We are all Billboard chart nerds here.
But how many of you listened to all 32 hours of SiriusXM’s recent, limited-edition countdown on their channel 14?
…A Billboard #2 Countdown…
Consisting of 519 songs ranked by performance on the Billboard charts?
Not all at once, but in breaks. And mostly in the background.
With the help of xmplaylist.com (and jrctennis23’s spreadsheet for the peak years), I have detailed the songs in order up to #101 here, including the breaks where I stopped listening. If your favorite #2 hit isn’t listed here, it’s most likely in the top 100.
Here are some fascinating notes about the countdown:
- The bottom two, Lil Wayne & Kendrick Lamar’s “Mona Lisa” (#519) and J. Cole, 21 Savage, & Morray’s “My Life” (#518), are without a doubt the most uncommercial songs ever to reach #2 on Billboard.
They’re both rap tunes with tons of lyrics and no real hooks, and probably only debuted at #2 because they’re collaborations between rap superstars.
- – The rest of the bottom 30 have a few 60s and 70s tunes, but mostly consist of heavily frontloaded songs from the SoundScan era which nobody cared about after their first few weeks.
Think American Idol coronation songs or tunes like “Yummy” and “Lift Me Up,” which became immediately hated by the artists’ fanbases.
- In this countdown “Yellow Submarine” and “Barbara Ann” ended up just outside of the bottom 30. But if SoundScan existed in the 60s, I imagine they’d probably be with this group.
- The lowest-ranking 80s song (at #447) is “Lovesong” by the Cure. Which is quite shocking.
- Taylor Swift is the only artist to have back-to-back songs, with “Lavender Haze” and “Me.”
- Peter, Paul, & Mary have their only two #2 hits the closest apart (5 places), closely beating Gary Lewis & the Playboys (6 places).
- However, that’s beaten by the two Bond themes, ranking four places apart.
- The worst juxtaposition of songs, in my opinion, is “Burning Love” followed by “Not Gon’ Cry.” The accidental tonal whiplash still bothers me!
A close second is Kesha’s hyper “Die Young:”
Sandwiched right between four rather mellow songs from the 60s.
- “Express Yourself,” obviously, is the most ironic #2 hit in Billboard history. “Hate It or Love It” is a distant second.
- Best bonus beat for a #2 hit? Either gotta be Elvis Costello’s version of “Beautiful…”
…or the Jimmy John’s commercial with Brad Garrett, sound tracked to “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”:
- The section starting with #302 (Justin Bieber’s “Cold Water”) and ending with #269 (“Candy Rain”) is what I like to call the “Jack-FM Power Hour(s),” as every sha-la-la and every whoa-whoa-oa fit perfectly on Jack-FM radio, and all but two songs went to #2 between 1967 and 1995.
- The other two were “Cold Water,” the epitome of the inoffensive modern hit that Jack-FM stations love to play in between the older hits, and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which needs no explanation because it’s Elvis.
This stretch included four consecutive songs that peaked at #2 in the summer of 1969. (Bryan Adams was in there too, as a guest vocalist on “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone).”)
Just an indicator of how chart success doesn’t mean everything: “Never My Love” was, according to BMI, the second-most played song on radio during the entire 20th century.
- On the countdown, it comes at #243.
- “Material Girl” came on when I was listening to the countdown on my earbuds in a big Halloween costume store.
No Madonna costume though! …or Mariah Carey, who came on next!
…or Rita Coolidge -who came on after that!
And now for some comments on the DJ interludes, which I generally loved:
- Best introductions:
60s on 6’s Shotgun Tom Kelly for “Chain of Fools…”
- Kelly’s co-host Phlash Phelps for “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,
- Magic Matt of 70s on 7 for “For Once in My Life,”
VJ Alan Hunter for “What Have I Done to Deserve This,” and VJ Downtown Julie Brown for “Party Like a Rockstar,”
And Pop2K’s Rich Davis for “Pon de Replay.”
- Kodak Black & co.’s “Zeze” being the highest-peaking song ever starting with the letter Z, and Frankie Valli marrying again in goddamn 2023.
- Missed opportunities: Magic Matt talking about the “Late Lament” part of the “Nights in White Satin” album version, only for the single edit to be played next.
On a more humorous note:
- Shotgun Tom Kelly mentioning that “Jazzman” was memorably used in a Simpsons episode…
…but not mentioning that the very next song, “Classical Gas,” was also memorably used in a Simpsons episode: Dental Plan!
And now I’m going to talk about why I didn’t say “the countdown of all Billboard #2 hits,” just saying “the countdown.”
There have been 519 #2 hits on the Hot 100 up through Taylor Swift’s “Karma,” and there are 519 songs in the countdown, but they are not the exact same.
That’s because a certain 90s pop star had three #2 hits, but SiriusXM did not play any of them for reasons you all know.
They filled in the gap with three songs from the same era that went to #2 on the airplay chart but were ineligible for the Hot 100: “Lovefool,” “Walkin’ On The Sun,” and the Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”