100 & Single: fun., Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, And The Era Of The Snowball Smash

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If you're a pop fan, I'm going to guess you like at least one of the last three No. 1 songs in America. In many ways, 2012 has been an entertaining year for discriminating chart-watchers, as a slew of left-field singles have made strides on Billboard's Hot 100.

I've met people who love fun.'s "We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monáe—it spent six weeks atop the Hot 100 for a reason—and people who hate it. But at least some members of the latter group have a soft spot for the record that ejected it from No. 1 in April, Gotye's Kimbra-assisted "Somebody That I Used to Know."

That Gotye smash, one of the least predictable chart-toppers of the last decade and the current frontrunner as Billboard's 2012 song of the year, inspired both admiration and passionate loathing during its eight weeks on top. But virtually everyone I know who hates "Somebody" loves Carly Rae Jepsen.

I mean, does anybody hate "Call Me Maybe"? About the worst thing anyone's said about it is it's like a drug. Frankly, even those of us who loved the Gotye record were rooting for Carly Rae to take over the penthouse, which she finally did in late June. Her smash is now in its ninth week on top.

Here's the bad news: Since late winter, these three songs, and only these three, have held the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. As fascinating as this triptych of smashes has been as a pop phenomenon, you'd be well within your rights wishing they'd step aside. As recently as three weeks ago, all three of them—including the bordering-on-ancient fun. record—were still sitting in the Top 10. (Now, only Jepsen and Gotye are still up there; the latter is at No. 6, a chart position that it hasn't gone lower than since mid-March.)

The six weeks commanded by fun., eight weeks owned by Gotye and nine ruled by Jepsen mark only the second time the Hot 100's 54-year history that three consecutive singles have held the penthouse that long. With apologies to Fall Out Boy, this ain't a trend, it's a goddamn oligopoly.

Slow turnovers at No. 1 are more noticeable when one act is in charge the whole time. In 2009 the Black Eyed Peas lay siege to the Hot 100 for 26 weeks—a full half-year—with just two earworm singles, "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling." Five years before that, Usher commanded the chart for 22 weeks with three hits in quick succession—"Yeah!," "Burn" and "Confessions Part II." (Usher almost went uninterrupted at the top with that trio, but stepped aside for a week thanks to that year's American Idol coronation song, Fantasia's "I Believe.")

Looking back before the hip-hop era, in early 1978, songs by assorted Gibb brothers controlled the chart for 14 solid weeks: Andy Gibb's "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" flanked on either side by the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever"—all three co-written by brother Barry. And in early 1964, famously, the Beatles succeeded themselves twice at No. 1—still an unbeaten consecutive three-hit streak—with their debut U.S. smashes, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You" and "Can't Buy Me Love," for a total of 14 weeks.

This year's handoff of the penthouse key is different. We're getting variety in terms of artists and songs—fun., Gotye and Jepsen offer three flavors of centrist pop—but they're taking forever to pass the baton.

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2 comments
Josh84
Josh84

Chris, always enjoy reading your analysis.  Refreshing to read columns that help us make sense of the byzantine pop music world - instead of just quippy opinion pieces.  Also, I really felt you needed to know that I genuinely hate the brain cell-killing Call Me Maybe - hated it the first time I heard it and the 10,000th.  I think it's a Machurian Candidate conspiracy to further lower the IQ of voters in an election year...

dalatudalatu
dalatudalatu

@maura @cmolanphy Just wanted to say, that this was another great week for this column. Always a great read.

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