These songs from Miley, JT, 1D and other pop superstars could have ignited radio, if they had just been given the chance.
Have you ever listened to a just-released album, gravitated toward one particular track and thought with certainty, “Oh, this song is definitely going to be a single!”? And then you wait, and other songs are chosen as singles from that album, and you keep waiting, and the album cycle ends… and you realize that the most obvious single choice (to you, at least) was never chosen?
We know that feeling of incredulity: there have been several high-profile pop projects over the past few years with out-and-out standout tracks that seem ripe for radio play… and yet, for one reason or another, they never make it there. These songs will forever exist as precious album cuts and fun hypotheticals for pop nerds to kick around. And, yes, your favorite hit-maker has a song that could (or did) make this list.
Check out 15 of the best pop songs from the past five years that weren’t released as singles before their respective artists’ album cycles came to a close, but really should have been:
Miley Cyrus, “#GETITRIGHT”
As a No. 1 pop album with multiple smash singles, Miley Cyrus‘ Bangerz album was an anomaly for only having three official singles released. “We Can’t Stop” was the Mike WiLL-assisted reinvention and “Wrecking Ball” gave Cyrus her first Hot 100 No. 1 single, but after the somber, gorgeous “Adore You” was released as a follow-up in late 2013, the controversial pop star embarked on the Bangerz tour and ceased with the single releases. The logical fourth single that never was, of course, is this slinky Pharrell Williams cut, which Cyrus performed on television but never gave a music video or radio push. As breezy as “Wrecking Ball” was intense, “#GETITRIGHT” remains a stellar album cut, but not a single. #BUMMER.
Rihanna, “Lost In Paradise”
Rihanna has been startlingly good at selecting the most sensible singles from each of her seven albums; scan through her discography, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find too many irrepressible bangers that weren’t given a shot at radio. One of the exceptions to that rule is “Lost In Paradise,” the final track onUnapologetic that steps forward on a contemplative foot and explodes when Rihanna declares, “It may be wrong but it feels right, to be lost in paradise!” The song presented an interesting mix of pop elegance and techno animation, and more complex emotion than something like “Right Now.”
Justin Timberlake, “Let the Groove Get In”
Those searching for a Justin Timberlake dance floor burner to follow up “SexyBack” and “My Love” on The 20/20 Experience were rewarded roughly 47 minutes into the comeback album with the intricately energetic “Let the Groove Get In.” Stretching past the seven-minute mark, the Afro-pop-influenced collection of calls and responses seemed like the logical next step for JT after “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors,” but instead Timberlake pushed out “Tunnel Vision,” then quickly skipped ahead to the second half of The 20/20 Experience with “Take Back the Night.” If only one new album had been released, “Let the Groove Get In” could have been the stealth dance hit Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience opus curiously lacked.
Demi Lovato, “Something That We’re Not”
“Something That We’re Not,” from Demi Lovato‘s most recent album Demi, is the type of song that takes one listen to completely embrace: the big-haired pop-rock sound, the please-acknowledge-the-friend-zone concept and cheeky background of ‘hey!’s’ make the song one of Lovato’s most fully realized to date. The pop star gave “Really Don’t Care,” a Cher Lloyd collaboration in a similar vein, a proper single look, as well as more uptempo dance fare like “Heart Attack” and “Neon Lights.” All three of those tracks were Top 40 hits for Lovato, but none offer the unadulterated shout-along joy of “Something That We’re Not.”
Beyonce, “End of Time”
Real talk: “End of Time” is the catchiest song on Beyonce‘s 4 album, with a bulletproof chorus and masterful control of its melodies. Beyonce released a whole bunch of singles and videos from 4, delivering official clips for “Run The World (Girls),” “1+1,” “Best Thing I Never Had,” “Party,” “Love on Top” and “Countdown” before taking time off to deliver her first child, Blue Ivy Carter. Those six songs help make 4 one of Beyonce’s strongest full-lengths, and “End of Time” should have been squeezed into that group.
Taylor Swift, “State of Grace”
With singles like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “22” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.,” Taylor Swift‘s Red album represented the transition to mainstream pop that 1989 completed two years later. Here’s the best-kept secret of Red, though: it features the best straight-ahead rock song of Swift’s career. Opening track “State of Grace” pummels the listener with guitar riffs as towering as skyscrapers and a central theme — blindsiding love — that can be summed up with a 12-word chorus: “And I never saw you coming/And I’ll never be the same.” Released as a promotional single ahead of Red, “State of Grace” might have dominated alternative radio for months on end if a different artist had created it… but then again, no artist could have pulled off this anthem as well as Ms. Swift did.
Usher, “Show Me”
Usher‘s 2012 album Looking 4 Myself contains about five songs that could have been among the R&B king’s biggest Hot 100 hits, from the Luke Steele-assisted strut of the title track to the pre-“Get Lucky” style of the Pharrell Williams collaboration “Twisted.” “Show Me,” however, remains the most frustrating non-single, a classy throwback to Usher’s “U Remind Me” days that didn’t need to resort to studio gimmickry in order to sizzle. Remember those pained shrieks at the end of “Scream”? “Show Me” is the exact opposite of them: calm, collected, effortlessly cool.
Britney Spears, “(Drop Dead) Beautiful”
“Hold It Against Me,” “Till The World Ends” and “I Wanna Go” stood apart from the rest of Britney Spears‘ Femme Fatale album, and deserved to be the electro-pop project’s first three singles. But pour some out for Sabi and her would-be breakout moment, “(Drop Dead) Beautiful,” a Britney song with a gorgeous hook, an Auto-Tuned rap breakdown (from Sabi, not Britney), and lines like “You must be B-I-G/Because you got me hypnotized” and “Your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu.” Top 40 radio never caught the “(Drop Dead) Beautiful” flu in 2011, but we sure did.
Katy Perry, “Double Rainbow”
Katy Perry struck a lot of different poses with her PRISM singles — tribal empowerment on “Roar,” trap-hop salaciousness with “Dark Horse,” goofy dance-pop on “This Is How We Do,” disco on “Birthday” — and while “Unconditionally” waved the stone-serious mid-tempo ballad flag admirably, “Double Rainbow” had the prettier pedigree. Produced by Greg Kurstin and co-written by Sia, Perry and Kurstin, “Double Rainbow” is not the powerhouse Sia co-write that Perry probably envisioned, but it’s arresting enough to warrant multiple rewinds. All the way, “Double Rainbow” — all the way.
Justin Bieber, “Roller Coaster”
True Beliebers understand that Justin Bieber‘s Journals tracks showcased an impressive level of R&B artistry during a tumultuous time in the former teen superstar’s career. Nowhere is this more clear than “Roller Coaster,” an understated funk delicacy with a savvy breakdown in the bridge leading into the glide of the chorus. Who says that all of Journals is downbeat? “Roller Coaster” certainly isn’t an international pop play like “As Long As You Love Me,” but it’s something more nuanced and ultimately smarter.
P!nk, “Are We All We Are”
Holy cow, does P!nk‘s The Truth About Love album start out strong: the 2012 full-length boasts “Are We All We Are,” “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” “Try,” “Just Give Me a Reason” and “True Love” as its opening five tracks! The first of those five, of course, was the only one to not be released as a single — and what a shame, because “Are We All We Are” is a classic fist-pounding-against-chest P!nk single, a distant cousin to “So What” and an inspiring stomper vaguely reminiscent of P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation.” But, you know, in a good way!
Lady Gaga, “MANiCURE”
Lady Gaga‘s ARTPOP album has a few quietly stunning track sequences nestled within its 15 songs, and the lovably “MANiCURE” injects a jolt of energy into the middle section of the full-length. An underrated expansion of Gaga’s sound,ARTPOP still lacks the sort of otherworldly hooks that Fame Monster fans longed for — but “MANiCURE” totally hits its mark as a triumphant post-breakup romp, and is one of the instances on the album in which Gaga’s vocal performance is jubilantly unabashed. Perhaps if the album had been given a few more cracks at a smash hit, “MANiCURE” would have reached its potential as one.
One Direction, “Little Black Dress”
While One Direction swiveled toward arena rock on 2013’s Midnight Memories, “Little Black Dress” took a bite out of the power-pop of Cheap Trick and the Knack — and excellently so. Seriously, listen to this song and wrap your head around the fact that the Strokes haven’t made a rock song this good over the past decade. Maybe “Little Black Dress” wouldn’t have caught on at radio, but it’s a song that defiantly slays the image of 1D as a mainstream pop act, and goes a long way toward establishing their post-teenybopper cred.
Kesha, “Only Wanna Dance with You”
Some of Kesha‘s sophomore album Warrior sounds belabored, as if the electro-pop star’s crazy misadventures needed to be spelled out in extreme detail; meanwhile, “Only Wanna Dance With You” remains disarmingly sweet, a tale of two kids drinking wine on the cement outside of a 7-11, not wanting to develop feelings but knowing that they now exist. The airy ditty would have made for a lovely change-up to singles like “Die Young” and “C’Mon,” but continues to be a hidden gem for Kesha completists.
Adele, “I’ll Be Waiting”
As one of the biggest-selling albums of the century and the home of three No. 1 singles, Adele‘s 21 is an album that doesn’t have too many smudges on its resumé. Still, could the rousing “I’ll Be Waiting” have been the fourth No. 1 single had it been performed at one of the many awards cermeonies that Adele was sweeping in 2011-12? The uncharacteristically fast tempo, nifty piano refrain and brassy vocal take combine for one of the album’s most emphatic releases, and after “Set Fire to the Rain,” “I’ll Be Waiting” could have very well set Top 40 radio ablaze, had it been given the chance.
Ex Hex, Childbirth, Girlpool & more girl groups that rock out harder than the boys they make fun of.
“Girls invented punk rock, not England,” reads one of Sonic Youth co-leader Kim Gordon’s famous feminist shirts. While Gordon wasn’t in an all-female act herself, she knew the importance of them: bands made up entirely of women may feel like a rarity now, but more pop up every day and others are still going after all these years.
Because Girl Group Week is by no means limited to pop groups, here are 20 all-female bands that you need to know right now:
The worst thing that can happen to a band is for the members to fail to find a rhythm, losing the race before leaving the gate. Girlpool are the polar opposite of this: the Philly-via-Los Angeles duo is made up of two best friends, bassist Harmony Tividad and guitarist Cleo Tucker. Together, they craft heartbreakingly honest tunes that recall the candidness of early Liz Phair.
Another dream duo! Honeyblood is a Scottish indiepop-punk hybrid steered by guitarist Stina Tweeddale and drummer Shona McVicar. Their distorted sound carries like a Best Coast jam without the sweet, California sentiment. In the single “Super Rat,” Tweeddale sings, “I will hate you forever / Scumbag sleaze / Slime-bag beast / You really do disgust me,” about a unnamed partner who wronged a friend. These girls are out for blood.
Ex Hex is the brainchild of frontwoman Mary Timony, of Helium and Wild Flag fame; the latter can be considered a supergroup, and a lot of their power is driven by Timony. In Ex Hex, she’s in control, powering through complicated solos that would silence even the most adamant misogynist.
There’s something in the water in Philadelphia: Amanda X are leaders in their scene, writing songs that marry a certain post-punk thrash with power pop harmonies. The ladies of the trio are fresh off the road with the legendary Scottish band the Vaselines and navigating an upward trajectory.
Brighton, England cassette label Tuff Enuff Records is dedicated to releasing material by queer, riot grrrl and DIY acts, making their tapes diverse and progressive — which is what punk is all about, right? Frau, a vicious group from London, are one of their stars. There’s a pretty powerful political element to all of what they do, and also a certain massiveness; if you’re a Bikini Kill fan, dive into this group ASAP.
Sleater-Kinney existed from 1994 to 2006 and reuniting last year at a time when their decisive feminism is necessary. Not only are they one of the most important all-female bands of the last two decades, they are one of the most important rock bands of all time, validating ideas that the personal is political is power.
The glory days of massive tom thwacks and talkative garage riffs are back, and have been embraced by Atlanta trio the Coathangers. These ladies don’t rely on their harmonies as much as they contort them into heavy rock spaces, in songs with titles like “Adderall” and “Shut the Fuck Up.”
When’s the last time one of your favorite bands went to prison in the name of their country? Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot have since located to the United States, releasing tracks applicable to the current American political situation. Last month, it was in the form of “I Can’t Breathe,” dedicated to Eric Garner.
Every once in a while an actor will try their hand at music; tt’s not always the best result, but actress/model Rachel Trachtenburg has proven herself worthy as the drummer of Prettiots. Tracks like “Boys (I Dated In Highschool)” are witty and fun, an adorable blend of music made for girls by girls.
Sharkmuffin are one of the more popular garage punk bands in the Brooklyn music scene, and essential listening for fans of Screaming Females. There’s a certain ’90s feel to the music they make, driven by demanding but never desperate hollers.
Like Sharkmuffin, Advaeta is another all-female act making the rounds in New York City; unlike Sharkmuffin, their sound is distorted and romantic, noisy riffage that manages to weave itself into blanket sounds. They also play with harmony in a way that feels girl group-y in a very rock and roll way, the final result being a relaxing shoegaze soundscape.
Skinny Girl Diet
London’s Skinny Girl Diet knew what they were doing when they chose a moniker that, on the surface, could be read as sexist: they were taking it back. By naming themselves after impossible beauty standards forced on women everyday, they’re commenting on it. Their music does the same thing. It’s not sweet. They snarl. They’re a better band because of it.
Cayetana are another power-punk band from Philly, one that leans head first into abrasive punk-pop territory. For fans of the Warped Tour and college radio rock, their unique brand of indie lives in many genres by assigns itself to none.
The band name isn’t the only bizarre thing about this Japanese duo — this list is pretty punk heavy, they’re all about electronics. Trippple Nippples sound like Shonen Knife filtered through a video game as dictated by Gwen Stefani in her “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” daze.
Dum Dum Girls
Take what could be read as ephemeral bubblegum pop and give it a backbone, a leather jacket and a knife. So goes the legacy of Dum Dum Girls, a Sub Pop signee and one of New York’s most successful all-female acts of the 2010’s.
There are many secrets to writing a good surf pop-rock song, and one of them is possessing a percussion section you can rely on. The Wharves (whose members are Ireland, England and France) might not have the waves, but they have the drummer, as well as music that’s uncomplicated and deeply memorable.
Slum of Legs are also on Brighton’s Tuff Enuff Records, and one of their most fun tracks is titled “Sasha Fierce” (yes, after that Sasha Fierce). While it’s super distorted it’s still fun — rawness can be attractive, too!
Childbirth caught the Internet’s attention with their delightful “I Only Fucked You As a Joke” single early last year. It objectifies men as it mocks them in a pseudo-misandrist manner, singer Julia Shapiro screaming, “I hope I’m not pregnant!” It’s a must-hear.
Childbirth’s Julia Shapiro is also a member of Chastity Belt (see a theme here?), and her ability to play with, mock and celebrate sexuality is her power. “James Dean” is especially noteworthy and goes a bit deeper than Taylor Swift’s “Style”: “Oh boy, when I fuck you, you make me feel like a prostitute/ yeah, when you fuck me, I make you feel just like James Dean.”
Fronted by Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls and Best Coast fame and joined by drummer Patty Schemel previously of Hole, Upset takes punk-pop to new, dizzying levels. Their songs sound like Koehler’s previous bands with a power-pop edge: they’re sweet tunes, and catchy as hell.
Britney Spears was barely 21 when the idea of a Las Vegas residency first crossed her mind. It was 2003, shortly after wrapping Dream Within a Dream, her first full-blown U.S. arena run, when she and a friend stayed at Celine Dion‘s palatial estate off the Strip to see how the French-Canadian star lived away from the touring circuit.
“I remember how beautiful it was — really cool, low-key — and her dressing room was great,” Spears, now a 33-year-old mother of two, tells Billboard from her family’s residential suite in Vegas, not far from her own dressing room at Planet Hollywood. “I was actually jealous, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, she gets to be in one place all the time.’ Everything clicked: To have your children and your family and that way of life, it just makes sense to have everything in one place.”
Dion’s Caesars Palace residency was a pioneering one. It was the first time an in-her-prime superstar (Dion, like Spears, was 33 when she first embarked) had set up shop in the desert at the peak of her touring powers, debunking the notion that Vegas was a pop-star retirement community. Her 4,100-capacity shows at The Colosseum pulled in $493.7 million in Billboard Boxscore receipts in the first 10 years, and helped lure Elton John,Cher, Bette Midler and Shania Twain to the same venue for a rotation of residencies totaling more than $1 billion in revenue, according to AEG Live. Continue reading →
From Girls Aloud to SWV to Electrik Red, check out Billboard’s editorial countdown of underappreciated girl group tracks.
Most casual pop fans can rattle off a few of the biggest girl group hits of all time — the classic cuts by the Supremes, TLC, Destiny’s Child and more — with little hesitation, and those smash singles deserve to be celebrated (check out this listto do so!). But those songs should not be the be-all and end-all of girl groups songs. There exists a whole other world of deep cuts, forgotten hits and not-quite-smashes worth discovering and revisiting, from some of the biggest girl groups ever and several that engineered one marvelous single before stepping out of the spotlight.
After checking out our chart list of the 40 biggest girl group songs ever, read our editorial countdown of the 20 most underrated girl group songs of all time. These tracks might not have smashed the charts, but they hold a special place in our hearts.
20. Dream, “He Loves You Not”
Backed by Puff Daddy and having opened for *N SYNC, Dream never achieved the staying power of Destiny’s Child or even the Pussycat Dolls, but “He Loves You Not” deserves to pop up at karaoke bars for decades. A classic other-woman takedown, the single gleefully swims in its PG-rated sassiness: “Say what you want, girl, do what you do/He’s never gonna make it with you.” – Jason Lipshutz
19. G.R.L., “Ugly Heart”
The last single G.R.L. released before the tragic death of Simone Battle, “Ugly Heart” huddles all of the group’s winning aspects into three-and-a-half minutes, and offers empowerment atop a kicky ukulele riff. – Jason Lipshutz
18. Destiny’s Child, “Through With Love”
Quintessential Destiny’s Child, this song (buried deep on their 2004 Destiny Fulfilled farewell album) encapsulates the feeling of being over a situation with the one you love and vowing to walk away… at least until he calls again. – Kathy IandoliContinue reading →
From TLC to the Pointer Sisters, check out the top girl groups ever, based on the Billboard charts.
At Billboard.com, we’ve celebrated our second annual Girl Group Week by looking at the biggest songs, best music videos, current state of girl groups, drafting our dream girl groups, scoping out post-girl group solo songs and a whole lot more. It’s time to get to the main event: an updated list of the 10 biggest girl groups of all time.
A long line of girl groups have found success on the Billboard charts, with Motown’s brightest stars generating hits as a collective a half-century ago, and artists like TLC and Destiny’s Child making their mark in the 1990’s and 2000’s, respectively. Check out Billboard’s list of the Top 10 girl groups of all time, and see if your favorite female group made the cut.
NOTE: This ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart through the tally dated March 7, 2015. Artists are ranked based on an inverse point system, with a song’s weeks at No. 1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. Each act’s collected titles that charted over the course of their career were aggregated to determine the final ranking. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from each era, certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those years.
The title of En Vogue’s first two albums, 1990’s Born to Sing and 1992’s Funky Divas, fit perfectly: the members of producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy’s R&B group flaunted their vocal gifts through soulful cuts like “Hold On” and “Don’t Let Go (Love).”
The trio of Exposé watched songs like “Point of No Return, “Seasons Change” and “Tell Me Why” checker the Billboard charts during the late 80’s and early 90’s, honing its dance-pop sound before disbanding in 1996. A brief reunion a decade later included a tour, with Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno and Ann Curless performing their best-known hits.
Younger music fans might only know Wilson Phillips from hearing “Hold On” in films like Bridesmaids and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, but the trio of Chynna Phillips, Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson had more than just one unstoppable hit following their 1990 formation. “Hold On” is the go-to Wilson Phillips jam thanks to its soaring hook and mesmerizing harmonies, but songs like “Release Me,” “You’re In Love” and “Impulsive” helped make this trio one for the ages.
One of the most important girl groups of the 1960’s, the Shirelles formed as a quartet of high school friends and ended up becoming a gargantuan influence on the early female contributors to the American rock scene. Swinging tempos and pitch-perfect harmonies defined hits like “Mama Said” and “Dedicated To The One I Love,” and although they are not as well-remembered as the Supremes, the Shirelles’ best singles are virtually unrivaled.
A power-pop force in the mid-80’s, the Bangles scored several hits while dabbling in a variety of sounds yet never losing their authoritative identity. Prince helped the group out by writing the early hit “Manic Monday,” but “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame” were even more enduring smashes that firmly delivered the Bangles to the mainstream. Although the group never regained its popularity when the 90’s began, the Bangles remain crucial to the pop landscape of the previous decade.
Anita, Ruth, Bonnie and June Pointer blended R&B, pop, disco, country and rock with jaw-dropping aplomb after growing up in Oakland and scoring timeless cuts like “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic,” “Fire” and “Fairytale.”
Before Beyonce was Queen Bey, she was one-third of the extraordinarily popular Destiny’s Child, delivering songs like “Say My Name,” “Survivor” and “Bootylicious” with the help of Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. After Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle all became independent women, they reunited for a farewell album, Destiny Fulfilled, and farewell tour; in 2013, the ladies rejoined once together for a new track, “Nuclear,” and a surprise appearance during Bey’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Tionne “T-Boz” Waykins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas spent a decade ruling the charts with pop-R&B masterpieces like “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “Creep,” before Lopes’ untimely death in a car crash in 2002. T-Boz and Chilli recently revived their best-selling project, with a compilation album (20) and a performance at the American Music Awards in 2013; a new album is in the works, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Aside from being the most successful girl group of all time, the Supremes are among the most popular musical artists ever, with Diana Ross and co.’s songs sounding as timeless as ever. “Baby Love,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “Come See About Me,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Where Did Our Love Go”… the list of Motown classics goes on and on, and although there have been many girl group smashes in the decades since the Supremes ruled the Billboard charts, no collective has yet to challenge their, for lack of a better word, supremacy.
The execs who rule music now? Just follow the money, where new No. 1 Lucian Grainge keeps grabbing market share (while upending every business model), 31 first-timers break into the list and innovation — not fear — is now the force propelling these players forward.
The inspiration for this post came from my being too lazy to set my iPod to shuffle, and then noticing it played a bunch of songs in a row from the 1930s and ’40s that started with the letters “in” (“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “In the Still of the Night”, etc.) Naturally, being a data nerd, my first thought was to quantify the phenomenon.
The data comes not from Billboard itself, but from www.bullfrogspond.com; I don’t know much about the data source, but it certainly looks thorough and painstaking, and up to date. If you’d like to know a little more about my methodology (like a quick explanation of the metric, “keyness”), see the code I used and/or see the actual songs that correspond to these words, head on over to my other, nerdier blog, prooffreaderplus.
Observations about the results:
The 2010s seem both more vulgar (“hell” and “fuck”) and more inclusive (“we” instead of the “you”, “ya” and “u” of the 1990s and 2000s).
The 1990s and 2000s were the decades of neologisms, with “U”, “Ya” and “Thang”. “U” was so popular it occurred twice (but see the note on decade-binning on prooffreaderplus.)
Fun! Lots of the decades can be made into intelligible five-word sentences. For example: “Hell Yeah, We Die, Fuck!” (2010s). “Ya Breathe It Like U” (2000s), “You Get Up, U Thang” (1990s), “Don’t Rock On Fire, Love” (1980s), “Sing, Moon, In A Swing” (1930s)
As anyone who listens to the radio in December knows, all the Christmas songs are oldies, and that shows in the results for the 1950s, with “Christmas” and “Red-nosed”.
You can track genres with the keywords: “Rag” (1910s), “Blues” (1920s), “Swing” (1930s), “Boogie”, “Polka” (1940s), “Mambo” (1950s), “Twist” (1960s), “Disco” (1970s), “Rock” (1970s and 1980s). After that, people realized you don’t have to actually name the genre in the song title, people can figure it out by listening. (N’Sync must not have gotten that memo for 2001’s “Pop”.)
Who knew Billboard song rankings went back to the 1890s? It was a surprise to me. That fact, and the fact that there are fewer songs then, but not so few as to be negligible, influenced a lot of the choices into how I presented this data (read more here if you want). But those early decades seem to be more focused on first names (“Michael”, “Reuben”, “Casey”), familial relationships (“Uncle”, “Mammy”)
The first two decades — the oldest ones compared to now — both have the keyword “old”. I blame time travel.
I find it interesting that there are short, common articles, adverbs, prepositions and pronouncs in the list; these have a higher bar for keyness, since they’re present in other decades: “When” (1900s), “A” (1930s), “In” (1930s), “On” (1980s), “Up” (1990s), “It” (2000s)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hunt through my iPod to see if there’s even one song with “gems” in the title; it seems to have been popular in the 1910s.
This year the industry’s top players weren’t just changing the business in the label, publishing and touring worlds, they also were changing jobs, and the shake-ups are reflected in Billboard’s 10th annual rankings. As the industry itself evolves, so do the people making the biggest waves within it. Every facet of the wide world of music is represented in our list of profiles, from television networks to law firms, agencies to labels, streaming strategists and public radio producers.
We congratulate all of this year’s honorees, and look forward to seeing how they change the industry in the new year.
Click below to read through our 50 profiles on the music industry’s groundbreakers and game-changers, as well as our features the biggest female artists of the year.
Reporting throughout by: Jem Aswad, Harley Brown, Megan Buerger, Ed Christman, Frank DiGiacomo, Thom Duffy, Shirley Halperin, Andrew Hampp, Paul Heine, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Glenn Peoples, Mitchell Peters, Deborah Evans Price and Ray Waddell.
1968 : Graham Nash quits The Hollies and a few days later forms Crosby, Stills and Nash.
1980 : Just 3 days before John Lennon is killed, U2 play their first show in the US when they perform at The Ritz Ballroom in New York City.
1998 : Billboard changes the way they calculate the Hot 100, finally accounting for airplay. Previously, if a song wasn’t available for purchase as a single, it couldn’t chart. As labels withheld singles to goose album sales, popular songs like “Don’t Speak” and “One Headlight” were conspicuously absent from the chart, prompting the change.
2001 : David Crosby and Don Henley headline a benefit concert that raises $300,000 for children of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
DJ Earworm talks about creating “Do What You Wanna Do,” his latest year-end mash-up, with a lack of smash dance hits
Every year since 2007, DJ Earworm has taken the calendar year’s 25 biggest pop songs and combined them into an incredibly popular, joyfully constructed mash-up, perennially dubbed the “United State of Pop.” Earworm has been analyzing the Billboard charts since he was a kid, and for “Do What You Wanna Do,” the 2014 edition of Earworm’s single-length mega-mix, Billboard.com serves as his launching pad. Watch to the exclusive premiere of the latest “United State of Pop” below:
“Personally, I’ve been obsessed with the Billboard charts since I was 11 or 12,” Earworm (real name: Jordan Roseman) tells Billboard about the tradition he started in 2007. “When I was a little boy, I used to tune in to Top 40 shows on the weekends, and I’ve always been fascinated by what makes popular tastes tick … It’s great to be able to come full-circle with Billboard.”
Over the past seven years, the California producer’s “United State of Pop” series has packaged the sounds of some of the world’s most colorful pop personalities — think Rihanna, Kesha, the Black Eyed Peas and many more — into kinetic dance singles that each earn millions of hits online; his breakout mash-up came in 2009, and that year’s video currently has 44 million YouTube views. Although Earworm’s creations typically operate at high BPMs, the DJ tells Billboard that he has to respect the ebb and flow of popular music, which is why his 2014 mash-up is a bit more contemplative.
“The thing that has been most notable in the past two or three years is the decline of EDM,” says Earworm of the 25 songs he selected for this year’s song. “The ‘United State of Pop’ became this dance track from ’09 to ’12, and then starting last year, there just wasn’t enough in that genre to fully support it, so I went down-tempo. And this year, ‘Timber,’ which was popular in January, is the only popular dance track I’m dealing with. It’s definitely down-tempo, so you have to decide, how is this going to go? How am I going to maintain the energy levels while being true to the sound of the year?”
Earworm continues that 2014 was “dominated by these slow, ponderous songs like ‘Say Something’ and ‘All Of Me,’ and then swaggering hip-hop songs like ‘Turn Down For What,’ ‘Talk Dirty,’ and ‘Black Widow.’ Then you have totally uptempo songs like ‘Happy’ and ‘Shake It Off,’ too. It’s a little bit more diverse, and definitely softer than it’s been.”
Fashioning a pop song out of R&B ballads like John Legend’s “All Of Me” and offbeat pop-rock tracks like Bastille’s “Pompeii” is no easy task, and Earworm says that crafting the 2014 “United State of Pop” was a more challenging process than usual. He relied on the drums from Jessie J’s “Bang Bang,” the percussion of DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What,” the horns from Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and the piano hooks from A Great Big World’s “Say Something” to help create an instrumental bed that was “much more complex” than in previous years.
“I would love the whole thing to be perfectly blended each time, but it also has to be digestible,” Earworm explains. “Some years, it’s a pretty straightforward instrumental from one source, but this year is the most blended instrumental I’ve been able to achieve yet.”
Earworm says that he used to stay glued to the Internet when the “United State of Pop” would debut online each year, but in 2014, he’ll be too preoccupied to monitor the online feedback. “As soon as this [launch] is over, I’m going to New York, and I’ll be working on some original material which I’m super excited about,” says the mash-up maestro.