A History of Pop Music, Year-by-Year

Get your countdown on! Each music/talk episode of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show is a deep dive into a year in Pop music and culture through the prism of the top 10 hits of the year according to our exclusive rankings based on Billboard’s weekly charts. But unlike Billboard’s own year-end rankings from years past, ours “correct the record” by counting every song’s full chart run and using the same consistent method to rank every year, 1940 to the present.

The one-hour radio program is broadcast weekly on select radio stations in the U.S., many on the Pacifica Radio Network, and all episodes are also streamable on-demand on Spotify.

This Week on Pacifica Radio: 1954

Note: if you play from the embed, you’ll just hear the commentary, not the songs. Click the link to open in Spotify—and while you’re there, hit “follow!”

Racial integration is a Cold War imperative so Silent Generation Teens oblige by launching Black R&B records onto the Pop charts for the first time, amplified by Todd Storz’s new Top40 radio format. Meanwhile, songs and sounds from abroad fill the airwaves, a “womens song” conquers the charts, Eddie Fisher and Rosemary Clooney each score two of the year’s top ten hits, Sinatra is back in the Top 5, and it’s Mambo fever!

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  • Chartcrush 1954 Is Live
    Chartcrush 1954 episode graphic

    Racial integration is a Cold War imperative so Teens oblige by launching Black R&B records onto the Pop charts, amplified by the brand new Top40 radio format. Learn more on Chartcrush 1954!

  • Chartcrush 1983 Is Live
    Chartcrush 1983 Episode Graphic

    MTV breaks its Rock format to air Michael Jackson vids under threat by CBS and accusations of racism, and becomes Pop’s new gravitational center post-AM Top40. Learn more on Chartcrush 1983!

  • Chartcrush 1962 Is Live

    It’s Twistmania as the Silent Generation peaks culturally, Girl Groups surge, Ray Charles goes Country and The 4 Seasons make Doo Wop a commercial juggernaut. Learn more on Chartcrush 1962!

  • Chartcrush 1995 Is Live

    Politics lurches right, Madonna reins it in and Mariah goes Hip-Hop as Billboard names a Gangsta Rap song #1 on the year, but where is the Theme from Friends? Learn more on Chartcrush 1995!

  • Chartcrush 1979 Is Live

    Disco peaks, then collapses after Rock fans riot in Chicago, New Wave breaks out with “My Sharona” and Pop is a mostly Disco-free grab bag heading into the 80s. Learn more on Chartcrush 1979!

  • Chartcrush 1946 Is Live
    Chartcrush 1946 Episode Graphic

    Hays Code decency standards permeate showbiz and Big Bands throw in the towel the year after WW2, but Singers, Sweet Bands and songwriters shine on the charts. Learn more on Chartcrush 1946!

  • Chartcrush 2010 Is Live

    Pop amps up as the music biz chases will.i.am’s “bubble” and the Recession spawns the biggest Dance boom since Disco, starring Gaga, Taio, Usher… and Auto-Tune! Learn more on Chartcrush 2010!

  • Chartcrush 1959 Is Live
    Chartcrush Countdown Show 1959 Episode Graphic

    Teen Idols and Folk surge as Congress takes aim at Rock ‘n Roll DJs and Payola, and a plane crash in Iowa claims three major stars on “the day the music died.” Learn more on Chartcrush 1959!

  • Chartcrush 2007 Is Live

    Online piracy tanks CD sales and the last big box music chain goes under, but Ringtones, ad deals, iTunes and Myspace are lifelines for the flailing music biz. Learn more on Chartcrush 2007!

  • Chartcrush 1965 Is Live

    It’s the “Eve of Destruction” and young Boomers “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as Vietnam widens the generation gap and Motown hits become Civil Rights anthems. Learn more on Chartcrush 1965!

  • Chartcrush 1971 Is Live

    The Beatles have split and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are dead, but Singer-Songwriters soothe frayed nerves as militant activism and protest go mainstream. Learn more on Chartcrush 1971!

  • Chartcrush 1997 Is Live

    Lilith Fair galvanizes women in music while the late ’90s Pop boom begins, two shocking deaths inspire massive tribute singles and Rock newcomers conquer radio. Learn more on Chartcrush 1997!

  • Chartcrush 1986 Is Live

    Whitney Houston blitzes the charts as Hip-Hop, Glam Metal and The Bangles score big and music’s benefit streak peaks with a #1 charity single for AIDS research. Learn more on Chartcrush 1986!

  • Chartcrush 2013 Is Live

    Billboard adds YouTube to the Hot100 and bloggers recoil at “incorrect” fan-propelled hits, but JT is back, Folk booms, Katy Roars and Miley gets her twerk on! Learn more on Chartcrush 2013!

  • Chartcrush 1951 Is Live

    It’s Crooners unleashed as ethnic sounds score, Mitch Miller starts a genre gold rush mining Country for Pop hits, and the year’s #1 record taps deep anxieties. Learn more on Chartcrush 2004!

  • Chartcrush 2004 Is Live

    Atlanta and Crunk ‘n B rule the year every #1 song is by a Black artist, Usher Confesses and scores big, and everyone’s shaking it like a Polaroid picture. Learn more on Chartcrush 2004!

  • Chartcrush 1989 Is Live

    Euro-Disco and Paula Abdul arrive as the Cold War ends, Teen Pop peaks, Milli Vanilli lip-syncs and some of Boomerdom’s top acts score their final big hits. Learn more on Chartcrush 1989!

  • Chartcrush 1960 Is Live

    The payola scandal chills Rock on the radio and adult genres surge with LPs outselling singles, but Elvis is out of the Army and everyone’s doing “The Twist!” Learn more on Chartcrush 1960!

  • Chartcrush 2016 Is Live

    Trump v. Hillary politicizes Pop like never before as streaming reverses the music biz’s 15-year free-fall from filesharing and Dancehall/Trophouse sounds rule. Learn more on Chartcrush 2016!

  • Chartcrush 1947 Is Live

    Big Band Swing is all but extinct, but the record biz prospers as nostalgia sweeps the nation, makes Al Jolson cool again, and lifts a record from 1933 to #1. Learn more on Chartcrush 1947!

  • Chartcrush 1992 Is Live

    Crossover becomes the norm as Billboard takes the charts digital, but Michael Jackson finds Pop’s new sweet spot and Boyz II Men set a new bar for weeks at #1. Learn more on Chartcrush 1992!

  • Chartcrush 1975 Is Live

    Elton John can do no wrong but big chart acts move in bold directions and Disco dancing emerges as a preferred escape from economic hardship and ’70s “malaise.” Learn more on Chartcrush 1975!

  • Chartcrush 1956 Is Live
    1956 Episode Graphic

    Elvis Presley rules the charts and personifies Rock ‘n Roll as teens buy millions of 45s, top-40 radio explodes and Seeburg launches the 200-selection jukebox. Learn more on Chartcrush 1956!

  • Chartcrush 2000 Is Live

    Boy Bands, Britney v. Christina and Latin Pop carry over into the new millennium, but Rock is back, Destiny’s Child redefines R&B, and Country scores big. Learn more on Chartcrush 2000!

  • Chartcrush 1982 Is Live

    The Walkman fuels a fitness craze but dooms music on AM as Top 40 moves to FM. MTV subs triple and launch a “Second British Invasion” of New Wave and Synthpop. Learn more on Chartcrush 1982!

  • Chartcrush 1967 Is Live

    It’s Flower Power and Hippies in California; urban riots everywhere else as Sgt. Pepper’s launches Album Rock and The Monkees take over TV and the Pop charts. Learn more on Chartcrush 1967!

  • Chartcrush 2019 Is Live

    Edgy, genre-bending Pop marks Gen-Z’s arrival via TikTok and streaming hits 50% of music biz revenue as BigCulture™ #resistance to Trump/MAGA enters beast mode. Learn more on Chartcrush 2019!

  • Chartcrush 1996 Is Live
    Chartcrush 1996 Episode Graphic

    It’s Divas, Post-Grunge, Trip-Hop, Netscape vs. Microsoft and Alanismania the year Tupac is killed, the internet takes off and everyone is doing “The Macarena.” Learn more on Chartcrush 1996!

  • Chartcrush 1972 Is Live

    The Red/Blue political divide arrives and the tension manifests in Glam Rock, nostalgia and escapism. Black artists rule the top ten in the lead-up to Wattstax. Learn more on Chartcrush 1972!

  • Chartcrush 1945 Is Live

    The Petrillo ban lifts in time for Pop to celebrate victory in WW2 with a final burst of Big Bands, new girl singers and Crooners, and a heroic theme by Chopin. Learn more on Chartcrush 1945!

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