Radio Hits One: Bruce Springsteen And Mick Jagger Stop Making Pop Hits, Start Inspiring Them

It's been a busy year for Bruce Springsteen. In March, he released Wrecking Ball, his seventeenth studio album and tenth release to top the Billboard 200, and after packing in arenas across America throughout the spring, he took the E Street Band to Europe. His name is also in a top-40 entry on the Hot 100 for the first time in over a decade—but the funny thing is, the song's not his. Eric Church's "Springsteen" sits on the chart this week at No. 19, which was coincidentally also the peak position for Bruce's last pop hit, the Jerry Maguire-spawned ballad "Secret Garden," in 1997.

"Springsteen," a wistful midtempo number with lyrical nods to The Boss's classics "I'm On Fire" and "Born To Run," is North Carolina country star Eric Church's biggest Hot 100 hit to date. It also peaked at No. 3 on the Country Songs chart and is the third single from his third album, Chief, which topped the Billboard 200 last summer. It's a quiet, subtle song, and something of an unlikely crossover hit, aside from the fact that it pays tribute to such a famous singer. This isn't the first time a top 40 hit has been named for Springsteen, though—Rick Springfield got to No. 27 with "Bruce," a playful track about how irked he was when confused with a bigger star with a similar last name.

Over the past decade there's been a resurgence of appreciation for Springsteen, with homages from countless indie bands as well as hitmakers like The Killers and Lady Gaga, whose "The Edge of Glory" reached No. 3 last year and had a sax solo from Bruce's late sideman Clarence Clemons. The state of The Boss's current career, as a chart-topping albums artist and touring act with no real place on radio playlists, isn't unique. (In April, my colleague Chris Molanphy outlined how Madonna is now essentially a classic rock act by paralleling her career arc with Springsteen's.)

Springsteen isn't the only rock icon who's making a bigger Hot 100 impact as a muse than as a performer lately. Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger" is one of the biggest hits of the past year; the tribute to Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger topped the Hot 100 for four non-consecutive weeks and went five times platinum. The Stones have, like Springsteen, remained a huge concert draw with consistently respectable album sales but a steadily declining presence on singles charts over the last few decades. The last of Stones' many U.S. chart-toppers was 1978's "Miss You," while they haven't touched the top 40 since 1989. Their last Hot 100 entry was a 2003 remix of "Sympathy For The Devil"; before that, they charted in 1998 with "Saint Of Me." Shortly after "Moves Like Jagger," Mick made a couple attempts at staying current with unlikely younger collaborators, but neither really stuck. Both singles from SuperHeavy, his group with Joss Stone and Damian Marley, missed the Hot 100, while the laughably awkward "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)," by featuring Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, peaked at No. 36.

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