2010 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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!

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in Pop music 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 and chart authority. This week on Chartcrush we’re turning the clock back to 2010, the second year of the Obama presidency, the country coming out of the Great Recession, and on Christmas Eve 2009 during a blizzard in D.C., the Senate passed Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the most sweeping expansion of federal social spending and power since the mid ’60s. And while the Tea Party ramped up to oppose final passage by the House, angrily confronting politicians at town halls waving yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, Pop amped up into a hedonistic party mode not seen since Disco. Bad economies and dancing: closely linked since at least the 1930s. And no one was more anxious about their wallet in 2010 than the music biz, in freefall from online piracy for ten years already, with five years still to go before rock bottom.

But the explosion of Dance Pop that started in the late ’00s as crowds at U.S. EDM festivals swelled to Woodstock proportions was different, so much so that Billboard declared it the start of a “new era.” For one, its scale was unprecedented. Of the 15 #1’s on the Hot100 in 2010, only six were not, as Billboard put it, “synth-driven, Auto-Tuned, four-on-the-floor-influenced” Dance Pop. Peak Disco in ’78, less than half the #1s were Disco.

But for another thing, 2010’s Dance Pop had the support and approval of critics. That was definitely new. Critics had always been at best dismissive of Dance music. That they weren’t in 2010 was thanks in large part to a kind of production philosophy articulated by Black Eyed Peas mastermind will.i.am. It went something like this: at any given moment there’s a “bubble” (Will’s word) of what people want to hear. Capturing it in the grooves and scoring a hit: obviously a commercial achievement. It’d always been that. But while Black Eyed Peas were #1 for an amazing 26 straight weeks over the Summer of ’09 with their back-to-back hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Got a Feeling,” will talked it up into an artistic achievement as well: the insight and ability to collect and harness sounds and feelings, and mold them into something that taps into or even becomes the “bubble,” not randomly but with intention. Kind of like Andy Warhol’s visual art philosophy applied to music, and critics ate it up. So did a music biz desperate for new models. And with the flood of view, click, like and share data now coming from the internet and social media, the “bubble” could be quantified and exploited with a scientific precision never before possible, which that made will’s new philosophy of Pop irresistible from a business standpoint.

All the data points, of course: also how success was now being measured too, on top of the old-skool metrics like sales, airplay and charts. But the downside? Well, it’s kind of like how the science of aerodynamics and government fuel efficiency standards made cars all look the same: hit records started sounding a lot alike. Critics noticed that too, but 2010’s Dance Pop was a perfect storm of converging trends, and the cover of Billboard‘s 2010 Year in Music issue summed it up: a man in a fur coat, fishnet stockings and a foil crown with arms outstretched holding a bottle of champagne with the headline “Why Pop Rules.”

#10 Usher featuring Pitbull – DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love

So with that, let’s dive in at #10 with the first of five Auto-tuned, four-on-the-floor Dance Poppers we’ll be hearing this hour. It peaked at #4, so not among the nine Clubby #1’s during the year that Billboard called out to make its point about a new era in Pop, but it hung around in the top ten for 15 weeks: a Singer-Rapper collab co-written by the Rapper, and co-produced by Swedish producer Max Martin, his first time working with either artist. It’s Usher and the Rapper who co-wrote, Pitbull, with “DJ Got Us Falling in Love.”

The perfect song to lead off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for a year when Club music conquered the charts: “DJ Got Us Falling in Love,” from what was disc two of the deluxe reissue of Usher’s 2010 album Raymond v. Raymond, also issued in the Fall as the standalone EP Versus. Cash-strapped fans appreciated that. Club sounds, of course: dominant across the Atlantic since the ’90s, and a handful of Euro-Disco singles had scored big in the U.S. But it took a full-on merger with Hip-Hop to put it over the top Stateside. Pitbull, the Miami-based Latin Rapper on the track, originally wrote “DJ Got Us Falling” with his collaborators for Rihanna, but she turned it down.

#9 Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

The origin point of the ’10s Club Pop boom was Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” in ’06, which topped both the Hot100 and Dance charts with Rapping throughout by the Producer/mastermind behind the track, Timbaland. Rap plus vocal hooks, common in R&B but not in Euro-Clubby hits, at least since the early ’90s. Britney Spears might’ve grabbed the momentum with her Clubby ’07 album Blackout, but the baggage of her Teen Pop image and imploding personal life held her back, so it was our upstart Diva at #9 who grabbed the controls and hit the launch button. Blogger Ryan McNutt described her in 2010 as “a twisted pop mashup of sex, murder and electro-clash,” and she quickly came to personify not just Euro-Disco, but will.i.am’s entire Warholian stardom-as-pop-art ethos. After three straight #1s in ’09, she barreled into 2010 with what Billboard described as a “virtually uninterrupted flow of content…and press-worthy spectacles.” Like Usher’s Versus, her Fame Monster EP was a recession-busting standalone release of just the new songs from the deluxe reissue of her album The Fame, and this was its lead single. At #9 it’s Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

Billboard’s #1 artist of 2010, Lady Gaga, with the #9 song of the year, “Bad Romance” here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It was also the #2 Dance/Club song of the year, and she accepted her Video of the Year award for it at the MTV VMAs wearing a dress made entirely of raw beef, which Time named the year’s top fashion statement. But maybe the most extreme thing about Gaga in 2010: the nine-and-a-half minute video for “Telephone,” her next hit after “Bad Romance.” It co-starred Beyonce, so that was huge, but it also had nine (count ’em nine) conspicuous paid product placements: Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and the dating site Plenty of Fish. And Polaroid, who even appointed her to be their new Creative Director. She also did a lucrative deal with Armani in 2010. An ad exec had told Billboard in ’07 that Pop stars getting in bed with corporations wasn’t “selling out” anymore, it was “selling in,” and indeed, Millennials didn’t seem to care. The poison used in the “Telephone” vid, though? Well, thankfully that was generic.

#8 Usher featuring will.i.am – OMG

So, Gaga, the epitome of the whole “bubble” concept that lifted the brazen pursuit of Pop culture glory to high art status (perhaps the final triumph of the postmodern taste inversion that turned the corner in the early ’90s), but next at #8, the guy I’ve been talking about who came up with that “bubble” concept, will.i.am. He’s the featured performer on the track, but doesn’t just Rap; he produced and wrote it. And if you’re thinking the headliner must be a pretty big deal if will.i.am settled for a feature, you’d be right. It’s the Singer’s ninth #1, and it made him the first act in the 2010’s to top the chart in three decades (and only the fourth in history). #1 for four weeks in May and June, at #8, again, Usher, “OMG.”

Usher, one of the top Singers of his time, had no use for Auto-Tune, yet it’s all over his vocals on “OMG,” #8 here on our Chartcrush Countdown of the top ten hits of 2010. Auto-Tune, the digital effect that produces a futuristic, stepped pitch effect when pushed to its limits on vocal tracks, unleashed by T-Pain in ’06. And by 2010 everyone was using it, even Usher. Reluctantly, though. In 2013, three years after “OMG” and fading on the charts, his steamy, Hip-Hop-inflected R&B style already a ’00s relic, Usher cornered T-Pain on a plane and bitterly accused him of ruining music for real Singers. Usher did go out with a bang, though: eight charting singles in 2010, including the #1 “OMG” and our #10 song, “DJ Got Us Falling in Love.” His biggest year since “Yeah,” “My Boo” and Confessions in ’04.

#7 Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind

And speaking of Auto-Tune, at #7, a song by its most famous and outspoken detractor. He even proclaimed its demise in ’09 in his song “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” Which was gutsy move: kind of like if Eric Clapton had announced the end of fuzztone in 1968, or Sting the end of synthesizers in ’87—wishful thinking. Drake, Future, Travis Scott kept Auto-Tune front and center through the ’10s, not to mention Kanye West, who was a protégé of our would-be prophet. But you won’t find any Auto-Tune on his ’09 album The Blueprint 3, or on what became his only career #1. At #7 it’s Jay-Z featuring Billboard’s #1 R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the 2000s decade Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind.”

“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys at #7. Don’t look for it in the top ten of any Billboard year-end ranking though: its chart run was split between their 2009 and 2010 chart years, so it’s #62 on their ’09 tally, and #21 for 2010.. But factoring its full chart run into 2010 (the calendar year it accumulated most of its points, as we do with every song for our Chartcrush rankings), it comes out at #7. Jay-Z, a towering figure in Hip-Hop with nine straight #1 studio albums under his belt by 2010, but of his 36 Hot100 singles as a headliner since his debut in 1996, no #1s until “Empire State of Mind.” Different story as a featured Rapper though: 21 hits with three #1: Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” in ’99; girlfriend, then wife, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” in ’03; and his top discovery as the head of Def Jam Records, Rihanna: “Umbrella” in ’07.

#6 Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg – California Gurls

The rivalry between New York and L.A.’s Hip-Hop scenes in the ’90s, of course, like the Wild West: the stuff of legend. The bullets had stopped flying years ago by 2010, though, as Atlanta eclipsed both in the ’00s and Midwestern scenes flourished: Eminem out of Detroit, Nelly out of St. Louis; Kanye West from Chicago. But a #1 anthem about New York by Jay-Z demanded a West Coast response, even in 2010, and it’s at #6, back-to-back with “Empire State of Mind.” The bigger hit: six weeks at #1 vs. “Empire’s” five. It’s OG West Coast Rapper Snoop Dogg featuring on the lead single off fellow California native Katy Perry’s sophomore album Teenage Dream, “California Gurls.”

Major market radio stations in droves: flipping from Rock to Pop around the turn of the decade because the ratings books were telling execs that audiences were skewing too Male. That’s part of the reason why so many new Female superstars emerged in those years. As big as Katy Perry was in 2010 though, four other Females outranked her on Billboard’s overall Female Artists ranking: a crowded field in the early ’10s. “California Gurls,” her collab with Snoop Dogg, #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 2010’s biggest hits. Girls spelt with a “u,” so as not to be confused with the Beach Boys classic. Billboard named it the year’s top Summer hit, and when they updated their ranking of the top 30 Biggest Summer Hits of All Time, it came out #1. Beach Boys’ were #16.

#5 Eminem featuring Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie

At #5, another Rapper/Singer hit that replaced “California Gurls” at #1 at the end of July. Unlike Jay-Z, this Rapper did score #1 hits in the ’00s: two of ’em, the first of which was the #1 song of the year in 2002, “Lose Yourself” from his autobiographical hit movie 8 Mile. After struggling with addiction mid-decade, he came back in ’09 with his first new album in five years and got to #1 again with his all-star collab with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, “Crack a Bottle;” then another star-studded track headlined by Drake in late ’09, “Forever,” also featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne. By mid-2010, fans were itching for new stuff from him so bad that the advance lead single from his next album Recovery, “Not Afraid,” debuted at #1. That was still just a once-every-couple-year occurrence in 2010, debuting at #1. But it was his controversial collaboration with Rihanna released the same day as the album that really connected: a song about lovers in a codependent relationship. The video intersperses scenes of domestic violence with performance shots in front of a burning house and it notched over six -and-a-half million views in one day, breaking YouTube’s record at the time. At #5 is Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie.”

Both Eminem and Rihanna had had very public dysfunctional relationships: Eminem divorcing his wife Kimberly Scott a second time, and Rihanna ending her relationship with R&B star Chris Brown after his felony assault on her in early ’09. So “Love the Way You Lie” came out of very real struggles, #1 for seven straight weeks in the late Summer, and #5 on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Some critics faulted it for downplaying the woman’s perspective, so Rihanna did a part two sequel on her next album, with Eminem contributing a verse. It wasn’t promoted as a single, though, so it didn’t chart.

#4 Train – Hey, Soul Sister

So with Big Radio dumping Rock to lure Female listeners, bands needed other ways to reach the masses, and the band at #4 drove their song up the charts by blitzing it out on TV. Not just the usual late night guest spots, but embedded in so many primetime dramas and commercials that two guys started a social media campaign against that that rated a feature in Entertainment Weekly. But the song (their first chart entry in nearly five years) continued moving up for 25 weeks, eventually surpassing their previous chart high in 2001 with their song “Drops of Jupiter,” and peaking at #3 for four weeks in April. It was in the top 40 all the way to the end of September: a 54 week chart run, all told. The only Rock band in our Countdown, at #4 it’s Train, with “Hey, Soul Sister.”

Train isn’t just the only Rock band in our Countdown; they’re the only one that cracked the top 10 all year on the weekly chart. “Hey Soul Sister,” #4 on our 2010 edition of Chartcrush. The Script and Neon Trees: the only other bands that got close, with “Breakeven” and “Animal,” respectively.

Fewer radio stations playing current rock, a big factor in that, but it was also political. Hip-Hop’s mobilization had been key to Obama’s victory in ’08, so culture critics at progressive outlets: determined to deny the Tea Party that advantage. It was projection, of course: conservatives hadn’t rallied around a song since Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler’s pro-Vietnam “Ballad of the Green Berets” in 1966. And what had that accomplished? But if they were gonna rally around a song, the critics figured, it’d be one by a group like Train, so out came the long knives. In naming “Hey, Soul Sister” the worst song of 2010, The Village Voice‘s Christopher Weingarten dissed it as “so White that Sarah Palin just named it her running mate for 2012.” Less partisan critics just pointed out that it sounded a lot like Jason Mraz’s ukelele-strumming 2009 hit “I’m Yours.” As for Train, in ’13 they canceled their appearance at the Boy Scouts’ National Jamboree in protest of the Scouts’ ban on openly Gay scoutmasters, so did they really need that target on their backs?

#3 Taio Cruz – Dynamite

Anyway, we’re getting down to the small numbers here on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show, and at #3, a British act: the only one in the countdown, with a song co-written and produced by the aforementioned Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who’d helmed dozens of top hits in the ’00s by Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk and others, and burst into the ’10s with the Usher and Katy Perry tracks we heard at numbers 10 and 6. This singer’s first hit, “Break Your Heart,” shot from #53 to #1 in just its second week in March: the biggest jump to #1 for a debut single in chart history up to then. That one’s #13 on our Chartcrush ranking, but our #3 hit, the follow-up, took a little longer to top out at #2 for three weeks in August, but it was on the chart four and a half months longer, so it the bigger hit. It’s Taio Cruz, “Dynamite.”

Had Taio Cruz’s label been more impressed with his demo of “Umbrella,” which became a megahit for Rihanna, he might’ve broken through in 2007, but like Britney Spears’s people, who’d also had shot at that song, they passed. But “Break Your Heart” was his explosive debut in 2010, and then our #3 song “Dynamite.” And after that, he quickly faded almost as fast as he’d arrived. Someone leaked the songs from his follow-up album, so there was that, but Taio was never able to forge a Pop star identity and escape what Stereogum’s Tom Breihan called the “just some guy” zone, and never scored another hit, despite continuing to release new music, and even launching his own social media app, KeWe, in 2013.

#2 Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

At #2 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2010’s top hits, the act that ruled the Country charts in 2010. But they were also Billboard’s #1 top overall Duo or Group of the year, with the #4 album. And their song at #2 was the year’s #1 Radio Airplay song, #1 Adult Contemporary song, and the biggest Country crossover hit since Faith Hill’s “Breathe” in 2000. Also the longest chart run of the year: 60 weeks: longer than Train’s 54. It’s Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”

Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” #2 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, 2010 edition. Also #2 on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 ranking. More Hot100 hits followed, and eight more Country #1’s, throughout the ’10s, but speaking of politics, as early as 2011, one writer in Ms. Magazine was on their case for glorifying slavery in the pre-Civil War South by having the word Antebellum in their name. Fast forward nine years to the Confederate history purge and statue hysteria that followed in the wake of the George Floyd protests. In 2020 they announced that henceforth, they’d just be “Lady A,” and the Dixie Chicks followed two weeks later. The newly rechristened “Chicks” got the blessing of the Duo in New Zealand that was already using that name, but Lady A wasn’t so fortunate. The Seattle-based Black Lives Matter activist-Singer already using the “Lady A” moniker sued for millions and hounded them in the press every chance she got until settling for an undisclosed sum in 2022. Yikes!

#1 Ke$ha – TiK ToK

Well we’re down to #1, and it’s back to pure, straight-up Pop: the headline Hot100 debut by a 23-year-old daughter of a Country songwriter mom, raised in Nashville. And based on that, you’d have every right not to expect what Genius.com calls an “aural glitter bomb” about a chick who wakes up feeling like P. Diddy and brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels before hitting the party circuit ’til the sun comes up, or the cops show up. But remember the fishnet stocking dude holding the champagne on the cover of Billboard’s Year in Music issue I mentioned at the top of the show?” Right, this is 2010 we’re talking about, and the #1 song of the year is Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK.”

White-girl rapping, 30 years after Blondie, and 4 years before Iggy Azalea! One of the most explosive debuts in chart history, Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK,” #1 for all of January and February, nine weeks, and the #1 song of the year, shattering the single-week download record for a song by a Female artist. After Ke$ha (and both of Taio Cruz’s big 2010 hits) the floodgates opened for repeated words in lyrics (“Boys blowin’ up our phones, phones;” “Wearing all my favorite brands, brands,” et cetera). That became a Pop trope in the early ’10s. “TiK ToK,” co-written with and co-produced by the protégé of the aforementioned Max Martin, Dr. Luke, who’d brought Ke$ha in to sing the hook on Flo Rida’s “Right Round” in ’09, which was a #1 hit. And even though she wasn’t officially credited on the record, fans knew that voice!

Well there ya have ’em, the top ten here on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, unlike Billboard, we factor every song’s full chart run, which they can’t do because they have to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So two of the songs we heard this hour are not in the top ten on Billboard’s official Hot100 chart for the year. Our #10 song, Usher & Pitbull’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” was still high on the chart at the end of the 2010 chart year so Billboard ranked it #22 just counting its weeks up to it’s 2010 cutoff. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” our #7 hit, was also a year straddler, but ’09 into ’10. Billboard had it at #21. But those two coming in to our top ten bumps two songs out from Billboard’s, so in the little bit of time we have left, let’s take a look at those.

At #10, Billboard had Taio Cruz’s first hit I mentioned when we heard his second, “Dynamite” at #3.

Unlike “Dynamite,” which topped out at #2, Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” had a week at #1: it’s second week, rocketing to the top from its debut at #53. It shakes out at #13 on our Chartcrush ranking for 2010.

And at #6 Billboard had the year’s top New R&B/Hip-Hop artist, Georgia Rapper B.o.B: yet another Rapper/Singer combo with Rock band Paramore’s Hayley Williams on the hook: “Airplanes.”

“Airplanes” just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11. B.o.B. also notable for introducing Bruno Mars, the featured singer on his first big hit earlier in 2010, “Nothing on You.” B.o.B cracked the top ten again in ’11 teaming up with Lil Wayne on “Strange Clouds” and got to #11 with “So Good” in 2012, but his career on the Hot100 didn’t last into the latter half of the decade. And with that, we’re gonna have to call it a wrap up for our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Thanks for listening! Hey, if you like what you heard, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of the show and a link to stream the expanded podcast version on Spotify, plus zeke extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive graph of the actual chart runs of our top ten songs. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. See you again back here next week, hopefully, same station, same time, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

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