2007 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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.

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Welcome! This is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade publication. This week we’re turning the clock back to 2007, “the year the music industry broke,” according to MTV, citing a series of lo-lights during the year like the Dreamgirls soundtrack debuting at #1 on the album chart with only 60,000 units sold; Sony-BMG getting smacked in court for sneaking anti-piracy rootkit malware onto people’s computers via music CDs, and the first judgment against a peer-to-peer user for sharing songs on KaZaA.

But the macro trends were even more sobering. Music biz revenues in a tailspin, down over 12% since ’06 and nearly 40% since the start of the decade. And retail Armageddon! The last of the iconic chains, Virgin Megastores, closing in ’07 after Wherehouse in ’03, HMV in ’04, and Tower and Musicland/Sam Goody in ’06. And along the way, Strawberries, Spec’s, the Wall, Camelot, Coconuts, DiscJockey, Saturday Matinee, Media Play. Trans-World Entertainment snapped all those up in addition to Wherehouse and Musicland/Sam Goody, and the ones they didn’t close, they rebranded under their F.Y.E. logo. By 2019 though, only about 200 F.Y.E.’s were still in business.

One investment banker quoted in Billboard had a creative way to get an unprofitable mall store closed fast: blast Heavy Metal and hire purple-haired employees until other tenants pressured the landlord to terminate the lease. Hey, it’s not rootkit malware, but desperate times do call for desperate measures!

Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris in ’07 compared the music biz trying to fix online piracy to a dog owner trying to operate on his sick pup to take out a kidney. Music biz types were not Techies, he said. Morris’ comments were yet another example MTV offered for why ’07 was “the year the music industry broke” because after years trying (and failing) to work out copy protection and digital rights management with Big Tech and the consumer electronics industry, and now, affordable broadband internet and high-capacity devices and storage penetrating down-market, music piracy was escalating geometrically.

So what did artists do? Well, they had to hustle. Paul McCartney ditched EMI and signed with Starbucks Coffee’s Hear Music label. Radiohead released their first album in over five years as a “pay-what-you-want” download. Veteran acts like The Police, Eagles, and Van Halen (reunited with David Lee Roth) hit the road and cashed in on the higher ticket prices that were becoming the norm as CD sales tanked. Aspiring artists put their stuff on Myspace, and Hip-Hop entered its “Blog Era” as the internet filled the void from a crackdown on bootleg mixtape CDs. And savvy Producers focused on catchy singles since in a world where fans were in charge of how songs were bundled and sequenced on their devices, albums had become really nothing more than suggested playlists. By ’07, of course, those devices included cell phones that could store and play music, and Apple quickly cornered that market with the iPhone, launched by CEO Steve Jobs in ’07 not just as a new kind of mobile phone, but as a next-gen iPod.

Ringtones, downloadable song snippets to customize the alerts on your phone: at their peak in ’07, a $1.5 billion industry, so Billboard gave them their own chart at the end of 2006.

#10 Akon featuring Eminem – Smack That

At #10 as we kick off the countdown is the very first #1 song on that Ringtone chart, and the first of the artist’s seven top tens in ’07 that helped make him Billboard’s Artist of the Year. The song never got to #1, stuck at #2 for five weeks behind Justin Timberlake, but from its peak at the end of ’06, it stayed in the top ten through January and on the chart ’til the end of April. It’s Akon, with a rare mid-to-late ’00s appearance by Rapper Eminem, who also produced, “Smack That.”

Akon’s “Smack That” at #10 as we count down the top hits of 2007 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Akon took the #1 spot for two weeks after Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” finished its run, but not with “Smack That;” with his next hit, “I Wanna Love You” with Snoop Dogg. But “Smack That” stayed at #2 for a fifth week, so Akon joined an elite group of acts who’ve locked down both of the two top spots on the Hot100 the same week.

His versatility singing on a dizzying array of styles and collabs made his voice ubiquitous in ’07, but at the cost of a coherent identity that fans could connect with. The Chicago Tribune dubbed him “Lord of the Ringtone,” and Vibe’s cover story was headlined “The Last Hitmaker,” more a comment on the sorry state of the music biz than on Akon as a personality. He did what he could to boost his street cred telling stories of high-stakes criminal hijinks in the ’90s every chance he got, but in ’08, The Smoking Gun website investigated and found his actual rap sheet to be far less colorful than he’d been making it out to be. After that he struggled on the charts as a headliner, but was a featured performer on several charting songs throughout the ’10s.

#9 Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah

Pivoting now from a artist and song that practically defined ’07 Pop, at #9 is one that really stood out, maybe because it was recorded over two years prior. It stood out on their album too: a lone acoustic ballad closing out a set of aggressive Emo Rock. One blogger credits the song’s success to it being the hottest thing on Myspace right when they launched a feature that let users embed a song on their profile. It hit the chart in April of ’07, took nine weeks to make the top ten and then climbed just one chart position a week, #6 to #1 mid-Summer. It’s Chicagoland’s Plain White T’s with “Hey There Delilah.”

Remote relationships were 1000% more viable once internet and cell phones replaced postage stamps and long-distance charges. Plain White T’s, “Hey There Delilah,” #9 on our Chartcrush look back at the top ten songs of 2007.

There really was a Delilah. Delilah DiCrescenzo, a nationally-ranked distance runner that frontman Tom Higgenson met in ’02. She had a boyfriend, but he promised to write a song for her anyway and they kept in touch. Once the song was a hit, she wanted to remain anonymous but a friend went behind her back set her up with an interview, and she ended up accompanying Higgenson to the Grammys, still just as friends though.

An AI-generated “cover” version of Kanye West singing “Hey There Delilah” caused quite a stir in 2023.

#8 T-Pain featuring Yung JocBuy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)

And speaking of Kanye, he doesn’t have a song in our countdown, but his Graduation album dropped in ’07, famously the same day as 50 Cent’s Curtis, which it outsold, and Kanye’s Daft Punk-sampling “Stronger” just misses our top ten at #11.

But at #8 is another trailblazing Rapper. Akon’s “Smack That” may’ve been the first #1 on the weekly Ringtone chart, but this one was #1 on Billboard’s first year-end Ringtone chart: the #1 ringtone in the year of the ringtone, and on the Hot100, his third top ten but first #1. It’s T-Pain featuring Atlanta rapper Yung Joc, who’d just scored a #3 hit with his first single “It’s Goin’ Down” in ’06. At #8, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’).”

Snap was a lighter form of Crunk Hip-Hop with snaps anchoring the beat. DL4’s “Laffy Taffy,” the first #1 in the genre in early ’06, but T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank” hit at the peak of ringtone mania, so detractors started dissing Snap as “Ringtone Rap.”

But T-Pain’s main legacy was being the first act to popularize Autotune’s fabled “zero setting” in Hip-Hop, as in, zero milliseconds for the effect’s pitch correction to kick in. Normal values fix off-pitch notes in a natural sounding way you don’t know is even there. With the zero setting, though, you get that stepped robotic effect, and T-Pain based his whole sound and persona on that, and it quickly became as ubiquitous in Hip-Hop as distortion pedals were in Rock after the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

T-Pain got to #1 again, but as a featured artist on Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” later in ’07, and then on Flo Rida’s “Low,” the #1 song of 2008.

#7 Gwen Stefani featuring AkonThe Sweet Escape

At #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for ’07, it’s Akon again, but this time as a featured singer, on a track he co-wrote and co-produced: the third big solo hit by an act that Blender magazine described as “an ageless bottle-blond eminence, stepping from mosh pit to Paris fashion show” since “appearing as a buff pinup on the cover of [her band’s breakthrough album] in 1995.”

Her label’s CEO brainstormed the collab with Akon, and she practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing it, thinking the result would be just some ho-hum, by-the-numbers Hip-Hop-adjacent yawn. But it was in the top ten on the AC chart for a whopping 26 weeks and the Hot100 for 15, jumping to #2 the week after she performed it with Akon on American Idol. At #7 it’s Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape.”

“If things weren’t the way they are, and I wasn’t the way I am, wouldn’t that be sweet?” Gwen Stefani at #7 with maybe the ultimate Millennial relationship excuse anthem co-written with Akon, “The Sweet Escape.”

As I mentioned after we heard “Smack That” at #10, Akon’s star did not maintain its A-list luster much past 2007, and with the field of top-tier female Pop acts getting very crowded in the last years of the decade, neither did Stefani’s. Her band No Doubt’s long-awaited reunion album in 2012 debuted at #3, but disappeared from the album chart forever after only four weeks. Gwen stayed busy, but after “The Sweet Escape,” she was most visible as an on-again, off-again coach on seven nonconsecutive seasons of NBC’s The Voice starting in 2014.

#6 Timbaland featuring Keri HilsonThe Way I Are

At #6, the Producer who helmed two of ’06’s top three hits: Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” but just as those acts’ follow-up #1s were exiting the top 10 in the Spring of ’07, a record featuring both of them appeared, with the Producer, at age 35, the lead artist. That record, “Give It to Me” (the first-ever Pop diss track, as Furtado later called it), was #1 for two weeks and in the top ten for seven, but the next single off our Producer-turned-headliner’s album Shock Value had 19 weeks in the top ten, so it was by far the bigger hit when you add it all up. Billboard could only count its run up to November 24, the cut-off for its ’07 chart year, so it came out at #18 on their year-end ranking. But factoring its full chart run, including its 14 weeks after the cut-off into ’08, it comes out #6 on our ’07 Chartcrush ranking we’re counting down this hour. And with 20 production credits in Billboard’s Year-End Hot100 including his own, he was ’07’s top charting Producer. At #6, it’s Timbaland featuring his protégé, R&B Singer Keri Hilson, her chart breakthrough, “The Way I Are.”

Kanye West’s Graduation album outselling 50 Cent’s Curtis released the same day was the turning point between Hip-Hop’s Bling and Blog Eras, but another strong signal that things had changed: two of the year’s top ten hits bucking the materialism of early ’00s Hip-Hop for a deeper, transcendent kind of love. Timbaland and Keri Hilson’s “The Way I Are,” the first of the two at #6,. He ain’t got no money or car, but it’s alright, he ain’t gotta flaunt it for her. That message paired with Timbaland’s futuristic beats rode the top ten for five solid months, right on the heels of the other love-before-money anthem that’s up next at #5 in our Chartcrush ’07 countdown, and both hits coming as Barack Obama’s campaign for President was ramping up. Movie and music celebs in general, but African-American ones like Timbaland especially, ecstatic over Obama’s candidacy and contagious “Yes We Can” message even before he won a single caucus or primary.

#5 Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Umbrella

And as promised at #5, the other love-over-bling Hip-Hop-adjacent megahit of ’07. Despite the song’s central thrust, though, Jay-Z, who signed the Singer and was her mentor, manages to name check diamonds, the stock market and private jets in his 30 second intro. That wouldn’t’ve been in the song if the artist the Songwriters wrote it for, had gotten it, but Britney Spears’ A&R people passed on it without her even hearing the demo.

Britney had a rough year in ’07, in and out of rehab, shaving her head, custody battle with soon-to-be ex-hubby Kevin Federline and a lethargic performance at the MTV Awards panned by critics. But our Singer at #5 who got the song won Video and Single of the Year for it at those same MTV awards. From her third album in only two years, Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s Rihanna at #5, her signature song, “Umbrella.”

Another thing that wouldn’t’ve been in the song if Britney had gotten it, that whole “ella ella” thing. That was all Rihanna, and “Umbrella” propelled her from Teen Pop/R&B girl-next-door to full-fledged grownup Diva.

Her partnership with “Easy, Breezy” CoverGirl also helped. “Even if it’s raining, your lips will have lasting, fruity shine,” Rihanna said in her 30-second spot for Wetsticks Fruit Spritzers, twirling a pink umbrella with the song in the background: a watershed campaign that opened the floodgates for artist-brand partnerships and an explosion of “synchronization” licensing from deep-pocketed advertisers. Millennials, it turned out, didn’t care if their Pop stars hawked products, which was good news for brands, but even better news for a music biz flailing for revenue lifelines. By the end of the year Bob Dylan was doing an Escalade commercial.

#4 Carrie UnderwoodBefore He Cheats

Female empowerment anthems go way back on the Pop charts, but feminist-leaning Country songs? Far and few between until Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride in the ’90s. But in the ’00s, Gretchen Wilson and Miranda Lambert went beyond sassy humor and unthreatening assertiveness into edgy, take-no-crap identity pride and just flat-out revenge, and into that new Bad Girl zone jumped our Singer at #4.

After winning Season Four of American Idol, her debut album Some Hearts dropped in the Fall of ’05 and its first three singles came and went, but one deep album cut cracked the Country chart and stayed for six months. And once it was finally issued as the album’s fourth single, it crossed over and spent a whopping 64 weeks on the Hot100. It only scraped the top ten for two of those weeks, but still, it’s #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2007. Originally written with the aforementioned Gretchen Wilson in mind, Carrie Underwood got a hold of it first. At #4, “Before He Cheats.”

Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” 2007’s #4 song here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. ’07 was a big year for American Idol alumni. Underwood, the big winner on the Hot100, but Season Five semifinalist Chris Daughtry scored the #1 album of the year; Season Three’s seventh place finisher Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar and Golden Globe for her Supporting role in Dreamgirls, and good ‘ol Kelly Clarkson, Season One winner and the first to legitimize an Idol win with an enduring Pop hit and multi-Platinum album… Kelly scored her seventh top ten, “Never Again,” which was another angry ex-boyfriend kiss-off.

#3 FergieBig Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)

Next we have the last and biggest of a solo act’s string of three #1 hits and a #2, all within the span of just a single year. Her Hip-Hop group had embraced a more Pop direction since adding her to the lineup in ’03, and by ’06 after two multi-Platinum albums and three group top tens, it was time for a solo album.

She’d already adopted British Royal Sarah Ferguson’s nickname since they shared the same surname, so for the album she borrowed her title too, adding a “t” to “Duchess.” The real Duchess of York wasn’t happy about either, and even wrote to tell her so. But that wasn’t all: the title of our #3 song, same as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ second #1 from 1962. Totally different song; same title. “Worst Four Seasons cover ever” got a guaranteed laugh in ’07 when the song came on the radio. At #3, it’s Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” at #3. It hung around in the top ten from the beginning of June to the end of October, #1 for just one week in September, but #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for six weeks. AC radio in ’07, happy to have a Rap-adjacent Female after two years of John Mayer, Michael Bublé and Maroon 5.

The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am produced The Dutchess and after Fergie wrapped up her U.S. tour in the Summer, she was back with the group for their 20-country international tour in the Fall of ’07, and then their album The E.N.D. and its #1 hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” in ’09.

#2 Soulja Boy Tell’emCrank That (Soulja Boy)

We are counting down the top ten hits of 2007 here on this week’s Chartcrush Countdown Show, and at #2, we have another first-of-its-kind smash. Not because it sparked a dance craze or because it’s a loud,  boisterous Rap song, or even because its beat uses Snap percussion, making it the second of the two Snap (or “Ringtone Rap”) tracks in our countdown. No, it was a first because it was a hit purely from grassroots buzz on the internet: the first viral chart topper.

The Blog Era meant that a kid in Batesville, Mississippi had the same access to fans as a mixtape MC in New York and he proved it, putting the song on his Myspace page and six months later it’s #1 on the Hot100. And since Billboard wasn’t factoring YouTube into the Hot100 yet, it was probably an even bigger hit than its already-impressive chart run shows, with hundreds of user dance vids that racked up millions of views on top of the artist’s own multimedia barrage, which included a step-by-step instructional video for the dance. Needless to say, it was massive on the Ringtone chart as well.

The beat consists entirely of sounds in the unregistered demo version of the FruityLoops Studio digital audio workstation. The #2 song of 2007 is Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s self-produced (in his bedroom) “Crank That (Soulja Boy).”

Soulja Boy had a clever way of getting his tracks out there into the wild. Get this: renaming his mp3s to titles of current hits and sharing them on filesharing platforms. That must’ve been as annoying to downloaders as “Crank That,” our #2 song of ’07, was to virtually everyone over 16 in the Fall of ’07 when the song, dance and videos were ubiquitous.

People were shocked when Billboard’s year-end Hot100 chart came out in December and “Crank That” was only #20. But, like Timbaland’s “The Way I Are,” it stayed on the chart 14 weeks into Billboard’s ’08 chart year and even jumped back into the top ten for a couple weeks in January ’08. Counting that full chart run, as we do for every song at Chartcrush, puts it at #2 on the year.

#1 Beyonce – Irreplaceable

No discrepancy like that for our #1 song though: it’s Billboard’s #1 song of ’07 as well: all but the first four of its 30 weeks in their ’07 chart year, including its ten straight at #1, mid-December ’06 to mid-February ’07.

The Singer was on the big screen that whole time too, the lead role in Dreamgirls about a fictional early ’60s Girl Group in Detroit that’s not The Supremes (wink wink). But she was upstaged in that by the aforementioned Jennifer Hudson: a riveting, Oscar-winning performance by the first-time actress and American Idol contestant. Destiny Fulfilled, her reunion album with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in Destiny’s Child didn’t match their earlier success, and the first two singles from her second solo album, B’Day (or Birthday) underperformed on the charts: the lead single featuring future hubby Jay-Z, “Déjà Vu,” reprising their collaboration on their ’03 monster hit “Crazy in Love,” only got to #4 amid rumors of a romance between Jay and Rihanna. And then the second single “Ring the Alarm” only got to #11. So up against Rihanna, plus strong mid-’00s comebacks by Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, her hold on the ’00s R&B Diva space was somewhat tenuous. But this hit humbled the doubters. At #1 it’s Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.”

“To the left, to the left.” Beyonce. “Irreplaceable,” the #1 song here on our 2007 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. At first, she didn’t think it was a fit for her upbeat B’Day album, but Producer Swizz Beats convinced her to include it, and from then on, all of Beyonce’s albums included ballads.

Bonus

So that’s our top ten according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking that, unlike Billboard’s, factors every song’s entire chart run, impossible for Billboard to do since they have to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So three of the songs we heard this hour, not in Billboard’s top ten on the year. To recap, Akon’s “Smack That” was #15; Timbaland and Keri Hilson’s “The Way I Are” was #18, and “Soulja Boy Tell’Em’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was #20. But those three coming in to our top ten displaces three songs from Billboard’s, so in the time we have left, let’s review those.

Billboard had the second #1 from Fergie’s The Dutchess at #10, featuring Rapper Ludacris, the song about staying rooted amid all the trappings of fame and fortune.

“Glamorous” notches in at #17 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And at #9, they had the other Akon hit I mentioned back at #10 that took the #1 spot after Justin Timberlake despite “Smack That” having sat patiently at #2 behind Timberlake for three weeks.

Akon & Snoop Dogg’s “I Wanna Love You” is our #15 song of ’07.

And finally at #8, Billboard had Nelly Furtado’s next #1 after ’06’s “Promiscuous,” also produced by Timbaland.

Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right” just narrowly misses our Chartcrush top ten at #12.

And that’s all we have time for in our 2007 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Hey, if you like what you heard and you want more, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of today’s show and a link to stream the podcast version on Spotify, plus sizzlin’ extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line graph of the actual Billboard chart runs of every song we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website. Again, that’s chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another year and another edition of Chartcrush.

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