Ignoring a hiatus of 3 years, I have been following Flanders’ most popular soap ‘Thuis’ since season 2, a little less than 25 years ago. That anniversary deserves a blog posts. If you’re a die hard fan like me, unlike those bandwagon fans, weekly plots keep you up at night and predicting the season finale 3 months ahead is the Olympic minimum. What always bothered me in the series is that there’s a girl named ‘Britney’. Who in Flanders names their girl ‘Britney’? If the soap is to represent a microcosm of the upper part of Belgium; they really hit the ball wrongly. Or not?
How many people named Rihanna or Shakira do you know? For me: none. Yet, as the Statbel numbers prove: they exist. We can’t all be Liam or Louise, can we? As you can see from the following graph, the number of Britneys born in 2000 peaked with 58 babies. As a matter of fact, in the year 2000, it was the 96th most popular name (out of 826 names which were given at least 5 times). That’s only one baby behind Chelsea and one more than Maud. However, the top 3; Amber, Laura and Emma are still far off with respectively 537, 474 and 456 babies. Yet still not bad for a name that was unseen (no 5 people had been named Britney in one year since 1995) in Flanders before 1999. Conclusion: I was wrong.
Britney toured through Europe this year and for the Belgian show, Studio Brussel had some producer explaining on the radio that Britney Spears is an icon for a whole generation. No shit, Sherlock. However, is Britney the only icon? Are there other names of famous artists that penetrated their way through our baby name statistics? To answer that question I dug my way through the music charts, carefully tracked by the once famous Ultratop. I arbitrarily selected a couple of dozen bands and artists of which I suspected to see some influence in the name statistics. I tagged the artists and groups with the possible names (e.g. Nick, Brian, AJ, Howie and Kevin) and merged the data with the name statistics. After that I narrowed it further down to the 10 most striking names. This is the result.
For each of these ten names, I plotted the relative years since they first hit the music chart in Flanders, with the black line being the year they broke through. The tragic death of Aaliyah keeps inspiring many parents. Flemish artists such as Alana Dante and Belle Perez both seem to have left a mark. Anouk has always been a popular name, but the Dutch artist, famous for ‘Nobody’s Wife’, really gave the name a boost. Then there’s ‘big big girl’ Emilia, the one-hit wonder, who really seems to have set a trend. Shakira, Rihanna and especially Shania Twain all seem to have a solid baby fan base. Reality star and ‘Stars are Blind’ singer Paris Hilton only left a small mark in the name stats. Finally, it’s unclear if ‘Lily’ was just a hype or if the name really got boosted by Lily Allen.
I noticed that I had only selected girls names. Apparently, in my first selection there were only 2 boys names; Brahim (after the first Idols participant) and former Boyzone member Ronan Keating. It’s scientifically incorrect to state that girls names are more influenced by popular music than boys names, but I think I might be onto something. So here’s Ronan, invisible before 1999 but a recurrent phenomenon afterwards.
Finally I wondered if I could build a “name giving prediction model” based on the music charts. However, that proved to be quite difficult. First of all, the selection of the names is arbitrarily. Second, some names are really common in Flanders and the impact of artists is hard to distinguish. Finally, I seem to spot some correlation between names given and purely subjective factors such as attractiveness (e.g. Shakira, Britney, Rihanna) and personality (e.g. Susan Boyle).