentally and sexually conflicted. The rest of the world goes to work, they raise their children, and the are trying to keep that spark in their existing relationship. There isn’t any music currently annually released by the major labels for this HUGE audience that will buy music. It is overlooked or forgotten because some hairdresser said this type of music was not relevant to his or her party going lifestyle. Who cares?

    This type of music-consumer will steam a song and move on, They are not very loyal to music artist. But they will Tweet about them because is fantasizing about Chris Brown or a naked Rhianna hoping that he or she is just like they are. Those type of fans will buy a porno flick featuring look a-like to these stars doing the nasty first before they buy their music. They watch the films while the sexy messages that these artist perform are steamed on their music systems on their I-phones or in their home’s computer Internet systems. This is not music lovers marketing. This is porno image marketing. The porno industry isn’t complaining about its sales like the music entertainment industry is. Perhaps the two should do a merger.

  • Don Gallacher

    The idea that an artist can’t be credible unless they write their own songs is a myth, created by a greedy record business, who in the eighties realised that they could get a 25% reduction on the statutory rate payable to songwriters. Gradually it became the norm to only sign artists who wrote their own songs. Added to this, managers who could only get a commission on a publishing deal if their artist wrote the songs. That is not the most important issue here. If highly talented, great songwriters were hired to write for famous artists, that would OK. The tragedy is that the industry insists on third party writers who are for the most part delivering unmemorable pap.

  • Artists paid more if they are credited. That’s why Madonna and other superstars never perform ( even) great music written by writers who don’t want to share the credits.

  • Rokk Lattanzio

    I guess the moral of this story is, if
    you want a smash hit worldwide it pays to collaborate… The first
    time I heard Uptown Funk I noted two things; 1/ It was great to see a
    funk tune with strong old school funk/pop elements back in the
    mainstream. 2/ This song will be a huge hit worldwide.

    Although there is something special about the Bowie’s of the world, those who can compose great timeless hits on their own; these unique artists are rare. There is much to be said for collaborations and writing teams. Lets not forget
    that most of the greatest pop songs of last century were composed by
    collaborators. Having said that it’s also true that the best of the
    best were usually composed by collaborators who worked together on a
    regular basis and over an extended period of time. Lennon &
    McCartney, Goffin & King, Hayes & Porter or the Motown and
    Muscle Shaols writing teams. In most cases these great songwriters
    were more than capable of composing a song solo but they chose to
    collaborate with inspiring consistent and prolific results.

    The flip side of course is the more recent trend to throw three or four songwriters and 4 or 5 producers together in a far less organic way, (often individuals who have never interacted in the same room) and manufacture “hits” for artists who don’t
    compose songs (but often get writing credit). I think much of this is a consequence of the prominence of sequencers and sampling permeating the Dance, Rap and R & B hits of the 80′ and 90’s that has lead to were we find ourselves; an era where anybody with a smartphone can become a songwriter/producer/DJ with little or no musicality. Although this approach
    can produce short term chart success it rarely produces timeless
    classics. Don’t misunderstand I don’t have a problem with technology being utilized in songwriting and production but I still believe the best results are when these technologies are i the hands of those with true musicality and the true tunesmiths of the world… So perhaps it’s no accident that the biggest hit worldwide last year was Uptown Funk. A song with far more musical prowess in it’s DNA than many of the other hits…

  • Rokk Lattanzio

    I guess the moral of this story is, if you want a smash hit worldwide it pays to collaborate… The first time I heard Uptown Funk I noted two things; 1/ It was great to see a funk tune with strong old school funk/pop elements back in the
    mainstream. 2/ This song will be a huge hit worldwide.

    Although there is something special about the Bowie’s of the world, those who can compose great timeless hits on their own; these unique artists are rare. There is much to be said for collaborations and writing teams. Lets not forget
    that most of the greatest pop songs of last century were composed by
    collaborators. Having said that it’s also true that the best of the
    best were usually composed by collaborators who worked together on a
    regular basis and over an extended period of time. Lennon &

    McCartney, Goffin & King, Hayes & Porter or the Stax, Motown and
    Muscle Shoals writing teams. In most cases these great songwriters
    were more than capable of composing a song solo but they chose to
    collaborate with inspiring consistent and prolific results.

    The flip side of course is the more recent trend to throw three or four songwriters and 4 or 5 producers together in a far less organic way, (often individuals who have never interacted in the same room) and manufacture “hits” for artists who don’t

    compose songs (but often get writing credit). I think much of this is a consequence of the prominence of sequencers and sampling permeating the Dance, Rap and R & B hits of the 80′ and 90’s that has logically lead to where we find ourselves; an era where anybody with a smartphone can become a songwriter/producer/DJ, with little or no musicality. Although this approach can produce short term chart success it rarely produces timeless classics. Don’t misunderstand I don’t have a problem with technology being utilized in songwriting and production but I still believe the best results are when these technologies are i the hands of those with true musicality and the true tunesmiths of the world… So perhaps it’s no accident that the biggest hit worldwide last year was Uptown Funk. A song with far more musical prowess in it’s DNA than many of the other hits…