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 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,, 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.

::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 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,, 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.

::end transcript::

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,, 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,, 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,, 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 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,, 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,, 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.

::end transcript::

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,, 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 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,, 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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1984 episode graphic

1984 Podcast

1984 episode graphic

1984 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The “visual sizzle” of music video defines the look and sound of the ’80s, soundtracks yield multiple hits, veteran acts relaunch and Prince floods the zone.

::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 and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1984, the year that “the 80s” really started to look and feel like “the 80s.”

The year 1980 had been a clean break from Disco on the charts. ’70s Prog Rock faded circa 1978 and veteran Rock acts were trying to figure out their next moves, and it wasn’t Disco Rock. Just ask Kiss, Rod Stewart and others that learned that the hard way! In ’81 MTV launched and in ’82, video arcades swept in, the first big MTV New Wave hits like The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” topped the charts and Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out at the end of the year, making ’83 the year of Michael Jackson (he was everywhere!), but also the year that MTV and video music eclipsed radio and even touring as music’s driving force and all the major labels created music video divisions.

But it wasn’t just music. At the end of ’84, Billboard observed how utterly and completely the “visual sizzle” of music video had transformed American pop culture—from movies and TV (even children’s programming) to advertising and merchandising. “Madison Avenue shelved last year’s celebrities and yesterday’s fashions to create commercials applying the flash and flair of rock video to automobiles, cosmetics, cereal and toys.” The cop show Miami Vice premiered in the Fall of ’84, brainstormed by NBC’s Brandon Tartikoff in a memo that said, simply, “MTV cops.”

By 1984, the “’80s” weren’t just coming into focus, they’d arrived. And that was pretty exciting for a society exhausted from years of ’70s so-called “malaise:” energy crisis, Watergate, urban decay, high inflation and interest rates. It wasn’t too much of a stretch in the ’70s into the early ’80s to see 1984 shaping up as some version of the gray, totalitarian nightmare depicted in George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel 1984. But as it approached, it was turning out to be not that way at all. Apple, the computer company, put an exclamation point on that in its now-legendary Super Bowl ad that launched the Macintosh by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, that showed said gray Orwellian dystopia being shattered, literally, with a sledgehammer hurled by a colorfully dressed woman athlete at Big Brother’s dreary visage on the big screen. Then later in the year, President Reagan’s re-election campaign sealed the deal with its famous “Morning in America” ad that helped sweep the President to his 49-state landslide victory over former Carter Veep, Walter Mondale.

#10 Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

At #10, diving into our countdown, since ’84 was the year of the music video, no surprise that movie soundtracks loomed large on the charts. There were ten (count ’em ten) platinum-certified soundtrack albums in 1984. 1978 had five including Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Then there were four in 1980 including Urban Cowboy and Xanadu. But the ten in ’84 was more than both those two previous best years for soundtrack albums combined. And on the Hot100 singles chart, seven soundtrack songs got to #1 in ’84, five of which we’re gonna hear this hour on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. And the first of them is at #10. It’s Ray Parker, Jr’s “Ghostbusters!”

The theme song of the top grossing movie of 1984, the comedy starring Saturday Night Live’s Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and SCTV’s Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who run a ghost-hunting business out of an old fire house. Ray Parker, Jr’s “Ghostbusters!” #10 on our 1984 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Parker, a session guitarist since the late ’60s, with a string of hits starting in 1978 with his group Raydio (spelled with a “y”), and then as a solo act in the ’80s, hired by the producers to write the Ghostbusters theme in just three days after dozens of submissions had already been rejected. They were having trouble finding the right song because they’d been using Huey Lewis & The News’s current hit “I Want a New Drug,” as a placeholder in the film’s rough cut, but couldn’t get Lewis to do a new soundalike song because he was already locked in on another sci-fi comedy project, Back to the Future. That was 1985’s top grossing movie, and Huey Lewis’s song, “The Power of Love” is our #11 song of 1985.

So while agonizing over the tight deadline, Ray Parker, Jr. sees a pest-control commercial in the middle of the night on TV. Aha! So he quickly writes the “who you gonna call” lyrics to something similar to “I Want a New Drug,” and makes the deadline. Unfortunately though, the music is a little too similar to “I Want a New Drug,” so Huey’s people sue, and eventually settle, but according to Rolling Stone, Parker’s royalty situation remained “a mess.”

For the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II, Run-DMC turned in a Hip-Hop version of the song. Rock bands Walk the Moon and Fall Out Boy both did new versions for the 2016 female Ghostbusters reboot, Fall Out Boy’s version featuring rapper Missy Elliott. And then Ray Parker Jr’s original re-appeared in the end credits of the 2021 sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

#9 Stevie Wonder – I Just Called to Say I Love You

At #9, the return of an act who’d scored Hot100 hits in every year from 1963 to 1982: 20 consecutive years, starting with his live harmonica jam “Fingertips” in ’63, which made him the youngest act ever to score a #1 hit at just 13 and was the #7 song of the year on both Billboard’s year-end chart for ’63 and our Chartcrush ranking. From there to ’82: five more #1s, but he broke his 20 year streak in ’83 when he shelved the album he was working on, working title: People Work, Human Play, even after debuting two songs from it on Saturday Night Live.

Music was changing fast in ’83 with Michael Jackson and MTV, so maybe he needed to retrench and figure things out before making his next move. Which came in ’84: a soundtrack album for a romantic comedy starring Gene Wilder—and as breezy and down-the-middle a song as he’d ever done. It wound up the best-selling single of his whole career. Now, it’s just #25 on Billboard’s year-end chart for 1984 because its final 12 weeks were in their 1985 chart year that began with their November 24th issue, but counting its entire chart run, as we do for every song here on Chartcrush, it comes out #9. From The Woman in Red soundtrack, it’s Stevie Wonder’s, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

Stevie Wonder, “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” #1 for three weeks in October and #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1984. It also topped Billboard’s R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and won Best Original Song at the 57th Oscars, which, by the way, was the only Oscars ever in which all of the nominated songs were #1 hits. Stevie’s harmonica also appears on Elton John’s biggest hit in ’84, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” and Chaka Khan’s groundbreaking “I Feel for You.” And then in ’85 he resumed work on his aborted 1983 album, released it as In Square Circle, and topped the charts again with “Part-Time Lover,” his final #1.

#8 Culture ClubKarma Chameleon

OK, I have an ethnic joke for you, ready? What do you call a band with a Black bassist, a Jewish drummer, and a blond White guitarist fronted by an androgynous Gay Irishman? Actually it’s not a joke; that’s the origin story of our next act out of London’s Post-Punk New Romantic scene headquartered at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden. They named themselves for their diversity. Once the video for their reggae-tinged debut, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” hit MTV in ’82, they were on their way. Other hits followed and in ’84 they scored their biggest, and their only #1, “Karma Chameleon.” It’s Culture Club.

“Karma Chameleon,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984. Culture Club’s first six charting singles all went top ten, and that was the fifth. Front man songwriter Boy George summed up the song’s message as karma justice if you don’t stay true to who you are. But turns out it’s a confessional song too—owning up to his failings in his strained relationship with Culture Club drummer, John Moss.

In its Rock recap article Billboard observed in ’84 that so-called “new music” was no longer dangerous; it was just new. And to drive home the point, cited Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, and yes, Culture Club. In ’86, Boy George guest starred as himself in an episode of NBC’s action series The A-Team that climaxes with Culture Club playing “Karma Chameleon” in a redneck bar!

#7 YesOwner of a Lonely Heart

So ’84 was a big year for soundtracks. It was also a big year for totally unexpected comebacks. Our #7 song is by one of the groups that pioneered and epitomized British Prog Rock in the late ’60s and ’70s who’d tried to continue making Prog Rock records but broke up in 1980, with the two remaining members eventually forming the Arena Rock supergroup Asia. The re-formed group in ’83 didn’t include either of those members and wasn’t even originally intended as a reunion. But it worked out that way as things started to gel in the studio and additional members including the group’s original lead singer got involved. I could spell all this out for you, but delineating the complicated family trees of ’70s British Prog Rock bands? That’s way beyond the scope of this program! At #7, here’s Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Yes, representing legacy rock on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984 with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Right up to just months before its release, intended as the lead single from the debut album of a completely new group called Cinema featuring three former members of Yes. As soon as original Yes singer Jon Anderson got involved late in the game, though, everyone knew it had to be a Yes record. And it wasn’t just their first #1 single, it was their first single since an edited version of “Roundabout” off their album Fragile in 1971 to even make more than a blip on the Pop charts.

Probably the best example there is of a ’70s Prog Rock band re-tooling for the ’80s, with most of the credit for that going to producer and Synthpop trailblazer Trevor Horn, who’d actually been in Yes for their 1980 album Drama after Anderson’s departure, and whose song as half of New Wave duo The Buggles was the very first video played on MTV: “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

#6 Lionel Richie – Hello

Now if you rank Billboard’s Hot100 charts by artist, summing up all their chart action in the year, you get what Billboard presents in its year-end issue as the year’s Top Singles Artist. 1984’s Top Singles Artist is our act at #6, with five songs in the top ten during the year. And the biggest of them had two weeks at #1 in May. He began writing it for his first solo album in ’82 but thought it was too corny. Which is really saying something! Not just because the ’80s were a golden age of corny love ballads, but because he’s one of the main reasons this side of Paul McCartney that it was—going all the way back to the ’70s when his ballads like “Easy” and “Three Times a Lady” put his Funk group The Commodores right alongside Barry Manilow and Anne Murray on Adult Contemporary radio. He thought the song was too corny, but his wife loved it, his producer encouraged him to finish it, and it was his top single, the year he was the top singles artist. It’s Lionel Richie’s “Hello.”

Lionel Richie at #6 as we count down the top hits of 1984 on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The R&B recap in Billboard’s year-end “Talent in Action” section made the obvious but still stunning observation that “in between the frightening sales of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the multimedia deluge of Prince’s Purple Rain, Black music’s biggest star was good old Lionel Richie.” When Richie’s second solo album Can’t Slow Down dropped in late ’83, its first two singles were the upbeat hits “All Night Long” and “Running with the Night.” So when “Hello” hit the airwaves, it was Richie’s first ballad in six months, and connected immediately. You’d think that Can’t Slow Down would’ve been the #1 album of the year too, but nope! It was #2 behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was #1 for the second year in a row: the only album ever to repeat at #1 on the year.

#5 Kenny LogginsFootloose

Well as I mentioned, ’84, the biggest year for soundtrack albums, and our #5 song was the biggest hit off the biggest of 1984’s soundtracks. Seven of the album’s songs were released as singles and four were top 20 hits, with two going all the way to #1, including the title track, by a veteran Singer-Songwriter who did a lot of soundtrack work in the ’80s, starting with the theme from Caddyshack, “I’m Alright,” a #7 hit in 1980, but this was his biggest hit. From the film starring Kevin Bacon about a big city kid who moves to a small town where dancing’s not allowed. At #5, Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”

Fun fact about Footloose: dancing bans in America weren’t just a product of Bible-thumping preachers like actor John Lithgow’s Rev. Shaw Moore in the film. At the tail end of World War Two, Congress singled out establishments that allowed dancing with a crushing 40% federal cabaret tax and that’s when the “no dancing” signs went up across the land! It was ostensibly a War funding measure but wasn’t repealed until the mid-’60s.

Kenny Loggins had two songs on the Footloose soundtrack: the title song we just heard at #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984, plus “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” which peaked at #22. Also on the album, the top 20 hits “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar, and a duet by Heart’s Ann Wilson and Loverboy front man Mike Reno, the power-ballad “Almost Paradise,” as well as the other #1 Footloose hit, Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Later in the ’80s, Kenny Loggins scored with the soundtrack hits “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, “Nobody’s Fool” from Caddyshack 2, and “Meet Me Half Way,” from the Sly Stallone arm wrestling movie, Over the Top.

#4 Phil CollinsAgainst All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)

At #4, yet another soundtrack hit. And also the first in a string of seven #1 solo hits for this Prog Rock drummer who assumed lead vocal duties in his group Genesis in 1975 when front man and group co-founder Peter Gabriel left. In ’81, the now drummer and singer in Genesis did a solo album himself, but unlike Gabriel, he stayed in the group. His distinctive vocals and the trademark gate reverb effect on the drums on his records, though?  Integral to both his solo work and his stuff with Genesis in the ’80s, so even fans sometimes have trouble telling what’s what! His first #1 hit either as a solo artist or in Genesis: right on the heels of Genesis’s first top ten hit, “That’s All” earlier in the year, it’s Phil Collins, “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).”

Phil Collins, “Against All Odds,” #4 as we count down the top ten from 1984 here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush: the title theme for the film of the same name starring Rachel Ward, Jeff Bridges and James Woods: a remake of the 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past. It got mixed reviews and played in less than 1,000 theaters, but the song gave it a boost at the box office.

Until Collins’s Hits compilation came out in the late ’90s, “Against All Odds” was only available as a single. And of course on the soundtrack. But it was one of those soundtrack albums with mostly score music and just a handful of songs by various artists, not the kind that’s loaded with hits and sells millions like Footloose.  So people bought the single and drove the song to #1 on the Hot100 for three weeks in the Spring.

#3 Tina TurnerWhat’s Love Got to Do with It

At #3, another astonishing comeback, by a female singer in her mid-40s who’d been recording and touring constantly in small venues, basically as a cabaret act, since her last charting hits in the early ’70s. She generated some buzz doing a stint at New York’s Ritz Rock club in ’83 and Capitol Records put out her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” as a single, which did well, so she recorded an album for Capitolin just two weeks in the Spring, and by September its leadoff single was #1 and she was on tour opening for Lionel Richie. At the time she was the oldest female singer ever to top the Hot100. The comeback leadoff single from the album Private Dancer, by Tina Turner: the #3 song of 1984 and Record of the Year at the Grammys “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

“What’s Love Got to Do with It,” 1984’s #3 song, Tina Turner. Two more top ten hits from the Private Dancer album followed in ’85, “Better Be Good to Me” and the title track, “Private Dancer” while she played a 177-date world tour and starred opposite Mel Gibson in the third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome.

#2 Van Halen – Jump

Since the ’80s, MTV’s Video Music Awards, or VMAs, are of the year’s biggest music awards shows, held every year in late August or early September. Well, 1984 saw the very first MTV Video Music Awards show, hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler at Radio City in New York. “Video of the Year” went to the lead single off The Cars blockbuster 1984 album Heartbeat City, “You Might Think,” and other winners included David Bowie’s “China Girl,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” ZZ Top’s “Legs,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and our #2 song, which was the only major VMA winner that was among the top ten chart hits in the year. They won for Best Stage Performance in a Video. It’s Van Halen: the lead single from their blockbuster 1984 album, entitled 1984: “Jump.”

Van Halen won the VMA for “Best Stage Performance in a Music Video” thanks to front man David Lee Roth’s onstage martial arts antics in the video for “Jump,” our #2 song of 1984. The synth riff in “Jump:” the first prominent synth in a Van Halen song, and pretty controversial with the group’s devoted hard rock fan base who’d been with them since their first album in 1978. Rock fans, very leery of “New Wavey” keyboards in those years, perhaps foreshadowing the epic microgenre splintering of Rock’s audience in the ’90s and beyond. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen first came up with the riff in ’81, but it stayed on the shelf until other groups, notably Canadian Arena Rock trio Rush, made it safe for a Hard Rock group to add modern keyboards into the mix.

#1 PrinceWhen Doves Cry

And that brings us to the #1 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1984. The album it was on came out right in the middle of the year, but wasn’t just any album release. Besides records, tapes and CDs, it was tied in with a blockbuster biopic in movie theaters, home video, merchandizing and even the artist’s live shows in a sustained, coordinated multimedia brand assault the likes of which hadn’t been seen for a pop culture commodity since Beatlemania. And it was all timed to hit just as the well of singles from the artist’s 1982 breakthrough album ran dry and the album itself, 1999, dipped into the lower half of the Top 200 Album chart from its peak in the top ten in mid ’83. At #1, the artist? Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Prince. The album, movie and tour, Purple Rain. And its single: the #1 of 1984: “When Doves Cry.”

Prince, “When Doves Cry:” the #1 song of 1984. Now in a year of huge soundtrack hits, it’s easy to forget that Prince’s Purple Rain was a soundtrack album too—to the semi-autobiographical movie Purple Rain, which grossed $72 million, ten times what it cost to make. One of the most prolific Pop artists of the ’80s and ’90s, he managed to integrate almost every style of music into what critics called the Minneapolis sound. But it’s really The Prince sound, since he was closely involved with almost all the other acts that came under that banner: The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Morris Day, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheila E., The Family.

Three more singles from Purple Rain were top ten hits in 1984: the title track, “I Would Die 4 U” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” which was also a #1 hit. And he didn’t just top the Billboard charts: an album cut off Purple Rain topped the debut “Filthy Fifteen” chart released by Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center in ’84. “Darling Nikki” details Prince’s adventure with a woman he finds masturbating in a hotel lobby. But things were about to go from bad to worse for parents concerned about x-rated themes in Pop songs: at the end of ’84, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” came out—not a deep album cut, a #1 single. Egads! In 1990, after Senate hearings and a heated debate over censorship, the Recording Industry Association of America introduced the “Parental Advisory—Explicit Lyrics” label to identify music with mature themes.

For his part, Prince was just getting started in 1984. He stayed hot on the charts all the way into the mid-90s even after changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol in ’93. When being a one-name superstar gets old, there’s always unpronounceable symbols!

Well that’s our countdown! Now some years there are big differences between our Chartcrush top ten and the top ten on Billboard’s published year-end Hot100 chart. Not so 1984. The point system Billboard used to rank the songs in ’84? Very similar to the system we apply consistently to every year at Chartcrush.

Only one song from Billboard’s year-end top ten not in our countdown, and that’s Paul McCartney’s duet with Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say.” But not because it lacked ranking points; four of its six weeks at #1 were at the end of calendar 1983, so we have it as the #3 song of 1983. As they do every year, Billboard had a cut off issue for the 1983 chart year to give themselves time to prepare the charts and get the year-end issue printed and mailed by New Years. For ’83, that was their October 29th issue, so “Say Say Say” got kicked into ’84.

And that’s going to have to do it for our 1984 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website,, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other bitchin’ 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 next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

2002 episode graphic

2002 Podcast

Chartcrush 2002 Episode Graphic

2002 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The ’00s take shape after 9/11 as Emo and Bling Rap conquer the charts, Avril and Nelly emerge, Eminem goes mainstream and the ’00s biggest Rock bands debut.

::start transcript::

Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi, and this is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Every week, we take a look back at a different year in pop music history and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time by the music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’ll be counting down 2002, the first year of the ’00s decade. And I mean that in a cultural sense, of course.

With some decades it’s hard to pinpoint when things changed. Not so the ’00s. Everything changed on 9/11/2001: the Al Qaeda terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, left the Pentagon broken and smoldering in Washington, and United flight 93 vaporized on impact in Pennsylvania. 9/11 was the deadliest act of terror in world history, and the trigger for America’s War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Before 9/11, from the start of the decade on the calendar, not much had changed. Which was weird! 50 years of science fiction had made dates starting with twos instead of ones seem like, well, science fiction! And then Prince in 1982 in his breakthrough hit, “1999:” “2000 zero zero, party over, oops, out of time.” But then people woke up after partying like it was 1999, and lights still on, stuff on TV, money still in the bank. No Y2K computer bug apocalypse. But no Moon colony, jetpacks or robot maids either. Just another day. And then on a sunny Fall Tuesday in September, 9/11.

Some of the distinguishing features of the ’00s emerged right away: a new skyline in New York, crazy security at airports, the Office of Homeland Security, the color coded terror alert level and, of course, war. And other features were already emerging: school security tightening after the Columbine shooting, cell phones doubling to nearly 40 million in the U.S. from ’99 to 2000. And then texting took off 2000 to 2001. Digital cameras were flying off the shelves. Survivor sparked a cascade of reality shows when it was a hit for CBS in 2000. Sony’s Playstation 2, which could also play DVDs, so before long VHS tapes and VCRs started showing up in thrift shops. Friendster and Myspace didn’t launch until ’03, but platforms like Geocities, SixDegrees and of course America Online with its chat rooms were already scratching that itch on the internet.

As for music, never bigger after a decade of explosive growth in the ’90s, but between ’99 and 2015 when music streaming took hold finally, revenue only saw a single growth year and by the end of that 15-plus year slide, the music biz had shrunk to just a third of its size at the end of the ’90s thanks to online filesharing. Courts shut down the original mp3 platform, Napster, in ’01, but the proverbial genie was out of the bottle and the industry spent the rest of the decade playing legal whack-a-mole vs. peer-to-peer services, and then users of those platforms. Once broadband internet became affordable, download times for songs went from minutes to seconds and by mid-decade literally billions of digital song files were changing hands every year, and labels weren’t getting a dime.

None of that frenzied, legally dubious music collecting showed up on the charts either: a huge blind spot. And all because labels had spent the ’90s pushing people to buy $16 albums on CD. Derailing that gravy train by offering individual song downloads? Yeah, no. We don’t think so! So the unthinkable happened: they lost control. But the industry’s revenue free-fall had only just begun.

#10 Avril LavigneComplicated

At #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, an 18 year-old Canadian newcomer who was pitched to the world as the anti-Britney. The anti-Christina too, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera having dominated the female side of Millennial Teen Pop since ’99.

Now one of the factors that’d made Millennial Pop so successful was that after a decade of jarring Gen-X Nu Metal, Grunge and Gangsta Rap, Millennials’ Baby Boomer parents liked a lot of the stuff their kids were into. It was accessible: “inside the box” of what Boomers thought of as Pop and Rock music. And now that Britney and Christina were 20-somethings and the kiddos had a new teen sensation, parents liked her even better, especially this song: a #2 hit on the Hot100 in the top ten for 16 weeks, but #1 for 16 consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart, it’s Avril Lavigne, “Complicated.”

In a 2002 Entertainment Weekly piece, writer Chris Willman noted that the girls of America were no longer lowering their necklines in homage to Britney and Christina but, instead, learning how to knot a necktie like Lavigne. “Butt cheeks, dance beats, and gleeful artifice are suddenly out, while tank tops, rock, and ‘real’ are unexpectedly back in.”

Two big new things in Pop in ’02, Emo and Sk8ter Punk, both represented by the #10 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002 by 18 year-old Avril Lavigne. “Complicated,” her first and biggest hit until ’07’s “Girlfriend.” Emo: Rock, usually with a Punk edge, that features personal and emotional lyrics. The very first top ten Emo hit? Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” which preceded “Complicated” on the charts by seven weeks.

#9 Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule & Cadillac TahAin’t It Funny (Murder remix)

So in 2001, our next act at #9 pulled a fast one on the charts, releasing a completely new song, but with the same title as a cut on her album, labeling it a “remix,” and thereby combining airplay and sales points for both songs into a single chart position according to Billboard’s policy for remixes. The title “I’m Real” sat atop the Hot100 for five weeks and was our Chartcrush #4 song of 2001. But was it the Hip-Hop song, or the completely different Dance Pop song on the album? Well, that depended on what radio station you were listening to!

Either way, “I’m Real” was a hit. So in ’02, they did it again! Why not? Same crew, same scam: Jennifer Lopez and Epic Records, helmed by Mariah Carey’s ex, Tommy Mottola, bringing in New York’s “it” rapper of ’01 and ’02, Ja Rule, to write a whole new song, but with the same title as the one they’d chosen as the next single off Lopez’s J. Lo album, Lopez adding her vocals and Epic releasing it as the “Murder remix” after Ja Rule’s label, Murder, Inc. And it worked again! Another #1 hit, this time for six weeks, and our #9 song of 2002: “Ain’t It Funny.”

Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah, the so-called “Murder remix” of “Ain’t It Funny.” Completely different song from the Latin Dance Pop cut with the same title that Adult Top 40 stations played once Epic Records released the single, but the two songs combined into one chart position, and “Ain’t It Funny” is #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002.

When the supposed “remix” dropped, Billboard’s reviewer groused in print that J. Lo’s label “Sony has got to be kidding,” called the ploy “a disturbing trend,” and soon Billboard, not wanting to find out what could happen if an artist released three, or five, or ten different songs with the same title, changed its rule to only allow remixes with the same melody to combine for chart positions.

#8 Vanessa CarltonA Thousand Miles

Next at #8, a one-hit wonder. And the singer-songwriter herself told Elle in 2017 that she loves that expression because she wonders all the time how she ever had a hit. First heard on the big screen blaring out of a sorority house in the Reese Witherspoon flick Legally Blonde, once out as a single, it peaked at #5 and its 41 week run on the Hot100 was the third longest of ’02. Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.”

Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Two years after it was a hit, the Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks came out, in which Shawn and Marlon play FBI agents disguised as White Chicks to foil a kidnapping plot. In one scene they nearly blow their cover after “A Thousand Miles” comes on and sparks a singalong with a carful of White chicks, and, being African-American men, Shawn and Marlon don’t know the words. Awkward! You see, White chicks in the mid-’00s were supposed to know every syllable of that song, don’t you know.

#7 CallingWherever You Will Go

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, several hit songs were directly inspired by the attack and the war: Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye’s patriotic march “Remember Pearl Harbor,” musical comedian Spike Jones’s Hitler-mocking “Der Fuhrer’s Face,” and, most successful of all, Kay Kyser’s “Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition.”

9/11’s ripple on the charts, though: much more subtle, and it mainly took the form of existing records finding new resonance. Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” immediately re-entered the Hot100 for 16 weeks and got all the way to #6. But our song at #7, which had only scraped the Mainstream Rock chart after its release in May of 2001, began a slow, four-month crawl up the Hot100 after 9/11. It peaked at #5 and stayed on the chart until September ’02. Its 45 week run included 11 weeks in the top ten, making it our #7 song. It’s The Calling, “Wherever You Will Go.”

Inspired, according to songwriter Aaron Kamin, by a relative widowed after 50 years of marriage, but it took on a whole new meaning after 9/11. The Calling, #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” it also topped the Adult Top 40 chart for an insanely long time—23 weeks—and was Billboard’s #1 year-end song of ’02 on that chart. Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” another pre-9/11 song that assumed a new identity after the attacks.

#6 NellyHot In Herre

Next up, the first cut by the only act with two songs in our ’02 top ten countdown. It’s a rapper, which underscores how pivotal a year ’02 was for Hip-Hop. After pushing at the ramparts of Mainstream Pop for over 15 years, influencing a generation of R&B and Pop acts and occasionally breaking through with a hit on its own terms, Hip-Hop now was Mainstream Pop. So it’s fitting that our act at #6, who spent an amazing 17 combined weeks at #1, was also the first to perform in a Superbowl halftime show—Superbowl 35 in ’01 along with Britney Spears, Aerosmith, NSYNC and Mary J. Blige.

His first album Country Grammar came out in 2000 and was on the album chart for 104 weeks: an album of Pop-accessible Hip-Hop party anthems, two of which were top ten hits. If one album marked the start of Hip-Hop’s so-called “Bling Era” in the ’00s, that was it. And then his second album dropped at the end of June ’02 and this song was everywhere in the Summer: #1 from the end of June all the way to the middle of August, seven weeks. It’s Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.”

The Band-Aid rapper, Nelly at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “Hot in Herre,” from—of all places—St. Louis, which didn’t even have a Hip-Hop scene. Nelly says his style had universal appeal because he took aspects from every region, but his Midwestern twang was something new and unique, and he leaned into it. Heck, it’s right in the title: the word “here” spelled H-E double R E, pronounced “herre”).

Incidentally, Nelly’s trademark facial Band-Aid? A tribute to his former collaborator Lavell Webb, a.k.a. City Spud, serving ten years in a Missouri jail for armed robbery and assault.

#5 UsherU Got It Bad

At #5 we’re gonna hear from the ’90s teen star mentored by moguls L.A. Reid and P. Diddy, who, after a couple of false starts, came to occupy a sweet spot on the male pop R&B sexiness spectrum midway between Michael Jackson’s too-goodness, and Bobby Brown’s too-badness, as songwriter Manuel Seal put it.

As he was just turning 20 he hooked up with Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri and scored a trio of top tens in ’97 and ’98 that updated the male R&B sound with Dupri’s Southern Hip-Hop production and beats. But not only that, his Hip-Hop-derived singing style—clustering syllables together like a rapper—set him up to be one of the biggest chart acts and heartthrobs of the ’00s after a second trio of top ten hits in ’01 and ’02 whose titles all begin with the word “you” abbreviated with the letter “U:” “U Remind Me,” “U Don’t Have to Call,” and the biggest, our #5 song, “U Got It Bad.” It’s Usher.

“U Got It Bad,” Usher: #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002. Producer Jermaine Dupri wrote the song after Usher couldn’t stop obsessing over a girl he’d brought with him to the studio. He says he knew right away that he was updating Usher’s first smoldering slow-jam hit, “Nice & Slow,” from 1998. The girl may or may not’ve been TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

#4 NickelbackHow You Remind Me

At #4, the song that gets the prize for chart longevity in ’02: 45 weeks, including four at #1, which made it Billboard’s #1 song of the year. But on chart points, the top four are a tight cluster, and the three songs that edge it out in our Chartcrush ranking all had many more weeks in the #1 spot.

It’s more apparent looking at the top ten on Billboard’s year-end chart than ours, but ’02 was a really big year for Rock on the Pop charts: the strongest since the late ’80s. Billboard had four Rock cuts among its top ten for the year, and two of them make the cut in our Chartcrush ranking. We already heard The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” at #7; here’s Nickelback’s chart debut, “How You Remind Me.”

Canadian Rockers Nickelback, the #4 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “How You Remind Me.” #1 for four weeks in January, and it stayed in the top ten for 23 weeks. The most played song on radio in the entire ’00s decade.

In the years since 2002, and especially after their Diamond-certified fifth album All the Right Reasons in 2005, Nickelback became Rock’s scapegoats and whipping boys: “the one band that virtually everyone is happy to mock relentlessly,” as Stereogum’s Tom Breihan put it. Why? Well, their success, of course. Also, there was a sameyness to the style and sound of the Post-Grunge bands that dominated Rock radio in the early ’00s, and that contributed. But even beyond that, nowhere was the fracturing of Pop into a gazillion genres and micro-genres more pronounced than in Rock, so the idea of a band getting as big as Nickelback got was kind of an anachronism.

#3 Ashanti – Foolish

Now as I touched upon when we heard Ja Rule’s “Murder remix” of J. Lo’s “Ain’t It Funny” at #9, Irv and Chris Gotti’s Murder Inc. Records was the hottest Hip-Hop label in New York in ’02, and our act at #3 had gotten in on the ground floor, writing and singing hooks and background vocals, including on the J. Lo tracks, and featuring on Hip-Hop releases by the label’s roster of rappers. Those included Ja Rule’s biggest hit “Always on Time,” which catapulted her to instant stardom when it was in the top ten for 16 weeks starting in December ’01. Then, in February, her feature on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” and her first solo single debuted simultaneously. With Billboard’s April 20 Hot100 chart, she became the first female ever to occupy the top two spots the same week. “What’s Luv?” was #2 for seven weeks and at #1 for five of those weeks? Our #3 song: it’s Ashanti’s “Foolish.”

That repeating piano figure in our #3 song, Ashanti’s “Foolish:” sampled from an album cut by 80’s R&B group DeBarge, but it had also been in rapper The Notorious B.I.G.’s biggest hit while he was alive. Biggie, gone just five years in ’02, so Ashanti protested when Murder, Inc. boss Irv Gotti gave it to her to write a song around. But Gotti said he knew what he was doing, and the sample, instantly familiar to Ashanti’s intended audience, helped “Foolish” shoot to the top of the charts, where it stayed ten weeks.

#2 Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland – Dilemma

We’re counting down the top hits of 2002 on this week’s edition of Chartcrush, and at #2 we have another rapper-singer duet, but unlike J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny,” on this one the rapper is singing too. Not too many singing rappers before Drake emerged late in the decade.

And it’s also the first #1 hit for a member of early ’00s R&B uber-trio Destiny’s Child. Nope, not that member! Beyonce’s first #1 hit was “Crazy in Love” (with Jay-Z) in 2003; our #2 song features Kelly Rowland, and as for the rapper, we heard his “Hot in Herre” at #6, so this is the second of his two hits in our countdown: the only act with two. It’s Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma.”

#1 for seven weeks, August and September, knocked down to #2 for two weeks, and then it returned to the top spot for another three weeks, October into November, Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma,” the #2 song of the year according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking.

In the video, Kelly is shown doing something that was pretty cutting-edge in ’02: texting. Except she’s doing it on an Excel spreadsheet, not a texting app. Maybe she needed more than 160 characters? By the way, the song that bumped “Dilemma” to #2 in October? American Idol Season One winner Kelly Clarkson’s coronation single, “A Moment like This.”

#1 Eminem – Lose Yourself

And that gets us down to the #1 song in our countdown. In a year of very long runs at the top of the Hot100, this was the longest: 12 weeks. But don’t look for it in the top ten or even the top 20 of any Billboard year-end chart, because Billboard only counted activity up to its November 30 cutoff issue for ’02. Everything after that? Kicked into ’03. This song was #1 from November 9 to January 25 ’03, so in Billboard, it’s #63 for ’02 and #28 for ’03.

Well that’s not right! In fact, there’s a long list of year-straddling hits throughout chart history that’ve fallen through the cracks like that. So here at Chartcrush, what we do is count every song’s entire chart run, and then rank it in the year it earned the majority of its points. Which makes this the #1 song of 2002. Are you ready? It’s a monster! Vanilla Ice was a distant memory and The Beastie Boys had thrown in with alt-rock; was the world ready for another White rapper? Capping off the year that Hip-Hop found its mojo at the top of the Pop charts, squarely in the mainstream of American Pop, from 8 Mile, the semiautobiographical film that made him a superstar, it’s Eminem “Lose Yourself.”

Eminem, out of Detroit, Michigan, “Lose Yourself.” #1 for 12 weeks on the Hot100 and #1 in our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking of the biggest hits of 2002. Eminem came into ’02 already a big star since The Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs, in ’99 and 2000, respectively, and his top ten hit, “The Real Slim Shady” in 2000. But 8 Mile and “Lose Yourself” expanded his appeal way beyond Hip-Hop. His album The Eminem Show topped Billboard’s year-end album chart in ’02, and “Lose Yourself” won Best Original Song at the 75th Oscars.


So our #1 song, “Lose Yourself,” one of the three cuts in our Chartcrush Top Ten for 2002 that were absent from the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100. J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny” and Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” the others at numbers 13 and 11 respectively on Billboard’s ranking.

So what songs from Billboard year-end top ten got bumped out of ours? Well as I said earlier, ’02 was a big year for Rock, which is better reflected on Billboard’s year-end top ten than ours.

Puddle of Mudd’s nihilistic Emo-Grunge song “Blurry” was #10.

“Blurry” was #15 on our Chartcrush ranking.

Unlike Kansas City’s Puddle of Mudd, Agora Hills, California’s Linkin Park continued charting top ten hits through the decade.

“In the End,” Linkin Park’s breakthrough, Billboard’s #7 song of ’02 and the second most played Rock song of the Aughts, behind Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” It just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11.

And finally, Billboard’s #8 song was the other song in Ashanti’s two-fer at the top of the charts in April and May.

“What’s Luv?,” Fat Joe featuring Ashanti, missing our top ten at #13.

Well that’s the show! Thanks for listening to our 2002 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website,, 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 tight 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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