Hit Singles Under 2 Minutes: How Low Can We Go?

23 June 2023 | 2:11 pm | Mary Varvaris

Amy Shark's 'Can I Shower At Yours' follows the trend of creating short songs to find success on TikTok and Spotify.

Lil Nas X, Amy Shark, The Beatles & Shirley Bassey

Lil Nas X, Amy Shark, The Beatles & Shirley Bassey (Lil Nas X: Supplied, Amy Shark by Michelle Grace Hunder, The Beatles via Facebook & Shirley Bassey 'Hello Like Before' album cover)

More The Beatles More The Beatles

Amy Shark’s latest single, Can I Shower At Yours, runs for under two minutes, spanning a total of one minute and 54 seconds. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a pop song that’s destined to get in listeners’ heads with a hooky pre-chorus and chorus and somehow fits a bridge into its short runtime.

On Can I Shower At Yours, Shark brings her signature relatability to an engaging love song, holding the audience in the palm of her hands as she sings, “If you try kiss me, watch how quickly I fall for you”. Who hasn’t been caught up in that whirlwind romance of wanting to spend the whole night with someone, “fuck it all off and just lie” with them? When Amy Shark says she wants to “waste every second” of her life with the person in Can I Shower At Yours, you believe her.

The music video is also lovely, opening with a smitten couple saying yes to the titular question, Can I Shower At Yours? From there, Shark enters the video with a number of dancers who lead easy-to-follow grooves. Throughout the clip, Shark either holds an acoustic or electric guitar; that’s when she and her dancers aren’t on exercise bikes, though. That’s the moment in this music video, and the song itself, that feels like it’ll be repeated on TikTok for weeks.

As we’ve seen with Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, Miley Cyrus's Flowers, and many more, ten to 30 seconds of a song with a replicable dance can make a song go viral, sending a track up the charts. Will the runtime, dance moves and relatable lyrics catapult Amy Shark to the top of the charts? Only time will tell.

Does Can I Shower At Yours follow a current trend of shortening an otherwise three-minute song to find success on TikTok and Spotify? Players by Coi Leray, one of the year’s biggest hits, clocks in at just over two minutes. Songs haven’t just gone down to two minutes in the last year; it’s been happening for decades, particularly in rock, punk and hardcore spheres, but Tik Tok's 30 minute hooks and streaming's incentive to avoid the skip have taken the rarity and increasingly become the norm. Take Fell In Love With A Girl by The White Stripes from the band’s 2001 third album, White Blood Cells. Should the argument be, if you’ve got a riff or some lyrics that fit into a two-minute song, why stretch it out? They certainly didn't think so in the 50s and 60s when artists like Elvis and The Beach Boys perfected the art of stripping away the unnecessary. 

Listening to Can I Shower At Yours has The Music curious: what are some great hit songs under two minutes? And also, are streaming services affecting the lengths of songs?

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Do streaming services affect the lengths of songs?

Because artists aren’t getting paid per album or single in the age of streaming services like Spotify, the argument that musicians are shortening their songs to get plays (and pay, as artists will only receive compensation if people stream a song for longer than 30 seconds) has merit.

As Charlie Harding from the Switched On Pop podcast recently told The Verve, “In 1995, we had songs that were coming in at four minutes and 30 seconds. Today, songs are down to three minutes and 42 seconds because of the difference in how artists are getting paid now. Instead of getting paid by physical sales, you’re getting paid in a stream, which only counts if someone listens to 30 seconds of a song.

“If you have an album like Drake’s Scorpion, which is a really long double album coming in at almost 90 minutes, he’s got a ton of really short songs on there, because he gets paid for every song you listen to, whether or not you listen to the whole album.”

Harding added, “Gone is the era of long intros that sort of slowly get you into the song. Today, we are not only seeing songs getting shorter but there is a sort of a new song structure that we’ve observed that we’ve called the pop overture, where basically a song, at the very beginning, will play a hint of the chorus in the first five to 10 seconds so that the hook is in your ear, hoping that you’ll stick around till about 30 seconds in when the full chorus eventually comes in.”

Have our attention spans changed?

In 2021, a study by Microsoft found that the human attention span shrunk by 25% in just a few years, down to eight seconds. There are a few factors to this, including the addictive nature of our smartphones and social media. Ranieri x Co mentions the term Content Shock, which evaluates the rapid increase in content creation that floods our social media feeds – videos, advertisements, posters, articles, you name it, and argues that perhaps we’re overwhelmed by content and sometimes, something that’s great – including music – can get buried in the algorithm.

As Elizabeth Getahun argued in the Andrews University paper, Are Attention Spans Decreasing?, Getahun argued that living a healthy lifestyle in the pre-social media era was much more manageable.

“By the time I got to the age where my media minutes were no longer monitored, I realized [sic] that while I noticed my attention to things improving when I took breaks, my attention span overall had still become pitiful,” Getahun wrote. 

“I constantly feel the need to have my phone or mindlessly scroll on TikTok even if I’m bored of it. This is when I really understood the connection between the media age and its effects on my brain and how I am able to focus on and process information.”

Does the struggle to retain attention play into how we consume music? Do listeners go towards shorter songs, feeling that they can’t focus on a three or five-minute song? It’s an interesting topic. But those arguments don’t acknowledge that short songs have existed for decades.

Here are some songs we love that are under two minutes – it’s by no means a completely comprehensive list.

Old Town Road (1:53) / Panini (1:54) – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X knows how to write songs that don’t overstay their welcome. On the original Old Town Road and Panini, the American rapper and singer crafted tunes that were immediately identifiable as Lil Nas. And can you really forget the words if the song is shorter?

Buy Me A Pony Spiderbait (1:40)

Australian garage rockers Spiderbait make a song about an up-and-coming band getting caught up in the record label and hype machine a punk rock banger. They sure did become a big-time entity, securing their place in history with this one.

F.S.O.Regurgitator (1:43)

The spirit of punk is punchy, short tracks that follow a band with undeniable attitude and charisma. A little over a year before Polyester Girl and Unit, Regurgitator were rocking out with the best of them.

From Me To You The Beatles (1:57)

If you needed proof that short songs existed pre-Covid-19 and before Spotify and TikTok, here it is. A bright example of a well-crafted pop-rock song and vocal harmonies, there’s a reason why listeners still return to The Beatles in 2023. They just knew how to make a good song.

Big SpenderShirley Bassey (1:50)

A soul and jazz classic, Shirley Bassey commands attention with Big Spender, promising a good time just like the song suggests.

Exerciser - Rhubarb (1:56)

Brisbane band Rhubarb smashed the triple j airwaves across 1999 with this sub two-minute banger that landed at #20 on that years' Hottest 100. A favourite for presenters looking for something quick to fill a small gap before the news, the song caught on. 

Little Deuce Coupe - Beach Boys (1:43)

Back in the days of surf rock, you didn't need a long song, you just needed a great chorus and some great lyrics about cars, girls or the beach. Nobody did it better than The Beach Boys and this one was one of their best.... and shortest. 

Just Ace - Grinspoon (1:46)

Another Aussie banger that didn't need to be long to take over schools across the country, Grinspoon's Just Ace was the song of a generation. Reaching #18 on Hottest 100 in 1998 and #25 on the ARIA Chart, this one was the band's first major label hit and still one of their signature tunes.