Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pop Top 40

In reaction to a question about the enduring popularity of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," this week's "Ask Billboard" column reprinted the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending December 19, 1981 (the week "Don't" peaked at what now seems like an amazingly low #9):

No. 1, "Physical," Olivia Newton-John
No. 2, "Waiting for a Girl Like You," Foreigner
No. 3, "Let's Groove," Earth, Wind & Fire
No. 4, "Oh No," Commodores
No. 5, "Young Turks," Rod Stewart
No. 6, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," Daryl Hall John Oates
No. 7, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," Diana Ross
No. 8, "Harden My Heart," Quarterflash
No. 9, "Don't Stop Believin'," Journey
No. 10, "Leather and Lace," Stevie Nicks with Don Henley

This is, frankly, a shockingly good top 10. I'll argue (vehemently) that there's not a dud in the bunch, with a fair number of certified classics to be found here (let's start with numbers 2, 3, and 6, alongside Journey's chestnut). Not to sound all "things-were-better-in-my-day" old guy, but c'mon, what can match this these days? Lady frigging GaGa? Pitbull? Flo Rida? Even today's hit pop-rock is gag-inducing: the Fray, anyone? (The less said about easy target Nickelback, the better.)

Yes, I'm in my late 30s. Yes, I'm increasingly an '80s-head. Yes, I firmly attest that 1984 was the greatest year for top 40 radio EVER: Madonna's first album, Tina Turner's comeback-for-the-ages, Purple Rain, Springsteen, Thriller's hits still being treated like currents, and great weirdos like ZZ Top and the Cars becoming pop stars and Sheila E. taking us to 55 Secret Street - and that's not even mentioning the still-ongoing Brit invasion spearheaded by Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Eurythmics, but also including Thompson Twins and Wham! But that said, I still listen to currents - I'm a big fan of Carrie Underwood, I think Jamie Foxx's vocoder-drunk "Blame It" is great pop(ulism), and thanks largely to my husband (and Mixmag), I'm able to stay pretty on top of electronic stuff. But that said, the early '80s were impeccable for totally crossed out, genres-be-damned pop radio.

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