100 & Single: The Dawning Of The MTV Era And How It Rocket-Fueled The Hot 100

Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, "Endless Love" (15 August 1981, 9 weeks)
Christopher Cross, "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (17 October 1981, 3 weeks)
Daryl Hall and John Oates, "Private Eyes" (7 November 1981, 2 weeks)
Olivia Newton-John, "Physical" (21 November 1981, 10 weeks)
Daryl Hall and John Oates, "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" (30 January 1982, 1 week)
The J. Geils Band, "Centerfold" (6 February 1982, 6 weeks)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" (20 March 1982, 7 weeks)
Vangelis, "Chariots of Fire" (8 May 1982, 1 week)
Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, "Ebony and Ivory" (15 May 1982, 7 weeks)
The Human League, "Don't You Want Me" (3 July 1982, 3 weeks)

Cue the guyliner: The Human's League's "Don't You Want Me" is pretty unmistakably the moment the Second British Invasion, spurred by MTV, kicked off. It's not as if the other No. 1 hits weren't video-ready—indeed, except for the aforementioned Richie-Ross smash, all came packaged with a clip (well before MTV took off, the labels were regularly churning out promotional videos for clubs and TV outlets like Solid Gold). Some of these clips, like Newton-John's oiled-up gym manifesto or the Geils Band's schoolgirl fantasia, could even be called conceptual, if barely.

But these clips, most shot on cheap-looking videotape, probably didn't play much of a role in the songs' hit potential. And they're completely outclassed by the sleek, self-serious mini-movie that serves as the League's "Don't You Want Me" clip.

Besides the all-around irresistibility of "Don't" as a pop song, it surely never would have dominated American radio in the summer of 1982 if it hadn't been for that video, and MTV. Prior to that moment, U.K. new wave was still pretty deeply unfashionable in the U.S. The list of songs we now consider turn-of-the-'80s Britpop classics that missed our Top 10, our Top 40 or even the entire Hot 100 is long and bewildering ("I Don't Like Mondays," "Video Killed the Radio Star," "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "Cars," "Mirror in the Bathroom," "Tempted," "Just Can't Get Enough," "Town Called Malice," to name a few). After "Don't You Want Me," the imminent U.S. dominance of Duran Duran and Culture Club becomes conceivable—the Human League created the MTV-to-radio feedback loop.

It's important to note that televised music video play has never been factored by Billboard into the Hot 100. There are good reasons for that, not least MTV's near-monopoly on video play in its early years. (Even now, in the YouTube era, video play is only counted toward the big chart if it's on a fully music-oriented streaming website like AOL Music or Yahoo! Music; YouTube is a thicket of official and unofficial clips that don't line up neatly with current pop hits.)

Despite the lack of direct video data on the pop charts, the record industry certainly monitored MTV closely. By 1984, the labels began signing exclusivity agreements with the channel for clips by their biggest acts. In October of that year, Billboard began tracking MTV play alongside its other charts; and the magazine redesigned its Hot 100 to include a little diamond symbol next to each song indicating the availability of a video.

No label in the mid-'80s would think of promoting a priority single without a music video. On the first redesigned Hot 100, less than one-fourth of the 100 charting songs have no video—and only four of those were in the Top 40. (In case you're curious: Bruce Springsteen's "Cover Me," Prince's "Purple Rain," Kenny Rogers's "What About Me?" and Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night." All were songs by established superstars who didn't need the boost.)



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