The Fantastic 40 – Episode 10: Top-40 Chart Domination for 1989


Welcome back to The Fantastic 40:

My personal journal of the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for a calendar year between 1980 and 1991.

After 10 weeks, we’ve come to the final year of the 1980s.

What were the stories of 1989’s Fantastic 40?

The trend: The year of the Newbies.

Almost half – 19 of this year’s Fantastic 40 – had not appeared on a previous countdown.

In a few cases, these were technicalities:

Donny Osmond (22) had hits in the ’70s but not in the ’80s before his 1989 comeback.

Anita Baker (38) had hits in 1986-87 but not a string to match her later success.

But other acts…

From Winger (39)

and Warrant (24)

to Young MC (32),

Roxette (8),

Milli Vanilli (4),

Paula Abdul (4),

and No. 1 New Kids on the Block – broke through in the final year of the decade.

Gender gap decreases:

Led by Abdul, Baker, Madonna (6)

and Karyn White (10), a dozen solo women are represented in the Fantastic 40.

The others are:

Debbie Gibson (12),

Martika (13),

Neneh Cherry (18),

Gloria Estefan (20),

Cher (23),

Jody Watley (29),

Janet Jackson (30)

and Taylor Dayne (37).

Put together with the female trio Expose (15),

and acts with women in key roles such as Roxette and Soul II Soul (19), and the list is almost 50/50, a far cry from earlier years.

Final bows:

Chicago finishes the decade at No. 36,

While Guns ‘n’ Roses closes out at No. 14.

Don Henley has further Top 40 hits but too spaced out to earn another spot in the countdown after this year’s No. 26.

Only in 1989:

Lots of acts have their moment this year: In addition to the aforementioned Winger, Milli Vanilli, Soul II Soul, Young MC and Martika, we see:

Michael Morales (35,)

Great White (31),

Michael Damian (27),

Dino (25)

and Tone Loc (17).

Tom Petty has his solo year in 1989 before returning to chart in the ’90s with the Heartbreakers.

Time and again:

Poison (34),

Def Leppard (33),

Prince (28),

Rod Stewart (11),

Richard Marx (7)

and Bon Jovi (5) all continue their winning ways.

Def Leppard’s streak won’t resume until after the era of the Fantastic 40, but the other artists will show up again quite soon.

Before the series concludes in 1990 and 1991, we’ll answer a special request from JJ:

A look at the Top 100 artists of the 1980s!

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 7:35 am

This doesn’t have the feel of a classic year to me, we’re a long way from peak 80s. Though New Kids fixes it very firmly in time as I started high school the same year they broke through and the girls went mad for them. Sat next to a group of girls in science class who had tickets to see them, discussion of designing a banner to take to the show and get the attention of NKOTB was very much top of their agenda. I would say it was way ahead of improving their understanding of human biology but there were definitely some biological reactions going on in response to Jordan, Joey, Donnie, Danny and errr….the other one. I don’t know if its good or bad that despite the fact I couldn’t stand them, 34 years on I can remember 4/5 of their names. Definitely a sign of how briefly huge they were that I couldn’t avoid them.

We’re back into diverging tastes across the ocean as well. A host of new names for me; Michael Morales, Dino and Winger are entirely new to me. Michael Darmian I’ve only heard of via Tom’s column. Of those four only Winger have a UK chart entry; #56 for Winger in 1991 with Miles Away.

Last edited 6 months ago by JJ Live At Leeds
Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 10:11 am

Those new to you are new to me as well! I guess they didn’t have much staying power, even here.

This is certainly weaker than the previous year overall, but still: Paula Abdul is ascendent, Madonna is arguably at her peak, Tom Petty is laying down some classics, the hair metal singles are mostly great, and to top it off we’ve got Roxette and Soul II Soul.

To quote Tori Amos: “Pretty Good Year.”

Famed Member
October 31, 2023 11:03 am

Not a Beavis and Butthead watcher, then.

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 1:09 pm
Reply to  ISurvivedPop

An occasional watcher but no memory of Stewart Stevenson and his Winger tshirt. Even if it had registered I probably wouldn’t have realised they were an actual band.

Pauly Steyreen
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 1:29 pm
Reply to  ISurvivedPop

Beat me to it…

Famed Member
Online Now
October 31, 2023 1:22 pm

This was the year I moved from New England to Florida, and it was complete radio culture shock. No station played Roxette, Fine Young Cannibals, or The Bangles. It seemed like every other song was either Boston or Lynyrd Skynyrd. And there were no college stations either. I felt like I had moved to a wasteland.

A wasteland with really nice weather and beaches, but c’mon.

Pauly Steyreen
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 1:35 pm

Lots of greats here. Neneh Cherry! Taylor Dayne! Gloria Estefan!

Of course at the time, my favorites would have been Def Leppard, G’n’R, Poison (sorry but we made fun of Winger even then, though they did have a few decent songs).

Milli Vanilli just had a documentary about them released a week or two ago. Haven’t seen it but read a review and it sounds good. As you know if read Tom’s columns, the guys (Fab and Rob) were victims of Frank Farian more than swindlers themselves. Too bad they’re a punchline because the songs still hold up as exemplars of that era, when pop music was in transition.

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