Top 10 Attributes that Make Songs Radio Unfriendly

Note that none of these totally rules a song out of being a hit but they reduce it's chances. Feel free to add any characteristics I missed but please only add objective features not things like a song being good or bad. Also only add something that relates to the song itself not anything like it isn't promoted.

The Top Ten

1 Overly Complex Structure

This and several other reasons is why half of all Phil Collins era Genesis songs is more popular than Supper's Ready.

For example a changing time signature or other things that make it hard for an untrained ear to follow.

This. Genesis' "Supper's Ready" is an awesome song, yet it's obvious why it gets no airplay...

What about no structure at all?

2 Unusual Melody

I have tried to find a song that violates every single item on this list (that's phsically impossible because of foreign language/no vocals) but I have to be satisfied with Thy Catafalque - Vashegyek that has 8 of the 10 features listed (it has vocals and does not have controversial lyrics, other than that everything here is true for it)

Generally makes the song less catchy. More important than the lyrics in general.

That is probably why you seldom listen to radio hits. To be fair though often I do find weird examples I rarely find rap songs catchy but they are obviously often huge hits.

3 Unconventional Vocals

For example Death Growls.

4 Heavy Instrumentals

In 1973 - Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part 2 by King Crimson
In 1984 - The Call of Ktulu by Metallica
In 1999 - The Dance of Eternity by Dream Theater
In 2020 - ? probably some post-progressive deathcore jazz fusion electronic song.

Probably self explanatory not many people have the will to listen to really heavy music.

5 Lack of Vocals

A lot of people like to sing along to songs or listen for the lyrics which isn't possible here.

I like Instrumentals

6 Very Long

Which song is the most radio friendly? Karn Evil 9 by ELP, Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull, Lizard by King Crimson, or Baby by Justin Bieber?

I think a better question would have been which one doesn't belong? We should all know that.

Tool last year managed to get the first song over 10 minutes to chart on the hot 100. In general hit songs are generally much shorter of course.

Yes but November Rain is still the longest song to reach the top 10. The previous record was actually David Bowie in 2016 though.

Normally long songs will have a Radio Edit, in which they are shortened so they can make radio airwaves.

True but I would think you can only shorten it so much and still have it make sense.

7 In a Foreign Language

Obviously different around the world but many people are reluctant to listen to music in a language they can't speak. Those that do become hits in a foreign market seem to primarily be gimmicky songs that people don't care about the lyrics.

except Despacito

None of the attributes here completely rule a song out of being a hit.

8 Lack of a Chorus

Similar to overly complex structure this makes it harder to follow for some people.

Judging from the amount of repetition I hear on the radio sometimes I get the feeling that those songs don't have VERSES

9 Controversial Lyrics

Varies overtime and place though. Songs that are completely normal in Sweden might be controversial in US and would be more so in say Iran.

10 Swearing

I kind of considered this under controversial lyrics. However swearing is not controversial everywhere in Scandinavia it would not be considered not playing a song on the radio because it had such words.

The Contenders

11 High Tempo

Especially today in the early 2010's the average tempo of songs was considerably higher.

12 Distorted Instrumental

Ranked lower because this wasn't as big a deal in say the 1970s.

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