Couldn’t Say No: The Stagnation at the Top of the Billboard Charts

By: Andrew Unterberger

Posted 05/17/2005 - 12:06:10 PM by Havalina:
 That was a really interesting article. It's amazing to see how different the US charts are to our British ones, both in terms of what sort of song goes to number 1 and also in terms of how long they stay there. We tend to get a lot more novelty pop rubbish at the top, and less by the way of hip-hop and RnB. Rock is similarly unsuccessful at getting to the top spot here - out of 166 (count them! :D) number 1 singles this decade, only 7 could be called rock (2 U2 songs, 2 Oasis songs, Limp Bizkit's Rollin, Evanescence's Bring Me To Life and Stereophonics' Dakota). (You can see all the number 1s from this decade at I agree with some of your choices for best/worst/should have been number 1s. Lose Yourself is great and the Shaggy one is fun too (although I prefer Angel), and great calls on Hey Ma and The Reason. I still hate those J-Lo songs and Crazy In Love though.
Posted 05/17/2005 - 04:34:21 PM by holystoning:
 I guess it's pointless to debate personal reactions, but good lord, if Hoobastank, Vertical Horizon, and that simplistic new Green Day twaddle are the best that populist rock can produce, then who really cares whether that particular style of music can top the charts? If we're sitting with bated breath for freaking Bo Bice, then that says we have a problem. In any event, we'd all do well to remember that every year on the pop charts presents a raft of bland interchangables.

There's one thing that wasn't emphasized in this article that bears mention, also (well... two, counting payola). The record-buying and -downloading public prefers twaddle. Mario got to number one for a reason. The pop tastemakers these days are not (and indeed, likely never will be) budding male musicologists aged 19-28. They're kids aged 11-17, and they likes them some broodin' Fiddy Cent. Sure, the rest of us have to pick over random bright spots, but that's always been the case, hasn't it? In what alternate universe would the White Stripes ever be a legitimate contender for the pop #1? Just as well to discover the kickass single they released and cherish it. No sense lamenting it didn't hit the top; you might as well wish it to Jupiter.

You made a very good point when you mentioned all the grunge/metal/alt lords that dented the national consciousness without topping the national charts. But what I got from that is, don't ever expect a revolution to be borne out in the numbers.

What I really miss is the idea of regional hits. That's something that's been long-dead, and I wish to some extent it wasn't the case.

Posted 05/17/2005 - 09:37:17 PM by ddrake:
 Andrew, in what universe should we accept it as given that Mario's song is average at best but Vertical Horizon's biggest single is a hidden pop gem? ;)
Posted 05/17/2005 - 11:17:10 PM by IanMathers:
 Awesome article, although yeah, we agree to disagree about Vertical Horizon and that self-pitying bullshit of a song. But you did know "God Save The Queen" actually reached #1, right?
Posted 05/18/2005 - 12:47:08 AM by AUnterberger:
 I thought that was just unconfirmed conspiracy theory.
Posted 05/19/2005 - 03:01:04 AM by cosmokane31:
 What a great piece of journalism - well-researched, yet fun and useful. Good work.
Posted 05/20/2005 - 05:27:00 AM by diddywah:
 And there was I thinking the British charts were bad! Although we have a similarly low number of "rock" No 1s, the top ten is usually frequented by at least one decent guitar track. In the last few months tracks by the futurheads, razorlight, babyshambles, doves the killers, the kaiser chiefs, bloc party, kasabian, keane, feeder, nine inch nails, the coral, gorillaz, athlete, manic street preachers and u2 have all breached the top ten, and the likes of maximo park, interpol, the zutons and kings of leon making the top twenty. While rock music not necessarily being a superior genre, as shown by some of the bands in the above list, it shows a single market not dominated by one genre, and one that frequently sees genuinely decent tracks by relatively unestablished bands managing to do well. And it certainly puts to shame your comments about crap like Hoobastank not managaing to reach the top spot (good article mind).