Songs About Dancing

When I’m able, I like to watch the UK Top 40 on Monday nights – you know, to keep up with what those crazy kids are listening to these days. If I consider each song on its own, I’m pretty much ok with chart music right now. No one song is so bad that I really hate it*, some are even catchy as hell.

On the other hand, I look at the chart as a whole and I’m all, ‘Wha’ happen?!’ Since when is a single sound represented in the charts? And I mean that almost literally: during a recent countdown, I counted about 6 songs out of 40 that did not use the same clubby dance beat. And on top of that, the beat kind of makes them all sing the same – to the point where choruses actually do all sound the same, note-wise. And what’s weird is that it’s almost as if artists are now afraid not to sound exactly like everyone else, if recent tracks by Snoop Dogg (ahem) and Flo Rida are anything to go by. I know that chart music is not always the most diverse, and every old fart like myself says it was better in their day, but seriously – this is out of hand. It’s like unique-ness is now a flaw in an artist, no longer their potential selling point.

While thinking about all this important stuff, I’ve also noticed something else weird (and same-y) about chart songs right now: they’re all about partying, getting wasted, dancing all night, having the night of our lives. Last Friday Night, Party Rock Anthem, On The Floor, Don’t Stop The Party. There are few artists that even pretend they’re offering any substance right now. Tracy Chapman, Aloe Blacc, and even Adele feel very out of place when you watch along on MTV. Doesn’t anyone have an opinion about anything anymore? Don’t these artists think about stuff? I really wish the youth of today had something to say that wasn’t about partying but – based on the charts, at least – I’m really not sure they do. Which is pretty much the most depressing thing ever.

But, if you think back a-ways, this isn’t actually new, it’s just a little worse than before. Here’s a weird little thought that’s been floating around in my head for years: there were a lot of songs about dancing in the 80s. Seriously, a lot – everybody just dancing all the time.

Lionel was dancing on the ceiling:

while Bruce danced in the dark:

and Billy danced with himself** :

Whitney wanted to dance with somebody who loved her:

but David was inviting us all to just dance already:

And, of course, Madonna was into the groove, Michael Sembello told us the story of the maniac on the floor, Kenny Loggins got footloose … the list goes on. Maybe we just always loved dancing and always will. Maybe, just maybe, there’s still some hope for those kids out there right now.

After all, we all turned out ok, right?

David Byrne – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston cover)

* Other than that godawful Snoop Dogg song that’s popular right now. It’s so crap I can’t even be bothered to check the title. Please stop playing it. Seriously. Please stop.

** And some zombies, apparently. What the hell is going on in this video?!

Those Zany Charts…

Billboard Hot 100

By way of an introduction to this episode of Those Zany Charts, I’m going to ask you, gentle reader, to hazard a guess at which artist or band has had the most No. 1 hits in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. Have a think about it, I’ll wait.

Michael Jackson, right? That was my guess anyway, and that of some people I posed the same question to. Somehow none of us thought of the obvious.

I recently came across this chart of charts – the Billboard list of the biggest hit-makers in the history of their Hot 100 (the first edition occurred in August 1958). Of course the answer is The Beatles, with a whopping 20 (twenty!) chart-topping singles. I’m almost ashamed not to have gotten it right, though I will say that none of the Beatles’ #1s are songs I really love. (Go here to see a detailed list of specific singles.) Maybe that’s because, since they were so big, they’re the ones that are played most frequently and you gradually get sick of them over your lifetime. Or maybe I just like other Beatles songs much better. Whatever the case, I’m not at all surprised to see them at the top, only embarrassed not to have figured it out for myself.

As for the rest of these chart-topping artists, let’s have a more general look. Yup, there’s Michael Jackson, down at #3 with 13 top hits. And what a 13 they are (other than maybe “Say Say Say” and “You Are Not Alone”, ugh), though I am kind of surprised at how short they each stayed at the top. Ditto for Madonna, just below Mr. Jackson with 12 #1s. The Supremes and Rolling Stones (12 and 8 hits, respectively) are hardly a shock, nor are Stevie Wonder (10), the Bee Gees (9), or Elton John (9).

Whitney Houston (11) and Janet Jackson (10) aren’t people I’d have thought of but I guess it does make sense that they’re represented on this list. It does seem funny though that neither “My Love Is Your Love” nor “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” – in my opinion, their best songs – were #1s. Anyway, the real surprises, for me at least, are:

– Paul McCartney/Wings with 9 chart-topping singles. Yeah yeah, he was a Beatle, the emphasis being on was. Paul McCartney without John, George, and Ringo? Blerg.

– Mariah Carey, right below the Fab Four with a total of 18 #1s. Seriously? The second highest chart-topper of the last 50-ish years? That’s quite shocking, and somehow I only know about half of those songs anyway. Hmm.

– And Usher, down at the bottom, but still kickin’ it with 8 #1s. Again, I only know a few of these songs (no, I’m not so much with chart music – what gave it away?) and the only Usher song I really loved back in the day, “You Make Me Wanna”, apparently only made it to Number 2 in 1997.

And what about The King? Billboard does note that a good number of Elvis’ big hits pre-date the Hot 100. Apparently there is some controversy over how many ‘hit’ singles Elvis actually had, but at least 7 of them were No. 1s on the Hot 100 chart, including these classics:

Elvis Presley – A Big Hunk O’ Love (Elvis’ first Hot 100 #1, 1959)
Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds (Elvis’ last Hot 100 #1, 1969)

Those Zany Charts …

I love Halloween. It’s the best holiday ever and you will never get me to think otherwise. In celebration of this most holy day, I bring you my very own Top 10 Spooky Songs list. There’s a whole ton of lists like this out there – just Google “spooky songs” or “scary songs” and you’ll get loads of results – but I didn’t quite agree with any of them. So here’s my own, based on nothing but my own opinion and love of all things spooky and cheesy.

#10 Ray Parker, Jr., “Ghostbusters”
A dumb, dumb song but, here at 100b, we like dumb. Besides, because of this song, no one will ever be able to answer the question “Who ya gonna call?” like a normal person, so you can’t pretend that it hasn’t had an influence on popular culture.

#9 DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Nightmare On My Street”
Sadly, I have no mp3 or video to share for Will Smith’s 80s, ahem, classic “Nightmare On My Street”. Supposedly, there was a video, but it was scrapped when the Nightmare On Elm Street people were unimpressed by the song’s not-so-subtle references to their movies. Listen to the song here.

#8 Tom Petty, “Zombie Zoo”
In a funny coincidence, I put Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever on my iPod just recently, because I always forget I have it and even though I love Tom Petty, I only know a few songs from it. While hanging around, doing our thing, the Tamboosh and I heard “Zombie Zoo” come up on shuffle and, of course, it caught our attention. It being Tom Petty and all, it’s not really about zombies, but it sure it catchy and a zombie zoo (if considered literally, that is) is too great of an image to pass up.

#7 Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “Monster Mash”
Yeah, it’s obvious, but it’s a classic. Plus – did you know that Leon Russell played on “Monster Mash”? Or that the BBC banned it on its original release in 1962 for being ‘too morbid’?! Or that a new version (one of many) called “Monster Rap” was released in 1985 to try and capitalize on the new popularity of rap?!?! (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

#6 Banjo Kate, “Zombie Jamboree”
I don’t know anything about Banjo Kate, or where this version of “Zombie Jamboree” came from (other than the Queens of Noize Folking It Up compilation), but it’s absolutely lovely. And about zombies. Who doesn’t love zombies? In my very quick search about this track, I learned that “Zombie Jamboree” is a pretty old song and has quite an interesting story, go check it out.

#5 The Five Blobs, “The Blob”
So awesome. There’s really nothing else to say. Listen here.

#4 Michael Jackson, “Thriller”
Again – pretty obvious. But there’s dancing zombies. And Vincent Price! This is the ultimate silliness, with a thin layer of cult-y cool. Admit it, you love “Thriller” and its absurdity just makes you love it more.

#3 The Doors, “Riders On The Storm”
Not a spooky song like some of the others on this list, but “Riders On The Storm” creeps me out. It’s all thunderstorms and abandoned dirt roads and perhaps the abandoning of bodies on the side of said roads. Creepy.

#2 The White Stripes, “Red Death At 6:14”
Is it me or does anyone else find the la la la las in this song kind of spooky? It’s like the voice belongs to the ghost of a little girl in pigtails and a pretty pink dress. The whole thing is just weird and vaguely sinister. But in a really good way.

#1 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Red Right Hand”
“Red Right Hand” is, without a doubt, the creepiest song of all time. Nick Cave’s voice is all dark and menacing, the music sounds like the slow, heavy footsteps of a crazed killer. I don’t really get scared easily, but this song might seriously creep me out if I played it alone at night. It’s very threatening and makes the hair on the back on my neck stand up. A Halloween #1 if ever there was one.

Happy Halloween!

Those Zany Charts …

The Power Station

We’ve already looked at the one-hit wonders, but what about the artists that managed to taste sweet success a second time? For the full list go to Spinner.com, but here are some of my favorites of their staff’s selection of two-hit wonders.

Kim Wilde
‘Kids in America’ (No. 25, 1982)
‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ (No. 1, 1986)

Bean recently posted about Kim Wilde’s first hit. The thing I learned from this chart is that you never ever put out a cover if you haven’t had more than one chart topper. It’s the kiss of the death for your musical career, as demonstrated by this Wilde cover of a Supreme’s hit.

Blue Öyster Cult
   “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (No. 12, 1976)
“Burnin’ for You” (No. 40, 1981)

Aw, I love “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, but I’m not so crazy about their second hit. It sounds too much like it should be on a John Hughes movie soundtrack. My favorite Blue Öyster Cult tidbit is that they started the random umlaut craze. Without them there would be no Mötorhead, Mötley Crüe, or Spinal Tap (for some reason my keyboard doesn’t do umlauts on the N. Go figure.). I’m still not sure what the proper pronunciation of the ö is in these cases. Who cares when it’s so visually pleasing.

Golden Earring
“Radar Love” (No. 13, 1974)
“Twilight Zone” (No. 10, 1983)

Ooo oo, I just saw the singer cross the street on my way home the other day! He still looks like the frontman of a two-hit wonder rawk band. That is: leather pants, big shiny earrings, and sunglasses on a cloudy day. It was marvelous. I like “Radar Love”, but living in Amsterdam and the fact that Golden Earring is a Dutch band means you can hear this song every hour on every freaking classic rock radio.

Young MC
   “Bust a Move” (No. 7, 1989)
   “Principal’s Office” (No. 33, 1990)

I’ve been making fun of these bands a little bit until now, because Young MC is flippin’ brilliant and one of these days I’m writing him a proper post, but I thought he had more than two hits? He also wrote BOTH Tone Loc’s hits also in Spinner’s list. So either way, he really does have more than two hits. Spinner asks the question whether that makes him a two-hit wonder God. I say, you’re darn tootin’ it does. Stone Cold Rhymin’ is still one of my favorite records. I had it on tape, but it was gutted and ruïned by a really crappy walkman. That was a sad day. With a bass by the Chilli Pepper’s Flea and Young MC’s dynamite lyrics, his first hit was was destined for greatness, but I LOVE “Principal’s Office” with its adorable rebellious high school student theme.

The Presidents Of The United States Of America
“Lump” (No. 21, 1995)
   “Peaches” (No. 29, 1996)

Ehm, this isn’t right, is it? What about “Mach 5” and “Kitty”? I wonder what charts Spinner uses for its references, because I’m pretty sure they had more than one hit. Anyway, I loved their first album, but didn’t really keep up with them after it. They reformed in 2004 and just released a new album in March.

The Knack
“My Sharona” (No. 1, 1979)
   “Good Girls Don’t” (No. 11, 1979)

My Sharona has a legendary status in my world, but I totally forgot “Good Girls Don’t” was by The Knack. It’s a nice sounding song, but the lyrics are a bit … bewildering. The first verse says:

She’s your adolescent dream
Schoolboy stuff, a sticky sweet romance
And she makes you want to scream
Wishing you could get inside her pants

Combined with the chorus ‘Good Girls don’t, but I do’, it makes for a really rather disturbing song about adolescent lovin’ written by a 26-year-old. And if there’s anything Madonna’s last tour taught us it’s that the words Sticky and Sweet only sound not disgusting when they refer to candy.

Spin Doctors
“Two Princes” (No. 7, 1992)
“Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” (No. 17, 1992)

I associate these two Spin Doctor songs and KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Play That Funky Music White Boy” with all those cheesy cover bands that play weddings, birthdays and bat/bar mitswas. I always get the feeling that these kinda songs have caused many-a embarrassing drunken uncle to tie his tie around his head and bite his lip while he boogies on down with his eyes closed and his fists in the air.

The Power Station
   “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6, 1985)
“Get It On (Bang a Gong)” (No. 9, 1985)

Oh man, “Some Like It Hot” is still one of the hottest songs ever! That crazy choppy beat, Robert Palmer’s sultry voice and the horn section, it all screams giant shoulder pads and making out at office parties with Bob from Accounting. The Power Station was an eighties supergroup with members of Chic, Duran Duran and that guy who married Pamela Des Barres fronted by Robert Palmer. I never heard their version of “Get It On”, but see Kim Wilde if you want to know my views about covers as second singles.

Those Zany Charts…

It’s been quite a long time since we looked at the current singles charts, so this week we’re going to use the BBC Radio 1 Chart Show list and pick on the Top 10.

#10: Biffy Clyro, “Mountains” (YouTube link)

To be honest, I don’t get Biffy Clyro. There’s nothing bad about this, I just don’t understand the total devotion some people have with this band. In any case, they’ve dropped two positions since last week but are still rocking out in the Top 10.

#9: Kid Rock, “All Summer Long”

I’m sort of shocked that this song is doing so well in the UK. It’s also dropped two places but has been in the chart for 11 weeks – erm, all summer long, as it happens. This single sounds particularly American to me, and to tell you the truth, a little bland for Kid Rock, so I’d never have expected it to be such a big hit on this side of the world. I do however, like the use of the “Sweet Home Alabama” riff and choir in the chorus, so it’s got that going for it.

#8: Madcon, “Beggin'” (YouTube link*)

Holy crap – rap from Norway?! Who knew? This is pretty cool, the video’s got a whole 1970s Shaft / Foxy Brown thing going on and the song is ridiculously catchy. I’m curious what else Madcon will bring us now that they’ve broken through to international charts (as far as I can tell, this is their first big hit).

#7: The Script, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” (YouTube link*)

The Tamboosh once told me her theory that groups like this are the boy bands of the 00s. This totally proves her point.

#6: Eric Prydz, “Pjanoo” (YouTube link)

Hmm, dance-type music is one of the few genres I don’t really listen to, so I can’t judge if this is any good or not. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t convert me into a dance/techno (dude, I don’t even know what to call it!) fan, either. What’s up with the tiny Indians?

#5: Rihanna, “Disturbia” (YouTube link*)

I’m usually quite impressed with Rihanna and her willingness not be exactly like every other gorgeous singer out there in Popland. Sadly, this single is kind of a dud for me – it’s not different enough to stand out, like her singles often do, and it’s not catchy enough to make up for it.

#4: The Pussycat Dolls, “When I Grow Up”

Since I don’t get paid for this, you can’t make me listen to the Pussycat Dolls. Seriously, I won’t do it.

#3: Cliff Richard, “Thank You For A Lifetime” (YouTube link)

Oh, dear. I couldn’t skip two in a row, could I? This is pretty much as painful and cringe-worthy as I expected it to be. Please say this is a farewell / retirement song – that might improve it a little.

#2: Katy Perry, “I Kissed A Girl”

I’ve read a lot about Katy Perry but not heard her music until now. This single is apparently very controversial, which I guess should be expected, but it all seems a little silly to me. Though, to be fair, if it wasn’t, it probably wouldn’t be so popular. It’s a decent enough pop song, pretty much what pop should be, in my opinion: catchy, danceable, fun – but let’s face it, it’s no “Umbrella” or “Crazy In Love”.

#1: Kings Of Leon, “Sex On Fire” (YouTube link*)

Ah, the mighty Kings Of Leon at #1, right where they should be. They get a tiny bit more stadium with every release, but that’s not a bad thing, as long as they continue to hang on to that Southern grittiness that made them so great in the first place. This feels more John Cougar Mellencamp than any of their previous singles, but I can get down with that. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really looking forward to Monday’s release of Only By The Night – we can always do with a little more KOL in this world.

And there you have – another week, another totally in-depth chart investigation here at 100b. Until next time…

* Sadly, these YouTube channels won’t allow embedding on these videos. Which, of course, is completely absurd since it’s basically free advertising. What the hell is up with that?! Hrmph.

Those Zany Charts …

American Flag

With the Hoo-Ha! of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions now behind us and the next two months set to be a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish between the Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin campaigns, I got to thinking about presidential campaign theme songs of the past. I’m thinking here about those from 1960 to the present, the era in which television and radio really changed politicking for the Oval Office.

As usual with the Internets, someone has already been there and done that (see Singing Their Way To The White House by Suzanne Baran). However, I thought I might do a quick rundown of the official (or semi-official but widely used) campaign themes songs and see if a few were actual hits.

1960 – John Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon

The Kennedy campaign stumped to “High Hopes” while Nixon pinned his hopes on the painfully titled “Click With Dick” theme. “High Hopes” was the 1959 Academy Award winner for Best Original Song in 1959 and a Frank Sinatra version reached #30 in the Billboard Hot 100. No question in terms of which was going to capture the popular imagination.

1964 – Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater

You can’t go wrong with a campaign song based on the tune of a current hit Broadway musical. Johnson campaigned with “Hello, Lyndon”, a variation of “Hello, Dolly”. During 1964, numerous artists covered the musical’s feature song: Petula Clark, Bobby Darin, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, Marvin Gaye, Benny Goodman, and Frank Sinatra. Louis Armstong even bumped The Beatles off the Billboard Hot 100 #1 spot with his version. How could “Go With Goldwater” possibly compete with that?

   Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!

1972 – George McGovern vs. Richard Nixon

I couldn’t find the Richard Nixon theme for the 1972 campaign, but the ill-fated McGovern politicos went with the beautiful but not terribly energizing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, a Billboard Hot 100 #1 for six weeks in 1970.

1976, 1980, 1984

Jimmy Carter used a song about a Georgia farmer and Gerald Ford used “I’m feeling Good About America”, so we can rush around those. In 1980, Ronald Reagan used “California Here I Come” and, in 1984, used the Springsteen #9 Billboard Hot 100 “Born In The U.S.A.” … until, that is, The Boss told Reagan’s re-election machine to stop.

1988 – George H.W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis

In a burst of backhanded irony from an extremely wealthy candidate, George Herbert Walker Bush used the Woody Guthrie people’s classic, “This Land Is Your Land”, to trounce the tank-driving Michael Dukakis supported by Neil Diamond’s 1981 #8 Billboard Hot 100 hit “America”.

1992 – Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush

No New Taxes came back to bite Pappa Bush in the ass, the land was no longer his, and Bill Clinton couldn’t wait until tomorrow after using Fleetwood Mac’s 15-year-old #3 hit single “Don’t Stop”.

1996-Present

Bob Dole was, of course, a “Dole Man” (think “Soul Man”) in 1996, despite most deciding they weren’t. Then we get into more recent memory. Among a handful of songs, Dubya used Tom Petty’s Billboard Hot 100 #12 “I Won’t Back Down” and Van Halen’s 1992 video classic “Right Now” to counter the decades old BTO hit “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” used by the Gore campaign. Interestingly enough, as if predicting later troubles, Tom Petty apparently threathened to sue the Bush campaign if they didn’t stop using his song and Van Halen added George W. to their “Right Now” video during the 2004 tour along with the words “right now nothing is more expensive than regret.”

   Johnny Cash – I Won’t Back Down

Whatever your musical tastes, if you’re eligible to vote in the November elections, make sure you get out there and make yourself heard! (And if you’re not sure who to vote for, I suggest Obama-Biden.)

Those Zany Charts …

Wet Summer

I was hoping that the sad, sad weather lately was just a passing depression, but it has gone on long enough for me to realize the parade of different shades of grey isn’t going anywhere. I’m trying really hard to hold on to that sunny Summer feeling of earlier in the season with some help from About.com. They have compiled the top ten songs of the Summer from official charts since 2000. You can check out the lists in full here, but I’m just gonna post about the number one songs, because I figured they must have the most potent dose of summery goodness, right?

Well, hold on to your umbrellas folks, because here are the number one songs of the last eight Summers!:

2000

   Aaliyah – Try Again

I have to admit I get a little embarassed whenever I hear this song, because for the longest time I thought the lyrics were ‘if you flush it goes to sea’ instead of ‘if at first you don’t succeed’. I thought it was weird she was singing about where poop goes and I really didn’t understand why you had to ‘dust yourself off and try again’ afterward, but I never thought to look it up. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve made a fool of myself in public, because I loved this song so whenever it came on I sang it loud and oh so proud.

2001

Lifehouse – Hanging By a Moment

Hmph. It doesn’t exactly scream fun in the sun, does it? But it is insanely catchy and stays in your head like a flesh-eating worm.

2002

   Nelly – Hot In Herre

Now that’s more like it! Sadly, Nelly hasn’t dished out as many big contagious instant hits lately. This is a classic, thanks to this song, nobody pronounces the phrase ‘hot in here’ the same again. Even when I try to say it the right way my tongue inevitably lingers a liiittle too long on the ‘rrr’.

2003

   Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z – Crazy In Love

Definitely THE BEST song in this list! It’s the most amazing Summer anthem and it never fails to get my blood boiling. If you’re days have been as dreary as mine this is the ultimate three minute remedy against the cloudy blues.

2004

Usher – Confessions, Pt. II

Man, that’s a lot of drama for a Summer hit. It’s about some guy who knocked up his mistress and has to confess the whole sordid affair to his girlfriend, not exactly the kind of song you think of for your BBQ party mix.

2005

Mariah Carey – We Belong Together

Well, you gotta give it up to Mimi. Before this song blew up – when she was known as “Mariah Scarey” or as I called her “insane” – I was so sure she was going to be just another segment on a ‘Whatever Happened To …’ type show, but she clawed her way back into the pop world’s bossom and it looks like she’s here to stay.

2006

   Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland – Promiscuous

The new more boobalicious Nelly Furtado has been getting some criticism because her videos are steamier and she’s showing more skin than in her “I’m Like A Bird” days. I don’t really give a crap, her music still rocks and compared to some teenybopper pop princesses her videos are damn near demure. She and Timbaland have made superb songs, so it’s no wonder that their combined powers produced gems like these.

2007

Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry

Naaaahh, there is no way … Everybody knows Rihanna and her Umbrella owned the Summer of 2007! And I’m not just saying that because I have a thing against Fergie. It’s hard to explain why I can’t stand her so I won’t bore you with my half-assed explanation, but this can’t be right. Anyhoo, I’m not so sure About.com got their figures straight. That makes me question every other entry as well … Man, I’m so glad I based this whole post on their shoddy data.