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Beats per Minute: The Pace of Hit Songs


This article is published in collaboration with Statista 

by Katharina Buchholz


Chechnya last week banned music whose pace was deemed too different from Chechen traditions and culture. Music playing at between 80 and 116 beats per minute was still admissible, the semi-autonomous republic's culture minister announced. He said that the ban was meant to curb "borrowing musical culture from other peoples". The region also mandates Islamic dress code, has restrictions on the sale of alcohol and employs aspects of Sharia law as strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been leaning heavily on the local Sufi Islam as a legitimacy tool to consolidate his power - all while fiercely supporting the secular regime of Russian president Vladimir Putin.


The subversion of national law in favor of Islamic norms and even at times the departure from all lawfulness seems to have strengthened Kadyrov, who cultivates a cult of personality like the one that once surrounded his father. Analysts at The Conversation find that he is useful to Putin as a way in to the Muslim world - despite Chechnya's and Kadyrov's history of separatism, hunger for absolute power and the promotion of Islam that let their alliance appear to be an unlikely one. Kadyrov's support for Palestine has meanwhile been turned into a tale of resistance to Western imperialism, fitting Putin's narrative in Ukraine.


Under Kadyrov's rule, Chechnya has experienced a degree of re-islamization through the building of mosques and religious schools and also concerning the country's laws - including its new music ban. As noted in The Moscow Times, the bpm limit excludes many popular songs and genres, which are mostly too fast-paced. While fewer in number, certain tunes are also too slow, an analysis of bmp counts on websites Chosic and SongBPM finds.


Lionel Richie's famous ballad Hello from 1984, for example, only clock in at 61 beats per minute. One of Amy Winehouse's most famous songs, Rehab, spins at 72 bpm, also too slow. Songs within the specified bpm range of 80-116 include, for example, November Rain by Guns N' Roses, In Da Club by 50 Cent, Hips Don't Lie by Shakira and Numb by Linkin Park.


Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance with Somebody is playing too quickly at 119 bpm, while the Pussycat Dolls' Buttons is out of the question at 211 bpm. But it is not only disco, pop and R&B beats that are too fast for the Chechnya ban. Rock songs like Bryan Adam's Summer of '69 and Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight are also squarely out of the range of Kadyrov's limits, as is pop-reggae song Angel by Shaggy.


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