1967 Podcast

1967 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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.

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music 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 publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week we’re counting down 1967, the most geographically lopsided top ten in chart history. Of the ten records in our countdown, seven came out of just one place: Los Angeles, California, by six different Southern California-based acts.

L.A. in the ’60s, the epitome of a modern, forward-looking American city: drenched in sunshine, spectacular beaches, young, tanned, beautiful people everywhere, futuristic architecture, multi-lane freeways. And Cars! Cars! Cars! “Suburb as city,” sprawling by design, no building taller than the 28-story City Hall downtown by law until 1958, and none was until 1966.

And glamorous industries: aerospace, TV, motion pictures, and of course music, especially since American Bandstand moved there from Philadelphia, and L.A.’s homegrown record label, Capitol, with its cool cylindrical tower at Hollywood and Vine, embraced youth culture and started putting out records by The Beach Boys and Beatles. The title of Dick Clark’s L.A.-centric Bandstand spinoff had it right: L.A. was Where the Action Is.

But over 150 other U.S. cities saw a very different kind of action in 1967. Almost everywhere but California was a “Long, Hot Summer” of racial unrest and urban riots, the worst in Detroit and Newark, New Jersey in July: dozens killed, hundreds injured, entire neighborhoods looted and burned.

Emerging Black leaders weren’t talking about reforming the system anymore, but overthrowing it. In a CBS interview in late ’66, Martin Luther King, Jr., called riots “the language of the unheard” and admitted that the voting rights and anti-poverty measures he’d helped secure in ’64 and ’65 hadn’t made much difference. Cries of “Black power” were a reaction to White America’s reluctance to “make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality,” he said.

But he couldn’t and wouldn’t condone the violence, so he pivoted in ’67 to opposing the war in Vietnam as his core issue. Heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali had just forfeited his title and boxing license refusing his Army induction after being drafted.

The first major anti-Vietnam Peace protest was in New York in April, organized by Mobe (short for Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam): a coalition of radicals, clergy, pacifists and MLK. Dozens of men burned their draft cards in Central Park and a crowd of 300,000 rallied at the U.N. A march the same day in San Francisco was only a third as big after Folk singer Joan Baez was quoted on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner urging people not to show up because the rally was really a cover for communist support of the Viet Cong.

But the protests put the Peace movement front and center, and soon, Mobe was hunkered down planning its Fall wave of protests in 30 cities in October, culminating with the main event in D.C.: 100,000 on the National Mall, then on to the Pentagon, where poet Allen Ginsberg led chants to levitate the building and “exorcise the evil within,” as chronicled in Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer-winning The Armies of the Night.

California though, with its new Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, seemed almost exempt from all the chaos and violence, and was a magnet. In May, folkie Scott McKenzie put out a record written and produced by John Phillips of the Mamas & Papas beckoning kids from “all across the nation” who were looking for “a new vibration” to come to “San Francisco,” and “be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Tens of thousands did, descending on ‘Frisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to get in on what Time had already heralded two months before as “the center of a new utopianism, compounded of drugs and dreams, free love and LSD.”

Instead of a “Long, Hot Summer,” San Francisco had a “Summer of Love,” and down the coast, L.A. produced seven of the top ten hits of the year.

#10 The Turtles – Happy Together

The first of which we’re gonna hear right now at #10. No ’60s flower power compilation would be complete without it, and it’s been on over 200 of ’em. AllMusic.com’s Denise Sullivan called it “a most sublime slice of Pop heaven [that’s] bounced through decades of AM-car-radio-play unharmed.” It’s The Turtles, “Happy Together.”

“Happy Together,” The Turtles, #1 for three weeks in March into April and the #10 song of 1967. None of The Turtles’ hits until “Eleanor” in late 1968 were written by members of the group. “Happy Together,” written by two guys from a no-hit New York Folk-Rock outfit called The Magicians, whose demo was a stripped-down affair with just guitar and hand-claps, rejected by a dozen artists before The Turtles’ brand new bass player Chip Douglas came up with that brilliant Flower Pop arrangement to help set the stage for the Summer of Love.

#9 The Young Rascals – Groovin’

At #9, the first of the three songs in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1967 not from L.A. This group hailed from the New York area, and their first hits were frantic rockers. “Good Lovin’,” #1 in the Summer of 1966. But in ’67 they toned things down, first with mid-tempo Motown-y soul on “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” a top 20 hit in April; then with this mellow, sun-dappled stroll in the park, complete with singing birds and an arrangement featuring conga but no drums, and Caribbean rhythms.

At about the same time as Beatle George Harrison was discovering Indian music, Felix Cavaliere, was nurturing his fascination with Afro-Cuban sounds on what became The Young Rascals second #1 hit, for four weeks in May and June: “Groovin’.”

The Young Rascals, “Groovin,'” written, like all their hits after “Good Lovin’,” by bandmembers Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati. Atlantic label boss Jerry Wexler wasn’t too keen on “Groovin'” at first, but DJ Murray the K intervened, and convinced him it’d be a hit.

In mid-May as it was peaking on the Hot100, “Groovin'” also crossed over to the R&B chart, eventually getting to #3, prompting a front-page piece in Billboard about Black radio stations playing more records by non-Black artists, and Pop Rock stations playing more R&B hits.

#8 Nancy & Frank Sinatra – Somethin’ Stupid

Our #8 hit is a crossover too, but to a different genre chart. Billboard had just three of those in the ’60s for each of the top radio formats: Country, R&B and, since ’61, Easy Listening, where it was #1 for nine straight weeks, topping the Hot100 for four.

It’s the only #1 father/daughter duet ever, and both father and daughter were red hot coming into ’67. Dad, a superstar since the early ’40s, had just scored his first #1 in over ten years at age 51 with “Strangers in the Night,” just a few months after his daughter became an international Swingin’ ’60s “it” girl in ’66 with a tough, platinum blonde image on her hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” and her starring role alongside Peter Fonda in Roger Corman’s outlaw biker flick The Wild Angels. Here are Nancy and Frank Sinatra straddling the generation gap: “Somethin’ Stupid.”

C. Carson Parks, older brother of songwriter/producer Van Dyke Parks, wrote “Somethin’ Stupid” and cut it earlier in ’67 with his wife Gaile Foote. It didn’t chart, but ‘Ol Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra got a hold of it and Nancy’s mentor-producer Lee Hazelwood persuaded him to record it with Nancy. Obviously not written with a father and daughter in mind, so DJs had lots of fun joking around about incest. But fans mostly saw it, as one commenter on an internet forum put it, as “the equivalent of a father and a daughter singing karaoke at a party.” Not creepy at all.

Detour: The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Now we’ll get to #7 in a minute, but first, a little detour.

For the first time in three years, The Beatles didn’t have any songs in the top ten on the year. They were busy inventing Album Rock!

In the Fall of 1967, Billboard’s music editor since the ’40s, Paul Ackerman, observed on page one that albums by “underground” acts were selling in the hundreds of thousands “without the impetus of a hit single:” albums with “unconventional” material, promoted in “scores of underground publications” and via “posters, buttons and certain radio stations which are hip to the idiom.”

And even big AM Top 40 stations were getting in on it, like New York’s WMCA, auditioning album cuts as if they were singles. This had a profound impact on the charts. While it’s always been true that people don’t usually buy singles of songs on albums they already have, even if they are out as singles, after ’67 with albums taking center stage, Billboard could no longer claim that the Hot100 was a definitive songs ranking.

Eventually they tweaked the rules to allow Album cuts on the Hot100, with Charts Director Geoff Mayfield explaining that “The goal is deceptively simple: to reveal the most popular songs in the United States. Period. End of sentence.” But that was at the end of 1998. From ’67 until then though, popular album cuts, even ones getting airplay and moving boatloads of LPs, were a total blind spot on the Hot100, which remained a singles-only chart.

And that’s why none of the songs on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album charted on the Hot100, among other glaring omissions, especially at the peak of Album Rock in the ’70s: they weren’t out as singles (as with Sgt. Peppers), and/or most people were buying the album and had no use for the singles.

Now The Beatles did release some singles in ’67: “Penny Lane” backed with “Strawberry Fields Forever” in March and “All You Need Is Love” in the Summer did well, but not “well” by Beatles standards, and that was thanks to the massive backlash against John Lennon predicting the demise of Christianity and saying The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” in the late Summer of ’66.

Practically overnight it became controversial to play Beatles records on Top 40 radio, and things got pretty tense on the road. So after wrapping up what turned out to be their final tour, they retreated to the studio, and ten months later, which is an eternity in Beatle time, they emerged with Sgt. Pepper’s, their all-in psychedelic, druggy rebuke to an increasingly hostile mainstream.

And right after it came out, Paul McCartney, who was actually the last of the four Beatles to try LSD, doubled down and became the first Pop star to admit it publicly. Lennon had been using LSD regularly for two years at that point!

#7 The Doors – Light My Fire

Back to our countdown, and #7: a new group plucked out of Hollywood’s thriving Sunset Strip club scene, and their debut album had been slowly scaling the Album chart all Spring. Just one problem: its biggest hit clocked in at over seven minutes! Well they weren’t The Beatles; they couldn’t just not release singles off their album, and Top 40 radio wasn’t playing seven-minute songs. So the label, Elektra, decided to edit out the song’s lengthy organ and guitar jam in the middle, and the result, just shy of three minutes, was the first “single edit” of an album cut on the Hot100. A song about fire, #1 for three weeks right in the middle of the “long, hot summer” of ’67, it’s The Doors, “Light My Fire.”

Another thing making headlines in the music trades in ’67: Texas radio mogul Gordon McLendon’s crusade against smutty and druggy lyrics. TV and radio, McLendon felt, was kids’ first contact with the adult world, and if that was making drugs and illicit sex attractive, “we’ve been just as guilty as those who do the pushing of drugs.” He even set up a panel of ex-prostitutes and junkies to help weed out suggestive records.

Well, a few weeks after “Light My Fire” hit #1, The Doors appeared on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show, and a producer, who also happened to be Ed Sullivan’s son-in-law, asked them to change “girl, we couldn’t get much higher” in the song to “girl, there’s nothing I require,” and The Doors agreed to do that. The Rolling Stones had changed “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” and aside from Mick Jagger flubbing one instance and rolling his eyes on another, that’d gone off without a hitch. But then, on live TV, Doors front man Jim Morrison went ahead and sang the original line, “girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” and The Doors, who’d been negotiating to do multiple episodes of Sullivan, were banned for life.

#6 The Box Tops – The Letter

At #6 is the debut single and biggest hit by a short-lived blue-eyed soul group from Memphis, Tennessee: another of the three records in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1967 not out of California. The lead singer, just 16. In ’67 though, his gruff vocals really stood out, and helped propel the song to #1 for four weeks in the Fall. And speaking of song lengths, it was the last #1 hit shorter than two minutes. No editing needed on that one! It’s The Box Tops, lead singer Alex Chilton, “The Letter.”

Box Tops, “The Letter,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1967’s biggest hits, written by songwriter Wayne Carson, who wrote a couple more top 20s for them before they split in 1970, right around the same time Joe Cocker was scoring his first top ten hit, a slowed-down version of “The Letter.”

Box Tops singer Alex Chilton’s work in Big Star and beyond in the ’70s: a huge influence on ’80s Alternative groups like The Replacements, whose song entitled “Alex Chilton” is a highlight of their 1987 album, Pleased to Meet Me.

#5 The Monkees – Daydream Believer

So if anyone indirectly benefited from the backlash against John Lennon’s comments about Jesus and religion and The Beatles’ retreat to the studio and out of the public eye, it was our group at #5. The timing was perfect. Their first hit debuted in September ’66, right after The Fab Four played their last-ever U.S. gigs. And then, their weekly TV show premiered: a half hour goofball sitcom, Monday nights at 7:30 on NBC conceived as TV’s answer to The Beatles. How could it miss?

This song peaked in December ’67, well into season two of the show, so, one of their later hits, after they’d ruled the charts all year. It’s (who else?) The Monkees, “Daydream Believer.”

Mickey Dolenz, the singer on most of The Monkees’ biggest hits, but Davy Jones got the mic on “Daydream Believer,” The Monkees fifth top ten and third #1, all in less than a year and a half. And Monkeemania wasn’t just a U.S. phenomenon; in the U.K., The Beatles’ home turf, it was their sixth top ten! Over the summer, they’d drawn 10,000 to see their U.K. debut at Wembley’s Empire Pool in London, and according to Billboard, 90% of them were teenaged girls. By the end of ’67 The Monkees were bigger as a recording act than as TV stars, and Nesmith managed to wrest creative control of their music from the New York and Hollywood suits that had brought them together and made them stars.

“Daydream Believer,” the one song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1967 not in Billboard’s official published top ten for the year, because Billboard only counted chart action up to its December 16 issue. “Daydream” still had a week to go at #1, and six more in the top ten into 1968. At Chartcrush, not having to get an issue out before New Years, we get to factor every song’s full chart run for more accurate rankings.

#4 Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe

At #4 is an unlikely hit by an until-then unknown singer based since her teens in, where else? L.A., but originally from Mississippi. And everyone who was around in ’67 seems to remember exactly where they were and how they felt when they first heard it. Janis Joplin felt nauseous. Right from the strummed intro, Otis Redding knew it was going to be “some kind of trouble.” And Bob Dylan called that same intro “primitive and searing.”

Capitol Records released it in July as a B-side on the singer’s first single with no fanfare, but it caught on and wound up displacing The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” at #1 at the end of August. Here’s Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.”

“Ode to Billie Joe,” #4 on our 1967 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: just Bobbie Gentry, a stunning raven-haired beauty from the Mississippi Delta where the story takes place, and her acoustic guitar, with those dramatic strings overdubbed.

Gentry, who wrote the song, was quoted saying it’s a study in unconscious cruelty for the way the news of Billie Joe’s suicide doesn’t rise above the mundane details of life. But it leaves key questions unanswered, like what were the narrator and Billie Joe throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge? On that and other points, she let listeners draw their own conclusions.

It only got to #17 on the Country chart. Country radio, not playing many “primitive” and “searing” records in the late ’60s, and there was a cover version in a more polished-sounding “Countrypolitan” style by singer Margie Singleton, but enough Country fans bought Bobbie Gentry’s album to propel it #1 for three weeks on the Country Albums chart.

Get this: both song and album cracked the top ten on the R&B charts, even with a competing version by Instrumental Soul star, saxophonist King Curtis. As they say in the biz: an “all-market sweep.”

Gentry stayed in the music biz ’til the early ’80s, when she retired back to her native Mississippi, just a couple hours’ drive from the site of the Tallahatchie Bridge, which collapsed in 1972.

#3 The Association – Windy

So we’ve heard The Turtles, the Sinatras, Doors, Monkees, Bobbie Gentry so far. That’s five of the California-based acts in our 1967’s top ten. #3 is the sixth, all the way to the mellow side of the Folk-Rock spectrum: a Harmony Pop Vocal group that came out of The Troubadour, the West Hollywood Folk Club where Elton John put himself on the map a few years later.

They’d already scored a #1 hit with “Cherish.” That’s our #6 song of 1966. Here they are repeating in the top ten for ’67 with this breezy hit that was #1 for the whole violent, fiery month of July, dislodged from the top by “Light My Fire.” It’s The Association, “Windy.”

Now you’d think “Windy” would’ve been all over the Easy Listening charts in ’67, right? Nope. Not a chance with thinly-veiled drug references like “stormy eyes,” “tripping down the streets,” “flyin’ high above the clouds.” Nah ahh. They didn’t get to do it on Ed Sullivan either.

Adult America, still for the most part allergic to Hippie sounds and messaging. The Easy Listening chart in ’67 (precursor to Adult Contemporary) reads like a who’s who of pre-Elvis Crooners and Pop Singers: Sinatra, Como, Martino, Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Margaret Whiting, all in their 40s and 50s, while the counterculture was saying never to trust anyone over 30.

The Association established their Hippie credentials beyond doubt by leading off one of the defining events of the Summer of Love: the three-day Monterey Pop Festival in June. “Windy” was allowed there, and later in the festival, among many other iconic moments, Jimi Hendrix poured lighter fluid on his guitar and lit it on fire to top The Who’s guitar smashing antics.

On the planning committee for Monterrey, Brian Wilson, and his group The Beach Boys was slated to headline day two, their latest #1 single “Good Vibrations” having received a resounding thumbs up from the Hippie press. But they canceled last-minute, and according to writer Jesse Jarnow on the music site Pitchfork, “the ascendant underground effectively wrote The Beach Boys out of the ’60s Rock narrative that followed.”

Sgt. Pepper’s entered the album chart the same week as Monterrey, and The Beach Boys’ hotly-anticipated psychedelic studio masterpiece Smile was eventually shelved.

#2 Lulu – To Sir, with Love

And that gets us to #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1967. It’s the theme song of a British movie about a black Guianan immigrant played by Sidney Poitier who takes a teaching job in a school in London’s tough, working-class East End to make ends meet while he looks for a job as an engineer.

Unexpectedly, it became one of the biggest films of the year, and the song sung by a teen British singer-actress who was in the movie was #1 for five weeks in October and November. The singer-actress? Lulu. And the song’s title? Same as the movie: “To Sir, with Love.”

The “Sir” in “To Sir, with Love” is Sidney Poitier’s character in the movie: the teacher who insists on being addressed as “Sir” by his unruly students: part of teaching them respect and manners.

Poitier had previously played a student in Blackboard Jungle, the 1955 movie that launched “Rock Around the Clock” to the top of the charts. And then he became the first Black man to win Best Actor at the Oscars (for 1963’s Lilies of the Field) and was a such an icon in the Black community that Lulu’s “To Sir, with Love” was also a top ten hit on the R&B chart just because it was in a Sidney Poitier movie. That crossover success, definitely a bright spot in a year of racial strife.

Lulu, the singer-actress, remained a big star in her native U.K., but “To Sir, with Love” was her only big U.S. hit. And it was the #1 song on Billboard’s year-end Hot100.

#1 The Monkees – I’m a Believer

But again, here at Chartcrush, our rankings don’t just measure chart action in a defined “chart year;” we count every song’s full chart run in whichever calendar year it scored the most points, so songs don’t fall through the cracks like they so often have in the history of Billboard’s year-end rankings.

Our #1 song: well, it didn’t exactly fall through the cracks; it’s #5 on Billboard’s ranking. But seven weeks at #1 and 12 in the top ten, mid-December ’66 to March ’67 make it the strongest chart run of any 1967 hit.

Their very first hit, “Last Train to Clarksville,” was on its way to becoming the #7 song of 1966 even before their TV show premiered, but then their second was an even bigger hit. We heard “Daydream Believer” from late in the year at #5; here again, The Monkees, doing Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer.”

All across America, hundreds of teen combos formed in the wake of the British Invasion, practicing in garages, basements and warehouses, playing high school dances and “Battles of the Bands” sponsored by local radio stations, maybe even putting out a 45 on some indie or vanity label. A few of them even broke out nationally. Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs “Wooly Bully” and Question Mark & The Mysterians “96 Tears” were both among the top ten hits in ’65 and ’66, respectively. Tom Hanks’ 1996 movie That Thing You Do! chronicles the story arc of a fictional combo from playing a pizza parlor on Main Street in Erie, Pennsylvania to national one-hit wonderdom.

But right when this so-called Garage Rock movement was at its frenzied peak in late ’66, The Monkees captured all the lightning in a bottle and unleashed it on TV and the Pop charts to become, not one-hit wonders, but the top recording act of 1967. Which definitely validated the movement, but since they were a TV fabrication, also marginalized it against the backdrop of Sgt. Peppers, Monterrey Pop and Album Rock.

Underground cred, the new coin of the realm in music, as dispensed by guys like Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone, just one of the dozens of upstart underground ‘zines. Henceforth, by editorial decree, or so it seemed, The Monkees and any group like them: summarily dismissed as “Bubblegum.”

Bands scrambled to adapt, especially The Monkees. After NBC cancelled their TV show in ’68, they attempted to update The Beatles Help! for the acid generation, and the resulting movie, titled Head, was an epic fail, along with its soundtrack album, and The Monkees faded fast.

Jann Wenner didn’t have to do or say much to hasten that fall, but after a Monkees revival got them back on the charts in the mid-’80s and beyond, according to Monkee Peter Tork, Wenner spent the next 30-plus years making sure The Monkees never got anywhere near being inducted into his precious Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

So there you have ’em: the top ten hits of 1967 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking, which (again) is derived from Billboard’s weekly Hot100 charts, but using a ranking formula that’s the same for all years and factors every song’s full chart run.

Bonus: Frankie Valli – Can’t Take My Eyes off You

Now there’s only one song from Billboard’s 1967 year-end top ten that’s not in ours. In ’67 they started tweaking their year-end rankings with bonus points for songs that made it to #1, which does produce more accurate rankings.

Our Chartcrush method though? Well it’s a little more generous with the bonus points than Billboard’s was in ’67, so their #10 song, which never got to #1, comes out #13 on our ranking: one of the earliest examples of an artist who’s still a member of a group, putting out a solo song and album. From that album entitled simply Solo, it’s Four Season Frankie Valli with a record that’s equal parts ’60s MOR Pop and Jet Age Lounge Crooner: “Can’t Take My Eyes off You.”

Frankie Valli, “Can’t Take My Eyes off You,” #10 on Billboard’s year-end chart and the first of two bonus cuts here on our 1967 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The industry in ’67 was buzzing about fans preferring solo acts to groups, so Four Seasons mastermind Bob Crewe wanted to see if a Valli solo record could chart at the same time as a Four Seasons single. Yes, it could! The Four Seasons’ “C’mon Marianne” was in the top ten at the same time.

Bonus: Aretha Franklin – Respect

You may have noticed this hour that there were no songs by Black artists among the top ten hits of 1967. Very unusual: first year since 1957 for that. So we’re gonna close out this week’s show with the #1 song of the year from Billboard’s 1967 year-end R&B chart.

It did top the Hot100 for two weeks in June, but its shorter-than-average run of just 12 weeks on the chart only gets it to #15 on our ranking. It’s a cover of a song that written and first charted by Otis Redding in ’65, but this singer transformed it into one of the great feminist anthems of all-time. It’s Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

Aretha had been recording for Columbia Records since 1960, but it wasn’t until she moved over to Atlantic that she had her big chart breakthrough. R-E-S-P-E-C-T “Respect,” Aretha Franklin, closing out our action-packed 1967 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Hey, if you like what you heard, head on over to our website. It’s chartcrush.com, where you’ll find written transcripts and links to stream this and other Chartcrush shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other mondo extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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2019 Podcast

2019 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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.

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music 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 publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re setting our sights on 2019.

In 2019, Generation Z, Zoomers, born 1996 to 2011, were the same age as Millennials in 2003 and Gen-Xers in 1987: 7 to 23, the first generation to grow up with always-on Internet, plus smart phones and social media: true digital natives. Streaming was how they got their music, and it was the music industry’s salvation, the top revenue source since 2016 after over a decade of losses from illegal downloading, but 2019 was the year streaming passed 50% of industry revenue. The biz hadn’t had such a dominant format since 2009, the last year CDs were over half of revenue. Spotify, Apple and Amazon: the biggest platforms for music streaming in ’19, but YouTube, bigger than any of those by number of song plays. In 2018, TikTok merged with lip-sync video sharing platform musica.ly, and was a hit right out of the gate: 25 million monthly U.S. users on its way to over 100 million, and fueling big breakthroughs on the charts. By the end of 2019, Billboard was having to define “meme culture” for its readers.

So Gen-Z sensibilities, streaming and TikTok, drivers of what Billboard trumpeted as a “massive comeback for Pop.” But as we’ll hear this hour, 2019’s Pop explosion: not quite as backward compatible with older generations of music fans as previous Pop surges. “The year’s biggest mainstream breakout artist,” Billboard noted in its year-in-review, “is all but unclassifiable,” attributing that to Gen-Z’s indifference to genres.

We’ll hear that artist in our countdown, but also a factor in all the newness and edginess on the charts (some would’ve said “weirdness”): America’s overwhelmingly leftist cultural institutions in Hollywood and New York and pockets in between, simply writing off the tastes and sensibilities of whole swaths of their audiences during the Donald Trump presidency. No, not many cultural gatekeepers anymore in the Trump years wringing their hands about whether a song, or artist, or TV show or movie, or message or cause was gonna “play in Peoria” (Peoria, Illinois: the archetypical down-the-middle Midwestern test market since Vaudeville days). “Peoria put Trump in the White House; to hell with Peoria!”

Rankling folks in flyover country: now something of a sport in pop culture circles, with mandatory participation: part of the broader #resistance to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement, whether in print, social media, movies, TV, or in award show acceptance speeches as host Ricky Gervais lampooned in his biting “don’t make a political speech, you know nothing about the real world” monologue at the Golden Globes.

For the record, Peoria actually went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Covington, Kentucky? Now that was Trump country, and that’s where a group of teen boys on a school trip to DC were from, waiting for their bus home in front of the Lincoln Memorial wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats and staring down a Native American man beating a ceremonial drum. A two-minute viral phone vid of that provoked an instantaneous hail of outrage and denunciation of the students in late January 2019, despite missing important context. Days later the website Vox called the vid a “Rorschach test” that revealed people’s world views. If so, it revealed not just a bias, but open contempt for Trump and his voters across media, showbiz and blue-check Twitter.

Was that a sustainable business strategy? Time would tell, but it made for an interesting year on the charts as Rorschach test headlines kept poppin’: Empire star Jussie Smollett’s MAGA hate crime hoax in Chicago just a week after the Covington kids video; a trio of new Progressive, or radical, young Congresswomen, “The Squad” on the cover of Rolling Stone; Trump-Russia Collusion sleuth Robert Mueller dropping his report clearing the President in March; and then (speaking of awards ceremonies) an ultra-political American Music Awards featuring a newly “woke” Taylor Swift just as the new Democrat majority in the House was preparing the first of its two party-line impeachments of the President. And over 7,700 tweets from Trump himself during the year. What a whirlwind! And the ten songs we’re gonna hear in our Chartcrush 2019 countdown this hour were the soundtrack to all that.

#10 Jonas Brothers – Sucker

Kicking things off at #10, a trio of brothers whose reunion after six years as successful solo acts was one of the most anticipated entertainment events of the decade, and they did their best to stay out of politics. But remember, participation mandatory; no bleacher sitting! What, are they Republicans?! The oldest brother had been a contestant on Trump’s NBC reality competition Celebrity Apprentice in its 14th season right before the campaign, and one writer went so far as to blame him for Trump’s presidency! The ratings for Celebrity Apprentice would’ve been better if he hadn’t been eliminated and Trump wouldn’t have run! Well, I don’t know about that, but the Brothers’ reunion single did debut at #1. As it turned out, its only week on top, in mid-March, but it stayed in the top ten long enough to make it the #10 song of the year. It’s the Jonas Brothers, Nick, Joe and celebrity apprentice Kevin: “Sucker.”

Jonas Brothers, “Sucker,” #10 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2019 (also Billboard’s #10 song of the year). Their album Happiness Begins followed in June along with their documentary Chasing Jonas and a world tour in August, but none of their subsequent singles were major hits. While “Sucker” was still in the top ten, gay YouTube comic Randy Rainbow added an “S” to the title for his parody version to lampoon Trump supporters as “Suckers” (plural).

#9 Ariana Grande7 Rings

According to Nielsen Music, which measures such things, Rap replaced Rock as the top music genre in 2017, and the subgenre that pushed it over the top in the streaming era was Trap. After a decade of commercial Pop-adjacent Hip-Hop hits (and a Hip-Hop slump on the charts early in the ’10s), Trap, named for ghetto drug houses in Atlanta, was a return of edgy, menacing Hip-Hop: a cold, dark, bleakly reverberated ambience with ominous-sounding synthesizers and heavy sub-bass and layered 808 kick drums. Clipped, mumbled rapping, another feature that’s often mentioned, especially by detractors.

Enter a former Nickelodeon kids TV star turned overachieving Pop Diva, winner of 12 Teen Choice awards, named by Billboard the top female artist debuting on the charts in the ’10s decade, with a four octave vocal range plus the whistle register. Now what use could an artist like that possibly have for a musical style that emerged from the sleaziest, druggiest nether-regions of the underworld?

Well Katy Perry had already plowed that field with her 2014 hit “Dark Horse” featuring Juicy J., but in the era of “Make America Great Again,” this White, mainstream singer made her #resist statement by embracing it with both arms on her 2018 album, Sweetener, then, just six months later, doubling down on her 2019 set, Thank U, Next, whose first two singles debuted at #1. This was the second, #1 the week she became the first act since The Beatles in 1964 to have the top three hits on a weekly Hot100. At #9 on our countdown, Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.”

Interpolating, to great ironic effect, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, “7 Rings,” the #9 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown of the biggest hits of 2019 (#7 on Billboard’s year-end ranking). The most successful single yet of Ariana Grande’s string of 12 top tens that started with her 2013 duet “The Way” with Rapper Mac Miller, her boyfriend until just before his fatal OD in 2018. Before “7 Rings” was released, her label cut a deal to split royalties. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s publisher asked for 90%, and Grande’s team said “OK.” There wasn’t even a counter-offer. Ariana was just fine, though: the lead single and title track of Grande’s Thank U, Next album, also a #1 hit in late 2018.

#8 Lizzo – Truth Hurts

At #8, the first of several 2019 chart newcomers in our countdown. This song, though, originally released in 2017, and it took a viral TikTok meme to juice it onto the charts. The meme based on a line in the song about taking a DNA text and finding out your 100%– fill in the blank. And thousands of TikTok-ers put their phones in selfie mode, broke out the Q-Tips, swabbed their cheeks and announced their results to the world: 100% British, 100% ogre, 100% “that mom,” “dog,” “cat,” “the father,” you name it!

By the end of the year, she’d tied Iggy Azalea’s record for most weeks at #1 by a female Rapper and was Hip-Hop’s new “it” girl heading into the 2020s, it’s Lizzo, “Truth Hurts.”

#8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2019, Lizzo, “Truth Hurts.” It misses Billboard’s official year-end top ten at #13 because the tail end of its chart run was in Billboard’s 2020 chart year. They also have it as the #55 song of 2020. At Chartcrush we have the luxury of factoring every song’s full chart run in our rankings, so it makes our top ten. Now the line that launched “Truth Hurts” on TikTok about the DNA test: turns out Lizzo lifted that from a tweet she saw in 2017, by a woman in the U.K., who’s since received a co-writing credit, and no doubt a nice big fat check!

If you’re listening on radio, you didn’t hear what Lizzo’s DNA test shows she’s 100% of because the line is censored in the radio edit, but I don’t want to leave you hanging here. She’s 100% that– b-word that rhymes with “witch.” Or “rich,” as Lizzo went with in her own version of that TikTok meme, in which she flashes a crisp new $100 bill.

#7 Travis Scott (featuring Drake)SICKO MODE

At #7 we have a three-part Hip-Hop suite. Yes, you heard that right! And it spent 32 weeks in the top ten, August ’18 to the end of March ’19. That was a new record for a Hip-Hop track, and most of those weeks came after the artist caught a ton of flak for accepting a gig that other big-name acts like Rihanna, Cardi B and P!nk had turned down: the Super Bowl 53 halftime show.

Why was everyone turning down the Super Bowl? Because ’18 into ’19 was peak hysteria over the controversial anthem-kneeling movement started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he refused to stand for the “Star Spangled Banner” before games, saying he couldn’t be proud of a country that oppressed Black people. So instead when the anthem played he took a knee, which in football kills a play.

Well one Sunday in 2017 after President Trump personally weighed in and urged the NFL to sanction the protesters, over 200 players took a knee while others, including Patriots superstar Tom Brady, locked arms and stood at attention with hands on heart.

Anyway, despite all the brouhaha, our Rapper at #7 played halftime at Super Bowl 53 and came out just fine. His autobiographical documentary, Look Mom I Can Fly, was one of the most-watched things on Netflix when it came out in August, and his next hit in the Fall, “Highest in the Room,” debuted at #1.

This song, though, his biggest hit: #5 on the charts the week he performed it (with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine on guitar) at halftime in February, and its our #7 song of the year: Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE.”

Houston-born rapper (and Kylie Jenner boyfriend and baby daddy) Travis Scott, “SICKO MODE.” An uncredited Drake in the first part, uncredited because he didn’t turn in his verses for the song until 2AM the morning the album was released!

Colin Kaepernick’s anthem-kneeling movement sputtered in August as the 2019 football season was getting underway, when the NFL struck a big money deal with billionaire Rapper Jay-Z to manage and produce future NFL events like the halftime show.

#6 Marshmello and Bastille – Happier

At #6 a British Indie Pop band that had a quirky Alternative crossover hit, “Pompeii,” peak at #5 on the Hot100 in 2013, but failed to chart a follow-up and seemed destined for one-hit-wonder status, until this 2018 joint single with an American DJ and EDM producer who got first billing on the track. It never got to #1, but it stayed in the top ten a good long time, from October ’18 all the way to April ’19, long enough to make it the #6 song of the year, both in Billboard and here on our 2019 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It’s Marshmello and Bastille, “Happier.”

“Happier,” Marshmello and Bastille at #6. Bastille, again a British group fronted by Dan Smith, whose birthday is July 14: Bastille Day, a major holiday in France commemorating the storming of a royal prison during the French Revolution.

Now this cat Marshmello they teamed up with was the top charting EDM (Electronic Dance Music) DJ-producer of the late 2010s, which was past the commercial peak for EDM earlier in the decade, but he was the latest in a line of DJ-producers (including Deadmau5 and Daft Punk) who cultivated what EDM historian Michaelangelo Matos called in a 2016 Vice article, “a fetishized, radically anonymous image.” Which Marshmello achieved by wearing a bucket over his head: white like a marshmallow, with black x’s for eyes and a wide ironic smile.

In 2020, another Marshmello collab was a big hit, “Come & Go” from Gen-Z Emo Rapper Juice WRLD’s posthumous album after his fatal OD in December of ’19 shook the world. Juice WRLD charted 39 songs on the Hot100 and two others as a featured artist from his death to the Spring of 2022.

#5 Billie Eilishbad guy

OK are you ready for this? Remember at the top of the show I quoted Billboard saying the year’s top New Artist was unclassifiable? Well her biggest hit of the year is at #5 on our 2019 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. She’s the first artist born in the 21st century to hit #1, and her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, was the #1 album of the year. Born in December 2001, it’s the 17-year-old homeschooled phenom from L.A., Billie Eilish, “bad guy.”

Billie Eilish, #5 on our 2019 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Critic Simon Reynolds called “Bad Guy,” “a crawlspace of a track that feels like it’s made of the same whispery fabric as Eilish’s voice: clicks, whirrs, fingersnaps, and ear-tickling sounds that prompt ASMR tingles.” ASMR, short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: sound combinations that provoke involuntary physical reactions, like tingling in the spine or extremities, or across the scalp, also famously employed in 2019 in a Super Bowl ad for Michelob Ultra starring Zoe Kravitz that aired pre-“Bad Guy” when Eilish was still, as Billboard put it, a “hotly hyped alt-radio weirdo.”

Now it’s one thing for a song like that to be an academic exercise or art-house curiosity (or for that matter a beer ad); but “Bad Guy” was the #5 Pop song of the year, and Eilish swept all four major awards at the Grammys: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. On top of that, her brother Finneas O’Connell (who’s also her co-writer and producer) took home the Grammy for Best Engineered Album for When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Eilish, just a year older than the teen Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg, who was everywhere in 2019. And Billie claimed her #resistance participation trophy taking up Thunberg’s cause, wearing an oversized shirt with “No Music on a Dead Planet” in red jewels to that aforementioned ultra-political American Music Awards show in 2019: the slogan of the newly-founded activist group Music Declares Emergency. Who says all homeschooled kids turn out Republican?

#4 Lewis CapaldiSomeone You Loved

At #4 we have another “year-straddler,” like Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” which we heard at #8. Year-straddlers are songs whose chart runs go from one year into the next, so their true popularity isn’t reflected when you only count chart action within a defined “chart year,” like Billboard does. Again, being a retrospective ranking, we get to correct that record by counting every song’s full chart run toward whichever calendar year it earned the most points.

This song had the longest chart run of any 2019 hit, 54 weeks, May ’19 to May ’20, peaking at #1 in November, right at the cutoff for Billboard’s 2019 chart year, so they have it at #27 for 2019 and #10 for 2020. Applying our rules though, it’s a 2019 song and #4 on the year: Scottish Singer-Songwriter Lewis Capaldi’s breakout sleeper hit, “Someone You Loved.”

When he was 18, Lewis Capaldi sang a song into his iPhone and uploaded it to the audio sharing platform Soundcloud. Next thing he knows, a well-connected talent scout is on a plane from New York to watch him do an open mic night at his local pub in Scotland. Then, his first single in 2017 made him the fastest unsigned act up ’til then to get 25 million listens of a song on Spotify.

“Someone You Loved” first appeared on his second EP in 2018, and then was included on his debut full-length album in early 2019. It started out at #85 on the Hot100 in May and didn’t hit #1 until November: one of the longest climbs to #1 in Hot100 history. Two years to make the charts; six months to hit #1, and then another six months on the chart, most of that in the top ten: “Someone You Loved,” #4 as we count down the biggest hits of 2019 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

#3 HalseyWithout Me

At #3 is another song like “Someone You Love” that didn’t get big thanks to a TikTok meme, or hypnotizing listeners with ASMR tingles or tapping into the latest Hip-Hop trend (not that there’s anything wrong with any those things!). Billboard‘s Jason Lipshutz wrote the week it hit #1 that with this song there’s no cheat code; “it’s just a really polished, successful Pop single.”

In 2016 she’d been the featured singer on what Billboard named its #4 song of the 2010s decade: “Closer” by the American EDM-Pop duo Chainsmokers, but this was her first solo #1, for two nonconsecutive weeks in January, and in the top ten for 29 weeks. It’s Halsey, “Without Me.”

Halsey, one of the many flawed female Pop rebels who followed Indie sensation Lorde onto the charts after “Royals” shot to #1 for nine weeks in 2013, “Without Me,” the #3 song of 2019 as we continue our countdown of 2019’s biggest hits here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Halsey made the top ten again later in the year featuring on a song by Korean Boy Band BTS. And in 2020, her collab with the aforementioned Juice WRLD on “Life’s a Mess,” another of his posthumous hits. And then in ’22 her label, Capitol, didn’t think her latest song possessed sufficient “virality” for release, so they held it back and Halsey wasn’t happy.

As Pitchfork’s Cat Zhang put it at the time, all labels were talking about was “TikTok this and TikTok that, demanding ever-more lip-syncs, dances, and casual posts for an insatiable internet.” Halsey went public with her gripes with Capitol, the song failed to crack the top40, and artist and label went their separate ways the following year.

#2 Post Malone featuring Swae LeeSunflower

At #2 is another unclassifiable artist. Some would say a shape-shifting artist who picked the style to fit the song instead of trying to blend everything together: Hip-Hop, Pop-Rap, Pop, R&B, Trap, Rap Rock, Cloud Rap, even Country and Grunge: you name it, all in his toolbox.

He found himself in a little bit of hot water in 2017, right when Emo Rappers XXXTenacion and the aforementioned Juice WRLD were breaking out, when he questioned Hip-Hop’s emotional range. “If you’re looking for lyrics,” he said, “if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to Hip-Hop.” Ouch!

But the dust-up over that blew over and in 2018 he notched two songs in Billboard’s year-end top ten. And then he did it again in ’19: the only artist ever to score two top tens two years in a row on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 charts. In our Chartcrush rankings he still has the two in ’18, but his second biggest hit of 2019 gets nudged to #11 by the addition of our two “year-straddlers” that weren’t in Billboard’s top ten: Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.”

Still an amazing run, though. “Rockstar” and “Psycho” were his two smashes in ’18, and then this, the #2 song of 2019. It’s White Rapper-Singer Post Malone, featuring Black Rapper-Singer Swae Lee from the Hip-Hop duo Rae Sremmurd, whose cut “Black Beatles” was a #1 hit in 2017, from the blockbuster animated film Spider-Man, Into the Spider-Verse, and the first #1 hit in a few years from a soundtrack, “Sunflower.”

Post Malone with Swae Lee, “Sunflower,” the #2 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown: the top artist of the year when you add up the points for all 16 of his songs that charted in 2019. Again, the only act ever with two Billboard year-end top tens two years in a row, but his second biggest hit of 2019, “Wow.,” just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11.

In case you’re wondering, here at Chartcrush we’ve ranked every year all the way back to 1940 using the exact same formula, and by our reckoning, three artists have scored two or more yearly top tens in consecutive years: The Beatles, ’64 and ’65, Elvis Presley in ’56 and ’57 and Glenn Miller in the Swing Era, ’41 and ’42.

#1 Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray CyrusOld Town Road (remix)

OK, well we’re down to #1. As Rolling Stone put it in its “50 Best Songs of 2019” recap at the end of the year, “A Trap-Country song featuring a prominent Nine Inch Nails sample and a Rap verse from Billy Ray Cyrus probably wasn’t on your 2019 bingo card when the year started, but it’s hard to imagine what 2019 would’ve felt like without it.”

No song embodies the genre-bending (and genre-blending) spirit of Gen-Z and 2019 like the #1 song of the year. So much so that Billboard removed it from the Country chart after it had already reached the top 20 on that chart, explaining to CBS News that it “doesn’t embrace enough elements of today’s Country music to chart in its current version.” Well that’s pretty subjective! Shouldn’t Country radio and Country fans be the judge of what qualifies as Country music?

Well, in the midst of the uproar over that against the backdrop of racial and cultural politics in 2019, Billy Ray Cyrus swooped in to do a remix. Billy Ray, singer of the Country smash “Achy Breaky Heart” way back in 1992, but well-known to Millennials as Miley Cyrus’s dad, both in real life and on Miley’s hit Disney Channel teen sitcom, Hannah Montana before she became a full-fledged Pop star back in the ’00s.

Well, even the remix didn’t get Billboard to reinstate it on the Country chart, but it did spend the next 19 weeks at #1 on the Hot100, shattering the previous record of 16 weeks. Here’s Rapper-Singer Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus. The #1 song of 2019 (by a country mile): “Old Town Road.”

“Hat down, cross-town, livin’ like a rockstar; spent a lot of money on my brand new guitar.” Those lines at the beginning of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” sparked a viral dance craze on TikTok: a series of demonstrative hand gestures that anyone could do.

Lil Nas X was a 19-year old college dropout when he walked into an Atlanta recording studio for their “$20 Tuesday” special and wedded the Nine Inch Nails beat he’d purchased online for 30 bucks to his hokey, cliché’d loner cowboy saga, and then memed the heck out of it on social media. Next came one of the most unlikely collaborations in Pop music history with Billy Ray Cyrus’s remix and a record-shattering 19 weeks at #1. “Old Town Road.”

So there ya have ’em: our Chartcrush Top Ten for 2019, but as I mentioned, a couple songs that made Billboard’s year-end top ten got nudged out of ours by our two year-straddlers whose chart runs got split between 2019 and 2020. Let’s take a look at those.

Bonus: Khalid featuring Disclosure – Talk

First up, Billboard’s #8 song of 2019 peaked at #3 and was #16 on our Chartcrush ranking. It’s by a low-key R&B singer who started putting his stuff on Soundcloud in 2016 just out of high school, and his song “Location” racked up millions of plays. He featured on Rapper Logic’s suicide-prevention hit, “1-800” in ’17, and in ’19 this lead single from his sophomore album was ridin’ high. It’s Khalid, “Talk.”

Billboard named Khalid its top R&B artist of 2019 on the strength of that hit, “Talk,” and five other chart entries off his sophomore album Free Spirit, which was the #1 R&B album of the year despite mixed reviews from critics. After “Talk,” though, heading into the ’20s, his chart fortunes faded.

Bonus: Post MaloneWow.

And finally, the song I mentioned when we heard Post Malone’s “Sunflower” at #2 that made him the first artist in Hot100 history to land two hits in Billboard’s year-end top ten two years in a row. It was #5 on Billboard’s ranking, #11 on ours. Appropriately titled given his achievement, “Wow.”

Post Malone’s “Wow.” Louis Bell, Posty’s producer on that and his song we heard at #2, “Sunflower,” plus Halsey’s “Without Me” and The Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” (our #3 and #10 songs of the year, respectively): 2019’s standout producer. Billboard called his impact “historic.”

Posty also scored two entries in the year-end top10 albums two years in a row: His debut Stoney and beerbongs & bentleys in 2018, and beerbongs & bentleys again in 2019 along with his third album, Hollywood’s Bleeding.

Well that’s all the time we have so that’s gonna have to be a wrap. I want to thank you for listening to our 2019 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for a written transcript and link to stream this and other Chartcrush episodes on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other slay extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of Billboard’s charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush 1996 Episode Graphic

1996 Podcast

1996 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

It’s Divas, domestic terrorism, Netscape vs. Microsoft, and Alanismania the year Tupac is killed, the Internet takes off and everyone is doing “The Macarena.”

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every 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 Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush we are setting our sights on 1996, a transitional year across American media including music as the digital revolution continued and the internet exploded. The number of websites grew ten-fold over 1995 as Netscape Navigator battled Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in the “browser wars.”

There were nearly twice as many people on the Internet in ’96 compared to ’95, but most, still on pre-Web so-called Direct Access platforms: CompuServe, Prodigy, and the one that took a clear lead in ’96, America Online. AOL increased from five to eight million subscribers, ’95 to ’96, each paying $2.95 an hour to swap ones and zeroes on dial-up modems, plus long-distance fees if you didn’t live in a city! Good luck getting anyone on the phone in those years, unless they’d added a second landline. A flurry of new area codes had to be created to meet that demand! Of course, this was all anyone was talking about on Wall Street: the dot.com boom.

The internet, of course, a key aspect of one of the overarching themes of American life in the ’90s: the fragmentation of media into ever-smaller niche audiences and interests, at the cost of the shared experiences that hold a diverse society together across ethnicities, genders, generations and interests. Cable TV, another aspect of that: viewership and ad revenues growing, so they could do more original programming and launch new special interest channels for food, golf, science fiction, Court TV, et cetera. MSNBC and FoxNews both launched in 1996, just in time for the Whitewater scandal: President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton’s failed Arkansas land deal.

And of course music was splintering into increasingly siloed genres and subgenres, and with it radio. Billboard had to launch all kinds of new genre charts to keep track of it all, armed since ’91 with super-accurate point-of-sale barcode scan and airplay data. But by ’96, labels had figured out how to “game” even that system to get their songs to debut high on the chart. In the last few months of ’95 there were three #1 debuts on the Hot100 thanks to these shenanigans.

But even worse for the Hot100’s integrity: increasingly, labels weren’t releasing singles at all, which meant they couldn’t chart on the Hot100 no matter how popular they were. That was Billboard’s rule until the end of 1998 when they finally changed it to allow album cuts. Don’t look for The Rembrandts’ massive 1995 hit, “I’ll Be There for You” (the theme of NBC’s hit show Friends) on the Hot100: no single release. But radio didn’t care! The song was #1 for eight weeks on the Airplay chart, and The Rembrandts’ album nearly cracked the top 20 on the album chart, proving that fans will buy a whole album for $17 just for one song they like.

So for a few years in the late ’90s until that rule change, Billboard’s Airplay chart, not the Hot100, became the go-to Pop chart. So that’s what you’re gonna hear this hour on our 1996 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: the top ten hits of the year derived, not from the Hot100 (which we normally use), but from Billboard’s weekly 50-position Radio Songs chart.

#10 Alanis Morissette – Ironic

And that works out well for our singer at #10 because even though her songs were out as singles and on the Hot100, practically everyone who bought her music in 1996 (and millions did) got her album, making it the #1 album of the year and making her Billboard’s top Pop Artist of the year despite none of her hits making the top ten on the year-end Hot100 chart. She absolutely killed it on the Airplay chart though. At #10, here is Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic.”

So there’s a scene in the 1994 Gen-X-defining movie Reality Bites where Winona Ryder is telling Ethan Hawke about how she botched an interview for a writing job because she couldn’t define the word “irony,” and Hawke glibly says “it’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite of the literal meaning.”

Well the debate over what exactly is “irony” was still raging when Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” appeared two years later and sparked a hail of criticism. The situations in the song are unfortunate, yes, but are they ironic? U.K. Independent Arts Editor Thomas Sutcliffe said no, the song should’ve been titled “It’s a Total Bummer” or “Oh Hell, That’s All I Need Right Now.” And the Washington Post’s Richard Leiby lamented that, thanks to Alanis, “ironic” was now a mere synonym for “interesting” or “coincidental.” After months of this, a fan approached Alanis in a record store and pointed out that the situations not being ironic is what makes the song ironic. Aha!

#9 Mariah CareyAlways Be My Baby

At #9 we have another female, who churned out hit after hit starting in 1990, and by ’96 was America’s top chart Diva, big enough to assert creative control over her music and move in a more R&B and Hip-Hop-influenced direction collaborating with Rapper-Producer Jermaine Dupree and arranger-pianist Manuel Seal. And the resulting album Daydream was her biggest yet. It’s Mariah Carey’s third straight #1 off Daydream and 11th overall, tying Madonna and Whitney Houston, “Always Be My Baby.”

Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby,” #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1996, a laid-back feel compared to her past hits, with Hip-Hop 808-style drums courtesy of co-producer Jermaine Dupree. And she doubled down on her trademark multi-layered vocals.

#8 Eric ClaptonChange the World

At #8 we have the last British rocker from the ’60s to score a top ten hit on the Hot100. Earlier in the year, none other than The Beatles had charted their first new song since 1970 with their work-up of John Lennon’s demo, “Free as a Bird.” That got to #6 in January. Then this song from the soundtrack of the fantasy drama Phenomenon starring John Travolta resonated after the deadly April bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The song was first recorded and simultaneously out on Country star Wynonna Judd’s album, but this version went to #1 on the Radio Songs chart and stayed on that chart all the way to May of 1997 , the longest run of any 1996 song, 47 weeks. It’s Eric Clapton’s “Change the World.”

“Change the World,” Best Record and Best Song winner at the Grammys and Eric Clapton’s final hit on the Hot100, produced by ’90s R&B mogul Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, #8 here on our Chartcrush Countdown of the top ten hits of 1996.

Since its chart run spanned ’96 into ’97, it was in both years’ Billboard year-end Hot100 rankings. numbers 19 and 67, respectively. But doing things the Chartcrush way and factoring its full chart run reveals it to have been a much bigger hit than either of those would indicate.

#7 Tony Rich ProjectNobody Knows

Speaking of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, the label he co-founded with Antonio “L.A.” Reid, LaFace Records (a mashup of their two names): the biggest thing going in ’90s R&B, launching TLC, Toni Braxton, Outkast, P!nk, Usher, many other top acts.

Our artist at #7 got his big break in the early ’90s when LaFace hired him as a staff songwriter. When he eventually got the chance to do his own album, he crafted a sophisticated Soul sound that stood out against the slick, synthesized R&B that was the default on urban radio in the mid-’90s. Maybe too much since the song only got to #11 on the R&B chart. But it crossed over and was on the Hot100 for almost all of 1996. At #7, it’s the Tony Rich Project, “Nobody Knows.”

Tony Rich Project, “Nobody Knows,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1996’s top Pop hits, as ranked from Billboard’s weekly published Radio Songs charts. Tony Rich’s follow-ups to “Nobody Knows” failed to crack the top 40 and he joined the ranks of ’90s one-hit wonders, a long list!

#6 Alanis MorissetteYou Learn

There are two acts with two songs in our countdown and we’ve already heard a song each from both. Just as “Ironic” began descending the charts in late Spring, our #6 song rose into the top ten and was #1 for five weeks in the Summer. Here again, Alanis Morissette. Listen for the title of her blockbuster album Jagged Little Pill in the lyrics: “You Learn.”

Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1996: her biggest Airplay hit, paired on the single it was on with a live version of her breakthrough, the blistering Rocker “You Oughtta Know,” the studio version of which has Dave Navarro and Flea from L.A.’s Red Hot Chilli Peppers on guitar and bass, respectively and topped Billboard’s Modern Rock chart for five weeks in the Summer of 1995. L.A.’s influential Alternative station KROQ set things in motion.

Hard to believe, but Alanis started out doing Dance Pop earlier in the decade, cutting two albums that critics compared to Teen icons Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. But her earlier records only came out in her native Canada, so she was mostly unknown in the States , until Jagged Little Pill repackaged the aggressive feminist Grunge Rock-adjacent Riot Grrrl sound and attitude for mainstream listeners who’d probably never heard of Seattle trailblazers like Bikini Kill or Bratmobile or Hole.

Alanis took things in a more experimental, electronic (and it turned out less successful) direction on her follow-up album in ’98, but in 2019, the Alanis “jukebox musical” Jagged Little Pill on Broadway was an instant hit and the year’s most-nominated show at the Tonys: a testament to her widespread and enduring impact.

#5 Goo Goo Dolls – Name

Alanis, of course, wasn’t the only one distilling Grunge’s angsty poses for the Pop charts. As writer Sasha Geffen put it in a piece in Consequence of Sound in 2013, “Post-Grunge was a surge of vanilla Pop hits costumed in flannel and shaggy hair” that came in the wake of Nirvana’s fame as “major labels mass-produced an Alt-Rock that gestured toward Grunge.” Hootie & The Blowfish, Gin Blossoms and Collective Soul all had songs among the top 20 Pop Airplay hits of 1995. And then in ’96 came the breakthrough for a Buffalo, New York Indie-Punk outfit who’d been at it since 1986, hitless for their first four albums. But then they married that Grunge aesthetic to melody and Emo first-person songwriting (a no-no for Grunge bands) and rode the Post-Grunge gravy train to Pop glory. The third single from their 1995 album A Boy Named Goo, propelled onto the charts by the same L.A. radio station that first put Alanis in heavy rotation (KROQ), it’s the Goo Goo Dolls at #5: “Name.”

“Name” was mostly about Goo Goo Dolls songwriter/front man John Rzeznik’s childhood, orphaned in his teens and raised by his older sisters. But song’s title and lyric “and I won’t tell no one your name” came out of his flirtation with MTV VJ (and future FoxBusiness anchor Kennedy), who didn’t want her real name out there (shhh! It’s “Lisa Montgomery). Goo Goo Dolls next hit, “Iris” in ’98, set a record for weeks at #1 on the Airplay chart (18) that stood until The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” in 2020.

#4 Everything but the Girl – Missing (Todd Terry remix)

At #4 is a politically-outspoken English singer, whose obscure 1982 album with an all-girl Post-Punk group, Marine Girls, was on late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain’s 50 favorite albums list, so she had the respect of the aforementioned Riot Grrrls. Over the next dozen years she cranked out a steady stream of Loungey-Jazzy singles and albums as a duo with her boyfriend, and they built quite a cult following. But not much commercial success until 1995, when Chicago House DJ/producer Todd Terry did a chilled-out remix of a track from their mostly-acoustic album Amplified Heart and it began a protracted five-month ascent into the top ten. Its five weeks as the nation’s #1 Radio Song opened countless mainstream ears to other chilled-out “Trip-Hop” electronica: Massive Attack, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps and others. #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1996, it’s Everything But the Girl, Todd Terry’s remix of “Missing.”

Probably the only act ever who got their name from a furniture store slogan: a store where a man can get everything he needs for his home: everything, that is, but the girl. “Missing,” a top ten hit for the entire first half of 1996, but not in the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 because its long climb was in Billboard’s 1995 chart year, August to December. Everything but the Girl didn’t miss a beat: out later in ’96 with a whole album of all-in Trip-Hoppy electronica that included the #1 Dance hit, “Wrong.”

#3 Mariah Carey and Boyz II MenOne Sweet Day

Well we’re counting down 1996’s biggest hits this week on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and at #3, the song that shattered the record for weeks at #1 on the Hot100 with 16. It was two of the ’90s top chart acts teaming up on the same song. How could it miss? Nevertheless, the label (Columbia) held off releasing the single for weeks ’til the song cracked the top five on the Airplay chart, then flooded stores with free singles that they could sell for 49 cents, which got the song to debut at #1. Remember those label shenanigans I mentioned at the top of the show to rig the Hot100? And they didn’t even need to! It was Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, for heaven’s sake!

No way to rig the Airplay chart besides payola, which is illegal, so it merely tied the record for weeks at #1 there with 13, but that was enough to make it the #3 song on our 1996 Airplay-chart derived ranking. Here’s “One Sweet Day.”

Mariah and Boyz II Men had been independently working on songs about lost friends when they got together to collaborate, so they decided to merge them and “One Sweet Day” was the result: #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. ’96 was Mariah’s fourth year in a row with a song (or songs) in the top ten of Billboard’s year-end Hot100, and Boyz II Men’s third.

“One Sweet Day” scored a Record of the Year Grammy nomination and they opened the ’96 awards performing it together, but lost to Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” and in fact, Mariah Carey didn’t take home any awards in ’96 despite six nominations, which was quite the scandal, and she didn’t perform again at the Grammys for the next ten years.

#2 Celine DionBecause You Loved Me

If you’re thinking that was a sign that ’90s Pop Divadom was over though, think again! Our singer at #2 scored her biggest hit yet in ’96, and it too received a Grammy nomination for Best Record, the next year in ’97. It didn’t win either, but the album it was on won two. And the song broke the Airplay weeks-at-#1 record that Mariah and Boyz had just tied, with 14 weeks, April to July.

It’s a Gospel-inspired R&B ballad by Diane Warren and produced by power-ballad maestro David Foster: a soundtrack song, from the news media romance drama Up Close & Personal starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The lead single from her Diamond-certified album Falling into You, her second #1 after “The Power of Love” in 1994, it’s Celine Dion, “Because You Loved Me.”

The song that made Celine Dion a superstar, “Because You Loved Me,” #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1996’s biggest hits, the song that dislodged “One Sweet Day” from its record-breaking 16 week run at #1 on the Hot100 and snagged the record for weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, 19. It also notched the most weeks at #1 of any 1996 song on the Airplay chart, 14. Celine’s next #1, also a soundtrack hit: 1998’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

#1 Donna LewisI Love You Always Forever

So beating Mariah, Boyz and Celine in 1996: quite a tall order, but one song did, and it came out of nowhere to become the first to hit 1,000,000 spins on radio since Broadcast Data Systems began its automated monitoring in 1991. “Radio stations play it and almost overnight it’s their most requested song,” a label exec told a newspaper in ’96.

It was the first single off the first album by a previously unknown 30-something Welsh Singer-Songwriter, and she never had another top 40 hit: a true one-hit wonder, and based on nothing but the sound of the record; no special marketing or gimmicks or anything. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? The #1 song of 1996, Donna Lewis’s “I Love You Always Forever.”

Donna Lewis’s self-penned debut single and only hit, “I Love You Always Forever,” the #1 song of 1996 according to our recap of the year’s weekly Radio Songs charts here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.


Maybe you were expecting to hear a different song at #1. I dunno, like maybe an epic leftfield Dance craze that swept the nation?

Well if we’d based our ranking on the Hot100, “The Macarena” would’ve been #1. By the way, Donna Lewis was at #2 on the Hot100 for nine of the 14 weeks “The Macarena” was #1, and #8 on Billboard’s official published year-end Hot100. But no fewer than 39 other songs beat “The Macarena” on our ranking from the weekly Airplay chart, a crazy gap that further highlights the Hot100’s dysfunction in the late ’90s, and why we choose Airplay for our rankings in those years.

Recall that Alanis Morrissette didn’t notch any of her hits in the ’96 year-end top ten on the Hot100 because so many people bought her album and didn’t need the singles. Well, with the hit Bayside Boys remix of Spanish duo Los del Rio’s “Macarena,” it’s the reverse: it was #1 because it was only out on a single.

But being named Billboard’s #1 song of the year only added to its fame, and the same goes for four other songs that were in Billboard’s year-end top ten for ’96, but not among the top ten Airplay hits.

Former Harvard Square busker Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” just misses the top ten on our Airplay ranking we counted down this hour at #11, but it was Billboard’s #6 Hot100 song of the year.

Now, Hip-Hop on the radio, even in the late ’90s, was limited to just a handful of stations in big cities, regardless of how well a track was selling or performing on the Hot100: definitely a limitation of ranking songs by Airplay. Tupac Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting in September ’96 after his single “How Do U Want It” paired with “California Love,” had been #1 on the Hot100 for two weeks in July. That was #17 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100, but a track by another Hip-Hop act from L.A. was #7 on that ranking.

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads,” a tribute to the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap,” Eazy-E, who co-founded and led Straight Outta Compton O.G.’s N.W.A. and died suddenly of AIDS in ’95: #1 on the Hot100 for eight weeks, but just #41 on our Airplay-derived ranking.

Billboard’s #9 Hot100 song of the year was the first #1 by yet another ’90s Diva.

Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin’ Me High,” another song that just misses our Airplay-based ranking at #12 on the year.

And at #10 on the year-end Hot100, Billboard had a Slow Jam.

Keith Sweat, who crafted New Jack Swing in the late ’80s, upped the steaminess ante in R&B when he discovered and produced Silk and their 1993 hit “Freak Me.” And then his own Slow Jam “Twisted” scored in ’96, #19 on our ranking of the year’s Airplay hits.

And that’s a wrap for our 1996 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Just like the irony in Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” the defining feature of ’90s Pop is that there wasn’t a defining feature! I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. If you like what you heard this hour, you’re gonna want to check out our website, chartcrush.com, where you’ll find written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other fly extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning ofthe charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again, same station and time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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1972 Podcast

1972 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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.

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music 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 publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1972, by all appearances, the year the ’60s counterculture took over. Fashion, advertising: loud, aggressive modernism in everything from clothing to interior design, men with longish hair, sideburns, wide ties, striped pants and shirt collars out to here, women in crazy sunglasses and day-glo prints. Even the baseball cards in 1972 had a colorful, mod design. Glam, the headline-grabbing trend in music: T-Rex, Gary Glitter, Elton John and David Bowie as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust with their outrageous costumes.

And ’72 was a banner year for the Feminist Movement. Title IX; Ms. Magazine; tennis star Billie Jean King; Norman Lear’s All in the Family spinoff Maude premiering on CBS; Loretta Lynn, Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards (the first woman). And the Supreme Court was hearing the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case in the Fall, right as Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman, Hear me Roar” was all over radio.

According to Forbes, there were as many as three-thousand communes in America in the early ’70s: Hippies “going up the country,” starting their own communities. But radical self-discovery, not just for Hippies. Heinz Kohut’s groundbreaking revision of Freud, The Analysis of the Self, was on nightstands across the country, and for the spiritually-oriented, yoga, transcendental meditation, and the Jesus Movement. “My Sweet Lord,” George Harrison’s ode to Krishna: #1 for four weeks in 1971 and Jesus Christ Superstar, a #1 album and then a Tony-nominated hit on Broadway.

Drug use, of course, part of the self-discovery trend, tripling between ’69 and ’73. In 1966, Stewart Brand  had had an LSD vision of a photo of Earth from space sparking a mass Ecology Movement, and once those photos existed (culminating with Apollo 17’s “Blue Marble” photo taken in 1972), Brand used them on the cover of his Whole Earth Catalog, which won a National Book Award in ’72, and no commune was without a copy.

So with all that, there was every reason to believe in ’72 that a cultural revolution had taken place in America, but on Election Night, President Nixon, feared and loathed by the counterculture (to borrow gonzo Rolling Stone writer Hunter S. Thompson’s phrase) coasted to a 49-state landslide with 60% of the popular vote against the first candidate with the full-throated support of the counterculture, antiwar Democrat Senator George McGovern. And New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael famously wondered how?!, since there was only one Nixon voter in her entire social circle.

No one was talking blue states and red states yet in 1972 of course, but the tension and distance between a so-called “silent majority” of ordinary Americans who didn’t work at (or read) The New Yorker, and an urban, insular, self-styled countercultural vanguard who did defined American society and politics for decades. But the Hot100 is all about charting popularity across all demographics and styles, so it takes a consensus to propel a song into the top ten on the year, and that’s especially interesting in years when dramatic divisions were forming and playing out, like they were in 1972.

#10 America – Horse with No Name

Now with that, at #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972 is a Folk-Rock trio’s first hit, which Hippies thought was by another Folk-Rock Singer-Songwriter whose record it replaced at #1. But most folks just liked it for its catchy, pleasant, peaceful vibe and escapist lyrics: same song, popular for different reasons, and escapism, a telltale symptom of tense, troubled times. What could be more escapist than wandering through the desert on “A Horse with No Name.” Here’s America.

So Canadian Singer-Songwriter Neil Young’s fourth solo album Harvest had just hit the album chart in March, and its lead single “Heart of Gold” topped the Hot100 the following week. And then the week after that, America’s “Horse with No Name” replaced “Heart of Gold” at #1 and kept it at #2 for all three of the weeks it was on top. But everyone thought on first listen that “Horse with No Name” was Neil Young, even Neil’s dad! Well, America, who were a trio of sons of Air Force guys stationed in England, never quite lived that down despite scoring many more top tens over the next decade.

“Horse with No Name,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972, but only #26 on Billboard’s official published year-end Hot100, because someone forgot to add the 300 bonus points it should’ve gotten for its three weeks at #1—maybe a disgruntled Neil Young fan! Despite hitting #1 for a week, “Heart of Gold” misses our Chartcrush Top Ten we’re counting down this hour at #18, but Harvest was the #1 album of the year.

#9 Billy Paul – Me and Mrs. Jones

So Soul music was in the midst of a renaissance in 1972. There was Motown, of course, but for the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles, rival Stax Records organized a one-day benefit called Wattstax that drew 100,000 to see Stax artists like Isaac Hays and The Staple Singers, both of whom had just scored #1 hits.

Stax seemed well-positioned for the ’70s, but a distribution deal with Columbia in ’72 was a disaster, and our #9 song was the first #1 for a different Columbia-backed Black label that got all the attention: Philadelphia International, who were just about to unleash Disco. Written by the label’s founders and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff along with lyricist Cary Gilbert, it’s about an extramarital affair from the point of view of one of the participants, months before Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” topped the charts and announced the Sexual Revolution. It’s Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

The average age of artists scoring #1 hits spiked from 26 to 31 in 1972, and Billy Paul had a lot to do with that. He’d been at it since his first singles for an indie R&B label in 1952, but our #7 song, “Me and Mrs. Jones” was his first entry on any Billboard chart. He was 38.

#8 Joe TexI Gotcha

Now timing, of course, is everything in Pop music, and in the months leading up to Wattstax, records by Black artists dominated with five or more of the top ten for 14 straight weeks, mid-April straight through to the end of July. The last time anything like that had happened was the Summer of 1961, for nine weeks. “Me and Mrs. Jones” hit in December, so, not a part of that mid-’72 surge, but our #8 song was, by the first Southern Soul singer to score a top ten hit, “Hold What You’ve Got,” January ’65, before Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett or James Brown. But this was his biggest smash, and it was originally a B-side. A station in Detroit started playing it and it broke nationally. #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972, it’s Joe Tex, “I Gotcha.”

Joe Tex, “I Gotcha,” #8 in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972: quite a showcase for what critic Dave Marsh described as Tex’s “raspy-voiced, jackleg preacher style,” easy to confuse with James Brown. But Joe Tex and James Brown: bitter rivals since the mid-’50s. When Tex got divorced, Brown hooked up with his ex and they even did a mawkish duet record together to rub it in! Then, when that relationship soured, Brown wrote to Tex saying he could have her back, and Tex replied with a diss track called “You Keep Her.” But even that wasn’t the end of it. Tex got himself on the bill as an opening act at one of Brown’s homecoming concerts in Georgia, and used his set to mock Brown’s whole cape-wearing schtick and ego-fueled antics. Not amused, Brown showed up later at a club where Tex was and shot up the place with a shotgun, injuring seven (Tex not among them) before fleeing in his tour bus. To keep things quiet, Brown’s people handed out $100 bills to the injured, and Brown was never even questioned about it.

#7 Sammy Davis, Jr.The Candy Man

Well after that I feel like I should be segueing to a song by a mid-’90s rapper. Our act at #7, though, best known for his work in Vegas, and it’s a song from a 1971 movie that was an instant classic when it hit theaters. But the version in the movie sung by the actor wasn’t deemed to be hit single material, so that opened the door for someone to ride the movie’s coattails onto the Pop charts. Enter “Mr. Entertainment,” Sammy Davis, Jr. doing the song from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory: “The Candy Man.”

“The Candy Man,” Sammy Davis, Jr.’ s only career #1 (for three weeks in June) and the #7 song of the year here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1972. Now the guy who wrote the lyrics to that song (and the whole rest of the Willy Wonka movie soundtrack): British actor and Pop star Anthony Newley, who thought it could be a hit and begged producers to let him overdub his own vocal for the scene, but the version by actor Aubrey Woods as Bill the Candy Store Owner stayed. Newley did his own version anyway, but it was Sammy Davis, Jr. who scored the hit.

#6 MelanieBrand New Key

Now earlier I mentioned escapism in Pop as a symptom of troubled times, and Willy Wonka certainly qualifies. But there was also a nostalgia boom underway in ’72. Grease debuted on Broadway. George Lucas’s pre-Star Wars ’50s pastiche American Graffiti was in production (it’s double LP oldies soundtrack went triple platinum). And the pilot of the hit sitcom Happy Days was an episode of ABC’s anthology series, Love, American Style. All that reflecting a widespread feeling in America that something had gone really wrong in the late ’60s, and wouldn’t it be nice to just hit the reset button?

Our singer at #6, not a throwback herself, but she described her song as “a kind of old ’30 tune.” She was a dreamy, introverted, aspiring-actress daughter of ethnic parents in New York who wandered into the wrong office looking for a stage audition. And the cigar-chomping label head inside signed her on the spot, which eventually led to an invitation to play Woodstock. Then the song she wrote about her performance at Woodstock was her first top ten in 1970, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” But over the holidays ’71 into ’72 she scored her biggest hit. It’s Melanie, “Brand New Key.”

Melanie’s “Brand New Key,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972. The song came to her after she broke a month-long water fast (that’s a very Hippie thing to do) with an epic McDonalds pigout (a very Middle America thing to do), that for some reason reminded her of her childhood and her dad teaching her to roller skate.

A “Brand New Key” was what you needed to tighten the over-the-shoe metal skates that kids had in those days, but the title was kind of buried in the lyrics, so people just called it “The Rollerskate Song.” Melanie Safka remained a critics’ darling, but she disappeared from the charts after 1974. Speaking of nostalgia, her last charting record? A cover of The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

#5 Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now

And also speaking of nostalgia, lots of ’50s and early ’60s stars made chart comebacks in the early ’70s and our singer at #5 is technically one of them, having scored his first hits in the ’50s as a Johnny Mathis-style crooner. But when he re-emerged he wasn’t crooning anymore. After hanging out with Reggae legends Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in Jamaica in the mid-60s, his Rocksteady-influenced “Hold Me Tight” became the first proper Reggae hit on the Hot100 in 1968. And then this was #1 for all of November 1972: not an explicitly religious song, but resonated with the aforementioned Jesus movement, and spawned dozens of covers before becoming a window cleaner jingle in the ’80s. It’s Johnny Nash “I Can See Clearly Now.”

“I Can See Clearly Now,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1972, a Johnny Nash original. For his follow-up he released his cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” which became the first hit version of a Bob Marley song outside of Jamaica.

#4 NilssonWithout You

At #4, the first-ever power ballad on the charts, originally by the Welsh rock band Badfinger, who didn’t think it was anything special and never released it as a single. But American singer Harry Nilsson thought it was pretty special when he heard it at a party, and his version topped the Hot100 for four weeks, February into March: Nilsson’s first and only career #1 hit: “Without You.”

“Without You,” #4 as we count down the top ten hits of 1972 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Before ’72, Harry Nilsson: best known for writing Three Dog Night’s 1969 hit, “One,” for his version of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin'” from the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy and for never ever ever performing live, which continued, at least for “Without You,” all the way ’til 1992: when his longtime buddy Ringo Starr was at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas with His All-Starr Band, and brought him out to sing it for the first time in front of an audience. Harry Nilsson died of a heart attack just a few months after that. Mariah Carey released her version of “Without You” in tribute, and that was a #3 hit for Mariah in 1994.

#3 Don McLeanAmerican Pie

And speaking of Ringo Starr, in 1968, his band The Beatles—wise guys that they were—made their non-album single “Hey Jude” the maximum possible length that a song could be to fit on one side of a seven-inch vinyl single, which turned out to be seven minutes, 11 seconds. Well, clocking in at over eight and a half minutes, our song at #3 broke that record and remained the longest song to hit #1 in Hot100 history for 50 years, until Taylor Swift’s ten-plus minute version of her song “All Too Well” in 2021. But in the vinyl era, you had to split songs longer that 7:11 into two parts for single releases if you didn’t want to do a single edit. And there were lots of those in the early ’70s, including our song at #3, but listeners complained when Pop radio played just the A-side: Part One, so they played the whole thing and Billboard never specified “Part One” like it did for most songs released like that. So there it was: an eight-and-a-half minute #1 hit: #1 for four weeks, replacing Melanie’s “Brand New Key” in January, and our #3 song. It’s Don McLean’s, “American Pie.”

“American Pie,” the #3 song on our Chartcrush countdown of the top ten hits of 1972. “The day the music died,” of course: February 3, 1959: the plane crash in Iowa that killed rockers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Beyond that though, as the Washington Post’s Justin Moyer put it, the meaning of the song proved elusive even for a generation used to parsing inscrutable Bob Dylan and Beatles lyrics. And for 50 years, McLean swatted away questions about the song’s images and symbols with “It means I don’t ever have to work again.” Indeed! His manuscript and notes fetched $1.2 million at auction in 2015.

#2 Gilbert O’SullivanAlone Again (Naturally)

At #2, another artist new to the charts. An Irish singer-songwriter who changed his first name from Ray to Gilbert, but kept his last name to form a clever play on the famous operetta duo Gilbert & Sullivan. And he donned a pudding basin haircut, cloth cap and shorts inspired by 1920s Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin silent films and rode the early ’70s nostalgia bandwagon to chart glory. Here is Gilbert O’Sullivan: “Alone Again (Naturally).”

There is, of course, a long tradition of depressing tragedy songs in Pop, but at first listen, you’d never include 1972’s #2 song we just heard, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s, “Alone Again (Naturally),” on that list, because it sounds more like a shampoo jingle than the suicidal ruminations of a jilted groom. It resurfaced in 1991, sampled on an album cut by Rapper Biz Markie, and a landmark court judgement that year against Markie put an end to the “anything goes” era of Hip-Hop sampling.

#1 Roberta FlackThe First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

And we’re down to #1 in our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown for 1972, by a singer discovered in 1968 playing piano and singing in Mr. Henry’s, a pub-slash-restaurant on Capitol Hill in DC. Well, Atlantic Records stuck with her through four albums even though sales were tepid and there were no hit singles. And it paid off in 1971 when Clint Eastwood used a cut from her first album to score a love scene in his directorial debut, the psychological thriller Play Misty for Me. Atlantic put out a single edit and it shot to #1 for 6 weeks in April and May. It’s Roberta Flack’s big breakthrough: the #1 song of 1972, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

Roberta Flack, 1972’s #1 song and Grammy winner for Record and Song of the Year, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” written by Scottish folkie Ewan MacColl in the ’50s for his lover and future wife Peggy Seeger (half-sister of Pete Seeger), when challenged to write a song that wasn’t about his communist politics. But Flack knew it from a version by the Black Gospel duo Joe & Eddie. She slowed it down, switched up the melody and phrasing a little and made it her own. In ’73, she returned to the top of the charts with “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and was a fixture on Pop and R&B radio all the way into the ’80s.


And that’s our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown for 1972. Now over at Billboard, they do their year-end rankings based on a discrete chart year, and for ’72, that was December 4, 1971 to November 18, 1972. Chart activity outside that window? Ignored for their ’72 year-end rankings. Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” (which we heard at #9) was so late in ’72 that it got pushed into Billboard’s 1973 chart year (Billboard’s #15 year-end song of 1973); and our #5 song, Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” was #1 the week Billboard’s 1972 chart year ended, so with its chart run split between ’72 and ’73, it only placed #47 on Billboard’s 1972 year-end chart. America’s “Horse with No Name,” I mentioned when we heard it at #10: down at #26 on Billboard‘s year-end chart because they forgot to give it the 100 bonus ranking points it should’ve gotten for each of its three weeks at #1 in the Spring. So that’s three songs that made our Chartcrush Top Ten for 1972 that didn’t make Billboard’s. Which means that three songs made Billboard’s 1972 year-end ranking, but not ours. Well, let’s review.

At #10, Billboard had another star besides Sammy Davis Jr. whose name was gracing marquees in America’s oasis for the over-30 set in the early ’70s, Las Vegas.

That’s Wayne Newton with Billboard’s #10 hit of 1972, “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.” It’s #25 on our Chartcrush ranking.

At #8, Billboard had the guy who wrote Elvis Presley’s 1969 comeback hit “In the Ghetto,” trying his hand at being a Singer-Songwriter.

Mac Davis’s “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” just misses our Chartcrush top ten for 1972 at #12.

And finally, at #7 Billboard had the first and only career #1 by a Singer-Songwriter who won a Grammy for this song, but in 1987!

Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” was #14 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1972; the second of his three top ten hits in his career. Club Nouveau, nominated for a Best R&B Performance Grammy for their drum machine and synth era update of “Lean on Me” in 1987, for which Bill Withers was also nominated as the songwriter, and won!

And that’s going to have to wrap things up for our 1972 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thanks for listening! If you like what you heard, check out our website, chartcrush.com, where you’ll find written transcripts links to stream all our Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus full top 100 charts, chart run line graphs and other funky extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning ofthe charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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1945 episode graphic

1945 Podcast

1945 episode graphic

1945 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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.

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music 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 publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1945, a year of celebration in America as World War 2 ended!

Germany surrendered on V-E Day (May 8), and Japan three months later on V-J Day (August 14). President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t live to see either of those days; he died in office on April 12 having just begun his fourth term as President, but the tide turned after another letter-named day, D-Day (the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944), and towards the end of ’44 while Roosevelt was still alive, Americans were finally giving themselves permission to imagine a brighter post-war world after years of nail-biting and sacrifice, scrap drives, wage and price controls, rationing of everything from coffee and sugar to gas and tires, and of course loved ones gone to war, and more than 400,000 of them never coming back.

The change on the Pop charts was striking. Defiant fight songs and lonely, yearning, anxious ballads yielded to brighter, dreamier, more upbeat and optimistic songs as the mood of the country changed.

Late ’44 also saw the end of the “Petrillo Ban:” a strike against record labels that barred players from making records for over two years right at the height of the Big Band era. James C. Petrillo, the head of the American Federation of Musicians Union. Gigs was how musicians got paid, and with a half a million nickel-a-play jukeboxes operating (and three-quarters of all the disks made going in them), Petrillo thought records were making live entertainment obsolete. So the strike was to get musicians a cut of record sales and airplay like songwriters got, beyond the “one-and-done” fee they collected for the recording session.

There was nothing Petrillo and the AFM could do about urban blackout restrictions, players getting drafted, gas and tire rationing and other difficulties stemming from the war effort. And on top of all that, in the Spring of ’44 Congress slapped a 40% federal cabaret tax on the receipts of any establishment that permitted dancing, so “no dancing allowed” signs suddenly appeared in taverns, restaurants, hotels and even nonprofit teen clubs coast-to-coast. The tax was later reduced, but it wasn’t repealed until the mid-’60s!

All things considered, records, jukeboxes and performance royalties were really the least of working musicians’ woes during the war. But “diskers” (as Billboard affectionately called record labels) took the hit. And one by one they agreed to pay performance royalties, with the two holdouts, RCA and Columbia (the biggest), finally blinking in the Fall of ’44. That after over two years having to reissue old stuff or record their stars a capella during the ban, which didn’t apply to vocalists because they had a different union.

So the war was ending, four million GIs overseas were coming home, recording studios were humming and shellac 78s were tumbling from the presses again. And Americans were in the mood to celebrate.

#10 Carmen Cavallaro & His Orchestra Chopin’s Polonaise

At #10 kicking off the countdown, is America’s de facto victory theme, which peaked on the charts the week the B-29 bomber Enola Gay (named after the pilot’s mother) dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan surrendered.

It’s a reinterpretation of a classical piece by a Polish composer. Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, of course, the event that triggered the war in Europe a little over two years before Pearl Harbor got the U.S. involved. And not only that, but it’s an example of a distinctly Polish form, the Polonaise, a walking dance that to this day opens everything from official state balls to senior proms in Poland.

From its first publication in 1843, people had been describing Frederic Chopin’s “Polonaise in A-flat major” as “heroic,” and a century later, this version had Americans humming it all year. Here’s “The Poet of the Piano,” Carmen Cavallaro and his band with “Chopin’s Polonaise.”

Classically-trained pianist Carmen Cavallaro with the #10 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1945’s biggest hits. While Cavallaro toured Europe as a teen piano prodigy in the early ’30s, back in the U.S., Eddy Duchin became the first successful pianist-Bandleader, even though he had no formal training and was only at best an average player. Despite that (or more likely because of it!), Cavallaro was inspired to switch to Pop, and after a few years as a featured soloist he started his own band, which was successful enough to land him a string of movie roles.

After “Polonaise” and the war, he rated double billing on records with star crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and in 1956 he was the ghost pianist behind actor Tyrone Power in the 1956 biopic The Eddy Duchin Story.

#9 Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford and The Pied Pipers – Candy

Next at #9 we have the first of two records in our 1945 top ten by an artist who was also a label executive, having just co-founded the first West-coast record label, Capitol Records. He was also the A&R head and a massively successful lyricist for stage, screen and the Pop charts; and then in ’45, he became one of Capitol’s most successful artists himself.

This was his second hit in the Spring after “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” in late-Winter. It’s Johnny Mercer with Capitol’s house band led by Paul Weston along with Weston’s future wife Jo Stafford, who sings lead on one of the verses, and backing vocals by the vocal group Stafford had just left to go solo, The Pied Pipers. It’s “Candy.”

Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers, “Candy,” the #9 song of 1945 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking, and the first credit on a #1 hit for Jo Stafford, who went on to be one of the most successful chart acts of the Pop Singer era with “You Belong to Me” in 1952, then “Make Love to Me!” in ’54.

The Pied Pipers scored a #1 hit for Capitol in 1945 too, “Dream,” with June Hutton replacing Jo Stafford in the group. That was #14 on our Chartcrush ranking.

#8 Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye (vocal, Nancy Norman and Billy Williams) Chickery Chick

So at #10 we heard Carmen Cavallaro tackling one of the most difficult piano pieces, Chopin’s “Polonaise in A-flat Major.” At #8, diminutive singer Nancy Norman tackling what’s gotta be one of the most difficult-to-sing lyrics!

Norman was just 17, 4’11” and under 100 lbs. when Sammy Kaye’s band, Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye, held a contest for girl singers in L.A. Guy singers, getting drafted all over the place in 1942, the year after Pearl Harbor. Norman auditioned, won, and just like that, was the only female singer for the next four years in the most successful charting band of the ’40s decade.

Now despite Kaye’s tag line, there wasn’t a whole lot of Swing going on in Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye’s sound. They were a “Sweet Band” that played Pop, not Jazz. And this record, considered a Novelty even in 1945, was one of their biggest hits. Here’s “Chickery Chick.”

“Chickery Chick:” Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye with singers Nancy Norman and future Country singer with the Pecos River Rogues, Billy Williams. That was the first version of “Chickery Chick” to chart, but three others followed including a Jazzier rendition by drummer-bandleader Gene Krupa featuring singer Anita O’Day, which is what you just heard if you’re listening on Spotify. The Sammy Kaye version with Nancy Norman, not available on the Spotify platform so we couldn’t include it in our podcast version of the show, but if you’re listening on the radio you got Sammy Kaye’s hit version.

Still another “Chickery Chick” that charted in ’45 was by singer Evelyn Knight, and I mention that because she scored a #1 hit a few years later singing another avian song “A Little Bird Told Me.” Since the ’40s, you probably won’t be surprised to learn, “Chickery Chick” has become a standard on kids records, with versions by The Three Stooges, Tiny Tim and Joanie Bartels.

#7 Les Brown and His Orchestra (vocal, Doris Day) My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time

Well we’re counting down the biggest hits of 1945 here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and at #7 is the other act besides Johnny Mercer with two hits in our top ten. Like Sammy Kaye with Nancy Norman, it’s a band-featuring-girl-singer configuration. But whereas Nancy Norman left show biz soon after “Chickery Chick” hit aged 21 to settle down and raise a family, this girl singer became one of the biggest stars in America in the ’50s, ’60s and beyond, on records, on the big screen, on TV, you name it. But few had heard of her (or the band leader for that matter) before this record debuted at #2 on the Best Sellers chart in March of ’45, and by the end of April, was #1 on all three of Billboard’s Pop charts: Bestsellers, DJ Airplay and Jukeboxes. The #1 song the week the Nazis surrendered, it’s Les Brown and His Band of Renown with career-making discovery Doris Day, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.”

Now if Billboard had had a Top New Artist award in 1945, it would’ve gone to Les Brown and His Band of Renown with Doris Day. That was their first #1 record, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time” at #7. We’ll hear the other one later in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1945.

Day first sang with the Les Brown band in 1940 when she was just 17, but left to marry and have a son. The marriage didn’t work out, though, and in 1943, Brown wanted her back so bad that he was willing to foot the bill for her mom and baby boy to accompany her everywhere they needed to be.

#6 Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe

Next up, the bigger of Johnny Mercer’s two hits as a recording artist in our 1945 countdown. I mentioned when we heard “Candy” at #9 that Mercer’s bread ‘n butter was writing song lyrics for movies. That’s why he was based in Hollywood and started Capitol Records there.

By 1945, he already had nine Best Song Oscar nominations under his belt, on his way to 19 during his career, but his first win was our #6 song. And it was the first year the Academy had its new rule that reduced the number of officially nominated songs to typically five. Before that it could be any number. And he beat out names like Irving Berlin, Jack Brooks, Mack Gordon, Oscar Hammerstein II. That’s your entire Great American Songbook right there, pretty much! Sung by Judy Garland in the movie it was in, The Harvey Girls, but the hit record was, of course, by Mercer himself, again with the Paul Weston Band and The Pied Pipers: “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.”

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad operated from 1859 until it merged with the Burlington Northern in 1996. Johnny Mercer saw the name while sitting on a train and was struck by the rhythm of the words.

He notched several more hits through the rest of the ’40s as a recording act, including his mischievous “Personality,” #1 on both the Sales and Airplay charts in 1946. And in 1952 his adaptation of “The Glow Worm” got The Mills Brothers their final #1 hit.

For the rest of the ’50s he mostly stuck to his day job, lyrics for movie and show tunes, which got him back-to-back Best Original Song Oscars in ’61 and ’62 for “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the title song to Days of Wine and Roses, both co-written with Henry Mancini 15 years after his first win for the song we just heard at #6: “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.”

#5 The Andrews Sisters Rum and Coca-Cola

So maybe by now you’re noticing a theme: seven of the ten songs in our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown for 1945: either by or featuring female singers or singing groups. And next up is another.

Caribbean music, of course, a wellspring of big U.S. Pop hits over the years. Well, it all started with this next tune at #5, which, in rather jarring fashion, opened up the Pop charts not just for Caribbean sounds, but for international songs in general.

As radio personality John Gilliland pointed out in his early ’70s radio show Pop Chronicles, for servicemen returning from the war (quote), “Kalamazoo was like dullsville after Paris or London or Trinidad. The paying customers weren’t calling for ‘Moonlight Cocktails’ much anymore” (“(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo” and “Moonlight Cocktails,” both pre-war Glenn Miller hits). “The trend was toward the harder stuff” (unquote). Indeed. And this song was the #5 song of the year despite being widely banned on radio. See if you can guess why. It’s the Andrews Sisters’ “Rum and Coca-Cola.”

Andrews Sisters, “Rum and Coca-Cola,” #5. Recorded in one take in the last ten minutes of a session without a written arrangement, and then banned by some radio stations, for the lyric “mother and daughter working for the Yankee dollar” of course, but by other stations for advertising a brand, “Coca-Cola,” and by still others for mentioning alcohol.

And then there was a lawsuit over authorship. Future Dick Van Dyke Show actor Morey Amsterdam had heard the song while in Trinidad on a USO tour and published it under his own name, so after it was a hit, the real author, Trinidadian musician Lord Invader, sued and was awarded $150,000 in royalties, a tidy sum in 1940s Yankee dollars.

#4 Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra (vocal, Vaughn Monroe) There! I’ve Said It Again

You are listening to The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and we’re counting down the top hits of 1945 this week. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. If you like what you’re hearing, visit our website, chartcrush.com, for a written transcript, plus our full 1945 Top 100 chart and other interactive extras and goodies, plus links to hear all our episodes on Spotify!

Now as I mentioned at the top of the show, RCA-Victor: one of the last labels to settle with Petrillo and the American Federation of Musicians at the end of 1944, allowing them to cut records again with union musicians. Well, just as you’d expect after a two-year ban, there was a frenzy of recording and releases by music’s biggest names, and for Victor, that was a who’s who of Big Bands.

America’s top bandleader, Glenn Miller, was on Victor but had just disappeared over the English Channel on a flight to newly-liberated Paris at the end of ’44 after famously signing up at the peak of his fame in ’42 to lead the Army Air Forces Band. But Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye who we just heard at #8: all still very much in the game, and all on Victor. And the new band records did okay in ’45, but the biggest hits after the ban were by solo singers.

Now the guy with the #4 song of the year was on Victor and technically a bandleader, but since he also sang on his records, and it was his deep baritone voice more than anything that made them hits, he was kind of a missing link between the Big Band and Pop Singer eras. And as such, he remained successful through the ’40s and into the ’50s. It’s Vaughn Monroe with “There! I’ve Said It Again.”

Vaughn Monroe’s first chart topper, “There! I’ve Said It Again,” #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1945. Brill Building Teen Idol Bobby Vinton took his remake of that song to #1 in early 1964: the last #1 before Beatlemania. But back in ’45, Monroe followed it up with a blockbuster holiday hit: a then-brand new song by ace songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Steyn, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Show!” Crooner Dean Martin’s version recorded in the ’60s, more familiar in the streaming era, but Monroe’s original hit version was #1 for multiple weeks.

He stayed hot with “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” and “Ballerina” in ’47 and ’48, but in 1949, his finest moment: the game-changing #1 record that got the whole biz thinking Country-Western: “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

#3 Perry Como Till the End of Time

Now at #10, we heard Carmen Cavallaro’s Big Band instrumental of “Chopin’s Polonaise,” which I highlighted as America’s de facto World War 2 victory theme. But what I didn’t mention (because I was saving it for our #3 song) is that lyricist Buddy Kaye wrote words to it and published it as a Pop song. And three versions hit the charts simultaneously, as happened often in the ’40s, but one stood out and became the first of an amazing 14 #1 hits between 1945 and1958 for America’s all-time top charting Crooner, Perry Como. At #3, “Till the End of Time.”

Frank Sinatra, of course, the focus of the early ’40s Crooner craze often mentioned as a precursor to Elvis and Beatlemania in the ’50s and ’60s. Sinatra’s biggest hit in ’45, “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night in the Week),” notches in at #34 on our ranking. But there was room for more than one Crooner, and teen bobbysoxers and their swooner clubs also swooned for Perry Como.

Besides being 1945’s third biggest hit, Como’s “Till the End of Time” (along with the instrumental “Chopin’s Polonaise” theme it’s based on) was used throughout the 1946 movie with the same title starring Dorothy McGuire, Guy Madison and Robert Mitchum, about war vets re-adjusting to civilian life.

With the Army alone discharging 1.2 million soldiers every month in late ’45, returning GIs were on everyone’s minds, and another movie out a few months later was an even bigger box office hit and went on to win nine Oscars including Best Picture, That was The Best Years of Our Lives with Myrna Loy and Frederic March.

#2 Les Brown and His Orchestra (vocal, Doris Day) Sentimental Journey

But when it comes to GIs returning from World War 2, the song that stands above and beyond as their unofficial anthem and homecoming song is the #2 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1945. Its run from March to September encompassed both V-E and V-J days, and the band-singer pairing had just debuted with their first big hit, our #7 song, “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” Here again: Les Brown and His Band of Renown with Doris Day: one for the ages, “Sentimental Journey.”

Les Brown and His Band of Renown with Doris Day, “Sentimental Journey.” Brown was a co-writer on the song and they’d been performing it for months, but couldn’t record it ’til their label, Columbia, settled with Petrillo and the musicians union in late 1944. And as Brown told it, “The timing was good because it looked like the war was won, and it just seemed to be a great homecoming song for all the troops.”

After ’45, Crooners and Pop singers mostly replaced bands at the top of the charts, but Doris Day continued as Brown’s featured girl singer for two more years, putting out records, touring extensively with her mother and young son in tow, and appearing on Bob Hope’s radio show.

In ’48, though, her first movie role fell into her lap, Romance on the High Seas. In the film she sang the song “It’s Magic,” which became her first solo hit, and from there she became one of the biggest stars of the ’50s repeating the formula with “Secret Love” from Calamity Jane in 1953, “Que Sera, Sera” from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956, and many others.

Les Brown stayed with Bob Hope for the next 50 years, and continued leading the Band of Renown doing upwards of 60 dates a year until his death in 2001. At which point his son, Les Brown, Jr. took over and kept it going as an attraction in Branson, Missouri until his death at 82 in 2023. Guinness has it as the longest-lasting musical organization in Pop history.

#1 Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters Don’t Fence Me In

So the AFM Recording Ban wasn’t lifted for Columbia and RCA-Victor ’til the end of 1944, but other labels agreed to Petrillo’s demands earlier. Decca was first in September of ’43, and then Capitol a month later. Neither had a deep back catalogs or a vault of unreleased stuff to keep them going through the strike, so they didn’t have much of a choice. Capitol had only just released its first record a month before the ban went into effect!

But with Columbia and Victor unable to record new material, settling early with the union gave labels like Decca and Capitol a clear shot at the charts, and the #1 song in our 1945 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown is a collaboration between Decca’s two top acts that came out just as Victor and Columbia were ramping back up again in late 1944. And it was #1 on at least one of Billboard’s Pop charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes) for a solid 13 weeks, mid-December ’44 to March ’45.

The pairing produced four chart hits for Decca in ’45, and separately they notched another 13, one of which we’ve already heard: The Andrews Sisters “Rum and Coca Cola” at #5. Here are Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters doing Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In.”

#1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1945’s biggest hits, “Don’t Fence Me In,” supposedly recorded in a half hour, and neither Bing Crosby nor The Andrews Sisters had ever seen or heard the song before. How that happens, I don’t know, but if it’s true, the phrase “consummate professionals” comes to mind! Recall that The Andrews Sisters also recorded our #5 song “Rum and Coca Cola” in one take with ten minutes of studio time. Pretty incredible!

Crosby first teamed up with the trio, Laverne, Maxine and Patty Andrews, in 1939 when they were newcomers, but by then he’d already been scoring hits for over a decade. Three of 1944’s top ten best-sellers were Bing Crosby records, and then in the mid-to-late ’40s, he was the #1 box office attraction for five straight years and still charting top ten hits.

As Johnny Mercer put it in an interview: “We were all born from Crosby. He was not only a star as a singer; he was a star leading man, and nobody really beat him at it until our skinny friend” (referring to Frank Sinatra) “came along. And it took him a few years to do it.”

And there you have ’em: the top ten songs of 1945 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking. Now ranking the songs for years before Billboard debuted the Hot100 in 1958 is a bit tricky. As I’ve been saying throughout the show, there were three separate survey-based Pop charts before the Hot100: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by DJs, and Most Played on Jukeboxes. So what we do to rank the songs is first combine the data from all three, weighing each equally, into a single weekly chart. And then, we apply the same exact ranking mojo as for Hot100 years.

Honorable Mention: #12 Harry James & His Orchestra (vocal, Kitty Kallen) – It’s Been a Long, Long Time

Now there’s one act who didn’t land a song in our top ten for 1945, but had two near misses at numbers 12 and 13. We think that rates a special nod in our bonus segment in the time we have left. One of the songs was almost as iconic an end-of-war/soldiers-coming-home theme as “Sentimental Journey,” so between the two, we’re gonna go with that. It’s trumpeter-bandleader Harry James and Orchestra with his girl singer Kitty Kallen, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time.”

Trumpet playing Big Band leader Harry James’s final #1 hit, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” vocal by Kitty Kallen and that alto sax solo by Willie Smith, our #12 song and honorable mention here in our 1945 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Sammy Cahn and Jule Steyn wrote the song for lovers reuniting after the war, and two of the other charting versions by bandleaders Charlie Spivak and Stan Kenton also featured girl singers: Irene Day and June Christy, respectively. But interestingly, Bing Crosby’s super-laid-back version with Les Paul on guitar interpreted the song from the male returning soldier’s point of view, and did almost as well as James and Kallen’s we just heard: #16 on our ranking.

James and Kallen’s other big hit in 1945: “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” That was #1 on the DJ chart for two weeks in April ’45 and #13 on our ranking.

Kitty Kallen struggled on the charts for years after 1945, but spectacularly re-emerged as the headliner on the #1 song of 1954, “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

And that’s gonna have to do it for our 1945 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I want to thank you for listening. Again, check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush Countdowns, plus chart run line graphs and other dandy extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the dawn of the Billboard Pop charts in the early 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

2008 episode graphic

2008 Podcast

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.

::start transcript::

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 LewisBleeding 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 OneRepublicApologize

“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 KeysNo 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.

::end transcript::

1993 episode graphic

1993 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1993 Episode Graphic

1993 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Music is fragmented the second year of the Soundscan era on the charts as Gen-X takes charge, but genres are blossoming and R&B and Hip-Hop rule the Hot100.

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music 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 leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week, we’re counting down the top ten hits of 1993, the year when the two big defining features of pop in the ’90s came into focus: brokenness and dysfunction!

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to borrow a catchphrase from the decade’s hottest TV sitcom, Seinfeld. Actually, for most fans in the early ’90s, brokenness felt like a good thing: an exciting thing! Artists in every genre were casting off mainstream formulas and pushing outside the box. As a fan, whether you were into Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Country, Dance or even New Age, it felt like Springtime after a long Winter, or like after the collapse of an empire, when all the provinces break away and become a patchwork of tribes doing their own thing.

Really, things were only “broken” from the point-of-view of the former overlords, the Baby Boom generation. And wouldn’t you know it: on the timeline, ’93 was the year the generation that came after the Baby Boom, Generation-X, born 1965 to ’80, hit its cultural peak: the five years before the youngest members of any generation turn 18.

It hadn’t been easy dislodging the Boomers. In fact, with music it might never have happened without a dramatic change that Billboard made to how it compiled its charts in 1991, switching to real point of sale and airplay data collected by Soundscan and Broadcast Data Systems, and scrapping its system of weekly retail and radio surveys. Slate writer and Gen-X chart geek Chris Molanphy has called the start of the “Soundscan Era” “the B.C./A.D. moment” of pop charts, when the illusion of a pop “mainstream” was shown to be a fiction, and the overdue flowering of Gen-X’s disparate left-field musical tastes could begin.

Of course, the downside: compared to other eras, there was no longer a common pop music language: an idiom or set of songs that everyone knew. As New York Times writer Eric Weisbard put it in his 2000 article “Pop in the 90’s: Everything for Everyone,” “The music world pays a price for diversity. Our new heroes are often only heroes to a few.” The Top 40 still existed, but no one wanted to hear all of it, and no broadcaster, not even MTV, was playing all of it.

So pop was broken and fractured: the first defining feature of ’90s music. The other? Dysfunction. And there I’m referring to Billboard‘s Hot100 chart. The Hot100 was conceived in the late ’50s as a definitive weekly ranking of the most popular records in the land. Scrapping the survey system improved accuracy, but at the same time, the music format that’d been the pillar of the Hot100 for decades was going extinct: the vinyl 45rpm single. Billboard reasoned that cassette and CD singles were just replacing 45s, but it never worked out that way. CD singles were great for genres that released multiple versions of songs, like Hip-Hop, Dance and R&B: actually a huge improvement over vinyl 12-inch singles. Artists could now put out CD “maxi-singles” with four, five, even six different remix versions of the same song, and those were hot items. But in genres that typically only released one version of a song like Rock and Country, fans had little use for tapes or CDs with just a couple of tracks on them. So with Billboard still insisting that songs be in U.S. stores as singles to chart, the Hot100 quickly skewed toward genres where maxi-singles were selling, and it took a series of massive radio hits not charting at all for Billboard to finally drop the rule and make the Hot100 a songs chart. That didn’t happen until the 1999 chart year. But in ’93, all this talk of chart dysfunction was still just that, talk, and nine of Billboard‘s top ten Hot100 songs of the year were also hits on the R&B charts.

#10 Meat Loaf – I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)

On our Chartcrush ranking though, it’s eight out of ten, and the first of the two non-R&B songs is at #10: the triumphal return to the U.S. charts after over 12 years by an act whose offbeat rock opera in 1977 had bubbled up out of nowhere at the height of disco to become one of the bestselling albums ever. Health and legal problems through the ’80s prevented him from following it up, but in ’93 he mended fences with his original collaborator, songwriter Jim Steinman, and did a sequel. Bat out of Hell 2 didn’t do quite as well as the original, but its lead single was his biggest-ever hit. At #10 it’s Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

What wouldn’t you do for love? Hmm. A worthwhile question that millions pondered while Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” rode the charts in late ’93 into ’94. Something sexual? Something criminal? Some extraordinary sacrifice? There doesn’t seem to be an answer in the lyrics, but in a 1998 episode of VH1 Story Tellers, Meat Loaf wheeled out a chalkboard with the lyrics and, using a pointer, tried explain that “that” in the song refers to all the things people do that screw up relationships: cheat, lie, “stop dreaming of you every night of my life,” et cetera. But that’s an answer to a different question, isn’t it? What won’t you do when you’re in love? As for the question posed in the title: what won’t we do for love, the head-scratching continues.

#9 SWV – Weak

R&B girl groups, never bigger than in 1993, with R&B trio En Vogue following Latin Freestyle trios Expose and Sweet Sensation onto the pop charts in 1990, joined by TLC in ’92. At #9, another trio that joined the fray in ’93 and were the #2 overall singles artist of the year, with three top tens during the year. Their breakthrough was a #6 hit in February, “I’m So into You,” but in the summer, this one got all the way to #1. From New York, it’s Coko, Taj and LeeLee: Sisters with Voices, abbreviated SWV: “Weak.”

SWV’s, “Weak,” #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1993. Later in the year, the trio hit big again, peaking at #2 on the Hot100 and #1 on the R&B chart for a straight seven weeks, with a remix of their debut single, “Right Here:” a mashup with a sample of Michael Jackson’s 1982 song “Human Nature.” SWV stayed hot for another five years, splitting up in 1998 over creative and interpersonal differences, and “Weak” was their only #1 hit.

#8 Shai – If I Ever Fall in Love

From girl R&B groups to boy R&B groups: Boyz II Men had already been charting massive vocal harmony hits for nearly two years by ’93, but R&B fans couldn’t get enough. So when our act at #8 first came on the radio with their silky a capella smoothness, it was love at first hear. They scored three top tens, all in ’93, which made them the year’s #3 overall Hot100 singles artist, but the first was their biggest. Formed by four seniors at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University as a side hustle and catapulted to instant stardom, it’s Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love.”

Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love,” our #8 song here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1993. S-h-a-i, according to a 1993 article in the Hartford Courant newspaper, a Swahili word for “personification of destiny,” but if you look it up on Google Translate, it means “tea.” Hot or iced, not specified. What we just heard is an edit of the album version that’s also in the video, with backing track by group leader and co-producer Carl “Groove” Martin. Some stations, though, played an a capella version. It never got to #1, but it nearly broke the record for weeks at #2: eight weeks in the runner-up spot behind the song that did break the record for weeks at #1. You bet we’ll be hearing that one later.

#7 Silk – Freak Me

So, in 1991 after Boyz II Men first hit, Brooklyn, New York’s Uptown Records tasked an intern, future hip-hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, with molding another male R&B vocal group into a “bad boy” version of Boyz II Men. Motown’s Boyz sang about romance and love; Uptown’s bad boy slow-jammers Jodeci would sing about seduction and sex, and present as edgy, dangerous hip-hop characters wearing Timberland boots and baseball caps. Well it worked! Jodeci’s “Come and Talk to Me” was the #1 R&B song of 1992. But New Jack Swing impresario Keith Sweat thought he could go even further, and it was quite a scandal when the male R&B quintet he’d just plucked out of Atlanta topped not only the R&B charts, but the Hot100 for two weeks in May with as debauched and explicit a record as had ever been a hit on the pop charts. It’s our song at #7: Silk’s “Freak Me.”

Silk, “Freak Me,” #1 for eight weeks on the R&B chart; two on the Hot100, our #7 song of 1993 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Keith Sweat, co-producing and even co-writing the songs on Silk’s double platinum 1992 debut, Lose Control. The hits dwindled by 1999, but Silk continued putting out albums and singles with the same lineup into the 2010s.

#6 Snow featuring MC Shan – Informer

So if a White guy in Miami named Robert Matthew Van Winkle can score a #1 hit in the early ’90s as rapper Vanilla Ice, can a White guy from Toronto, Canada named Darrin Kenneth O’Brien top the charts with a Jamaican Dancehall Reggae number? Sure, why not? And Mr. O’Brien isn’t the only White Reggae artist in our countdown. He came by his love of Reggae honestly though; Toronto’s Jamaican population exploded in the ’70s and ’80s and is the metro’s largest ethnic minority. At #6, it’s Snow, featuring Queens, New York rapper MC Shan, who also produced: “Informer.”

“Informer” not only topped the Hot100 for seven weeks in March and April, but also the Rap Songs and Dance Singles charts. Snow proved to be a one-hit wonder despite continuing to release music steadily into the ’00s and ’10s, but in 2019, Puerto Rican Reggaeton and Dancehall star Daddy Yankee featured him on his “Informer” influenced single “Con Calma,” which made it to #22.

#5 Janet – That’s the Way Love Goes

Well as you’re hearing, lots of new voices on the R&B landscape in 1993. Lots of new voices in every genre in the early ’90s. But at #5 is an established star whose album released in 1993 was her first in four years, and it debuted at #1 on the album chart when it dropped in May. At the same time its lead single rocketed to #1 on the Hot100 its third week and stayed on top for eight weeks. It’s Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

Right after “That’s the Way Love Goes” was a hit, Janet Jackson made her feature film debut opposite rapper Tupac Shakur in John Singleton’s drama Poetic Justice, which helped update her image. Rolling Stone heralded her 1993 album, titled with just her first name and a period, as a cultural moment in which she announced her sexual maturity, after taking charge of her life on her album Control in ’86, then commanding a dancing army to fight society’s ills on Rhythm Nation in ’89. With the ’90s diva era already in full swing and Mariah, Celine and Whitney scoring hits, a handful of critics called out Janet Jackson for subpar vocals. “Looks good, sounds bad,” a Boston Globe headline said. But it didn’t matter much. “That’s the Way Love Goes,” the first of six top ten singles from the album. and the #5 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1993.

#4 UB40 – (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You

At #4, the other White reggae act I mentioned. They’re a U.K. group that started out in the late ’70s, but only got noticed Stateside after their album of reggae covers hit in ’83. “Red Red Wine,” a #1 hit from that after it was reissued in 1989. Then in ’93 their second #1, a cover of a 1962 hit by Elvis Presley that got a big big boost from being on the soundtrack of the Sharon Stone erotic thriller Sliver, it’s UB40’s version of, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.”

#4, UB40, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You,” which a writer at AllMusic.com pinpoints as completing UB40’s transition from a reggae band to an adult-contemporary band that plays reggae-pop. It also paved the way for 1994’s big overnight success story, the Swedish reggae-pop outfit Ace of Base.

#3 Mariah Carey – Dreamlover

Well we’re getting down to the small numbers here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1993. At #3, the lead single from the third album in as many years by not only the top diva of the ’90s, but the top Hot100 act, period. She had at least one yearly top ten hit in six out of the decade’s ten years, and ’93 marks the first of four consecutive years, ’93 to ’96. ’92, one of the years she missed because of the mixed reaction to the gospel and ’60s soul influence on her sophomore album Emotions. So she returned to pop and scored her seventh #1. Here’s Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.”

Mariah Carey’s, “Dreamlover,” the lead single from her album Music Box, #1 for eight straight weeks in September and October and the #3 song of 1993 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Mariah returning to pop on that song, this time with a bit of a hip-hop feel absent from her earlier hits, thanks to producer Dave “Jam” Hall, who was fresh from producing Mary J. Blige’s debut, What’s the 411, in ’92.

#2 Tag Team – Whoomp! (There It Is)

1993 was a big year for Hip-Hop, especially the West Coast and Death Row Records, with Dr. Dre, who’d just split from gangsta group N.W.A., planting the G-Funk flag on the charts with the year’s #6 album, The Chronic. Before the year was out, Dre’s protégé Snoop Dogg, featured on The Chronic‘s biggest hits, dropped his debut album on Death Row. Dre and Snoop’s “Nothin’ but a G Thang” just misses our countdown at #11, leaving our song at #2 the lone hip-hop cut in our 1993 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. And they’re a one hit wonder out of Atlanta! A mainstay at sporting events for decades, not to mention aerobics classes, frat parties and Spring Break beer halls, it’s Miami Bass duo Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is).”

Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is),” the #2 song on our 1993 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It never got to #1, peaking at #2 for seven weeks in August and September. But it stayed on the Hot100 for 45 weeks, until April of ’94: the longest chart run of any song in 1993. At the same time, a similar song, “Whoot,” (with a “t”) “There It Is” by a Miami bunch called 95 South made it to #11. But it was a total coincidence! Both had lifted the phrase from strip club vernacular, and, fun fact, on July 26, both appeared on Arsenio Hall’s syndicated late night talk show in a charity battle of the bands fundraiser for Midwest flood victims.

#1 Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

Now leading off his Year-in-Charts article for 1993 in the December 25 issue, Billboard‘s new “Chart Beat” columnist Fred Bronson observed that “the race for the #1 single of 1993 was over when the year began.” When the first Hot100 chart of calendar ’93 appeared, the song had already been #1 for five weeks, and it stayed there for another nine. 14 weeks total, a new record.

So who scored this amazing chart coup? Well, her career wasn’t exactly on the skids, but since blowing everyone away with her vocals on her amazing string of 1980s dance and pop crossover hits and starting the whole diva thing, she turned to R&B on her third album in 1990, and by ’92 there was serious competition in the pop diva space. Mariah Carey, cranking out albums and chart-topping singles like it was going out of style, Celine Dion ramping up, and newcomer Toni Braxton debuting on the Boomerang soundtrack.

But in the Fall of ’92, ads for the new Kevin Costner movie started showing up on TV. Not only did the singer co-star in the film (her acting debut), but she had six new songs on the soundtrack, and the impossible-to-ignore climactic key change moment in one of them was the centerpiece of the ads. Well the single was #1 even before the movie hit theaters, and by Christmas, Whitney Houston was again the undisputed queen of diva-dom. The #1 song of 1993 by a mile, from The Bodyguard soundtrack, “I Will Always Love You.”

From 1993’s #1 album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You,” the #1 song of 1993: a cover of a song Country diva Dolly Parton wrote in 1973 when she split from her business partner and mentor Porter Wagoner to start her solo career. It’d been a #1 hit on the Country charts twice, first in 1974 and then again in 1982 when Dolly re-did it for a movie she co-starred in with Burt Reynolds: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. But then Whitney Houston’s version in ’92 and ’93 made it one of the biggest hits in Hot100 history. Not surprisingly, Whitney was the top singles artist of the year with four chart hits including three top tens, all from The Bodyguard.


So there you have them, the top ten songs of 1993 according to our Chartcrush ranking. Now of the songs we heard in our countdown this hour, only one was absent from Billboard‘s official published year-end top ten for 1993. At Chartcrush, we count every song’s full chart run in whatever year it scored the most points, so Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love,” which straddled ’93 and ’94, comes out the #10 song of 1993 on our ranking. At Billboard, though, they have to split a chart run like that and factor it into both years, so it’s buried in the mid-30s on both their ’93 and ’94 year-end rankings.

Now the song from Billboard‘s 1993 year-end top ten that Meat Loaf displaced? Their #9 song: another memorable hip-hop vocal hook supplied by new jack swing producer Teddy Riley, whose brother was in the group, Wreckx-n-Effect.

#13 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1993, Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.” Teddy Riley’s rap verse written by a 20-year-old Pharrell Williams, one of his earliest credits.

And that’s gonna do it, for our 1993 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other fresh extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1952 Podcast

1952 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

New and established Crooners and Pop Singers are on top as Ike is elected, Elizabeth II ascends the throne, the Cold War becomes the new normal and “the ’50s” begin.

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music 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 publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1952.

Things finally settled down in 1952 in America after a turbulent start to America’s postwar era: double-digit inflation, industrial strikes (coal, railroads, auto industry, steel), world-changing geopolitical upheavals and political partisanship.

The Cold War took shape after World War 2 ended, during President Harry S. Truman’s Presidency, with the Soviet Union installing communist satellite governments in the countries it occupied: Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and others. In 1948 they blockaded Allied-controlled West Berlin. In ’49 they got the bomb, years before anyone thought they could, and communists under Mao Zedong took over in China. Then in 1950, North Korea invaded the South, starting the Korean War.

Meanwhile, spy rings were being exposed that’d passed key technologies (including nuclear) to the Soviets. In one high-profile case, a former State Department official, Alger Hiss, was so high up that he’d been at President Roosevelt’s side in meetings with the British and Soviet leaders that had shaped postwar Europe! What the actual heck? We’d just lost over 400,000 soldiers fighting Nazis and Japs. This was supposed to be peacetime!

Well 1952 was a presidential election year (the first on TV), and Truman’s hot-headed, partisan governing style by ’52 was wearing thin; it was so out of sync with the mood of the public that he lost his own party’s first primary and dropped out. And America turned to a genial, mild-mannered manager with an infectious smile to calmly captain the ship through very, very stormy seas.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Ike” his nickname: the former five-star general who’d commanded the Allies to victory in Europe and accepted Nazi Germany’s surrender, so universally admired that both parties had tried to recruit him to run! And almost like flipping a switch, things did settle down after the election, into an orderly, logical, businesslike pursuit of America’s interests abroad, and here at home, what economist John Kenneth Galbraith dubbed The Affluent Society: rising production, rising wages, consumerism, suburbia, cars, highways, TV, Technicolor: in other words, “The Fifties.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s rabid and sometimes reckless anticommunist crusade was at its peak in 1952, and even that withered over the next couple years in the glow of Eisenhower’s class and charm and easygoing optimism. Ike pulled a few strings behind the scenes, but he really didn’t really have to say a word.

Now young people in 1952 (pre-teen to late 20s) were the generation after the “Greatest” or “G.I.” generation that fought World War 2. An article in Time in 1951 christened them the “Silent Generation,” and it stuck because they weren’t looking to change the game, just master it: as young people keeping their mouths shut, their eyes and ears open, following the rules, building careers and nest eggs, embodying middle-class consensus values, respecting authority and making it a high priority to get along with everyone: schoolmates, work colleagues, neighbors.

Milton-Bradley’s Game of Life kind of encapsulates the Silent Generation’s values and MO. That’s the board game with the spinner, cars and plastic mountains, and I mean the 1960 version with Art Linkletter’s picture on the box; not the ’90s Hasbro reboot!

Here’s a fun fact for you: almost all of the music icons and era-defining comedians, actors and directors of the 1960s were Silents, not Baby Boomers! Dylan, Beatles, Hendrix, Brown, Leary, Kesey, Coppola, Kubrick, Hopper, Redford, Beatty, Cosby, Carlin: all Silents, not Boomers.

As The New Yorker’s Louis Menand pointed out in 2019 (I’m paraphrasing): Silents created culture in the ’60s; Boomers, in their vast numbers, consumed it. But before that, back in 1952, it was the Silents who were the consumers, and the songs we’re gonna hear this hour in our 1952 countdown were the soundtrack of their formative years.

#10 Al Martino – Here in My Heart

At #10 is an Italian-American nightclub singer, a Silent, who got his big break at 25 when he was on the #1 TV show for the 1951-’52 season, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, whereon radio celebrity Arthur Godfrey hosted talent scouts whose discoveries competed for audience approval measured by an applause meter. And he won first prize singing a current Perry Como hit. This, however, was his winning record on the charts. It’s Al Martino’s “Here in My Heart.”

Al Martino, “Here in My Heart,” #10 on our Chartcrush countdown of the biggest Pop hits of 1952 as determined by our exclusive ranking that combines action on Billboard’s weekly published Bestsellers, Airplay and Jukebox charts (their three separate Pop charts, pre-Hot100) into a single weekly ranking. And from there we apply the exact same number-crunching mojo as for years after Billboard streamlined things with the Hot100 in 1958, to get our yearly rankings.

The song, “Here in My Heart,” was actually meant for Al Martino’s friend Mario Lanza, the bona fide opera singer who’d broken through on the Pop charts (and in the movies) in 1951. But after Martino won Talent Scouts on TV and needed a song, Lanza handed him “Here in My Heart” and didn’t record a competing version. Tony Bennett and Vic Damone both did, but Martino’s was by far the favorite.

Just as he was enjoying his success, though, the Mafia came a-knockin’ on Al Martino’s manager’s door and left with his signature signing over Martino’s contract. When Martino bristled about forking over all his earnings to the Mob, he got a good beating and signed a promissory note for the $80 grand anyway. And then packed his bags and fled to the U.K.

There was a silver lining though: “Here in My Heart” had been an even bigger hit in the U.K.: #1 for nine weeks after being the very first chart topper on the brand new U.K. Singles Chart, just launched by Percy Dickins of the newspaper New Musical Express.

After six years in exile, a relative smoothed things over and Al Martino was able to return to the U.S., but it took him five more years to return to the charts with a pair top tens in ’63 and ’64. In the movie The Godfather, Al Martino plays singer Johnny Fontaine. He came by that role honestly!

#9 The Mills Brothers – The Glow Worm

#9 is by a veteran act who’d been making hit records since the early ’30s. Now in 1942, union boss James C. Petrillo took his American Federation of Musicians out on strike against record labels: no new records with union players ’til labels agreed to pay performance royalties. A big blow to America’s preferred music at the time, Big Band Swing, but a huge opportunity for a vocal act whose records actually stated, right there on the disc, “No musical instruments or mechanical devices used on this recording other than one guitar,” which was played by one of the members of the group and therefore exempt from the Petrillo recording ban. So their record “Paper Doll,” was the #1 best-seller for 12 weeks at the height of the strike, ’43 into ’44, and the #1 song of 1943. And they continued scoring top tens in the same style after the strike. But in ’52 they ditched their trademark simple guitar accompaniment for a full Swing Band treatment courtesy of former Glenn Miller sax player Hal McIntyre’s band. This was The Mills Brothers’ last big chart hit: “The Glow-Worm.”

Fans weren’t just familiar with veteran hitmakers The Mills Brothers in ’52; that song was a well-known standard too, originally from a German operetta adapted for Broadway in 1907, then completely re-written by famed Hollywood and Pop lyricist Johnny Mercer for the record we just heard at #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1952. It debuted higher on the charts than any other song in our countdown, and was in the top ten on all three Billboard Pop charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes) for 11 weeks, October ’52 to January ’53.

The Mills never scored another top ten hit, but they continued putting songs on the charts all the way to 1968. Bing Crosby hosted their 50th Anniversary in showbiz at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in L.A. in 1976.

By the way, Billboard’s year-end Best-Sellers chart (what you’re likely to find if you search the web for “top songs of 1952”) has “Glow-Worm” at a middling #21. That’s because six of its 18 weeks in the top ten were in 1953: not counted toward 1952. At Chartcrush, though, with the luxury of hindsight, we count every song’s full chart run, and then it ranks in the year it earned the majority of its points, which for “The Glow-Worm,” is 1952.

#8 Rosemary ClooneyHalf as Much

So in 1951, Columbia Records’ head of A&R Mitch Miller did something that raised a lot of eyebrows: he paired Columbia’s hot new Italian crooner Tony Bennett with a song written by a singer who’d been scoring big hits on the Country & Western charts for the past three years.

Tony Bennett’s version of Hank Williams’s “Cold Cold Heart” became Bennett’s second #1 hit in as many months in ’51, so Miller repeated the trick in ’52 with another singer, this time a female, and another song by Hank Williams.

Hank’s own version had just hit #2 on the Country chart for a week in May; then Columbia’s Pop version enjoyed a 15-week run in the top 10 on all three Billboard Pop charts, July to October. At #8, it’s Rosemary Clooney’s version of Hank Williams’s “Half as Much.”

“Half as Much,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1952: Rosemary Clooney’s second #1 hit, after another Mitch Miller production in 1951: the campy, ethnic, noveltyish “Come On-a My House.”

Now you might wonder: why didn’t Hank Williams’s own version of “Half as Much” cross over to the Pop charts? Well, before Rock ‘n Roll and even after, genres were very segregated, on radio, TV, jukeboxes, even retail, everywhere. Pop hits needed to have slick production values, and Country and R&B fans preferred their records crude and raw and straightforward and honest. Which turned out to be their appeal in later years. But in the early ’50s Black and Hillbilly acts weren’t even trying to cross over, and no one was asking them to. But Mitch Miller saw the potential in Country songs, and others were starting to apply the same logic to R&B.

Speaking of Country, in ’52, Kitty Wells became the first woman to hit #1 on the Country charts with her answer song to Hank Thompson’s hit “The Wild Side of Life,” “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

#7 Eddie FisherAny Time

Our #7 hit: yet another Pop version of a recent Country smash. It was the first major hit by a Crooner who was “discovered” in 1949 at Grossinger’s, the biggest resort in The Borscht Belt of pre-Jet Age vacation destinations in the scenic Catskill Mountains about 100 miles north of New York City. “Borscht” because many of the middle class Jews who vacationed at places like Grossinger’s (which inspired the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, by the way) were immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe where Borscht soup is a dietary staple.

I said “discovered” all air-quotey before because according to a book published in the ’80s, the Publicity Director at Grossinger’s staged the “discovery” of our Crooner at #7, along with comedian and radio celebrity Eddie Cantor (the “Apostle of Pep”). He even paid the audience to cheer. Well it worked! The invited press went back to their papers and glossies and dutifully wrote glowing reviews of the performance, and after the singer appeared on Cantor’s radio show, RCA signed him and Billboard named him the most promising Male Vocalist of 1950.

But then, just as he was reaching peak fame, he got drafted! He didn’t get shipped off to Korea, though, except later, at his own request, to entertain the troops. No, he spent his two years singing with the U.S. Army Band in D.C., appearing in uniform on TV and scoring hits. Wonder why Elvis couldn’t get that deal in ’58 when there wasn’t even a war on? On TV he was introduced as PFC (“Private First Class”).

Here’s his Pop version of a Country hit earlier in the year by Eddy Arnold, who was on the same label, RCA. It’s a different Eddie: PFC Eddie Fisher: “Any Time.”

“Any Time,” Eddie Fisher, #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1952. Besides Les Paul, one of the few hits of that era to feature, you just heard it, a guitar solo!

By the time Fisher finished his Army stint in ’53, he was one of the biggest celebrities in the country. He married Debbie Reynolds, a top Hollywood singer/actress after starring in Singin’ in the Rain alongside Gene Kelly. That film, by the way, a crowning achievement of producer Arthur Freed’s unit at MGM that ushered in the golden age of blockbuster Technicolor movie musicals, another defining feature of the ’50s decade.

Fisher and Reynolds’ daughter, born a year after they were married, was Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia in Star Wars. In ’58 Fisher had an affair with and married one of Reynolds’s best friends, Elizabeth Taylor, and it was an epic showbiz scandal. His career never recovered and in the ’60s Liz Taylor dumped him and married actor Richard Burton.

#6 Vera LynnAuf Weiderseh’n Sweetheart

Princess Elizabeth was coronated Queen Elizabeth II of Britain on June 2, 1952. A few weeks later, our #6 song by a British singer entered the charts and soon became the first-ever #1 U.S. hit by a foreign artist. She’d been an inspiration to troops and civilians (including American G.I.s stationed in Britain) during World War 2, dubbed the “Forces Sweetheart,” and was the Queen’s lifelong friend. #1 for four weeks on all three Billboard charts in August, our #6 song. It’s Vera Lynn’s, ” Auf Weiderseh’n Sweetheart.”

“Auf Weiderseh’n,” German for “goodbye.” Vera Lynn heard patrons in a pub in Switzerland singing the song, commissioned new English lyrics and brought a few of Her Majesty’s soldiers in for the sing-along. Other versions of the song made the charts too: Eddy Howard, bandleader Les Baxter, The Ames Brothers, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians, but that one was the biggest: #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1952.

Kind of ironic to hear Vera Lynn of all people singing a German song after she was such a symbol of British spirit and resolve in the fight against the Nazis, famously serenading terrified Londoners sheltering in tube stations as German planes dropped their bombs during the Blitz. But after the War, Germany immediately became the lynchpin of the Cold War struggle against the Soviets and international communism, so cultural bridges like that served an important purpose.

In ’49, the year of the Berlin Airlift, no fewer than five renditions of “Forever and Ever,” formerly the theme song of the German Luftwaffe, made the U.S. charts! And as I mentioned earlier, our #9 song, “The Glow Worm:” also originally a German song. The next time a female British solo act hit #1 in America? Petula Clark’s “Downtown” in 1965. Vera Lynn passed away in 2020. She was 103.

#5 Patti PageI Went to Your Wedding

Our next artist at #5 re-upped her contract with Mercury Records in 1952 after helping put the label on the map in the late ’40s along with male singers Frankie Laine and Vic Damone, with Mitch Miller helming A&R before moving over to Columbia. Mercury head Arthur Talmadge told Billboard in ’52 that in the five years she’d been on the label, she’d sold ten million records. But up to 1952, all her hits had featured a studio innovation that her first, “Confess” in 1948 had introduced: a singer harmonizing with herself via tape overdubs! I mentioned Les Paul and Mary Ford earlier: they took overdubbing to extremes: layering not just vocals, but numerous guitar parts and scoring massive hits. But in ’52, our singer at #5 who’d started it all eschewed the studio tricks to showcase her solo voice, and scored her third #1 after “All My Love” and “Tennessee Waltz” in ’50 and ’51. At #5, it’s “The Singin’ Rage, Miss Patti Page:” “I Went to Your Wedding.”

At the end of ’52 Billboard noticed that lots of previously unknown songwriters had broken through on the charts during the year. One was Jesse Mae Robinson, who became the first Black woman admitted to the oldest and largest performance rights organization, ASCAP, after her very first try at writing a Pop song, “I Went to Your Wedding.” We just heard Patti Page’s version at #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1952’s biggest hits.

Now speaking of Country crossover, Page was familiar to Country fans after “Tennessee Waltz” in ’51, but Country fans reckoned that “vision of loveliness” better describes a bride walking down an aisle than a groom, so Country radio preferred male singer Hank Snow’s version.

#4 Jo StaffordYou Belong to Me

“I Went to Your Wedding,” actually the B-side of the Patti Page single it was on. The intended hit on the A-side of the record was Page’s version of our next song at #4, which of course is not Patti Page. It’s by another early ’50s female Pop powerhouse, and by ’52 a seasoned veteran, ubiquitous on radio and TV, with over 50 chart hits since 1944 to her name. But incredibly, no #1’s until this one.

A war vet once told her that the Japanese would blast her records for the Americans in their foxholes so they’d get homesick and surrender. For that she got the nickname “G.I. Jo.” At #4 it’s Jo Stafford, “You Belong to Me.”

Jo Stafford’s “You Belong to Me,” #4 as we count down the top ten hits of 1952 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Stafford married the bandleader who’d backed her on nearly all her dozens of hits, Paul Weston, in ’52. And the marriage lasted until death did they part, in 1996 when Weston died. Stafford passed away 12 years later in 2008.

In later years, as a couple they conjured up pseudonyms, and as Jonathan & Darlene Edwards, they did versions of songs with off-key vocals and sloppy piano playing, like you might hear in a no-cover cocktail lounge on a Tuesday.

Mitch Miller blamed their album in 1962, Sing Along with Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, for his lucrative Sing-Along with Mitch TV and record franchise jumping the shark, and in 1978 The Bee Gees: reportedly not at all amused by Jonathan & Darlene’s interpretation of “Stayin’ Alive.”

#3 Leroy Anderson ‘Pops’ Concert OrchestraBlue Tango

So “You Belong to Me” was #1 on Billboard’s year-end DJ chart for 1952. Radio loved Jo Stafford. The #1 Best-Selling record in 1952, though, was only #4 on that year-end DJ chart, and only #8 on the Jukebox chart. Translation? It was a lot more popular with older and richer music fans who could afford records and home-audio gear than it was with the public at large.

One of the first things the newly-formed Recording Industry Institute of America did in 1952 (long before it started suing music fans for sharing mp3s online!): a study of record-buying among home audio enthusiasts. No surprise: Classical: by far the top genre, but knowing that it’s a lot easier to wrap your head around all the Easy Listening and light orchestral records that topped the Pop charts in the ’50s. Like the one at #3 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1952. Soundtrack legend John Williams called him “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music,” it’s American composer Leroy Anderson, “Blue Tango.”

“Blue Tango” at #3: composed and conducted by the artist who made it a hit, Leroy Anderson. And there were competing versions by top Bandleaders like Hugo Winterhalter, Les Baxter and Guy Lombardo.

Anderson’s light orchestral novelty numbers like “Syncopated Clock,” “The Typewriter” and “Sleigh Ride,” as well as “Blue Tango,” have permeated the culture over decades of repurposing on TV and radio, and are instantly recognizable to multiple generations of Americans.

#2 Kay StarrWheel of Fortune

Next up, it’s yet another female singer! ’52 a strong year for the ladies at the top of the charts: five of the ten songs. So much for calling it the “Crooner Era!” Now, unlike “Blue Tango’s” wildly different rankings across the three of Billboard pre-Hot100 year-end charts (Best-Sellers, Jukebox Plays and Radio Spins), this was #2 on all three, and (no surprise) it’s #2 on our ranking.

Jazz and blues legend Billie Holiday called her “the only White woman who could sing the Blues.” But only problem with that: she wasn’t White! Her father was full Iroquois, and her mother a quarter Choctaw, a quarter Cherokee and half Irish!

She’d been on radio and the featured singer on records credited to various bandleaders since the ’30s, but her first solo effort was just hitting the charts in 1949 when she sang at President Truman’s Inaugural Gala. A string of four top 10s followed in 1950, and by ’52 she was one of the top acts in the biz. It’s Kay Starr with “Wheel of Fortune.”

The #2 song of 1952, “Wheel of Fortune:” the biggest of Kay Starr’s 40 chart hits between 1948 and 1962, and it resurfaced in 1997 in the star-studded film noir revival flick L.A. Confidential.

Ironically Starr’s chart fortunes waned a bit after “Wheel” ’til she switched labels from Capitol to RCA and was one of the first Pop singers to exploit the Rock & Roll “fad” with her novelty, “The Rock & Roll Waltz.” That one peaked at #1 just a week before Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” exploded onto the charts in early ’56, and Rock & Roll was here to stay.

#1 Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads – Cry

Now combined, our #2 and #1 songs of 1952 held down the top spot on the charts for almost the entire first half of the year. “Wheel of Fortune” hit #1 the week of March 22 and stayed for ten weeks. The song it replaced had been #1 since January 5.

Now despite Kay Starr being a woman, and the Crooning sensation at #1 being male, their singing styles? Remarkably similar, a similarity he fessed up to, citing Starr as a major influence, along with his mentor, the Black R&B singer LaVern Baker.

Now, Crooners had already been pushing the stylistic envelope for a few years on what the public would accept from a male singer, but a guy emoting wildly and sobbing like this on a record? By the beginning of April, comedian Stan Freberg’s parody, “Try,” was already climbing the Best-Sellers chart, and insult comedian Jack E. Leonard and future Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr. were mocking him relentlessly in bits on variety TV shows. Oldsters were laughing, but the kiddos were all in a tizzy over Johnnie Ray. His first hit, #1 for eleven weeks, January to March: “Cry.”

Johnnie Ray’s “Cry” at #1. Originally from Oregon, Ray was discovered singing in an African-American nightclub in Detroit, where he’d honed that over-the-top Emo singing style on the advice of R&B singer LaVern Baker and her manager: pretty radical for a White singer, especially a White Male singer, in an era of polite, comparatively restrained Crooners. But it was that very over-the-topness that caught Mitch Miller’s attention as head of A&R at Columbia. Miller put him on Columbia’s R&B subsidiary label, Okeh, paired him with Canadian vocal quartet The Four Lads, and produced “Cry” and its flipside, which was also a top ten hit, “The Little White Cloud That Cried.”


So there you have ’em: the top ten songs of 1952 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Now again, for pre-Hot100 years, we combine Billboard’s Retail Sales, Disk Jockey and Juke Box Plays charts into a single ranking that reflects all three. But there are a few songs that made the year-end top tens on those charts that don’t make the cut when you put it all together.

Columbia’s in-house bandleader Percy Faith scored the #10 Best-Seller of the year with this Brazilian-flavored romp.

“Delicado” was #17 on our Chartcrush ranking. Percy Faith scored big again in ’53 with his “Song from Moulin Rouge.”

We heard Eddie Fisher’s “Any Time” at #7: his best showing of the year on Billboard’s Jukebox chart (where it was #6). But record buyers and DJs preferred a different Eddie Fisher side.

“Wish You Were Here” was our #13 song, but Billboard’s #8 Best-Seller and #11 DJ song, beating “Any Time” on both of those charts.

DJ’s also liked Fisher’s “I’m Yours,” #10 on the DJ chart; #22 on our combined ranking.

Also on the DJ chart, a vocal quartet notched the #8 song.

The Four Aces, “Tell Me Why,” #12 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And Georgia Gibbs’s first #1 hit was also a big hit on the airwaves: #5 on the DJ chart.

That one just misses our Chartcrush Top Ten at #11. It was also #11 on both Billboard’s year-end Best-Sellers and Jukebox charts.

Gibbs became controversial later in the ’50s for covering, with great success, Black R&B hits that were already showing crossover potential in their original versions by the Black artists.

The Country star who co-wrote Patti Page’s megahit “Tennessee Waltz” scored Billboard’s #10 year-end Jukebox hit…

Pee Wee King’s “Slow Poke” was only #23 and #16 on Billboard’s Year-End Best-Sellers and DJ rankings, respectively, #15 on our Chartcrush list.

And finally, I told you that Johnnie Ray was big with the kiddos when we heard “Cry” at #1 in our countdown. So big, in fact, that the B-side was also one of the year’s top records on Billboard’s tear-end Jukebox chart.

Johnnie Ray’s “The Little Cloud That Cried,” Billboard’s #9 Jukebox song, the flipside of “Cry” on the same 45. Now there’s one Jukebox record that got played to death in ’52: a double dose of Crooner Era Emo. “Little Cloud,” #18 Bestsellers and #19 DJ; #14 on our combined ranking.

Well that’s all the time we have. I want to thank you for listening to our 1952 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I hope you enjoyed what you heard. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other crackerjack extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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1978 episode graphic

1978 Podcast

1978 episode graphic

1978 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Peak Disco with The Bee Gees and Andy Gibb dominating, two blockbuster movie soundtracks, Lionel Richie’s first massive Pop-Soul-AC crossover and Yacht Rock!

::start transcript::

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 the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1978. Peak Disco! In the movies, on TV, in the fashion magazines, in advertising, and on the Pop charts: everywhere! Even food! An article in Smithsonian in 2011 detailed how a woman made her husband’s birthday dinner using recipes published in the year he was born: 1978. The title of the article? “Tastes like Disco.”

After ramping up for three years, by ’78, every city had a thriving Disco scene with multiple clubs: first time since the early ’40s that dancing was a full-blown industry in America. Discos were even out in the middle of nowhere. They sprung up almost overnight, just as described in Wild Cherry’s big hit “Play That Funky Music:” an autobiographical song about a Rock band in, of all places, Appalachia that suddenly finds itself with nowhere to play because all the clubs that used to hire them for gigs have switched to Disco. That was in ’76. After Saturday Night Fever hit the big screen at the end of ’77, starring John Travolta as a working-class, Disco-obsessed, huckapoo-shirt wearing Italian-American in Brooklyn, New York, the Disco craze was in full bloom.

Hundreds of radio stations switched to a  Disco format in ’78. One in New York flipped from playing Adult Contemporary in July to become “WKTU Disco 92,” and by December its audience had increased eight-fold and it was the #1 station in the city, even beating out longtime top 40 leader WABC.

And of course, people switched to Disco! Anyone who lived through the late ’70s knew someone, at school, in their family, or just out and about, who suddenly showed up one day with the clothes and the hair. Clothing stores and hair salons of course switched to Disco too, and the overnight personal makeovers they wrought were impossible to miss because the glamor, sophistication, glitter and glitz of Disco was the polar opposite of the whole grungy jeans and flannel pot-smoking rural Hippie thing that had hung around since the ’60s.

Even Rock got a facelift. Van Halen debuted in ’78: out of the Hollywood Glam Rock scene, mentored by KISS’s Gene Simmons: a whole new, flashy, swaggering, blow-dried and decked-out look and matching sound that helped set the template for Rock in the ’80s. Nothing Disco about Van Halen’s music, of course, but for lots of oldskool Rock heroes it wasn’t just a new, flashier, cleaned-up look. The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Chicago, Jefferson Starship and even The Grateful Dead on “Shakedown Street…” all those and many more incorporated Disco grooves into their music in the late ’70s. And the drip-drip-drip of those encroachments as Disco peaked musically and culturally brewed a backlash, which boiled over in ’79: Disco Demolition Night in Chicago. That’s a story for another episode.

But it wasn’t just Rock. Funk and R&B, of course, were the wellsprings of Disco, but glossier, smoother Disco upstarts crowded out several acts who were thriving on the Pop and R&B charts pre-Disco: James Brown, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Kool & The Gang, Pointer Sisters, Moments, Whispers–even Motown superstars like Diana Ross and former Temptation Eddie Kendricks. Some of those surged back with massive Post-Disco hits in the ’80s, but others failed to adapt.

#10 Commodores – Three Times a Lady

Now Disco wasn’t the only way a Soul/R&B/Funk act could adapt to changing sounds and fashions. With the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation now in or approaching their thirties, the Adult Contemporary radio format was modernizing. In ’79, Billboard finally got around to re-naming its “Easy Listening” chart to “Adult Contemporary,” reflecting the format’s long drawn-out shift away from the Traditional Pop and Orchestral acts that’d dominated in the ’60s toward Singer-Songwriters and Soft Rock in the ’70s. And in ’78, our song at #10 as we kick off our Countdown, proved that ballads rooted in R&B could cross over and get massive airplay on AC radio right alongside the latest hits by Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand and Roberta Flack. It was #1 on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks, all while topping the Soul/R&B chart and the Hot100 late in the Summer of ’78: Lionel Richie’s biggest hit while he was still in his group The Commodores: “Three Times a Lady.”

On the strength of his massive ballad hits with The Commodores, Lionel Richie became one of the most in-demand songwriters in the biz, not only writing but producing Kenny Rogers’ biggest hit, “Lady” in 1980 and soon after launching his solo career: one of the most successful of the ’80s. For their part, The Commodores followed up their massive 1977 R&B/Pop/Dance hit “Brick House” with “Too Hot ta Trot.” That topped the Soul/R&B chart, but couldn’t crack the top 20 on the Hot100 as Disco continued edging out the group’s preferred hard Funk sound.

#9 Paul Davis – I Go Crazy

We’re counting down the top hits of 1978 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and up next at #9 is another ballad, this one a Soft Rock song about realizing that you’re not over your ex. It only got to #7, but it was on the Hot100 for 40 weeks, August ’77 to May of ’78. That’s the longest chart run of any 1978 song by a mile, and it set a new record for chart longevity that stood for nearly five years. It’s Singer-Songwriter Paul Davis, his first top ten hit after cranking out albums and singles for nearly ten years: “I Go Crazy.”

Paul Davis’s “I Go Crazy,” #9 as we count down the top ten hits of 1978 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Davis had another good year in 1982 with a pair of top 20 hits, “Cool Night” and “’65 Love Affair:” both of those staples of latter-day so-called “Yacht Rock” playlists of Soft Rock hits from the late ’70s and ’80s. Interestingly, “I Go Crazy” was not an Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary hit, despite Davis being in the top ten on that chart for six weeks in late ’74 into ’75 with his story song, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.”

#8 Player – Baby Come Back

And speaking of Yacht Rock, our #8 song will also ring a bell for fans of the genre: a genre, by the way, that wasn’t defined as such until the mid-’00s, when the mockumentary Yacht Rock debuted in an online amateur film festival, parodying the stories of late ’70s and ’80s Soft Rock acts, and went viral. The group is from Yacht Rock’s epicenter, Los Angeles, California, and on the strength of their three top 40 hits in the year, they were Billboard’s top New Singles Artist of 1978. It’s Player: “Baby Come Back.”

Player. “Baby Come Back,” #8, often mistaken for Daryl Hall & John Oates, the Philadelphia Soft Rock Blue-Eyed Soul duo who are specifically mocked in the aforementioned Yacht Rock mockumentary. Player broke up after a falling out between the founding members later in ’78, but Hall & Oates did successfully transition into the ’80s New Wave era and beyond. John Oates has credited the Yacht Rock series with rekindling interest in Hall & Oates in the ’00s, especially among Millennials. Player’s other top ten hit from 1978, “This Time I’m in It for Love,” often mistaken for another big late ’70s Yacht Rock act, Steely Dan.

#7 A Taste of Honey – Boogie Oogie Oogie

Well if you’ve been patiently waiting to hear some Disco here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1978, your wait is over. And it’s a good segue from the softer sounds we kicked off with at numbers 10 through 8, because while it’s definitely Disco, it’s also got a bit of that laid-back ’70s Soft Rock chill too. They were a hit right out of the gate: first album, first single (which is our #7 song)—and one of a handful of acts throughout chart history who named themselves after song titles, in this case a song from a 1960 Broadway show that was covered by everyone from The Beatles to Barbara Streisand, before Herb Alpert took it into the top ten in 1965, “A Taste of Honey.” At #7, “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”

A Taste of Honey, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” at #7. Acts named after songs: “Boyz II Men” was a song by New Edition before it became the name of the Philly R&B vocal group that ruled the charts in the ’90s. “Radio Head” was a Talking Heads song. “Deep Purple,” a #1 hit by Nino Tempo & April Stevens in 1963. “Death Cab for Cutie,” a song by the ’60s British avant garde outfit The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Just a few of the song-title named acts through the years besides “A Taste of Honey,” again, named after the Herb Alpert hit.

They followed up “Boogie Oogie Oogie” with more Disco, but things changed fast in ’79 with the “Disco Sucks” backlash, and they would almost certainly have been a one-hit wonder if they hadn’t bucked their label and producers and kept their cover of Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 hit “Sukiyaki” a ballad. The song had been a favorite of singer Janice-Marie Johnson as a kid—and with the new English lyrics she wrote, they took it into the top five in 1981.

#6 Andy Gibb – (Love Is) Thicker than Water

OK, we’re down to #6, and I’ve gotta throw this out there: from here on in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1978, five of the songs (that’s five of the top six songs of the year) are by four brothers. I don’t mean slang “brotha’s.” No! Literally four brothers, in the same family, with the same parents! Well that’s unique in chart history! The oldest three, Barry and fraternal twins Maurice and Robin, had been the nucleus of their group The Bee Gees since the mid-’60s. But in ’77, here came the youngest, as a solo act. But really in name only; all his stuff came out of the same hit making factory (songwriting, production and everything in between) as The Bee Gees. Our #6 song was peaking on the charts on his 20th birthday in March: his second #1 after 1977’s “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” it’s Andy Gibb “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water.”

“(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” the first of two Andy Gibb songs in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1978, and the first of five by the Gibb brothers collectively: solo act Andy Gibb and his older brothers’ group The Bee Gees. By the way, their sister, Lesley, the oldest of the lot: never involved in her brothers’ musical ventures except for a brief spell in 1969 when she replaced Robin onstage after he temporarily quit to pursue a solo career.

#5 Exile – Kiss You All Over

Now our song at #5 is the #1 song of 1978 (as long as you don’t count the Gibb brothers)! It’s the first hit by a regional Kentucky bar band who’d been at it since the early ’60s. And it ranks #10 on a special Billboard list of the “Sexiest Songs of All-Time” published in 2022. Its over-the-top steaminess, not lost on New York’s biggest top 40 station at the time, WABC, who refused to put it on the air until it hit #1 nationally at the end of September and they couldn’t not play it, for a run of four weeks on top. It’s Exile’s “Kiss You All Over.”

Exile “Kiss You All Over:” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1978. Now viewers staying up late for The Midnight Special in 1978… that was the show after Johnny Carson on Friday nights in the ’70s and one of the few places you could see music on TV pre-MTV… well, those folks got to see Exile front man Jimmy Stokley delivering those deep, Barry White-inspired vocals at the beginning of “Kiss You All Over” looking like a glammed-up version of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters in a one-piece body suit. Which explains why Glam Rock producer Mike Chapman took such an interest in them, and eventually gave them his song “Kiss You All Over.”

Chapman and songwriting partner Nikki Chinn had already launched Glam Rock act The Sweet out of L.A. (their top tens “Little Willy” and “Ballroom Blitz”), and Nick Gilder’s New Wavey “Hot Child in the City,” which replaced “Kiss You All Over” at #1. Next up for Chapman in ’79 was Blondie’s Parallel Lines album, which included their breakout hits “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another.” And then The Knack’s debut including “My Sharona.” Quite a roll for Mike Chapman!

On the Pop charts, Exile was a one-hit wonder, but after flashy front man Jimmy Stokely quit in 1980, they retooled and scored ten #1’s on the Country charts in the ’80s. In 1997, Dance Pop trio No Mercy (most famous for their top ten hit “Where Do You Go?”) did a flamenco-y House version of “Kiss You All Over” and scored a #1 hit on the Dance chart.

#4 Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive

Well we’re down to the small numbers in our countdown, and for 1978, that can mean only one thing: Bee Gees! At #4, here’s “Stayin’ Alive!”

The song that came to epitomize not just The Bee Gees, but really the whole Disco craze, “Stayin’ Alive,” from the year’s #1 album, the double-LP soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever and 1978’s #4 song according to Billboard, as well as our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking. In the movie it’s in the opening credits scene:John Travolta as Tony Manero walking down the sidewalk in his neighborhood in Brooklyn all decked out in his dancing clothes even in the middle of the day, eating two stacked slices of pizza and carrying a can of paint back to his family’s hardware store, checking out the clothes and boogie shoes in the store windows while “Stayin’ Alive” plays in sync with his footsteps.

Saturday Night Fever catapulted not just Disco music, but the Disco scene to the pinnacle of Pop culture, one of just a handful of zeitgeists throughout history that galvanized America so completely that it’s hard to even think of the year without a half a dozen sights and sounds flooding your mind: John Travolta in his white three-piece polyester suit and The Bee Gees (the tallest, Barry, in the middle), shiny, gold-satin varsity-style jackets unbuttoned to show off their prodigious chest hair. Your mileage may vary with the specific sights and sounds, but you get the point.

#3 Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack yielded three #1 hits for The Bee Gees, but “Stayin’ Alive” wasn’t the first. The first was our next song at #3, and it entered the Hot100 a full three months before the movie even hit theaters. It’s the ballad, “How Deep Is Your Love.”

Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love,” #3 as we count down the top ten hits of 1978 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. In 2001, Barry Gibb said that was his favorite Bee Gees song: a big deal because there have been so many Bee Gees songs. Hundreds!

The Bee Gees didn’t just materialize in the Disco era; they’d scored their first hits, a string of them, in ’67 and ‘8. At the end of the ’60s though, like a lot of groups, they got caught between Pop and the more serious Progressive and Blues-oriented Album Rock that was being championed by Hippie media outlets like Rolling Stone—unable to plant their flag in either camp. After a brief slump and breakup they got their Beatlesesque “Lonely Days” and the dreamy ballad “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” into the top five in ’70 and ’71, but slumped again—until Soul/R&B producer Arif Mardin came into their lives a few later. “Jive Talkin'” was a #1 hit in ’75, and the album it was on, Main Course, featured the first appearance on a record of what became Barry Gibb’s trademark: his falsetto!

#2 Andy Gibb – Shadow Dancing

Well we’re going to continue with our mini Brothers Gibb marathon, also known as the top four songs of 1978, at #2 with Andy Gibb’s biggest hit of the year. We heard “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” back at #6. Andy got a songwriting assist from brother Barry on that one, but all three Bee Gees contributed on this one. And it shows! Almost indistinguishable from any of The Bee Gees hits from Saturday Night Fever. And why wouldn’t it be with the same songwriters and producers: The Bee Gees’ in-house production team of Barry Gibb, Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson: Gibb-Galuten-Richardson. At #2, it’s Andy Gibb, “Shadow Dancing.”

With “Shadow Dancing,” Andy Gibb became the first solo act in chart history to score #1’s with his first three singles. It was #1 for seven weeks: 1978’s big Summer hit, after all three of the Bee Gees’ hits from Saturday Night Fever had finished their chart runs in the first half of the year. Same songwriters, same producers, even the same label as The Bee Gees and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album: RSO Records for “Robert Stigwood Organization,” with its red cow logo inspired by a Japanese legend. Besides the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, our #8 song, Player’s “Baby Come Back,” was also on RSO, for a total of six out of the ten top records of 1978.

Music and showbiz entrepreneur Stigwood had been The Bee Gees’ manager all the way back to their first charting singles in 1967, and it was his idea to turn a Tom Wolfe-style essay in New York magazine into Saturday Night Fever, which he produced, and cast John Travolta, whom he’d just signed to a three picture contract, to play the lead.

Fun fact: the author of the essay Stigwood bought the movie rights to, a Brit named Nik Cohn, admitted in the ’90s that he’d made it all up; his actual experiences attempting to research New York’s working-class outer borough Disco scene had mostly consisted of arriving at the 2001 Odyssey club in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood while a drunken brawl was in progress outside, and being thrown up on before he was even out of his taxicab.

#1 Bee Gees – Night Fever

And we’re down to #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1978. It’s Saturday Night Fever’s title track. Well, sort of. When the song was written, the working title for the movie was simply “Night Fever.” Ultimately, that was rejected for being too vague. Could be a zombie flick, or a disaster movie about a mysterious disease, right? So they went with Saturday Night Fever. But the song was already done. Again, The Bee Gees, the biggest of their three hits—all from Saturday Night Fever—among 1978’s top records, “Night Fever.”

For two weeks end of February into March, all three of the Bee Gees’ hits from Saturday Night Fever were in the top ten, “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and the #1 song of 1978 according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking, the song we just heard, “Night Fever.” And Andy Gibb’s “(Love Is) Thicker than Water” (our #6 song) was #2 both of those weeks. It doesn’t get much bigger than that on the charts, and the Brothers Gibb rode the wave with three more #1s late ’78 into ’79, “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside and Out” from their follow-up album Spirits Having Flown.

But then the bottom dropped out of the Disco craze, and the early ’80s were tough times for Disco icons. Barry Gibb and The Bee Gees biggest successes post ’79 came writing and producing other artists. Barry teamed up with Barbra Streisand, writing, producing and singing backup on her 1980 smash “A Woman in Love,” our #8 song of 1980. By then, Andy Gibb was already deep in the throes of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and his erratic behavior got him fired from his roles in Broadway plays and hosting the TV show Solid Gold, cost him his relationship with actress Victoria Principal, and was the cause of his tragic death from heart failure in 1988, just days after he turned 30.

Now Billboard ranked Andy’s “Shadow Dancing” as the #1 song of 1978. Well, it was on the chart five weeks longer, but “Night Fever’s” eight weeks at #1 (up against “Shadow Dancing’s” seven), plus its additional week in the top ten gives it the edge in our Chartcrush ranking algorithm. But just to put an exclamation point on how dominant The Bee Gees and RSO Records were in 1978, if you scroll down past the top ten, you’ll find four more songs in the top 20 on the year written and produced by members of The Bee Gees.

#17, Samantha Sang’s “Emotion” was #3 for two of the five weeks in March into April that “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive” were #’s 1 and 2.

That one, co-written by Barry and Robin Gibb and produced by Gibb, Galuten & Richardson. Can you tell?

At #19 was the lone #1 hit from Saturday Night Fever not performed by the Bee Gees on the soundtrack album…

Yvonne Elliman’s version of Barry, Robin and Maurice’s “If I Can’t Have You” replaced “Stayin’ Alive” at #2 in late April, then replaced “Night Fever” at #1 for a single week in May, the final #1 hit from Saturday Night Fever. The Bee Gees had their version out too: on the B-side of the “Stayin’ Alive” single. Robert Stigwood opted to feature Elliman’s version in the movie, and instead have the Bee Gees record the song she was originally slated to do: “How Deep Is Your Love.”

And at #20, Barry Gibb’s title song written for Robert Stigwood’s next movie project that hit theaters in June of ’78, performed by Four Season Frankie Valli.

Yeah, Grease was in 1978 too! The year after Elvis Presley’s death as ’50s nostalgia sitcoms Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley were the top two shows on TV. The movie version of the musical Grease was the second of the films in John Travolta’s three-picture deal with Robert Stigwood’s RSO Films. It co-starred Olivia Newton-John, whose singing career had slumped when Disco hit, but whose radical real-world image makeover from sweet ’70s country-pop cupcake to ’80s “Physical” sexpot actually occurs right there onscreen in Grease’s finale: the other #1 hit from the film.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta’s “You’re the One That I Want,” not written by a Gibb, but also on the RSO label. Grease beat Saturday Night Fever at the box office (’78’s top-grossing movie, in fact), but not on the Pop charts. The top ranking song from Grease: #15 on our 1978 ranking. Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally,” our #13 song, also on the RSO label, for a grand total of 11 out of the top 20 hits of the year—all on the same label, RSO. By the way, Clapton’s association with Robert Stigwood reaches all the way back to Clapton’s Blues Rock trio Cream in the ’60s. Stigwood was Cream’s manager, and all of Clapton’s records from ’73 to ’83 were on RSO. Stigwood sold the label to Polydor in 1983.

Now, a final housekeeping note as we wrap up or 1978 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Billboard counted seven of the ten consecutive weeks that Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” was #1 in November and December of 1977 (just before the onslaught of hits from Saturday Night Fever) in its 1978 ranking, so it was Billboard’s #3 song of 1978. Counting its full chart run in the calendar year it earned the most ranking points, though, as we do for every song at Chartcrush, makes it our #1 song of 1977. The Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love” dislodged “You Light Up My Life” from the #1 spot in Billboard’s second-to-last issue of 1977.

Well thank you for listening to our 1978 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can find a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other jivin’ extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning ofthe charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune again—same station, same time—for another edition of Chartcrush.

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2014 episode graphic

2014 Podcast

2014 episode graphic

2014 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Social media eclipses TV as the top driver of pop culture in “the year of the booty,” Indie-Folk spreads and underground Hip-Hop styles vie for chart dominance.

::start transcript::

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 recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re setting our sights on 2014, the tipping point when social media went from being an important emerging and evolving part of pop culture, to being its gravitational center, like how TV eclipsed radio in the early ’50s.

In 2011, Coca-Cola launched the first multi-million dollar social media brand campaign on Facebook (“Share a Coke,” where users got to design their own Coke cans) and in 2014 postings for social media marketing on the job site Indeed doubled. The surge of U.S. adults on social platforms passed 60% in 2014 according to the Pew Research Center. For teens it was nearly 90%. By 2016, Hillary Clinton’s presidential election loss to Donald Trump was being blamed, albeit more loudly than credibly as it turned out, on Russian-paid-for ads on Facebook.

Music, of course, a focal point of social media going all the way back to the MySpace days in the ’00s, and Billboard started its Social 50 Artists chart, ranking likes and mentions on social platforms, in 2010. But in 2014, even septuagenarian Pop Diva Barbra Streisand managed to get her 34th album Partners to debut at #1 by going big on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Her full-hour appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon’s first year hosting: well, that helped too. But if there were any lingering doubts that social was the new go-to for publicity and awareness building, Streisand, not to mention the viral “ice bucket challenge” in 2014, sealed the deal.

Revenue though? Not so much. For that, a different game changer was needed to pull the music biz out of its 15-year tailspin from music piracy on peer-to-peer mp3 platforms. Music streaming data had been a factor on Hot100 since 2007 when custom-playlist radio-type streams were first factored into the chart’s calculus, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Billboard debuted its Streaming Songs chart, and started factoring on-demand streams in the Hot100. YouTube views were added in 2013, but streaming’s revenue upside wasn’t at all apparent yet.

Taylor Swift took her entire catalog off the streaming platform Spotify in 2014. She didn’t think the 0.6 cents a stream artists were getting was fair, and she wasn’t alone. But Spotify’s Daniel Ek spent the year arguing that it was a lot better than the 0.0 cents the billion or so people downloading music illegally were generating. It was a couple years before usage of streaming services ramped up to the point where 0.6 cents a stream added up to real money. But by ’17 Taylor’s catalog was back on Spotify. In ’18 streaming passed 50% of total music industry revenue, and by ’19, on-demand streaming alone was making more bank than the entire industry was in 2014.

#10 Pitbull featuring Ke$ha – Timber

Now in music, the glitzy, blingy, party-time, synth-driven, Auto-Tuned, four-on-the floor “New Pop” that Billboard heralded in 2010: still the default at the top of the Pop charts. And it’s epitomized by our song at #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014: the Latin rapper who scored the #5 song of 2011 in the style with “Give Me Everything,” featuring the overnight Pop sensation whose glittery, brash, decadent image made her the poster girl for the “New Pop” when she nailed the #1 song of 2010 with “Tik Tok.” It’s Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, “Timber.”

That was the formula for a hit Rap song in the early 2010s: irresistible Pop vocal hook with the Rapper delivering the message with urgent phrasing. “Timber,” Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, Billboard’s #2 Rap song of 2014 and #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the year’s biggest Pop hits. They co-headlined a North American tour together in 2013, Pitbull and Ke$ha did, and “Timber” was a product of that year-long collaboration. But Pitbull admitted he’d originally had a different singer in mind, Rihanna, whose collab with Eminem “The Monster” kept “Timber” out of the top spot at #2 for four weeks at the beginning of the year.

#9 MAGIC! – Rude

At #9, a Canadian reggae fusion trio that got a ton of incoming from critics when their first hit was suddenly all over Pop radio in late July and August. The New York Post called the song “a flaccid, boring slice of lightweight reggae that sounds like it was written to be heard in a dentist’s waiting room.” And a Billboard piece trumpeting all the new female talent in 2014 and proclaiming “Pop’s ‘End of Men’ Moment” dismissed it as a “retrograde hit by Canadian ragga-nothings.” Ouch! And that’s just a small sampling.

But in the streaming era, as Billboard noted in 2013, fans were now in charge, and this became the first reggae-tinged #1 hit on the Hot100 since Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” all the way back in ’03. Here is MAGIC with an exclamation point. I guess you’re supposed to say it loud and fast… MAGIC! “Rude.”

MAGIC!’s Rude, #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2014. When it hit #1 at the end of July, Time actually reached out to the great-great-granddaughter of the original queen of etiquette Emily Post to ask if a dad saying no to a guy that wants to marry his daughter is, in fact, rude. The conclusion? No, having a negative opinion about something (even something someone cares deeply about) isn’t just on its own impolite. MAGIC! continued charting songs in their native Canada for another couple years but in the U.S. they were a true one-hit wonder.

#8 Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX – Fancy

Speaking of impoliteness, some have called the early 2010’s Hip-Hop’s “Ratchet Era,” ratchet being a slang term out of the South that comes from “wretched.” At first it was a put-down but it evolved. Ebony defined it in 2014 as “uncouthness so absurd that it borders on camp” and credited Baton Rouge rapper Lil Boosie with injecting it into the vernacular with his “ode to unadulterated (sic) ignance,” “Do the Ratchet.”

Anyway, there were lots of stylistic currents in Hip-Hop in the early 2010s, the most dominant being what the Millennial-targeted website Mic.com called “Pop-Rap mashups” that were topping the charts. We just heard a great example at #10, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber.” So maybe the early ’10s were the “Pop Mashup Era” of Hip-Hop. But out in L.A., producer DJ Mustard was calling what he was doing with artists like YG, Tyga and Ty Dolla Sign the “Ratchet Sound,” a minimalist but catchy up-tempo style targeted at clubs.

Tyga’s “Rack City,” #7 in 2012, the biggest hit out of that scene on the Pop charts, until our song at #8 by 2014’s top Rapper on the charts, who was a woman! Pop’s “End of Men” moment indeed! DJ Mustard had nothing whatsoever to do with it, other than chilling with her in L.A. when her career was ramping up, and he accused her and her producers of “jocking” his sound, but definitely not the first time in Pop history that someone’s sound got “jocked.” Elvis Presley anyone? At #8, it’s 2014’s big Summer earworm, by not only the year’s top Rapper, but Billboard’s Top New Artist overall, Australian-born Iggy Azalea featuring British Singer-Songwriter Charli XCX, “Fancy.”

Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX “Fancy,” the #8 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. It was Billboard’s #4 song of the year, and as I mentioned, the #1 Rap song. But Iggy, no stranger to controversy, first accused of ripping off DJ Mustard’s “Ratchet” West Coast Hip-Hop style, and then, when she made it big, of cultural appropriation for being Australian-born, yet rapping with a Southern “blaccent.” And insensitivity for some of her past Tweets and comments, plus her aggressive image and attitude. Definitely a lot of current to swim against as a celebrity in the ’10s.

Her feature on Ariana Grande’s “Problem” was at #2 behind “Fancy” for five weeks, the first time the same artist had both the #1 and #2 songs since The Beatles. And then “Problem” replaced “Fancy” at #1, giving Iggy Azalea 13 consecutive weeks at #1, beginning of June to end of August. But just a year after “Fancy” topped the chart, Cosmopolitan was already wondering in print how Iggy Azalea had become the world’s most hated pop star, and after 2015, she didn’t crack the Top 40 again on any Songs chart, not even in her native Australia.

#7 Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up

Now on Billboard’s year-end charts, there’s a long history of massive hits that didn’t rank anywhere near where they should’ve because of when they were hits during the year. If a song’s chart run is over the holidays from one year into the next? Well Billboard has to get its year-end issue out before New Years, so anything after whatever they set as the cut-off issue for their “chart year” is either ignored, as in the ’50s and ’60s, or kicked into the following year, which splits the points between two different years. Here at Chartcrush, one of the reasons we do this show is to correct that record by factoring every song’s full chart run into whichever calendar year it earned the most points.

Having said all that, though, our #7 song was a tricky one! It entered the chart in July of 2013 and made the top ten in September 2013, where it stayed for 21 weeks including six at its peak of #4. Now even though its peak was in 2013 and it was declining on the charts in 2014, it took its sweet time and didn’t exit until July of 2014, 53 total weeks. And by a slight margin it scored more ranking points in 2014. It’s the biggest hit by one of the top headliners in the early ’10s Electronic Dance Music craze: Swedish DJ and Producer Avicii, Billboard’s #1 Dance/Electronic artist for 2014; Rapper-Singer Aloe Blacc, who wrote the lyrics, on lead vocals, “Wake Me Up.”

So every other major genre in the ’00s merged with Electronic Dance Club sounds to score big under the “New Pop” banner, why not Indie Folk? Well, that’s what Avicii must’ve been thinking with “Wake Me Up,” the #7 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. The crowd at Miami’s Ultra Music EDM festival didn’t quite know what to make of it when the banjo came out and Avicii unveiled it live during what Spin called the “Hee Haw 2013 portion of the set.” But Indie Folk groups Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers had been racking up hits for a couple years, so what Avicii started as an experiment hit the bullseye on the Pop charts and wound up the biggest hit of his career.

His follow-up, “Hey Brother” was also a hit, and “Wake Me Up” singer Aloe Blacc made the Top Ten later in ’14 with his Elton John “Your Song” riffing “The Man.” In 2018, Avicii’s sudden death by suicide shocked the world.

#6 Sam Smith – Stay with Me

At #6 is Billboard’s #2 New Artist of the year, behind Iggy Azalea, and his Gospel-inspired ballad in which he pleads with a one-night stand not to leave him. And as you listen, you’ll notice that most of the Gospel feeling in the song comes from the choir in the chorus. But it’s not a real choir! It’s the singer layering his vocal like 20 times to create that choir effect with overdubs. He used real backup singers, though, when he sang the song on Saturday Night Live, which he credits for breaking him in the U.S. a full 11 weeks before his album was even out! It’s English singer Sam Smith, “Stay with Me.”

Sam Smith, “Stay with Me,” #6 as we count down the biggest hits of 2014 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Smith won four awards at the 57th Grammys including Record of the Year for “Stay with Me,” and in his acceptance speech he thanked the man who inspired it by breaking his heart, “because you got me four Grammys.”

Earlier I mentioned the 2014 Billboard article “Pop’s End of Men Moment,” a riff on feminist provocateur Hanna Rosin’s buzzworthy 2012 book The End of Men. The Billboard piece singles out Sam Smith along with Ed Sheeran as the type of “expressive, nurturing, cooperative” man that the charts still had room for in 2014. But after “Stay with Me” dropped to #6 on September 20 there wasn’t any room at all for the XY chromosome set in the top five on the Hot100 for seven straight weeks. It was all ladies. The previous record for all females in the Top Five? Four weeks in early 1999.

#4 OneRepublic – Counting Stars

Another 2014 op-ed in Billboard, same issue as the “End of Men” article, was titled “Rockers in Dockers.” It observed that what was once called “Classic Rock,” and before that just “Rock,” was now “Dad Rock.” Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, U2, Foo Fighters, Spoon, Wilco, The Strokes and others: called out by name as acts with “white male auteurs, guitar solos, heroism and narrative songs.” “Music for squares:” patriarchal and exclusionary. Whew! That’s an awful lot of shade, and coming alongside proclamations about the end of men, in the sixth year of the Obama presidency with Obama’s grass-roots arm, Organizing for America, urging young people to sign up for Obamacare in its viral “pajama boy” ad on social media, if you were a White male still bringing your guitar onstage in 2014, easy to see how you might not want to be played on Rock radio. So maybe not a surprise when you scan through the Rock genre charts for the early ’10s looking for big Hot100 hits and even acts that coulda woulda shoulda been on there, and would’ve been, for example, in the ’80s, but aren’t. Our #4 song, a great example.

Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Bastille and Coldplay: Billboard’s top four Rock artists of 2014, but these guys? Not even on the list. It’s the third single from their third album, Native, released after a three-year hiatus, and it was on the Hot100 for, get this, 68 weeks, 25 in the Top Ten, it’s OneRepublic “Counting Stars.”

OneRepublic, “Counting Stars,” #4 as we count down the top ten songs of 2014 here on The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. As big as they were in the early ’10s, group leader Ryan Tedder was just as big a deal behind-the-scenes as a Songwriter and Producer. He started writing “Counting Stars” for Beyonce while chillin’ with her and hubby Jay-Z at their place in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island. “Counting Stars” turned out to be more of a fit for OneRepublic, but Tedder’s song “XO” was the lead single off Beyonce’s self-titled album released for Holiday shoppers at the end of 2013 and Billboard’s #2 album of 2014, behind only the Frozen soundtrack.

#5 John Legend – All of Me

At #5, just the third song with only piano and vocals to hit #1 in the history of the Hot100. The first was Adele’s “Someone like You,” our #6 song of 2011, and then Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” #14 on the year 2013. From 1958 to 2011? No piano and vocal only songs got to #1, which is kind of surprising with piano-based artists like Elton John, Carole King, Billy Joel and Alicia Keys in the mix. But the idea of stripping down an arrangement to just the Singer and his or her instrument: not a new idea, but in the 2010’s after years of everyone from Rockers to Rappers searching for new ways to put across intimacy and raw emotion in the grooves of recorded music, sometimes less is just more. Billboard’s #1 Radio and Adult Contemporary song of 2014, #5 on our Chartcrush ranking, here’s John Legend’s “All of Me.”

John Legend, “All of Me,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. A lot of that song’s success on the Pop charts was thanks to an up-tempo remix by Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto that was preferred by Pop radio.

In 2018, John Legend won an Emmy for his role as Jesus in NBC’s Easter Jesus Christ Superstar concert, which made him the first Black male in the elite “EGOT” club: winners of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards: E-G-O-T.

#3 Katy Perry featuring Juicy J – Dark Horse

We heard Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” at #8, directly influenced by “Ratchet” sound producer DJ Mustard out of L.A. Our #3 hit, by a major established Pop star, but influenced by a different underground strain of Hip-Hop, namely Trap, out of Atlanta, where Azalea also spent a lot of time. But this song topped the charts weeks before “Fancy” debuted.

Trap, pioneered by Atlanta Rapper (and Iggy Azalea mentor) T.I. in the mid 00’s, but it stayed mostly underground until our #3 song, which was declining after eight months on the Hot100, but rebounded back into the Top 20 the week after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014. The subsequent unrest birthed the Black Lives Matter movement and a surge of racial consciousness last couple years of the Obama administration. And Trap, which broke through with this song, led Hip-Hop’s comeback on the Pop charts in the late ’10s, with its ominous, dark vibe, gritty lyrics and spacious reverberated ambiance. Perfect for the (quote from the singer) “witchy, spell-y kind of black magic-y idea” (unquote) of the song about a woman warning a man not to fall in love with her.” At #3, it’s Katy Perry featuring Juicy J, “Dark Horse.”

Billboard’s Top Female Artist, top Singles Artist and #2 top overall artist of 2014, Katy Perry featuring Juicy J., “Dark Horse:” #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 2014. And also Billboard’s #1 Streaming song of the year.

Perry, no stranger to Hip-Hop collaborations. “California Gurls” with Snoop Dogg and “E.T.” with Kanye West: both among the top ten hits of 2010 and ’11, respectively. So when even a mainstream glossy like GQ is calling Trap “the sound of Hip-Hop in 2012,” if you’re Katy Perry, it’s a no-brainer.

Another breakthrough Trap megahit in 2014: DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” a very respectable #19 on our 2014 ranking. After further Trap milestones like Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” in ’15, Desiigner’s “Panda” in ’16, Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Bad and Bougee” in ’17, Hip-Hop was never bigger on the Pop charts and Trap was the sound, launching white Rapper Post Malone and the mature phase of Pop diva Ariana Grande’s career in ’18 and ’19.

#2 Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass

Our #2 song is a latecomer to the early 2010s Pop explosion, who hit pay dirt with her very first single: a song that’s been described as “a Bubblegum Pop, Doo-Wop and Retro-R&B song that draws influences from various musical genres including Hip-Hop, Country, Soul and Rock ‘n Roll.” Wow, that’s an awful lot going on in one song, isn’t it? Makes you seriously ponder Mic writer Matt Pollock’s proclamation that “2014 Was the Year Pop Music Killed Traditional Genres.” But there’s no denying that the song kicked America’s 2014 obsession with big booties into overdrive. At #2, it’s Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass.”

Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” not the first big-booty song that hit the charts in 2014. Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle” were out before, and Miley Cyrus may’ve gotten the ball rolling even before that with her twerking at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. But “All About That Bass” wall-to-wall on Pop radio in the Summer sealed the deal on what was widely recognized as a cultural obsession with butts, as Vogue put it in August.

Later in the Summer, Nicki Minaj reprised Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” at the 2014 VMAs (her song “Anaconda”). Then J-Lo remixed her song “Booty” with Iggy Azalea. That hit clubs in September and went straight to #1 on the Dance chart. And then Kim Kardashian’s mic drop on the whole “Year of the Booty” thing with her bare-butt cover shot and “Break the Internet” photo spread in Paper magazine.

#1 Pharrell Williams – Happy

And that gets us to the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. It was #1 for ten of the 13 weeks between “Dark Horse” and “Fancy,” March to May, and the first song ever to hit #1 on six singular-format Billboard Airplay charts: Adult Contemporary, Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, Rhythmic Songs, Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Adult R&B Songs. Translation? Massive crossover hit, with almost universal appeal across multiple genres. From Disney’s smash animated feature Despicable Me 2, here is the #1 song of 2014, and a real good candidate for “feel good song of the decade”, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

Ten consecutive weeks at #1, Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. Pharrell in 2014: no stranger to the Pop charts, but for the most part up to then, all the way back to the early ’90s, he preferred to work behind the scenes. Just a low key guy with huge talent, gets along with everyone, but totally okay taking second or featured billing. He did have a #5 hit in ’03 under his own name with “Frontin'” featuring Jay-Z, but other than that, for the rest of the ’00s up to 2014, Pharrell’s biggest hits were as a featured artist on tracks like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It like It’s Hot” in ’04 and ’05, Ludacris’s “Money Maker” in ’06, and then two of the biggest hits of 2013, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” both of which he co-wrote.

Pharrell was even going to give “Happy” to another artist: CeeLo Green, who recorded it and Pharrell thought CeeLo’s version was better. Only reason that version wasn’t released in the Fall of 2012 was CeeLo’s label didn’t want to cannibalize sales of his Christmas album!

Since “Happy” was in Despicable Me 2, it was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but lost to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” from Frozen. A reporter caught up to Pharrell after the Oscars and asked him how badly he’d wanted that award, and Pharrell said: “When they read the results, my face was frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to let it go.”


And that’s our countdown! If you’re comparing our Chartcrush ranking to Billboard’s year-end top ten for 2014, you’ll notice a few differences. Our #10 song, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” just missed Billboard’s top ten at #11 on the year, and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” was only #22 on Billboard because, as I mentioned earlier, Billboard split its long chart run between ’13 and ’14. So what songs from Billboard’s top ten got bumped to make room for those two?

Well at #9, Billboard had the song I mentioned earlier that made Iggy Azalea the first artist since The Beatles to have both the #1 and #2 songs on the Hot100 in the same week, and it stayed that way for five consecutive weeks, June into July. But Iggy was the featured artist.

Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Izalea, “Problem,” #20 on our countdown. So does Iggy featuring on that song match The Beatles with that chart accomplishment? Most sources, including Billboard, say yes.

At #6 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 for 2014 was Jason Derulo featuring 2Chains’ “Talk Dirty.”

So that makes two songs in Billboard’s year-end top ten that have that cheapy horn sound in the chorus, coincidentally the two songs not in our Chartcrush top ten. It was already a pretty well-worn gimmick in 2014, that horn sound, started by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on 2013’s “Thrift Shop.”

Well folks, that’s our show for this week. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thanks for listening to our 2014 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. 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 lit extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s 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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