2008 episode graphic

2008 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Hip-Hop helps elect a President in its last dominant year til the late ’10s, also a year of big female debuts as Lil Wayne & T.I. face jail on weapons charges.

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Each week on Chartcrush, we take a look back at a year in music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade mag and chart authority, Billboard magazine.

This week on Chartcrush we are setting our sights on 2008, a year of change. And hope. “Hope and change” (airquotes). And “Yes We Can,” as Barack Obama, freshman Senator from Illinois, squared off against, first Hillary Clinton to become the first Black Presidential candidate to win a major party nomination and then against (airquotes) “maverick” Arizona senator John McCain and (airquotes) “Mama Grizzly” Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and won!

And pop culture, more specifically Hip-Hop culture, had had everything to do with that: why Obama was (airquotes) “the Hip-Hop President.” Hip-Hop had ruled the Pop charts for six years, so when Vibe (Hip-Hop’s top lifestyle mag) dubbed Obama “B-Rock” in a September ’07 cover story alongside the headline “It’s Obama Time,” that carried a lot of weight. Over half of Obama’s 65 million voters in ’08 were in Hip-Hop’s demographic: Black, Hispanic or under 30.

“Politics is downstream of culture,” conservative online news entrepreneur Andrew Brietbart had observed around the same time in a challenge to the Bush administration’s aloofness to culture and social issues. It was an edgy thing to say in Republican circles, but Democrats had been banking on it at least since “Rock the Vote” in ’92, the year Bill Clinton beat W’s dad playing his sax on Aresnio Hall’s late-night show and weaponizing Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” to rally Boomers.

And by 2004, Hip-Hop was fully mobilized. Rapper and Bad Boy Records mogul P. Diddy started up Citizen Change and enlisted Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and others. “Vote or Die!,” the slogan on t-shirts and PSAs all over urban radio. MTV rolled out “Choose or Lose,” and Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons’s Hip-Hop Summit Action Network was up and running with civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis Muhammad. That’s a lot of pop culture muscle!

W. did get win his second term vs. stiff New Englander John Kerry, but only barely, and four million new youth voters turned out. So by ’08, with all that in place and now (unlike ’04), a young, stylish, culture-savvy community organizer candidate in Barack Obama, who identified as African-American and had legions of young “street team” volunteers knocking doors, “Netroots Nation,” and Hip-Hop icon Jay-Z (who’d just “put a ring on it” with “Single Lady” Beyonce) promoting Obama on tour and at campaign events proclaiming that “Black people are no longer left out of the American Dream,” youth turnout skyrocketed again in ’08: over 50% the only time in the ’00s decade.

Not surprisingly, ’08, yet another dominant year for Hip-Hop on the charts as we will hear. But first, kicking off the countdown, it was also a year of epic female chart chart debuts! We’re talking Adele, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus…

#10 Katy Perry – Hot n Cold

…and our singer at #10: a bridge between the Pop Rock sound Kelly Clarkson took 6X platinum with her 2004 album Breakaway, and the so-called “New Pop” that ruled for five years starting in ’09 as the Black-Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Electronic Dance Music (“EDM”) triumphed. This was the second single from her breakout album One of the Boys. It’s Katy Perry, “Hot n Cold.”

Katy Perry, “Hot n Cold,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2008. In ’04, Kelly Clarkson wouldn’t have dreamed of writing or singing an emasculating diss line like “you change your mind like a girl changes clothes,” but three years is an eternity, and mid-’00s reality TV (Real Housewives, The Simple Life, MTV’s The Hills) had fleshed out a whole new palette of scrappy, potty-mouthed, angsty poses for female Pop stars in the Emo ’00s.

P!nk gets the credit for diving in first (her ’06 set, I’m Not Dead), but more as an amused and annoyed observer on her hits “Who Knew” and “U + Ur Hand.” Katy Perry, on the other hand, struck and embodied the poses on the album that made her a star, ’08’s One of the Boys: a display of Pop shape-shifting not seen since peak-Madonna.

“Hot N Cold” was the second single, following up “I Kissed a Girl.” Both of those, co-written with ubiquitous Swedish writer/producer Max Martin (who’d engineered Britney Spears debut on “…Baby One More Time” ten years earlier). “I Kissed a Girl” was #1 for seven weeks and “Hot n Cold” only got to #3. But it stayed in the Top40 12 weeks longer, well into 2009, so it comes out the bigger hit on points when you factor its full chart run.

#9 Colbie Caillat – Bubbly

At #9 is another song that never topped the Hot100 but racked up enough chart action to make it into our top ten on the year just by sticking around as long as it did: 47 weeks, June ’07 to May ’08. Billboard has it as the #67 song of 2007 and the #21 song of 2008, but combining its full chart run like we do for every song at Chartcrush, it comes out #9!

The singer turned to MySpace after being rejected twice by American Idol, and even though she never made the top ten on the Hot100 again, her style and this song served as the template for Taylor Swift’s transition into Pop on her 2008 set Fearless. Here is Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly.”

Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly” at #9 as we count down the top ten hits of 2008 on this week’s edition of Chartcrush. “Bubbly” was a huge Adult Contemporary and Adult Top40 hit: #1 on both of those for most of late ’07 into ’08. And Caillat stayed in the top ten on those charts into the mid-’10s, even after her beachy California singer-songwriter vibe was swept away by the turn-of-the-decade’s EDM tsunami.

#8 Lil Wayne featuring Static Major – Lollipop

At #8 is the first #1 hit by a Rapper who first appeared in the late-’90s as a pre-teen doing hardcore Southern Hip-Hop. Can’t not pay attention to that, right? But he kept it going through Hip-Hop’s early ’00s “Bling Era” cranking out album after album and turning in guest Rap verses on literally dozens of hits by everyone from Fat Joe to Destiny’s Child: so many features in ’07 that GQ named him “Workaholic of the Year.” And he would’ve had a new album out in ’07 too, except that his songs kept leaking on the internet, which delayed things ’til mid-’08.

The singer who gets the feature credit on our #8 hit, Static Major, also co-wrote the song. He was best-known for writing most of R&B singer Aaliyah’s big hits before her untimely death in a plane crash in ’01. And then his life unexpectedly ended after a hospital procedure. The song, one of his last vocals, was rushed out as an advance single, and shot into the top ten in just its second week, becoming rapper Lil Wayne’s first and only career #1 hit, on top for five weeks in May and June: “Lollipop.”

“Lollipop,” Lil Wayne featuring recently-deceased Singer-Songwriter Static Major: Grammy winner for Best Rap Song and #8 as we count down the biggest hits of 2008 here on this week’s edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Wayne’s glitchy Raps on “Lollipop,” courtesy of Auto-Tune, studio software that, when used as intended, subtly corrects off-pitch notes so you don’t even know it’s there. But starting with T-Pain mid-decade, a parade of Rappers in the late ’00s were turning the controls all the way to 10 to get that weird, unnatural stepped pitch effect, to the point where it was showing up on TV in Wendy’s fast-food commercials and going viral in hilarious “Auto-Tune the News” YouTube vids “remixing” speeches and newscasts as songs.

In ’09, Rapper Jay-Z for one had had enough. His song “D.O.A. (Death of AutoTune),” was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Video at the ’09 MTV Video Music Awards, and Alt-Rock band Death Cab for Cutie showed up at the Grammys wearing baby blue lapel ribbons to raise awareness about Auto-Tune abuse.

#7 Rihanna – Disturbia

Next at #7, a singer who made her debut a few years before in ’05 after being plucked out of her native Barbados at just 16 and signed to a six album deal with Def Jam. And she already had four top tens to her name when she scored her first #1 hit in ’07. That song, “Umbrella” won Best Video at the VMAs and nominations for Song and Record of the Year at the Grammys. And then in ’08, with this song she tied Beyonce for most #1s by a female act in the ’00s up until then at four, all in just two years.

From a special “reloaded” version of her third album Good Girl Gone Bad, the second #1 from that album after the downtempo “Take a Bow,” it’s Rihanna with “Disturbia.”

Rihanna, “Disturbia,” 2008’s #7 song according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking, which, again, factors every song’s full chart run. Since “Disturbia’s” chart run went from July ’08 to March ’09, it’s split on Billboard‘s year-end rankings: #16 for ’08 and #77 for ’09.

The main songwriter on “Disturbia:” Chris Brown, Rihanna’s then-boyfriend, who was also hot on the charts in ’08. But in ’09 he pled guilty to assaulting Rihanna in the most high-profile domestic violence case of the era, and got five years probation.

#6 Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love

So 2008 was the fourth year in a row that TV talent shows were behind one or more of the year’s top ten hits. In ’08, though, it was season three of the U.K. talent show The X-Factor that supplied the hit. American Idol judge Simon Cowell, also an X-Factor judge, mentored our singer at #6 through her victory and beyond. The lead cut off her first album was the world’s best-selling single of 2008. At #6, it’s Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love.”

Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” #6 as we count down the top ten hits of 2008 here on this week’s edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Lewis continued scoring top ten hits in her native U.K. for another five years, but despite continuing to work with a who’s who of ’00s Pop talent, her fortunes on the U.S. charts quickly waned. By her own admission, she was pretty headstrong and impatient about her musical direction, and not a wide margin for error with all the female Pop talent coming on the field into the 2010s.

#5 Coldplay – Viva la Vida

At #5 it’s another British act: a Rock band! In comparison to earlier eras, the ’00s were lean years for Brits on the Hot100. Between The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” in 1997 and James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” in ’06, nine years, no British acts topped the Hot100, and none since Blunt, so two almost back-to-back in ’08, Leona Lewis in May and these guys in June: not quite a British Invasion, but it was a story.

With 51 weeks, May ’08 to May ’09, it was the longest chart run of any song in 2008, and 46 of those weeks were in the top 40, and the album it was on, their first in three years, debuted at #1. The title song from that album and the Song of the Year at the Grammy’s, it’s Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”

Coldplay’s very first career #1 hit, “Viva la Vida,” eight years after ABC, the TV network, picked up their debut U.S. single “Yellow” to promote their 2000 Fall lineup. ABC built their whole brand around the color yellow at the turn of the millennium. Then it was another four years ’til their first top ten hit, “Speed of Sound,” and another four again ’til “Viva la Vida,” their first #1: #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 2008’s biggest hits.

Rock guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani sued Coldplay for copying his 2004 instrumental “If I Could Fly.” The case settled out of court.

#4 T.I. – Whatever You Like

But speaking of legal problems, as I mentioned when we heard Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” at #8, three of the songs in our ’08 countdown are Hip-Hop cuts, and two of the three Rappers in our countdown were facing serious drug and weapons charges after 2007 arrests while their songs were topping the charts in ’08. Lil Wayne, arrested in New York City, eventually did eight months in Riker’s Island and later published his prison diary as Gone ‘Til November: A Journal of Rikers Island. And our Rapper at #4, nabbed in his native Atlanta just hours before the ’07 BET Hip-Hop Awards where he was a multiple nominee slated to perform.

Lil Wayne had just happened to be near a handgun in a bag on his tour bus when he was busted by the NYPD; this guy, already a convicted felon, got nabbed by feds buying machine guns with silencers from an informant! And wound up serving six months in federal prison, and then another ten months after violating his parole.

These were big, widely-reported stories at the time. We’re talkin’ Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charles Gibson, FoxNews, CNN, BBC. But in a medium built on glorifying violence and criminality (Hip-Hop), outlaw street cred was currency, and the arrests and coverage certified both Rappers’ status as legit OGs with the public: “OG,” Hip-Hop slang for “original gangsta.”

Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” was #8; at #4, out of Atlanta, it’s T.I.: his first #1 after charting a dozen songs since 2003, written and recorded while he awaited trial, and it shot from #71 to #1 in a single week: the biggest one-week jump in Hot100 history up to then: “Whatever You Like.”

T.I., one of the Atlanta-based Rappers, along with Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy, credited with pioneering Trap, the dark, sparse style that fueled Hip-Hop’s comeback on the Pop charts in the mid ’10s. “Whatever You Like” was #1 or 2 for all of September, October and November: the whole ’08 election season in which Obama won the Presidency, and it’s the #4 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2008. Billboard had it at #15 on the year since the final 16 weeks of its run were after Billboard’s November 29 “chart year” cut-off for 2008.

Song parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic was out immediately with a parody version, in which Al woos his woman with his Costco card, fast-food dinners and coupon-clipping dates as the subprime mortgage crisis blew up, the stock market crashed, and the Great Recession got real for 2.6 million newly unemployed Americans: the most jobs lost in one year since 1945 when World War 2 ended and the economy had to transition back from war production.

#3 Timbaland featuring OneRepublic – Apologize

“Whatever You Like” hit late in the year at the peak of those woes; at #3, a song that debuted all the way back in April ’07 when the storm clouds were just gathering. It entered at #97, rising to 92 the following week, but then disappearing for two months. But then it re-entered in September, rose into the top 5, and stayed there for 19 weeks to the end of February ’08.

The group had recorded their debut album all the way back in 2005, but the label dropped them before the album came out, so same as Colbie Caillat did with “Bubbly” over a year later, they self-released on their MySpace page. And the song was such a hit on MySpace that Hip-Hop and R&B producer Timbaland (fresh from producing two of ’06’s biggest hits, Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous”) did a remix and gave the group their breakthrough hit. But it’s credited to Timbaland featuring the group, OneRepublic. At #3, “Apologize.”

OneRepublic’s “Apologize,” the Timbaland remix: #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2008. Songwriter/front man Ryan Tedder had a big year in ’08, and not just because of OneRepublic and “Apologize.” He also co-wrote and produced the song we heard at #6, Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” and then did the same on Beyonce’s “Halo.” With a string of epic behind-the-scenes assists like that by 2014, Billboard named Tedder “The Undercover King of Pop,” but OneRepublic kept racking up chart hits too; that same year (2014) their song “Counting Stars” spent an amazing 68 weeks on the Hot100 and was the #4 song of the year.

#2 Alicia Keys – No One

Next up at #2 is the #1 most listened-to song on America’s radio airwaves in 2008 with over 3 billion listens according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, by an R&B singer and classically-trained pianist who Billboard named the R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the ’00s decade: quite a distinction considering all the competition!

Her debut single “Fallin'” had been a #1 hit in 2001 (our #3 song of ’01). Then she scored four more top tens ’02 to ’04 and lit up the big screen opposite Ben Affleck and Andy García in Smokin’ Aces, and alongside Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans in The Nanny Diaries. When she returned to music, the lead single from her first studio album in four years, As I Am, was #1 for five weeks and #2 for another six, December ’07 to February ’08, and is our #2 song of 2008. Oh, and As I Am? That was Billboard’s #1 album of 2008. Here’s Alicia Keys’s “No One.”

#1 on the Hot100 for five weeks starting December ’07, Alicia Keys’s “No One.” That was the original version, but a remix by New York producer/DJ and Keys’s future hubby Swizz Beatz featuring Rapper Cassidy was preferred on rhythmic radio. At the Grammys big 50th anniversary show in ’08, Keys won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for “No One,” and also famously performed a live duet with a video of Frank Sinatra. She was back at the top of the charts in ’09 into 2010 with possibly her best-known song, especially in New York: her duet with Jay-Z, “Empire State of Mind.”

#1 Flo Rida featuring T-Pain – Low

And that brings us to the #1 song in our 2008 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, the debut single off the debut album by a Rapper who burst onto the scene as a throwback to ’90s Hip-Hop party music, a missing link of sorts between Hip-Hop’s “Bling Era” and the electronic dance music-styled party sounds that defined the New Pop at the turn of the decade.

It was the most-downloaded song of ’08 and topped Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart for 13 weeks, and the Hot100 for ten straight weeks, January to March. From Miami it’s the one Rapper in our top 10 who wasn’t in trouble with the law: Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, and the song describes a dancefloor move. Don’t try it at home though unless you have really strong knees! “Low.”

“Apple Bottom jeans, boots with the fur,” an earworm and meme launched by Flo Rida and T-Pain’s brand-laced track “Low,” the #1 song of 2008 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Apple Bottoms, a denim brand launched by Rapper Nelly in ’03. It was also Billboard’s #1 song of the year. T-Pain featured on the track, also from Florida, just coming off his #1 hit in ’07, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’).” Flo Rida scored his next #1 just months later in early ’09. “Right Round” introduced the singer who became the poster girl for the New Pop when her song “Tik Tok” was #1 for nine weeks in 2010, Ke$ha.


And there you have ’em, the top ten songs of 2008 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking, which is based on Billboard’s weekly Hot100 charts, but, again, unlike Billboard, we factor every song’s full chart run, not just the weeks within a discrete “chart year,” so some of the songs Billboard had in its top ten for 2008 are absent from our countdown. Let’s shout ’em out, shall we?

R&B singer Chris Brown was red hot in ’08 coming off a string four top tens starting in ’05. I mentioned earlier that he wrote our #7 song, “Disturbia,” and gave it to his then-girlfriend Rihanna, but none of his own hits made our top ten. Over on Billboard though, there are three Chris Brown hits in the year-end top ten, including numbers 10 and 9 back-to-back. At #10 was “Forever.”

Now time was that Pop acts mingling with brands was all but verboten. In the ’80 The Rolling Stones caught all kinds of shade for their multimillion dollar tour sponsorship deals, and as early as 1954, radio stations were banning records that were also ad jingles. But Chris Brown wrote “Forever” for Wrigley’s Doublemint gum and is in the commercial. “Double your pleasure, double your fun.” Between that and Flo Rida’s wonton brand-slinging in “Low,” by 2008, attitudes had clearly changed. Brown also made bank from NBC when “Forever” was famously spoofed in the Jim and Pam wedding episode of The Office.

But “Forever” wasn’t Chris Brown’s first hit of 2008.

“With You” was in the top ten January into May, the #9 song of 2008 on Billboard’s ranking. “Forever” and “With You,” numbers 13 and 16, respectively, on our Chartcrush 2008 ranking.

Now again, T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” was split between Billboard’s ’07 and ’09 “chart years,” so it didn’t make the top ten either year, but another Hip-Hop cut that was #17 on our ranking did.

Rapper Young Jeezy featuring on Usher’s “Love in This Club,” Billboard’s #8 song of the year and, again, #17 on our Chartcrush ranking. Usher’s seventh #1 hit, but his first since 2004. I mentioned Young Jeezy earlier as one of the acknowledged pioneers of Atlanta’s “Trap” Hip-Hop sound, along with T.I.

At #7, Billboard had a song by a newcomer that broke through on the charts thanks to Apple featuring it as an iTunes free download. And then (speaking of ad jingles), rival internet music platform Rhapsody used it in a commercial.

Sara Bareilles’s “Love Song” just misses our Chartcrush ranking at #12.

And finally, Billboard’s #6 song of 2008 (#15 on our ranking): Chris Brown, duetting with an American Idol winner that’s not Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.

Season six Idol winner Jordin Sparks, teaming with Chris Brown on “No Air,” the third Chris Brown song in Billboard’s year-end top ten bumped out of our Chartcrush countdown. Serves him right for how he treated our girl Rihanna! But as a consolation, on Billboard, his debut “Run It!,” got lost in the shuffle between ’05 and ’06 so it isn’t intheir top ten for either year. “Run It!” is our Chartcrush #1 song of 2006.

Well, thanks for listening to our 2008 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other “fire” extras. Every week we count down a different year on this show, from the dawn of Billboard’s charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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