Welcome back, as we cross the Atlantic for a deep dive into Billboard’s Greatest All Time Hot 100 Songs.
This week, with a slight variation in the metrics reflecting how the charts are compiled:
The UK was purely sales-based.
Here, I’m taking Billboard’s lead on what they consider to be the Hot 100’s Hot 100. Which means that despite last weeks champ; Elton John, spending 14 weeks at #1 and selling a gazillion copies of “Candle In The Wind”
In the process, that’s only good enough to be the 58th all time greatest song.
Rather than 2,000 words on what they’re playing it, I’ll trust that they know what they’re doing.
Let’s countdown the Top 10, and then crunch some numbers:
Shape Of You
Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)
Los Del Rio
I Gotta Feeling
Black Eyed Peas
Party Rock Anthem
LMFAO Feat. Lauren Bennett and Goonrock
How Do I Live
Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars
Mack The Knife
Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
For the full list: https://www.billboard.com/charts/greatest-hot-100-singles/
The methodology means this week’s top 10 covers a longer timeline, all the way from 1959 to 2019. There’s not quite the same legacy of death the UK top 3 had, though old Macky is certainly enjoying himself in that regard.
There are 15 songs that appear on both the UK / US lists but due to the move from physical and download sales to streaming, “Blinding Lights” doesn’t come close to the UK 100.
Three of the US top 10 appear on the UK 100:
Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars
“Uptown Funk:” US #5 – UK #23
“Party Rock Anthem:” US #7 – UK #74
Black Eyed Peas
“I Gotta Feeling:” US #8 – UK #44
The other way round, two of the UK top 10 make the US 100: joining Elton is Pharrell Williams; “Happy” – #8 in the UK and #88 in the US.
Once again, Beatlemania is evident. This time around there’s two entries as a band, led by “Hey Jude” (#13) with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (#54) representing the British invasion era.
John adds a solo hit; “(Just Like) Starting Over” (#76) but Paul racks up another three appearances in three formations:
- “Silly Love Songs” (#45) with Wings
- “Say Say Say” (#50) with Michael Jackson
- “Ebony & Ivory” (#85) with Stevie Wonder.
Behind Paul are three acts with three entries:
Post Malone leads the way for contemporary artists, Boyz II Men’s smooth vocal interplay rules the 90s and the Bee Gees shake off their UK100 snub to score with three songs from the same era defining album.
It gets even better for the extended brothers Gibb:
- Andy joins in with “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” (#33) and “Shadow Dancing” (#55).
- Barry, with a writing credit on both of those, joins Paul McCartney with involvement on five tracks.
Another 12 acts double-up.
The Black Eyed Peas with the distinction of being the only ones to replace themselves at #1 with another song from the all time list for an interminable 26 week stretch. “I Gotta Feeling” beats “Boom Boom Pow” #8 to #63, but humanity as a whole was the winner for half a year.
Mariah Carey’s double contains a shock result; “All I Want For Christmas Is You…” is not one of them.
Despite being certified 12 x Platinum, appearing on the Hot 100 in 12 separate years and hitting #1 every year from 2019 to 2022.
What’s a woman got to do to get some recognition?
It would have done even better, but the ever changing rules and red tape of Billboard made it ineligible for the Hot 100 when originally released, due to not being available in a physical format. Having gotten past that rule to finally make it into the Hot 100 in 2000… it was then deemed ineligible until 2013 due to being a recurrent single.
Billboard; if they can’t get you one way they’ll get you another.
It appears that Billboard chicanery does for AIWFCIY again as its hived off to be champion of Billboard’s “Greatest Holiday 100 Songs of All Time.”
I’m not saying that the British 100 is best. But it is a whole lot simpler.
So the Christmas song, a big feature on the UK equivalent is persona non grata to Billboard. Also not present are the reality stars.
Simon Cowell may straddle the Atlantic like a lego haired colossus but unlike the UK none of the talent show breakouts make it to the hallowed 100.
TV did play a big part in the success of two of the acts, though:
The Monkees; “I’m A Believer” (#69) as a result of the meta-before-meta-existed TV show about a fictional band played by a band assembled for the purposes of being the fictional band but who for some time weren’t the actual band playing on their own records.
Then there’s the Gorillaz before Gorillaz existed; The Archies with “Sugar Sugar” (#90). Also having the distinction of the only act with a member named Jughead.
Where there is crossover between the UK and US 100s is in the power of the soundtrack.
Just like the UK there are 14 with five appearing on both lists.
– Diana Ross & Lionel Richie: “Endless Love“ (#20) – Endless Love
– Jewel: “Foolish Games“(#22) – Batman & Robin
– Bryan Adams: “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You“ (#23) – Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
– Bee Gees: “How Deep Is Your Love” (#27) – Saturday Night Fever
– Survivor: “Eye Of The Tiger“ (#28) – Rocky III
– Irene Cara: “Flashdance….What A Feeling” (#38) – Flashdance
– Bee Gees: “Night Fever” (#47) – Saturday Night Fever
– Whitney Houston: “I Will Always Love You” (#60): The Bodyguard
– Boyz II Men: “End Of The Road” (#61) – Boomerang
– Blondie: “Call Me” (#64) – American Gigolo
– Bee Gees: “Stayin’ Alive” (#66) – Saturday Night Fever
– Post Malone & Swae Lee: “Sunflower” (#75) – Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse
– Pharrell Williams: “Happy” (#88) – Despicable Me 2
– Coolio ft LV: “Gangsta’s Paradise” (#98) – Dangerous Minds
Just like last week: the movie may not always have been much of a factor in their success – I’m looking at you, Caped Crusader. With your franchise ending sidekick.
John Travolta, meanwhile, has to settle for showcasing his moves rather than his vocal skills this time.
Percy Faith and His Orchestra may be here with “Theme From ‘A Summer Place'” (#25) but as it was a cover of the actual theme, they miss the soundtrack list. Same goes for Debby Boone.
If arbitrary decision making is good enough for Billboard, its good enough for me.
Those are two of 13 cover versions, a step down from the 20 on the UK list. A statistically significant divergence of 7% which may mean something, but what that is is beyond me.
The list presents proof of US domination of the pop landscape. 44 of these topped the UK chart, the same number of the UK 100 to top the US chart.
After that things diverge. While 71 of the UK 100 were US top 40 hits, coming the other way an impressive 86 of the US all time 100 made the UK top 10, nevermind the top 40.
In fact, only three missed the UK top 40. The notable laggards being:
- Andy Gibb: “Shadow Dancing” (#55) (ironically the Brit stalled at 42)
- Debby Boone: “You Light Up My Life” (#12)
There’s nothing new about nepo babies as Debby Boone outdoes her dad. It may have been one of the biggest hits of the 70s, holding the record for longest stay at #1…
Until fellow all-time 100 alumni Boyz II Men overtook her with “End Of The Road,” but she didn’t impress us much. Her only appearance on the UK chart peaks at #48.
Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ and Turnin’ (#40): The one single to miss the UK chart altogether. I’ve read Tom Breihan’s column from the beginning but I still have no memory of it.
That hometown advantage translates into a smaller number of countries being represented. Last week there were 15, this weeks it’s 9, but that does include Puerto Rico and Spain:
- US: 71
- UK: 24
- Canada: 6
- Australia: 3
- NZ: 2
- Spain: 1
- Barbados: 1
- Puerto Rico: 1
- Sweden: 1
There is a 100% increase in foreign language songs though. No Gangnam Style but “Macarena” (#9) and “Despacito” (#37) do the job. I’m ruling that “Le Freak” doesn’t quite contain enough French to warrant a third.
Whereas the most recent entry on the UK 100 dates from 2014, this time round we get all the way to the October 2020 release of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” (#32).
There’s a decade on decade increase in numbers all the way from the 50s to the 90s. A temporary 00s slump is arrested in the 10s as the trend picks up again;
- 50s = 3
- 60s = 9
- 70s = 13
- 80s = 18
- 90s = 20
- 00s = 12
- 10s = 23
- 20s = 2
The three best represented years are 1980, 1981 and 1983, all with five. This mirrors the UK in which the first half of the 80s saw a glut of entries with a complete drop off in the second half. After those three years the rest of the 80s sees one song from 1985 and nothing else. In the UK this dearth could be explained by falling single sales. With those not necessarily being a factor I’ll leave it to you to propose a reason for the late 80s and 00s slumps.
Amongst this cream of the crop there are six to have made it big with their debut single:
- – Lil Nas X
- – Debby Boone
- – Kesha
- – Meghan Trainor
- – Lorde
- – Tag Team
Another 12 make the list with their first single to actually chart on the Hot 100, some like Los Del Rio enjoyed lengthy careers before their moment came.
And for some of these debut artists it was just moment.
There are three one hit wonders to celebrate:
Gotye, we’re familiar with from last week, from out of nowhere and back again almost instantly. He did make the Hot 100 with his follow up but as it charted at #96 and was gone after one week
I think we can safely declare him a one hit wonder.
Los Del Rio are a special kind of one hit wonder, as although they had three Hot 100 appearances they’re all a variation on “Macarena.”
The world dominating Bayside Boys Mix was followed by the original “Macarena” which was followed by “Macarena Christmas.” Wringing every last drop out of the craze.
Tag Team followed the same path:
“Whoomp! (There It Is)” (#82) was followed into the lower reaches of the charts by “Addams Family (Whoomp!)” and “Whoomp! (There It Went).”
I can’t definitively say these are the only three examples of the word ‘Whoomp!’ appearing on the Hot 100 but I’m prepared to go all in on it.
Along with the 15 songs duplicated across the UK / USA lists there are eight artists who appear on both sides of the Atlantic but with different songs. We’re alike but not without individuality;
- Ed Sheeran – US: “Shape Of You & Perfect” / UK: “Thinking Out Loud”
- Olivia Newton John – US: “Physical” / UK: “You’re The One That I Want & Summer Nights”
- Mariah Carey – US: “We Belong Together” & “One Sweet Day” / UK: “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
- Adele – US: “Rolling In The Deep” / UK: “Someone Like You”
- Wings – US: “Silly Love Songs” / UK: “Mull Of Kintyre”
- Queen – US: “Another One Bites The Dust” / UK:“Bohemian Rhapsody”
- John Lennon – US: “(Just like) Starting Over” / UK: “Imagine”
- Michael Jackson – US: “Billie Jean” / UK: “Earth Song”
When it comes to the performers, once again: it’s a man’s world.
Male solo artists outscore female by 24 to 21. This time around there are 21 singles that have a ‘featuring’ credit. Again, the majority of these are from the 21st century.
But the earliest example moves way forward to 1973 for “Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando.”
Demonstrating the first part of Tony’s incremental takeover progressing from plain old “Dawn” through to “Tony Orlando and Dawn.”
Nine of those featuring credits involve some form of female representation and there are also three male / female duets with equal billing.
28 groups make the 100 but none are all female. And the only ones to have any female members are; Black Eyed Peas / Chic / Wings / Blondie / Joan Jett & The Blackhearts / The 5th Dimension / The Archies.
As we all have Tom Breihan’s column to thank for bringing us together, I’ve run the numbers on his scoring. 94 of these were chart toppers and at time of writing Tom has graded 67.
As these are the greatest Billboard has to offer you’d expect some high scores and that’s how it plays out. Pretty much half score eight or higher, with eight getting the perfect 10.
Those to receive the Tom Breihan seal of approval;
- – Usher ft L’il John & Ludacris – “Yeah!” (#17)
- – Chic – “Le Freak” (#26)
- – Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get It On” (#46)
- – Blondie – “Call Me” (#64)
- – Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” (#66)
- – Diana Ross – “Upside Down” (#89)
- – Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (#93)
- – Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” (#95)
At the other end of the scale we get a pair of 1s. Forever consigned to ignominy:
- – Dawn ft Tony Orlando – “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (#52)
- – Steve Miller Band – “Abracadabra” (#99)
The six songs not to top the Hot 100 were all #2 hits. LeAnn Rimes; “How Do I Live” is the highest ranked, up there in the top 10.
LeAnn also has the distinction of youngest performer to earn her place in the 100, releasing How Do I Live at the precocious age of 14. She’s one of nine teenagers along with; Andy Gibb, Lil Nas X, 24KGoldn, Brandy (all 19), Chubby Checker, Mario (both 18), Monica (17) and Lorde (16).
Providing succour for those of a more mature vintage the over 50 category increases to three.
Joining Elton are Carlos Santana at 51 and Billy Ray Cyrus. And Cher took the honours last week at 52 when “Believe” came out.
But old timer Billy raises the bar, being 57 when he featured on Old Town Road.
Just a 38 year age gap between him and Lil Nas X.
I’ll finish again with those missing in action. Despite racking up 52 #1 hits between them there’s no place for Elvis, The Supremes, Madonna or Janet Jackson.
Once again: there’s no Rolling Stones.
But Mick Jagger does at least get another name check by Maroon 5 ft Christina Aguilera and arguably he may also think the song at #100 is about him.
Next week, we’re moving back to the UK.
And onto the 100 biggest selling albums where some of these artists may well be turning up again.
Spoiler alert: There’s more Beatles.
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