This is odd. To get to the Beatles, my subject, I have to go through the Monkees. This is because as I start this I learn that Mike Nesmith died December 10. He was 78. According to an obit in The Washington Post, “Nesmith just performed less than a month ago, concluding a Monkees farewell tour in Los Angeles with singer and drummer Micky Dolenz, who is now the band’s sole surviving member.” No, he’s the sole surviving member of what was once the band.
Davy Jones died in 2012. Peter Tork in 2019. Wouldn’t that “farewell tour” have really occurred in 2011?
Harrison Smith notes in the WaPo obit, “for a time, the ‘Prefab Four were said to have outsold the Beatles.”
And here we go.
The Beatles were referred to as the “Fab Four.” In this case, “Fab” was short for “Fabulous.”
The Monkees “Prefab Four” moniker doesn’t mean “Prefabulous” but “Prefabricated.” The combination of the four was a result of a casting call, as two TV producers in 1965 had the idea for a situation comedy about a band. This resulted in a TV series, The Monkees, which ran on NBC from September 1966 to March 1968, 58 episodes. The storylines were based on the concept of a band in LA trying to make it.
Nesmith showed up at the audition having seen an ad in a trade mag. Tork was recommended by Stephen Stills. Davy Jones was a musical stage performer (who was in the cast of Oliver! that did a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show the night the Beatles performed on the show). Micky Dolenz was a TV actor, having performed as the star of Circus Boy, where he was the orphan of trapeze artists who was adopted by a clown and his extended family and had a baby elephant as a pet—and people think that some of the bits in The Monkees were surreal.
Oops, this is kind of old news since this song has already been replaced at No. 1 by Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” but we missed it last week.
Travis Scott scored his first number one record with “Sicko Mode” which had 37.2 million U.S. streams and 24,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 29, and 65.1 million in all-format airplay audience in the week ending Dec. 2.
A remix by Skrillex might have pushed it over the top, but who knows? Billboard lumps all versions together in its chart formulations.
It’s a weird song. 5+ minutes long with a bunch of unrelated sections. And of course it features Drake. Because no commercially aspirational rapper can hope to achieve mainstream success without the help of the Canadian Champagne Papi. (Unless you’re Cardi B. Which you’re not.)
So weird it only stayed in the top spot of the pop chart for one week before that coveted position was reclaimed by Frankie Grande‘s little sister.
Ariana Grande’s breakup jam debuted at #1 on the Hot 100 with 55.5 million U.S. streams and 81,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 8 and 11.3 million in all-format radio audience in the week ending Nov. 11.
In the Hot 100’s sixty-year history, only 31 other songs have debuted at #1. It had never happened at all until 1995 when Billboard changed its calculation.
Not sure if anybody’s noticed but Ariana Grande has a really grating, terrible, nasal voice. It’s painful to listen to. But at least she’s not unwilling to kiss and tell and to name names, which makes the song far more entertaining than it would be had she opted to be coy.
Thought I’d end up with Sean but he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married and for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say, “Thank you” to Malcolm ’cause he was an angel
If you don’t follow TMZ you might not catch that she’s explicitly referring to rapper Big Sean, backup dancer Ricky Alvarez, SNL goofball Pete Davidson, and dead rapper Mac Miller. Tabloid gossip drama reaches #1! What a time to be alive.
This is another terrible Maroon 5 song distinguished by a couple of halfway-fun verses by Cardi B. But hey, at least it’s not Drake.
I can’t remember exactly why I’ve always hated Maroon 5. I’m guessing it all comes down to Adam Levine seeming like an enormous douche. He looks like an orthopedic surgeon and sounds like a less soulful Jamiroquai.
But “Girls Like You” has been at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for two weeks in a row now with 24,000 downloads sold and 22.9 million U.S. streams in the week ending Sept. 27, and 128 million in radio audience in the week ending Sept. 30. This is Maroon 5’s fourth Hot 100 No. 1.
The video tries to fool us into thinking Cardi could be bothered to be in the same room with this tool, but that’s just special effects. It does appear, however, that they managed to coax a number of other charming women to show up, including Ellen Degeneres and Wonder Woman.
Billboard points out that this “ends the record run of 34 consecutive weeks that rap songs had ruled the Hot 100.” “Girls Like You” may very well be being marketed to the pop genre but it features a (lame) mid-song rap by Levine, and of course the new section by Cardi B. Notice that the song required a remix adding Cardi to achieve hitdom; the original Cardi-less version found on last year’s Red Pill Blues went nowhere.
But who cares about genres? Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways it’s still crappy Maroon 5 to me.
Directed by Karena Evans. From Scorpion, out now on Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records.
Drake’s “In My Feelings” has been #1 since the week ending July 12, and I’ve been trying to ignore it this whole time. But this week marks eight weeks in the top spot of the Hot 100, so I guess it’s time to accept it.
Starting to wonder if maybe my dislike of Drake is irrational… I have never liked singy hip hop. I came up with hardcore. I’ve always believed, as Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly so eloquently stated in 1992, that “R&B-rap is bullcrap.” I didn’t even like “Regulate” back in the day. This seems completely arbitrary and ridiculous at this point. Nevertheless, implicit biases are hard to shake.
Is “In My Feelings” a good song? I don’t know. It’s a good meme. And it’s better than Post Malone, right? But it’s been the number one song in America all summer, so I suppose it’s earned closer scrutiny. I’ve listened to it a bunch of times in a row now, and it’s catchy for sure. I dig the video. Is that what New Orleans is like now? I haven’t been there since before Katrina.
But yeah, Drake. This is pop music in 2018. He’s led the Hot 100 for a 27 weeks this year in total, so this is what we’ve got. Love it or lump it.
They call me Cardi Bardi, banging body
Spicy mami, hot tamale
Hotter than a Somali, fur coat, Ferrari
Hop out the stu’, jump in the coupe
Big Dipper on top of the roof
Plus she samples “I Like It Like That” by Bronx boogaloo pianist Pete Rodriguez, so it’s got that funky 1967 Latin hook. I don’t know anything about Bad Bunny and J Balvin but all my favorite pop hits since we’ve been doing this series have had some Latino flavor, so I welcome and encourage our neighbors to the south to take over our pop charts entirely.
“I Like It” sold 44,000 downloads and had 37.5 million U.S. streams in the week ending June 28, and 80 million in radio audience in the week ending July 1.
Like probably a lot of middle-aged white people, the first I ever heard of XXXTentacion was when Spotify banned him from its corporate playlists along with R. Kelly. I read “The Real Story of South Florida Rapper XXXTentacion” before I heard any of his music. And after reading that, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to listen to it. XXXTentacion was a violent and abusive guy.
Then on June 18 he was shot dead in an apparent robbery. He was 20 years old.
And now he has reached the top spot on the Hot 100 singles chart. And he’s got four more songs in the Top 40.
Christopher Weingarten in Rolling Stone explains how unique XXX’s story is in the history of popular music. This kid came from nowhere, with no label support, and made a huge impact. Weingarten compares him to Darby Crash of the Germs and says it’s as if “tiny indie Slash Records somehow got ‘Lexicon Devil’ to the Top 40.” For those of us who grew up in the MTV era, it’s unimaginable.
“Sad!” is still the only XXXTentacion song I’ve listened to. And it’s weird. Is this hip hop? He’s singing. It’s melodic. And depressing. And manipulative (“You decide, if you’re ever gonna, let me know / Suicide, if you ever try to let go”). It doesn’t surprise me at all that teenagers love it. And boy, do they. “Sad!” had 48.9 million U.S. streams and 26,000 downloads sold in the week ending June 21, with only 2.9 million in airplay audience in the week ending June 24.
What kind of dorkus malorkus gets a tattoo of a neck beard? Why, that would be Post Malone, the guy with the number one song in America right now. I don’t get it.
Last year, when we started this series to cover the songs that reach the top of the Billboard singles chart, I expected to be turned on to some weird new pop songs that I’m rarely otherwise exposed to. But instead it’s mostly been a bunch of Ed Sheeran and lame, mumbly hip hop. There have been exceptions, of course, like Kendrick, Cardi, and Camila, but overall it’s been super disappointing.
I dunno, friends. It’s starting to seem like maybe we can’t trust the American public to have very good taste…
Nevertheless, “Pycho” sold 37,000 downloads and had 30.3 million U.S. streams in the week ending June 7 and 98.2 million in radio audience in the week ending June 10. That might not seem like a lot but it’s enough to get to #1 on the Hot 100.
Protest music doesn’t typically reach the top of the charts. A couple notable exceptions: “War” by Edwin Starr (1970) and “Indian Reservation” by the Raiders (1971). Many songs that you may think of as big hits (“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, “Russians” by Sting) were kept out of the top spot.
But Childish Gambino has reached number one with “This Is America,” which he released immediately after performing it on the May 5 episode of Saturday Night Live. The video is powerful and shocking and thought provoking.
The song had 65.3 million U.S. streams and 78,000 downloads sold in the week ending May 10 and 9.4 million in all-genre radio airplay audience in the week ending May 13. The video made up 68% of the song’s streaming total.
Billboard points out that “This Is America” is a “rare socially-themed Hot 100 No. 1 (such as ‘We Are the World’) and perhaps the most pointed example since Lady Gaga’s equality anthem ‘Born This Way’ in 2011.” Socially-themed? That’s an odd euphemism but okay…
A friend I’ve known forever sent me the video that Sunday morning with the comment, “Of all the dumb shit I thought as a young man, thinking that I could somehow understand or identify with being black in America takes the goddamn cake.” It’s true. We were sheltered suburban white kids who listened to N.W.A. and read Malcolm X and watched Do the Right Thing and we sincerely believed we were down with the revolution. I listened to Gil Scott Heron without noticing that “Comment #1” was aimed directly at “silly trite motherfuckers” like me! The hubris of youth is something else. Adulthood is realizing you don’t know dick about shit.
I hope this video encourages people to question their assumptions about some things they think they know. And to shut up once in a while and just listen to others.
Directed by Karena Evans. Single out now on Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records.
After eleven weeks at the top of the chart, Drake knocks his own “God’s Plan” out of first place with his new single, “Nice For What,” with 60.4 million U.S. streams and 88,000 downloads sold in the week ending April 12 as well as 31 million in all-format radio airplay audience in the week ending April 15.
Since the Hot 100 began in 1958, only 12 other acts have replaced themselves at No. 1. The Beatles were the first to do it, and they did it twice in 1964: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was replaced by “She Loves You” which was then replaced by “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And then nobody else did it for 30 years when Boyz II Men finally knocked out “I’ll Make Love to You” with “On Bended Knee” in 1994. How about that?
Also noteworthy is that “Nice For What” is only the 30th single to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100. This wasn’t even possible before the Soundscan era, and Michael Jackson was the first with “You Are Not Alone” in 1995. And that’s not even a good MJ song!
The video features a bunch of apparently famous women being glamorous and empowered. Drake, meanwhile, ice skates around a futuristic set in a puffy coat to prove he’s still Canadian. How long will “Nice For What” remain at Number One? Will Drake pull a Beatles move and knock himself out of first place again with his next single? Stay tuned and find out!