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What is up with the 5th song? (1 Viewer)

Dave Poehlman

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I've noticed a 5th song phenomena I would like to share with you.

Have you ever noticed more often than not that the 5th song on an album is usually the most popular or hit song from that album. (this doesn't apply to various or greatest hits compilations)

Go ahead grab a CD at random out of your rack and look at the 5th song. Why is that? Is this some sort of studio theory that a listener needs a little "pick-me-up" by the 5th song?

To test this theory I do the following.. whenever I go into a tavern or pub I've never been to or I am not real familiar with, I will play song 2305 on the CD jukebox without even looking at what it is. It's kind of a Russian Roulette with music. It's fun.. but, usually, it's a hit song and not some obscure tune.

Anyone else notice this?
 

Mike Broadman

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Dave, amazingly enough, I've noticed the same thing with Fates Warning CDs. Ok, none of their songs are "hits," but almost all of their 5th tracks are their best on the albums.

Weird.

NP: Tony Levin, Pieces of the Sun, CD, which also a has a really neat 5th track
 

Greg_Y

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I did a little experiment. Exported my entire track listing and filtered on the track index, i.e. only displayed songs that were the fifth track on the CD.

I then removed greatest hits, compilations and all of my live CD-Rs. The results:

Most of my CDs didn't have a "hit" or the best song on track #5. Artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen had plenty of #5's that weren't hits or even one of the best songs on the album. Same with Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

I think you're just experiencing a case of selective memory.
 

Dave Poehlman

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Most of my CDs didn't have a "hit" or the best song on track #5. Artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen had plenty of #5's that weren't hits or even one of the best songs on the album. Same with Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
How many CDs did you sample? And... were they all from that same era? I'll admit it doesn't always apply. And sometimes the hit song will fall on the 4th or 6th song. They seem, to me anyway, to fall in that area more often than not.

There's no telling how high up this conspiracy goes.. maybe all the way to the White House. Hmmm.
 

Andrew Chong

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I happen to have two discs of oldies with me.

You be the judge:

Electric Light Orchestra-Secret Messages, fifth song: Time After Time, fourth: Take Me On And On, sixth: Four Little Diamonds.

Paul McCartney-Wingspan, cd1: fifth song: Jet (BINGO!), fourth: Live and Let Die, sixth: My Love;

cd2: fifth song: Helen Wheels, fourth: Maybe I'm Amazed, sixth: Bluebird.
 

Dave Poehlman

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This thread is turning into the Bible Code meets pop music!
I'm not trying to be that dramatic. I just thought there was a coincidence... and was looking for an answer along the lines to what sort of process is used to place songs in their presented order.

Perhaps I just have an affinity for buying albums that have a popular 5th song.
 

Jeff Keene

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Despite unnecessary attempts to shoot down the topic, I do think it would be interesting to analyze decisions made to influence track order.

While I think the song 5 rule is too strict, I would be surprised if there WASN'T a formula that record execs used to determine an "appealing" song order, especially in popular music.

For instance, I've noticed that a lot of albums I own seem to have a strong, but relatively obscure 1st song, followed by a "rocker" in the second track.

For some reason, my favorite song on all of the first three Dave Matthews albums has been song 9.

Of course there is no rule or set of rules that would apply to all albums, but I'm sure that more than ART goes into the decision for track order in the majority of cases.

NIN - And all that could have been DVD-V
 

Vince Maskeeper

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Actually, I noticed the 3rd song phenom back in the early 90's.
Spin Doctors : Pocket Full Of Kryptonite
3. Little Miss Can't Be Wrong
Nirvana : Nevermind
3. Come As You Are
Nirvana : In Utero
3. Heart-Shaped Box
Pearl Jam : Ten
3. Alive
Pearl Jam : Vs.
3. Daughter
Counting Crows : August & Everything After
3. Mr. Jones
Black Crowes : Southern Harmony And Musical Companion
3. Thorn In My Pride
Hum : You'd Prefer An Astronaut
3. Stars
Faith No More : Angel Dust
3. Midlife Crisis
Temple Of The Dog : Temple Of The Dog
3. Hunger Strike
Alice In Chains : Jar Of Flies
3. I Stay Away
Local H : As Good As Dead
3. Bound For The Floor
Smashing Pumpkins : Siamese Dream
3. Today
etc, etc, etc...
My friends and I always notice that on Alt rock albums, often #3 was the lead single- while #5 was a later single. Probably coincidence, but popped up all the time.
 

Kevin T

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vince:

i was just thinking about nirvana when i read this thread. however, nirvana's hit off nevermind was "smells like teen spirit" (track 1), but you are right about "come as you are" (track 3) and even to an extent "lithium" (track 5), dave makes a point. however, being a huge nirvana fan, every song on that album is a "hit" to me.

kevin t
 

Jeff Keene

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Pretty off the subject, but this reminded me. Why is the last track of an album often a hidden "silly track" stuck on after a bit of white space. The first I noticed this was on Nirvana's Nevermind (though it was probably not the first), and now almost "everyone" feels the need to do this. It's not always unwelcome, but can be pretty annoying.
 

Vince Maskeeper

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Nirvana might not have been the first- but I would blame them for the fact that it caught on. Kurt talked about his desire to do that in the "Come as you Are" book, claiming the inspiration came from a prank he used to play on his roomate using cassette tapes.

So many bands have done it, in several different ways.

My favorite hidden track method is placing a song in the "countdown" preroll before track 1! The x-files soundtrack used this "track 0" method- making you rewind from Track 1.

Kinda interesting, especially if you REALLY want to hide it

-V
 

Frank_S

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Have you ever noticed more often than not that the 5th song on an album is usually the most popular or hit song from that album. (this doesn't apply to various or greatest hits compilations)
Here's my take on this. When LP's were the main source, studios wanted their hit(s) song to be either the last song on Side 1(which would be the 4th or 5th song on a CD)or the first song on Side 2 of the LP(which would be the 5th or 6th song on a CD).
:)
 

Sam Hatch

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Mar 22, 2000
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Course Of Empire 's 'Initiation' disc also uses the negative track trick Vince mentioned. They also have a song on the album hidden in white noise that can only be extracted by some sort of fidgeting in mono or something. Those guys were into messing with their listeners!
 

Jim_F

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I think Frank_S nailed it.

As far as silly throwaway tracks, I think the classic example is Her Majesty on Abbey Road.
 

Jeff Keene

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I don't think Nirvana was even the hundred and first. The first example I can think of is way back at the end of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And Yes' Fragile ends with a neat coda from "We Have Heaven."
True, true.

But what started as a creative chuckle has turned into a "me too" frenzy. Some bands simply ruin their albums for me with these "bonus" tracks, most of which contain no musical value whatsoever. I suppose it is no big deal to skip them, but I've just always wondered why do it in the first place.

I'll get over it.

Another issue with track order (I've heard) is that vinyl is capable of less detail at the end of a side than the beginning (I have no idea is this is true). Therefore, producers tended to put more "complicated" tracks at the beginning of sides one and two.

What's funny about some of this seemingly arbitrary song placement is that once we've heard an album in a particular order (esp if we love the album), that order becomes sacred to us. In the most recent ICE newsletter, there is a letter lamenting the "new order" of one of the Traffic remasters. The letter writer was distraught that such a tragic re-ordering could and did take place. The answer to the letter stated simply that the original album order had been messed with 15 years ago (when the album was first released on CD), and the remaster now RESTORES the artist's (or producer's) intent. I wonder if the letter-writer read that, and whether his/her reaction was "Oh!" or "Yeah, but...".
 

Wayne Bundrick

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Here's my take on this. When LP's were the main source, studios wanted their hit(s) song to be either the last song on Side 1(which would be the 4th or 5th song on a CD)or the first song on Side 2 of the LP(which would be the 5th or 6th song on a CD).
I was going to mention this. It was common for the "big" song (often the album's "title" song) to be the last song on side 1, the first song on side 2, or sometimes the last song on side 2.
 

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