Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition

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S1: Welcome to Hit Parade, a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris M.A. chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s Why Is This Song Number One series on today’s show? The end of 2019 is just weeks away, which means the end of another decade.

S2: We don’t quite know what to call the teams, the 10s. I’m going with the tents, no matter what you call it or where you reside along the cultural, political or musical divide. I think we can all agree this has been a pretty fluky decade, particularly on the pop charts.


S3: In movies, the 10s will be remembered for better and worse as the decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on television. We will remember the tens as a golden age of peak TV from Breaking Bad to Game of Thrones. But music will this decade of popular song be remembered for anything at all?

S4: Some of this confusion is due to the difficulty we critics have summarising.

S5: An art form as ever evolving as popular music, which has always moved through phases faster than movies or TV. And some of it is just the typical declinist narrative we see at the end of any decade. The idea that the period we just experienced was the worst ever.


S6: It’s like the every other decade. The 50s were boring, the 60s rocked the 70s. They obviously. So maybe the 80s will be radical.


S5: Someone will be nostalgic for the music of the 2010s someday. And it probably won’t be critics who are in their 30s and 40s now. Speaking of which, your hit parade host, who is a bit older than a teenager, has a special relationship with the 10s. As I note at the top of every episode, I am the writer of Slate’s Why is this song number one series since the start of this decade, both for Slate and earlier for other publications? I have written about most of the number one hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 from the Respectable.


S7: To the better forgotten.

S8: It’s my job to think about what hit music means both in the moment and in the big picture.

S5: And one thing I can tell you, and this is nearly four decades of pop chart obsession talking the 10s. Broadly speaking, we’re like every other decade of pop. There were trendless and fats. The pendulum swung.

S1: And the hits we enjoyed were a mirror, however imperfect, of our culture.

S5: That culture was shifted this decade by technology as much as it was by politics or demographics. The ways we consumed music, these digital mediums shaped the songs we sent to the top of the Billboard charts, down to the genre and even the gender of the hitmakers many.


S1: Today on Hit Parade, we will consider the decade that was the technological 10’s, a period that opened with the digital download and the queens of pop. And closed with the streaming jukebox and the kings of the cloud. And that’s where your hit parade marches today. Not just one week, but more than 500 weeks from 2010 to the present. Now, we won’t have time to cover all these weeks and all of the decade’s hits, but we will walk through the tens year by year tracking the folkways of our American hit parade. The Billboard Hot 100. Don’t believe me. Just watch. Listen.


S5: How do we begin to define a decade? Can one sound define a whole 10 years? Well, not real.


S9: It would have been.

S10: And found it defined a decade for more than 40 years. About as long as I’ve been alive. The 1970s have been called the disco decade. But of course, the 70s were more than band, from album rock to singer songwriters. Easy listening to outlaw country, early Mayville to funk and punk.

S5: Or how about the 1990s?

S11: Today we’re covering those 10 years when played grunge and coffee were all the rage.

S5: The 90s, the 90s have been tagged the grunge decade for at least a quarter century now, even though hip hop boy bands and millennial teen pop are equally, if not more, definitive for that period. Before we talk about the 10s. Let me offer my own decades of pop grand unified theory. I believe decades of music can be divided very broadly into two halves. The first half of a decade is mostly one thing. The second half? Another. For example, the 1970s.


S12: The so-called disco decade led off with a soft rock half from roughly 1970 to seventy fourth. And a disco half from roughly 1975 to 79.

S4: Granted, reducing a decade to just two modes is also a flagrant oversimplification.

S5: But this system of mine is useful for understanding major pop trends and it pretty much works for every decade of the last half century.

S13: Like the 60s, which was half girl groups and Doo-Wop. Half British invasion and hippie pop.

S1: The 80s was half electro new wave and half what I call big hair, music, hair, metal and big voice divas.

S13: The 90s was half grunge and gangsta is like like daddy, like this is like that. Like half teen pop and bling.


S5: The aughts. The first decade of the 2000s was in its first half, mostly hip hop crossed with soul. What observers at the time called rap and B?

S1: And in the other half, maximalists, mega pop from producers like Max Martin and Dr. Luke.

S4: And then there’s one more key element in the middle of each decade.

S5: There is what I call a pivot record, a chart topping hit or two that signals that a trend shift is about to occur.

S1: It’s a cultural cue that the tide is turning. An obvious example is the Beatles U.S. breakthrough in 1964, the official start of the British invasion and the kickoff of the second half of the 60s.


S5: Or in 1974, the very first Proteau disco number one hits on the Hot 100 from the likes of Barry White, George McCrea and the Hughes Corporation.

S1: Or in 1986, a song we have discussed on Hit Parade that I am very publicly not a fan of. But it was pivotal. Bon Jovi’s first hair metal. No one. Or in late 1996 and early 97, the breakthrough of the Spice Girls, first in the UK than in America, indicating that the gloomy early 90s were giving way to the frothy late 90s or in 2005. The pivotal hit Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani, a hybrid song that had one toe dipped in the hip hop of the early aughts and one toe in the shiny mega pop of the late.


S14: All this brings us back to the 2010s. My half decades of pop theory can help us break down the decade that’s now drawing to a close.

S5: I’ll talk about what I believe was the pivot record later for now and for the rest of the show. Let’s walk through the 2010s, year by year, summarizing micro trends in each year so we can get at the macro trends of the decade. You will recognize most of these hits, if I may paraphrase a great man. The arc of a decade in pop is long, but it bends toward catchiness. Now let’s flip the calendar back about nine years and change. Barack Obama is in the White House.


S15: The economy is still digging its way out of the Great Recession and on the radio. Pop music is doing its best to distract us with a nonstop dance party.

S16: The 2010 Dance Party USA.

S11: How did that work?

S15: In the end of the office? And the turn of the 10s was a little bit like the turn from the 1970s to the 1980s. It’s been said that dance music does especially well in a down economy. Americans turn to the sounds of the club to distract us from society’s blues.

S10: And the same way disco guided us through the recessionary late 70s millennial electropop was a bomb for a millennial generation, reaching adulthood in 2010 and entering a wobbly economy. Tick tock Kesha’s smash that topped the Hot 100 in the closing days of 2009 and wound up the top hit of 2010 was quite literally about getting blackout drunk.

S5: Written and produced by dominant pop craftsmen Lucas Gottwald, a.k.a. Dr. Luke, whom singer Kesha Rose Siebert would later accuse of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, Kesha’s string of hits were fundamentally pop, but adjacent to throbbing club music, especially the overpowering sounds of electronic dance music or E-D, she’d say, turn it at that bad, bad, bad, bad.

S1: Bad deeds may turn out that ETN had been on the rise throughout the late 90s and 2000s. And by 2010 had fully fused with centrist Top 40 music. This potent form of electropop came with prominent bass, drums, auto-tuned vocals and mid-song crescendos exemplified by English singer tyo Kruse’s summer 2010 smash Dynamite.

S17: Some 2010 chart smashes came Praet equipped for bottle service in the VIP lounge.

S1: The Asian-American trio. Far East Movement scored a fluke number one hit with a song about drinking at a club and inside a Gulfstream jet that only existed in their imaginations. They called it like a G6. BDM was so predominant on the charts in the early 10s that artists who might previously have been associated with rock or R&B felt compelled to embrace electronic club music just to get on the radio. After a string of under-performing singles in the late aughts, veteran R&B singer Usher teamed with rapper producer on the IDM fueled single O-M-G and returned himself to number one on the Hot 100. If anyone was bucking the IDM trend and scoring hits in 2010, it was a rising songwriter, producer and crooner from Honolulu, Hawaii, born Peter Jean Hernandez, known professionally as Bruno Mars.


S10: Bruno had actually launched his career in the late Aughts Veha electropop as part of a songwriting team who called themselves the Sneezing Orton’s Mars helped co-write hits like Flo Riders 2009. Dr. Luke produced number one smash right round as a singer.

S1: However, Mars broke through as a balladeer, and he wasn’t even the lead on his first number one hit credited to rapper B OBE.

S10: The song nothin’ on you hit number one in the spring of 2010, and it is now largely remembered less for the rapper and more as the breakthrough of one of the top male soloists of the decade. Some. Bruno Mars had a great 2010. He generated a string of smashes like the number one hit just the way you want.

S1: And that same year, proving his versatility, Mars co-wrote a number to smash for rapper and singer Cee Lo Green. That was a pastiche of classic 60s R&B tropes and very foul mouth lyrics. But the pop star who seemed to possess the key to the top of the charts in 2010 was former Christian music artist turned electro pop party girl Katy Perry. Like Kesha, Perry had broken through in the late aughts by teaming with Midas touch producer Dr. Luke on hits like I Kissed a Girl and Hot and Cold. Perry’s second album, 2010’s Teenage Dream, was a juggernaut. Starting with the summer 2010 smash California Girls. Perry generated five number one hits from Teenage Dream, tying a record set in the late 1980s by Michael Jackson, who scored five hot 100 toppers from his blockbuster album Bad. Perry’s hits included the album’s wistful 80s inspired title track. And the soaring inspirational pop anthem Firework.

S17: Her biggest selling hit, which wound up sound tracking a generation of grade school and high school graduation.


S14: All of these Katy Perry singles sold millions of digital copies at about a dollar a download at a moment when Apple’s i-Tunes store was dominating the music business.

S1: To this point, streaming music was still largely a niche phenomenon. The Swedish music service Spotify would not even arrive in America until 2011.

S5: By then, the download friendly Katy was arguably the biggest pop star in America, but she had plenty of competition.

S18: Twenty eleven, the queens of Pop.

S19: Adele was more than the top musical artist of 2011. She was the exception to every rule of 2010’s pop, a purveyor of torture balladry at the peak of electropop, a singer who transcended global and generational boundaries, a big seller of albums in a decade dominated by digital tracks.

S1: We needn’t recap the long list of sales and Grammy milestones scored by her pair of diamond certified albums 21 and 25. But can I make a rather basic point? Adele scored hits. Hit songs, I mean, big singles, singalong tracks, the kinds of hits that competed with Katy Perry and Kesha on Top 40 radio.

S20: Adele may have been an old soul with a mature voice, but her songs, not just her albums, were at the top of the Pops. Beloved by teenagers and their parents.

S14: Rolling in the Deep was Billboard’s top song of 2011, a fusion of modern pop and classic R&B that turned to the rudiments of a breakup into a female empowerment anthem.

S1: With 9 million copies sold in America alone, rolling in the deep was the biggest digital download of the 2010s. And by the way, the second biggest of all time behind only the Black Eyed Peas 2009 hit, I got a feeling Adele was in good company that year.


S5: 2011 was a good time to be a female pop star.

S1: For most of the year, a woman was number one on the hot 100, to be exact. Women held down the number one spot for 45 straight weeks in 2011 and they were in lead roles for most of those weeks.

S5: Whether rising stars like Lady Gaga, Adele or Katy Perry or 90s veterans, indeed, the two biggest female pop stars of 1999 both scored no ones in 2011.

S1: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, who scaled the charts with the Maroon 5 duet moves like Jagger. Even the male fronted hits gave prominent roles to women, including L.M. Fayose, Goofy Hip House, Smash Party Rock Anthem, which included a featured vocal by British singer Lauryn Bennett. It was the peak year of maximalist electropop digital club music fused with hits across genres, whether they were supposedly alternative rock like Foster, the people’s number three hit pumped up kicks or adjacent to rap like Nicki Minaj as number three hit superPAC’s.

S14: All of these hits had IDM Energy and blockbuster sales. Most of them sold a staggering 5 million or more downloads a peace with Apple’s i-Tunes store at its peak, making frictionless singles buying easy.

S1: The pop single had never before sold in quantities like these. Of course, there were less expensive ways to access songs cheaper than paying 99 cents to a dollar twenty nine apiece.

S5: And in the age of streaming and social media, virality in music would take on a whole new dimension.

S21: 2012, the new monoculture.

S9: In March of 2012, Billboard added on demand music streaming to its charts led prominently by Spotify the first week, Spotify was infused into the Hot 100. The rock band Fun had the number one song with the soaring emotionally vulnerable we on. At this point on demand, audio was only a minority factor in the hot 100’s formula. We are young would have been number one that week with or without Spotify.


S15: But the song was given a sizable boost by streaming and it was a sign of things to come.

S1: Though it featured credited backing vocals by the newly emerging singer Janelle Monet funds song moved the Hot 100 away from female driven dance pop.

S5: For the first time in months, indicating that the demographics for streaming music were going to be quite different than for digital downloads. Of course, female driven dance pop in 2012 wasn’t going down without a fight.

S14: We talked about Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me maybe in our hit parade episode about the impact of music videos on the pop charts. Jepsen’s hit had a particularly memorable clip with a plot twist at the end about Jepsen’s Boy Crush watched over 1.2 billion times on YouTube.

S1: The Call Me Maybe video helped make Jepsen’s hit not only 2012’s Song of the Summer, with nine weeks at number one, but one of the most socially shared songs of the year. And it inspired other videos. Everyone from the U.S. 2012 Olympic team to Hollywood stars to the Muppets shot videos performing the song and making its universal hand gesture for that romantic phone call before the mainstreaming of Instagram and the invention of Vine or Tick-Tock. Call me maybe was institutionalising the hit song as Hit Me. Most of 2012’s big hits have this combination of catchiness and virality. It was a digital reboot of the so-called monoculture critics word for the pre-digital era of the late 20th century when t.v.’s had fewer channels. Consumers had fewer entertainment choices. And a big hit song was the lingua franca of a wide swath of America. In the 21st century, social media could make quirky songs, universal hits, songs as quirky as somebody that I used to know, a lovelorn ballad with an arresting video by Belgian Australian singer Gaultier. That was the top song of 2012.


S14: Interestingly, as of 2012, video views did not factor into the hot 100 songs like Funds.

S1: Carly Rae Jepsen’s and Goatees commanded the chart because social sharing had a knock on effect on Billboard’s more traditional metrics of sales and airplay. It was still possible to top the charts with an old fashioned radio hit like Maroon 5’s reggae tinged chart topper won.

S17: Or a song that sold truckloads of singles like Taylor Swift’s blockbuster.

S1: We are never, ever getting back together.

S22: Getting.

S23: The first single Swift co-wrote with Swedish pop mastermind Max Martin, the snarkily irresistible never, ever began. Taylor’s pivot from country music to the pop charts when it dropped in September 2012.

S1: Swift’s single sold a staggering six hundred twenty three thousand copies in its first week. Taylor Swift’s pivot to pop signaled that the charts of the 2010s would be freer of genre boundaries than any prior decade.

S14: Her follow up hit I Knew You Were Trouble was electro country crossed with pure pop and it even included a dubstep style based rap. But no hit in 2012 was more viral than the song that piled up more YouTube views than any other in history to that point.

S5: And it wasn’t even in English.

S17: Well, unless you were a sexy lady.

S4: Depending on how you looked at Gangnam Style by Korean pop star Cy. It was a savage satire of wealth inequality in South Korea. The breakthrough of K-pop on the U.S. charts or just a novelty hit. Go ahead, do his little horsey dance. We’ll wait.

S17: I this smash by side peaked at a remarkable number two on the hot 100, thanks largely to digital downloads. It was purchased three million times in the U.S. alone in 2012. But the really eye popping numbers were at YouTube, where Gangnam Style became the first video of any kind to pass the 1 billion views mark.


S4: At its peak, Gangnam Style was watched worldwide 9 million times a day, and none of this counted for the hot 100. If it had, SAI would have had the first K-pop chart topper in American history and arguably the first social media fueled number one hit.

S5: Gangnam Styles number 2 Peak had to be heartbreaking because just weeks into 2013, Billboard finally brought YouTube data to the Hot 100 and kicked off a year in which cultural bias on the charts was laid bare.

S17: 2013 Blurred Racial Lines.

S24: Carrie Bauer Rodriguez, a Philadelphia born Brooklyn based deejay who simply went by the name Bauer, became an instant Billboard chart topper in February 2013 when his largely instrumental trap Jam Harlem Shake debuted at number one was radio playing it very little were i-Tunes users buying the song, not in exceptional numbers. Overwhelmingly, Harlem Shake was powered to the top of the Hot 100 by viral videos. Bauer was the beneficiary of a new billboard rule. Counting music plays on YouTube for the first time. Any video that played at least 30 seconds of an original recording counted toward that song’s position on the chart. And Harlem Shake had the good fortune to be experiencing a kind of Luber mean a goofy series of user generated videos featuring gangs of enthusiastic amateur dancers, often in costume, awkwardly pelvic thrusting to Bower’s club jam where sigh fell short.

S1: Bauer went all the way in the first week of the new Billboard. Rural Harlem Shake was powered by more than 100 million streams in a single week. Most of them on YouTube, not Spotify. A pure one hit wonder Bauer never made the hot 100 again. Critics feared that the YouTube rule would give dance fans an unfair advantage on the charts. Many more complained that the Harlem Shake was once an actual dance, with roots dating back decades to the historically black New York City neighborhood, Harlem. The meme driven largely by shimmying white people flattened and deracinated the dance. But Harlem Shake Bower’s hit was just one facet of a very thorny issue facing the charts in 2013 with their racial makeup.


S4: The top song of the year was Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Thrift Shop, a novelty rap hit about looking for fly threads at second hand clothing stores. The Seattle hip hop duo’s first ever national hit featured a hook sung by 51 year old R&B singer Mike Wongs Wansley.

S5: Within weeks of their first number one, Macklemore and Lewis scored a second.

S8: The inspirational psych up pop jam Can’t Hold US, which featured vocals by another black singer, Ray Dalton. In other words, at a time when the Hot 100 had more data across genres factoring into it than before.

S2: Songs led by white abbots were coming out on top for the first time in the hot one history a whole year. All of 2013 went by with no no one hits led by African Americans. Equally notable, many of the hits that did make it were forms of Blue-Eyed Soul with black artists in supporting roles. Robin Thicke, son of a pair of TV actors and a white soul singer who’d scored several legitimately massive R&B chart hits back in the aughts, wound up with a fluke pop crossover The 12-week number one smash. Blurred Lines, featuring lyrics that reminded some listeners of date rape and a video starring supermodels in various states of undress. Rapper T.I. and singer songwriter producer Pharrell Williams both made vocal contributions to the song and quite a bit more than that in litigation. Two years later, a court found that Blurred Lines had borrowed the atmosphere, if not quite the melody of Marvin Gaye’s disco era chart topper. Got to give it up.

S1: And it was also revealed that Pharrell Williams wrote Blurred Lines essentially by himself at Robin Fixx behest.


S2: Even as scores of artists across the music industry came to the defense of Thicke and Williams for their creative process, what Blurred Lines revealed about the machinery of cross genre pop craftsmanship did no one any favors. The song was catchy, creepy, racially slippery and culturally huge, selling 7 million copies and setting airplay records at Top 40 radio Blurred Lines wound up as 2013’s song of the summer. Ironically, defeating another hybrid pop soul song co-written by Pharrell Williams Get Lucky French IDM duo Daft Punk’s universally praised Grammy winning disco jam featured irresistible guitar by rock and pop and B legend Niall.

S25: She claimed as it was.

S2: Get Lucky was further evidence of the chart skew in 2013. The year’s biggest hits were indebted to R&B and Hip-Hop, but generally led by white performers. Whether it was the falsetto singing rapper supported Justin Timberlake.

S7: So you had to notice hot.

S1: Or the infamously twerking Miley Cyrus.

S14: It may be hard.

S5: Six years later to picture a world where Drake was disadvantaged on the charts. But even as the rappers. Nothing was the same album scored some of the biggest sales of the year.

S26: Drake’s singles barely scraped the top five bottom no end, started a bottom Nemo tape and started running out of nowhere.

S2: The man formerly known as Wheelchair Jimmy on the Canadian TV teen drama Degrassi would get his chart revenge later in the decade.

S3: I’ve never seen it.

S1: Perhaps the year’s slightest commentary on white appropriation of black culture and 2013’s unlikeliest chart topper came from precocious New Zealand teenager Lorde with her left field nine week number one hit Royals. Six years later, Royals remains a Rorschach shock test for listeners. Is it a contemptuous rant against hip hop culture, a dubious yearning for a return to pre rap musical values? Does it instead cleverly embrace hip hop tropes and aspire to Jay-Z’s style flashiness even while calling it out? The answers to all of these questions is basically yes. About the worst that could be said for royals was that it deepened the hot one. Hundreds skew toward white faces in 2013.


S5: As the 2010s neared their midpoint, female fronted pop would see one more pinnacle before the fall 2014 peak woman power the Snow Queen Queen.

S20: Indeed, as I noted in our Broadway episode of Hit Parade, the Disney movie musical Frozen hooked a generation of pre-school and grade school kids on the wonders of show tunes. Let It Go sung by stage veteran Idina Menzel was a number five hit the same month it won an Oscar for songwriters Bobby and Kristen Anderson Lopez.

S27: It was a culture conquering pop hit in a year of peak pop, an inspirational anthem for a year of peak woman power on the charts.

S2: Net net. Some of the year’s chart dominators were the usual suspects.

S17: Katy Perry followed her blockbuster Teenage Dream album with the multi-platinum PRISM and scored two more.

S5: Max Martin and Dr. Luke produced smashes the number ones Raw and Dark Horse and some of the Dominators were new faces on the scene.

S28: Are things that are central and now are. And I’m still in a murder business. Today I am given lessons in physics.

S13: Iggy Azalea seemed grown in a lab by a record label mad scientist and Australian fashion model turned rapper who had studied the cadence, swagger and flow of male black southern American hip hop. Her first ever hot 100 hit fancy dominate the summer of 2014, thanks in part to an irresistible 80s esque chorus which was expertly deployed by English singer songwriter Charlotte Atchison, a.k.a. Charlie ACCE X.

S5: Atchison was on a roll. Having scored a top 10 hit the year before with Ikebana Pops Classic.

S13: I love it.

S17: Not all of the year’s biggest hits were led by women.


S1: When Let It Go won its Oscar for Best Song. It defeated another more improbable movie song. Pharrell Williams is 7 million selling happy from the animated film Despicable Me to.

S14: A throwback to the sound of 60s crossover R&B. Williams is happy.

S5: Spent 10 weeks atop the Hot 100 and was Billboard’s top single of the year. And it was joined later in the year by an even more retro chart topper that harkened back to the sound of Doris Day.

S29: Because you know that nowadays. Now, Seattle, I’m all about that. But now in Seattle, I’m not. I’m not that they know all about that.

S14: Bass, an ode to Plus Sized Body Positivity, was a mega smash for newcomer Megan Training.

S1: And when it reached number one in the fall of 2014, it led off a female dominated hot 100 women occupied the entire top five for seven consecutive weeks, the longest period of female control in the charts history. Joining trainer in the winner’s circle were hits, many of them collaborations from the likes of not only Iggy Azalea but Rita Ora, Tove Lo, Jessie J. Ariana Grande Day and Nicki Minaj, who offered her own self-congratulatory commentary on body but no woman that year.

S5: Really few artists, period, male or female. Throughout the decade, whereas dominant as Taylor Swift, who dropped an album that obliterated the competition, was named for the year of her birth.

S14: Swift’s 1989 album was an aircraft carrier of pop hits. It was led off by two number ones, both co-written by Swift with Max Martin, both throwbacks to the sound of 80s pop and both of them. Well, lyrically, basically about Taylor herself, the perky Screw the haters anthem Shake It Off and the shimmering, sly satire of nightmarish girlfriend behavior.


S1: Blank space.

S14: In the closing weeks of 2014, Taylor not only launched her 1989 album to sales of more than 1.3 million, instantly giving her the year’s top long player, her two singles succeeded each other at number one on the Hot 100. It was a dizzying peak. Swift, the avatar of Self-Empowered Maximalists Mega Pop, was at an all time high and an army of female peers were right behind her. You know what usually happens after dizzying peaks, right? When we come back, how the 2010s pivoted toward the dudes.

S30: 2015 Uptown Funk downloads down as 2014 flipped to 2015.

S5: It was possible to read the first new number one song of the year as just another catchy pop jam that sold a lot of downloads.

S31: But in retrospect, it may have been the fulcrum, a signpost welcoming you to borrow land this masterpiece. The city was so pretty.

S4: Uptown Funk was the first and to date only Top 40 hit for British born producer Mark Ronson, the man who helped make Amy Winehouse famous. But Ronson isn’t the star of the song. That would be Bruno Mars, who, just like his breakthrough hit with B-O-B back in 2010, is the nominal featured performer. But essentially the lead Uptown Funk basically codified a new persona for the previously cuddly Bruno of funky, preening, self aggrandizing Sheptock. Uptown Funk was a smash. The biggest hit of Mars’s career to say nothing of Ronson’s 14 weeks at number one, the top single of 2015. And it was also the first number one on the hot 100 by men in about five months, ending a streak of dominance by Taylor Swift and Megan Trainor. And in a way, the chart never went back for the next four years. The Hot 100 was dominated by men because 2015 is when the Hot 100 shifted away from the dollar download and toward the stream.


S5: Spotify was overtaking Apple’s i-Tunes as America’s primary means of digital music acquisition. Apple itself picked 2015 to launch its own streaming service. Apple Music.

S32: These streaming services emphasized curated playlists, a medium ideally suited to hip hop, where fans have a voracious appetite for the news. New Jersey rapper Fedi WOB scored the top streaming hit of 2015 with Trappe, an ode to a girlfriend able to roll with a drug dealer’s lifestyle. At its peak in the summer of 2015, Trap Queen was driving more than half of its hot 100 chart points from streaming twice as much as its singles sales and three times its radio airplay.

S1: It peaked at number two on the Hot 100 behind another much softer rap song.

S32: Go watch Wiggen abab, Wizz Khalifa’s. See you again from the soundtrack to the 7th Blockbuster. Fast and Furious movie Furious 7 featured vocals from piano balladeer Charlie Poof! That made it a pop friendly blockbuster, but when it topped the charts side by side with Fedi Wops Trap Queen at number two, it was the first time the Hot 100 had been led by two rap songs.

S5: Since 2009, the blockading of female led pop didn’t happen right away. If a woman artist was big enough, she could still break through. Taylor Swift, for example, scored one more chart topper from her album 1989 The Beef Track.

S10: Bad Blood. Just in case, Taylor dropped a remix of the song containing an actual rapper, the acclaimed Kendrick Lamar with the band.

S1: And at the end of the year, none other than Adele came back with the blockbuster LP 25 and its lead single. Hello. Which opened to the biggest week of digital downloads sales in history.


S9: Nothing stood in the path of Adele’s conquering comeback, including Drake’s biggest hit to date.

S1: Hotline Bling, which had the misfortune to peak at number two at the very moment. Adele’s new smash arrived. You used to got me all myself, but Taylor and Adele were exceptions. At number one, in 2015, mostly the Hot 100 was extending a warm embrace to male stars who might previously have been considered too moutray for the top of the charts.

S10: Abel Tesfaye, a Canadian indie R&B vocalist from Canada who went by the name The Weekend, spent the first half of the tents issuing brooding, bleary eyed mixtapes even after he signed to a major label. It took the weekend, a couple of albums and several singles to find his pop sound. Abel wasn’t above working with pop craftsmen for his first chart topper. He teamed with Max Martin, the mastermind behind the hits from Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Martin helped the weekend fuse his smoldering sound with centrist Michael Jackson esque pop.

S1: But within weeks, the weekend found he didn’t have to water down his dark sound at all.

S10: His creepy single. The Hills, whose title alluded to the horror film. The Hills have eyes also topped the hot 100, actually spending twice as long at number one as. Can’t feel my face.

S1: And young Abel Tesfaye wasn’t the only man topping the chart who’d previously hit roadblocks.

S10: What do you mean? Was the first number one hit for Justin Bieber? That was itself remarkable. By 2015, Bieber had already been a teen idol and YouTube megastar for half a decade. But radio stations fearing the boy king might alienate adult listeners were cautious about playing Bieber’s early hits. And as he turned 18 and found himself in the media more for his debauchery than his music, many wrote him off as another child star who would have difficulty entering manhood. But then Justin found his new sound.


S1: A blend of IDM and so-called tropical house production crossed with pleading romantic lyrics exemplified on the top 10 hit. Where are you now? Credited to deejay’s Skrillex and Diplo, but featuring Bieber on vocals. It was in essence, a new form of sensitive dude bro music and on his 2015 album Purpose. Bieber’s team repurposed this sound for maximum radio exposure.

S20: Tropical House became Bieber’s vehicle to the top of the charts. One, he would ride hard for the next two years.

S8: 2016, the Bieber verse.

S10: No one, including Justin Bieber himself, could have predicted how ubiquitous he would become across popular music. In the latter half of the tents, he became the avatar of the new pop, yearning, accessible, smartly produced and seemingly sensitive, but with sublimated male bravado. Sorry, a tropical dance hit that unabashedly turned Bieber’s apology for his worst public behavior into a romantic trifle topped the Hot 100 at the start of 2016.

S1: And it was followed immediately by an even snarkier number one hit, the acoustic flavored Love Yourself A Flip of the Bird to a former lover penned by Bieber’s buddy Ed Sheeran, a Brody Trojan horse that hid its spite in an adult contemporary friendly package. Love Yourself was Billboard’s top hit of 2016, but it was not the last smash for Bieber. He became club producers go to singer of choice. Major Lazer tapped Justin to sing lead on their number two hit Cold Water. And deejay Snake reached the top five with Bieber on. Let me love you. Meanwhile, the hot 100’s shift from downloads to streams was pulling the charts towards street oriented rap singles that had virality in their favor.

S32: Stern’s panda named not for the zaftig bear, but for a fancy BMW whose front grille resembled a panda’s face, was a homemade mixtape tracked by Brooklyn rapper designer when Konya West featured it as a track on his album, The Life of Pablo. Panda became a streaming sensation, topping Spotify playlists and eventually riding.


S1: That virality all the way to number one on the Hot 100. Like Trap Queen the year before, Panda’s success was a sign of the times, as was the even more viral success of another trap anthem.

S33: Later in the year, Ray Schrempp, an Atlanta hip hop duo whose name was your drummers spelled backwards, reached number one with black Beatles. The spooky Cynthy track sounded nothing like the Beatles. Its lyrics only briefly invoking John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was a strivers anthem, a charmingly sassy ode to the ultimate in pop success, and it achieved the ultimate chart position in the fall of 2016. Thanks to an Internet phenomenon, Raiche Tremors had nothing to do with black Beatles became the soundtrack of choice to the Mannequin Challenge, a viral video meme in which large groups of friends captured themselves on camera. Standing Stone still. Ray schreibman rode the mannequin challenge to the top of the charts, reaching number one the week Donald Trump won the presidency, a week when Americans could use a viral distraction.

S5: Panda and black beetles were bookends on the sullen, more downbeat charts of 2016.

S10: The big hits had an undertone of melancholy.

S1: Whether they came from Drake, who finally topped the Hot 100 with his moody summer jam, One Dance Time, or pop singer songwriter Sia, who teamed up with Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul on the loping, cheap thrills. His hit sounded like a Great Depression anthem.

S14: Updated for inflation, buddy, can you spare a dime? Or in this case, a dollar.

S1: The year’s longest lasting number one was the ultimate bummer anthem IDM duo the chain smokers with their wistful kloser structured as a he said she said duet between lead chain smoker Andrew Taggert and rising pop singer palsy. The song was a lament for misspent youth aching for a time when the lovers drove an old SUV and slept on a borrowed mattress. Both the chain smokers and see is number one hits were co-ed recordings pairing male and female vocals generally when women topped the charts in 2016.


S5: A man’s voice needed to be adjacent.

S3: By the following year, women became practically invisible. Twenty seventeen sausage party best placed to find them.

S33: What was curious about the turn towards streaming in the late 10s was that the songs that benefited were largely by men. But not all were rap persay. Consider the biggest hit by British busker, songwriter and occasional moonlighting rapper Ed Sheeran.

S34: Shape of a boy.

S10: I know, I know. How can you not think about shape of you? It’s been wafting in the background of American and British life for most of the last three years. A monster smash on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Billboard’s top hit of 2017 and remains Spotify most played song of all time. Shape of You was perfectly designed for streaming dominance, indebted to hip hop, especially in its verses, alluding to tropical house with its marimba like hook and lyrically relatable, as they say with self-deprecating romantic lyrics. Shape of You was the decades ultimate brain fungus. It spent 12 weeks at number one and a record 33 weeks lodged in the top 10 list about things I am doing ok.

S34: In the taxi.

S10: Whatever your opinion of Ed’s earworm, it contributed to an unusual chart streak starting near the end of 2016. And for forty two weeks, nearly ten months, not a single woman topped the Hot 100, not even in a supporting role. At one point in April 2017, when Sheeran’s shape of you was number one in its 12th and final week, there were no women in the entire top 10 of the charts.

S5: The first time the winner’s circle had been devoid of women in more than three decades.


S10: To be sure, a good deal of this all male activity came from the world of hip hop a zandra hugely boosted by the rise of streaming on the charts. Whether it was the aforementioned Ray shrimper or fellow Atlanta rap troupe Migos with their chart topper Bad and boozy, we get nothing.

S35: Nothing, I don’t know.

S10: By the call of the coming year or future, Pulis or prize winning rapper Kendrick Lamar with the acclaimed and ironically titled Humble. His first number one as a lead artist, two years after Kendrick topped the chart as a featured act to Taylor Swift might say it was a remarkable turnaround for hip hop.

S1: Just four years after 2013, when, remember, no black artists led a number one hit. Now white pop acts were supporting the rappers. Justin Bieber. Yes, him again sang yet another hook on. I’m the one a track by relentless self-promoter and party starter deejay. Call it this Jay Gatsby of Hip-Hop, as if daring to prove how many men he could pack into a number one hit rounded up not only Bieber, but also Chance. The rapper Kwe VO of Migos and Lil Wayne all took turns vocalising on Collard’s tricked out hip hop clown car and added on in. But the unlikeliest multi- dude collaboration of the year, the unlikeliest smash period came not from the world of rap, but rather a crossover from the Latin music charts. And once again, Justin Bieber was the X Factor, or should I say, in fact, thought a kiss.

S10: Despot’s SEATO was the ultimate hybrid hit before Justin Bieber even got involved. It was already an unusual pairing in the world of Latin music. Puerto Rican balladeer Lewis Fonzi, a 20 year veteran of swooning Latin pop music, teamed up with Daddy Yankee, the progenitor popularizer and king of the Latin hip hop subgenre known as reggaeton.


S32: This body GWA Ruber Jam by Fonzie and Daddy Yankee was already a smash across the Spanish speaking world. In early 2017, when Bieber heard it while on tour in Colombia, he was smitten with the melody and asked if he could jump on a remix. That’s when despacito exploded in the Anglo pop world, now featuring Justin Bieber singing in phonetic Spanish. Despite total ignorance of the language, despacito topped the Hot 100. In May 2017 and stayed there a stunning 16 weeks through mid-September, tying a 21 year old record for most weeks at number one.

S5: We will come back to this storied chart record in a few minutes. Heartbreakingly, for Fonzie and company, they would have beaten the hot 100 record if not for the return of a blockbuster artist.

S1: Ironically, the first woman to score a number one hit in 10 months and she came packed with a pushy beef track seemingly designed to compete in this rap centric all male sausage party.

S36: You do look good.

S14: You just made me just look what you made me do.

S1: Was Taylor Swift settling scores with her haters in the media and the music world, including purportedly longtime nemesis Konya West coming after the hits from her album 1989. Swift’s highly anticipated single was even a smash on streaming services where it’s set opening day records. Its success, however, was highly frontloaded after soaring to number one almost instantly. Look what you made me do. Fell off at radio unusually quickly within three weeks. Taylor was replaced at number one by predictably yet another chart topping rapper. Less predictably, the rapper was a sheet dum dum cardi B, a former exotic dancer, reality show star and Instagram celebrity belatedly took up rap and became one of the top rappers of the late Tent’s Boldak Yellow. Her menacing single took over number one in the fall of 2017, a season when the Hot 100 became ever more indebted to the bleary sounds of woozy track music. Rock Star was by post. Malone, a white singer who hybridized hip hop, vocal cadence and production with the trappings of old school bro rock. He was supported on the track by actual rapper 21’s Savage, who gave the track deeper Hip-Hop cred. Post Malone’s Moody Track was an appropriate capper to 2017 and entree into twenty eighteen when downbeat hip hop would continue to rule and one veteran rapper would dominate the field.


S37: I don’t even like Drake. You don’t like the Drake, right? I love the Dre. You’re not like the Dre. The Dre. The Dry Drake is twenty eighteen.

S38: Love the Drake. Hate the drink.

S1: Throughout the tense, Toronto’s Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake, had continually laddered up in musical prominence. Each albums sold better than the last and he became hip-hop’s King of swag. The go to rapper for a guest verse, a trend vampire who smartly adapted to new sounds and micro movements in rap and no artist took greater advantage of the charts swing towards streaming. Drake packed his albums with more tracks designed to rack up heavy stream counts. Sometimes he didn’t call them albums at all, preferring mixtape or even playlist in early 2018. Drake dropped the track that would prove his most adept channeling of the streaming ethos the hypnotic, sullen, yet quietly boastful God’s plan.

S39: Bad things.

S1: It’s a lot of bad things I do is it is God’s plan not only spent 11 weeks at number one, it debut on top a coronation that would have seemed unthinkable in the early 10s when Drake was a ubiquitous rap presence but missed the top of the pop chart.

S5: Remember that his number two peaking hotline bling had even been foiled in 2015 by Adele in an age when streaming overtook the music business and hence the hot 100.

S4: Drake was America’s king of the cloud, and it was only the beginning of his most improbably dominant year.

S40: What’s it gonna be?

S4: The exultant nice for what replaced God’s plan in the number one spot, giving Drake four solid months on top and a march to New Orleans bounce music. Nice for what rotated in and out of the top spot into the summer as other hits interrupted Drake only briefly.


S1: It might well have been the song of the summer if Drake hadn’t then replaced himself again with yet another smash. In my feelings was Drake’s unexpected blockbuster, a heartfelt deep cut on his album Scorpion that became a cultural meme when scores of fans posted videos of themselves doing a signature dance to the song at the peak of the hashtag. In My Feelings Challenge, Drake’s song racked up a stunning $116 million streams in a single week, breaking a five year old streaming record by Harlem Shake.

S5: The similarly mean connected track by Bauer and Drake was not content to rest on his own string of chart topping hits.

S2: He also made cameo appearances on bleeding edge rap tracks from the likes of BLOCK Boy, J.B. and Little Baby Bizzi, My Head and Rudy My Story, My Cousin Crazy, My Cousin Lifebook.

S41: Life is amazing. It is what it should be.

S1: But by year’s end, Drake had even helped boost fellow rapper Travis Scott to number one with just a couple of guest verses on Syco mode. Scott took sole artist credit on the Lupi track. Drake didn’t even demand a formal featured credit, even though his verses were hard to miss. Garner would pick and roll flaming civil. In total, songs involving Drake were number one, 30 out of 52 weeks in 2018, an unprecedented level of hot 100 dominance for a single performer. Most of the acts who broke up Aubrey Graham’s log jam were themselves rappers or rap adjacent, including hits by Childish Gambino, Post Malone and X X X 10 Garcia, arguably 28 teens. Second biggest star was Cardi B, who deepened her 2017 breakthrough with a string of hits. Khatib’s summer number one hit. I Like It was a kind of sequel to despacito, a Latin crossover track with Spanish language megastars Jay Belvin and Bad Bunch. Khadi even added Spice to a sleeper hit from pop rockers Maroon 5. Girls like you was catchy, but it might not have spent seven weeks at number one. Had she not dropped a few bars on the remix for women, particularly pop artists, to effectively compete in this streaming and rap dominated chart world, they would have to get more lyrically acute and more personal.


S5: And no one adapted better than Ariana Grande. The.

S23: Green Day’s top three hit No Tears Left to Cry was an uplifting dance track about a downbeat subject, a memorial for her fans killed at a UK concert massacre the year before.

S14: Grand Day had always impressed the pop world with the strength of her soulful vocals.

S5: But now Ariana bared her soul.

S20: By the end of 2018, she was even letting fans behind the curtain of her love life. And topping the charts in the process. Thank you. Next was Ariana Grande days, oddly inspirational, distracting for a string of famous former boyfriends from rapper Big Sean to TV comedian Pete Davidson. It became Grandin’s first number one in a half decade career of hit making. And as the 10s entered their final year, Granda pointed the way to a comeback from mainstream pop. Twenty nineteen.

S42: Can’t nobody tell them nothing near the start of this year?

S20: Ariana Grande Day returned to number one with seven rings. It was a savvy pop song that played like a swaggering hip hop record, proudly materialistic and built out of interpolations of everything from prior hooks by Soulja Boy and 2 chains to the Sound of Music’s My Favorite Things.

S1: It seemed as 2019 got underway that the charts were undergoing another half decade pendulum swing.

S20: Some artists, like Grand Day, were fusing centrist pop with hip hop cadence like Horsie, the singer who’d previously topped the Hot 100, supporting the chain smokers on closer and top the chart on her own with the wounded trapped pop ballad Without Me.

S1: But within weeks of Ariana’s and halls, his triumphs, the Hot 100 was being led by singles with no overt connections to rap, whether it was singer turned actress Lady Gaga who topped the chart with her Oscar winning Bradley Cooper duet Shallow. Or veteran boy band turned grown up pop group the Jonas Brothers. They rang the bell with their infectious sucker, even post Malone was sounding closer to a pop star on tracks like the number one hit Sunflower.


S10: And then there was 20 19s biggest hit the song, whose genre was quite literally impossible to identify. Was it pop? Was it hip hop? Was it country? Yes.

S12: Critics and chart analysts like your hit parade host have spent this year talking about no song, no controversy, no pop chart event more than Old Town Road for a deeper dive on this singular sonic adventure by Lil Nas X. I encourage you to listen to segments about Old Town Road on Slate’s Culture Gabfest, NPR’s All Things Considered or KTXA Peas Sound and Vision. And sorry for the Fleck’s. Those are just the shows I have appeared on to talk about Lil Nas X. Suffice it to say that this song, which Atlanta native Montero Lamar Hill built out of a Nine Inch Nails track that sounded oddly twangy and paired with Widdy deliberately cornpone lyrics, has upended everything we think we know about genre. Billboard magazine’s controversial decision to remove Old Town Road from its Hot Country Songs chart and keep it off even after Billy Ray Cyrus showed up for a remix, rings and vendors, bars, brawls right now I’ll do in my Maserati sports car turned this song from a catchy meme to a righteous costs.

S10: And as a chart phenomenon, old town roads achievements were astounding 19 weeks at number one, finally beating the record set in 1996 by Mariah Carey and Boyz to Men’s 16 week chart topper One Sweet Day. The record despacito came so close to beating during its run.

S5: Old Town Road racked up nine of the 10 biggest streaming weeks in chart history, peaking at a confounding 143 million streams the week Billy Ray Cyrus is remakes landed. The songs running time of barely two minutes made it especially repeat worthy. And in the end, Old Town Road was utterly adored by a new generation of Gen Z fans who don’t seem to care what genre category the song belongs.


S1: Since the youthquake of Old Town Road this summer, the Hot 100 has been admirably wide ranging.

S5: The chart has been topped by songs as varied as Billy Eyelashes, Spooky Alter Rock Meets Hip Hop, Bad Guy Singer Rapper Lizza’s endlessly quotable self-esteem anthem.

S1: Truth hurts. Actress and longtime pop d.t Selena Gomez with her aching ballad Lose You to Love Me.

S10: And Scottish balladeer Lewis Capaldi with another Adele like ballad, someone you loved. The reports of pure pop’s demise this decade were, as it turns out, premature.

S5: Still, it was without question a decade of strong trends, certain sounds, genres, artists and even technologies swung in and out of favor. So before we conclude, it’s fair to ask who won the 10s? What pop act best navigated these heavy swings in the Zeit Geist? Adele sold piles of singles and especially albums, but she only released to help Elspeth’s. Taylor Swift’s sold even more. But she faced resistance on the Hot 100 late in the decade. Drake his late 10’s was epic, but his early ten’s found him struggling to reach the top of the pops. Bruno Mars. He is a strong contender. Savvy enough to see the pendulum swinging toward more cocksure hip hop and able to adjust. But if I were to name a winner of the decade, it would be the artist I deliberately haven’t mentioned once in this entire episode. Despite the fact that she scored more number one hits than anyone, let’s give her a final victory lap, shall we?

S20: Pop dominator of the decade. Re-armed.

S10: When the 10s started, Riana was already one of the most popular artists in Pop. She scored four number one hits in 2010 alone. The one you’re hearing now is What’s My Name? Which, by the way, featured vocals from Drake. Yes, this was Mr. Aubrey Graham’s first appearance on a number one single in a supporting role.


S43: They say, you got it. But I want to say, you just wait. No, a traffic jam is finished.

S1: You might say the woman born Robin Riana Fenty in Barbados was easy to underestimate. A decade ago, even after scoring such now acknowledged pop classics of the late aughts as pome, the replay Disturbia and most importantly, umbrella Riana by the Tens seemed to be moving through music star making machinery very quickly.

S23: A new Riana album would drop each year, be milked dry for radio singles, then immediately make way for the next one. But what hits Riana head and what versatility?

S1: Sometimes she was the featured performer and she would inevitably outshine the lead act as on Eminem’s summer 2010. Number one hit Love the Way You Lie.

S17: When throbbing IDM was taking over the charts by 2011, Riana was on top with her soaring Calvin Harris collaboration.

S20: We found love.

S1: When Adele and Gaultier pushed the pop ballad in a quieter direction, Rihanna was on trend with dramatic songs like the 2012 number one Diamonds.

S20: And 2013’s even starker number three hit Stay.

S1: Then in the mid 10s, as streaming pushed the hit parade in the direction of harder, more street oriented hip hop, Riana was right there throwing down foul mouth dare’s like the 2015 R&B chart topper Bitch better have my money.

S16: You want you. I like you.

S1: The following year, as dance hall rhythms were fusing with hip hop, Rhee was back on top of the Hot 100 with work. Now you need me. By the way, another track with a featured vocal by Drake through the spring of 2016.

S5: His only Hot 100 no ones were as a support act to Riana work was taken from A.I. Rihanna’s most acclaimed album and the first under a new deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label that gave her more creative control. She took bolder risks and scored hits anyway, like the meditative trap Single Needed Me a sleeper smash that rode the Hot 100 for nearly a year.


S1: In the summer of 2016, while Taylor Swift was on a hiatus between albums, Riana filled the Gap with a top three hit written by Swift and produced again by her friend Calvin Harris. This is what you came for. Even in 2017, the year of the all male pileup, Riana sang lead on another deejay, call it collaboration. The Latin flavored Wild Thoughts. It peaked at number two right behind the Latin blockbuster despacito.

S13: In short, across the whole decade, and more than any hitmaker, Riana adapted to every shift in style that came down the pike.

S5: The stats speak for themselves. More than 54 million digital downloads sold all time, according to Nielsen music, the most of any artist more than Katy Perry or Bruno Mars 9 number one hits this decade alone. Also, the most of any act her career total of 14 number ones puts her in fourth place on the all time list. Since the start of the rock era and within striking distance of the marks set by Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey and the Beatles, who, by the way, have a Rihanna connection to thanks to her 2015 number four hit with Paul McCartney and Kanye’s West for five seconds.

S1: Rumor has it Riana is working on her ninth studio album as I speak. It’s been nearly four years since A.I.. The longest gap of her career and anticipation is fierce when she finally issues it, whether it lands before the end of 2019 or well into next year. Rihanna stands a good chance of dominating the 2020s, too, and her fans will follow no matter where pop’s pendulum swings.

S17: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade. My producer is Justin D, right. And we also had help. This episode from Rosemary Bellson, the managing producer of Slate podcasts is June Thomas and Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of Slate podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slash podcasts. You can subscribe to hit parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate Culture Gabfest Ft. If you’re subscribing on Apple podcasts, please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show. Thanks for listening. And I look forward to leading the hit parade. Back your way. Until then, keep on marching on the one I’m XML.