Friday, June 30, 2023

Milestone! The Decade in Review: The 80s

Alas, the task is complete!
My journey to write about every song to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 1980s has come to an end. Frankly, when I started this I didn't know if I would actually see it through, but the posts became part of my routine and the longer it went on, the more determined I was to complete my mission. I'm happy (and sad) to say that it is over after nearly 11 years and 4,000+ songs later.
When I began, I started to do quick posts. Just some minor blurbs about the songs and I'd usually post two per day. However, the more I got involved and vested, I began to offer more details about the songs and the posts became longer and (hopefully) more informative. It helped that over the years more information became available via internet and books about the artists and songs, which added to my research time. After a while it got to the point where I could only post once a day usually six days a week. It stretched out the time it took to complete the project, but I wasn't sad about that. I was having fun!
My fascination with the Billboard charts began in 1981. While I'm not sure the exact date, I believe it was Saturday, May 23, 1981, that I first tuned into Casey Kasem's American Top 40 radio show. The program aired each Saturday starting at 9:00 am and lasted four hours. At the time I was enamored with "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes and I knew it had already hit #1. I just happened to tune into the show to see if it was still at the top (it was, for a second week). From that point I had to follow the next week to see if the song would remain at #1. It did for five consecutive weeks. Then "Medley" by Stars on 45 stopped Carnes' run. Still, I listed to the show the following week and "Bette Davis Eyes" returned to the #1 spot! Then it became exciting to see how long it might stay on its second run at #1 (four weeks, finally succumbing to Air Supply's "The One That You Love"). Yet as the Carnes tune began to fade, other songs I liked were making their way up the chart and I got in the habit of tuning into AT40 every week. I even went as far as logging all the songs each week in a notebook (sadly long gone during a move ages ago). Then sometime around '82/'83 I saw that the local bookstore carried Billboard magazine. It was $3 at the time and I started to buy it. I remember making sure I had $3 set aside each week to buy the magazine (I couldn't afford the yearly subscription). I couldn't wait to get my hands on it each week! The information, charts, reviews, and especially the "Chart Beat" column that had all the trivia of the week just thrilled me. I kept on buying Billboard through to about '93 or so. That was when I began to lose interest in pop sounds of the day and started to explore artists and genres that wouldn't necessarily be fodder for the Hot 100. I'd still check out the chart on occasion and try to keep up with popular hits. I don't do that as often these days as I absolutely hate the current chart methodology. When all songs from a newly released album are suddenly all on the chart at once, that is just ridiculous. Overnight the artist just added 10+ "hits" to their total. It makes zero sense. They should have just made a new chart with that methodology and left the Hot 100 alone. Ah well. Plus it doesn't help that I'm really not a fan of what is considered popular these days. I'll still listen and at least give them a shot and a few will come along that I like, but for the most part...meh. I guess I finally turned into that old man who shakes their fist and says "turn down that racket - that's not music!"
Still, despite what is popular now it seems that a lot of the younger generation gravitate towards 80s music. They know artists, songs, lyrics, etc. It probably helps that many TV shows like Stranger Things incorporate songs from the decade and that leads the kids to discovering what made 80s music so awesome. My brother once asked me what kind of playlist he could use for a gathering of people of varying ages from teens to 70s. I told him to get a good 80s pop playlist and he would be surprised how many of them will know the songs. He did and he said it was perfect. Everyone was familiar with something and they all had fun with it. That's why I think the 80s more than any other decade of music will truly live on and remain popular. The music was unique, fun, varying, and included everything from country to rap. The decade started out with new wave and synthpop and ended with freestyle and glam rock. It was an exhilarating ride and I loved it all. Still do.
My personal favorite year out of my personal favorite decade of music was 1984. From what I've seen, several other 80s music bloggers agree. There was even a book written about that specific year titled Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year by Michaelangelo Matos. There was just something magical about that year. It was the era of long running #1 albums. Only 5 albums would reach #1 in 1984, the fewest in history. It started off with Thriller finishing its domination with an additional 15 weeks at #1 and ended with Purple Rain dominating for the last 22 weeks of the year. In between, the Footloose soundtrack, Sports by Huey Lewis & the News, and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. would each spend time at the top. Artists like Prince and Springsteen were at their most creative/popular peaks and the singles chart were chock full of gems. It was not a surprise that I rated the most songs a 10 with 19 ('83 was close behind at 16 which I'd rank as my second favorite year). Also, for a good chunk of the year I owned nearly all the Top 10 singles. It was a crazy, wonderful year.
Will all that blah-blah out of the way, here are some fun and interesting (hopefully) stats and info from the decade and from my entries.
In all, I posted entries for 4,149 songs. However, the actual total of new songs to make the Pop chart for the first time in the 80s was 4,124. That is because there were 23 singles that initially charted, fell off, and then re-charted at another point in the decade. In addition, there were two hits from the early 60s that re-charted in the 80s (The Contours' "Do You Love Me" and Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"). 

Here is what Billboard listed as the Top 10 Pop singles of the 80s:

 1. "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John (1981/82, 10 weeks at #1)
 2. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes (1981, 9 weeks at #1) 
 3. "Endless Love" by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981, 9 weeks at #1)
 4. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor (1982, 6 weeks at #1)
 5. "Every Breath You Take" by The Police (1983, 8 weeks at #1)
 6. "Flashdance...What a Feeling" by Irene Cara (1983, 6 weeks at #1)
 7. "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen (1980, 3 weeks at #1)
 8. "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (1983, 6 weeks at #1)
 9. "Call Me" by Blondie (1980, 6 weeks at #1)
10. "Lady" by Kenny Rogers (1980, 6 weeks at #1)

And now my Top 10 favorites chart hits of the decade. Note that this list could change in an instant depending on mood or whatever else I may be listening to at any given time. Regardless of order or what I may subtract/add, these were certainly highlights for me and songs that I think are brilliant and I'll always have in rotation. I kept the list to one song per artist.

 1. "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush
 2. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
 3. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes
 4. "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones
 5. "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins
 6. "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" by Daryl Hall & John Oates
 7. "Small Town" by John Cougar Mellencamp
 8. "When Doves Cry" by Prince
 9. "With or Without You" by U2
10. "Would I Lie to You?" by Eurythmics

Of course where there is good there is usually bad and the 80s had its share of stinkers. It is easy to pick on novelty tunes, oddball tracks by celebrities, or charity/specialty singles, so I wanted to keep the list to legit, popular artists who let off some stink bombs. Here then are what I'd like to list as my 10 least favorites of the decade (oddly, all but two were cover tunes).

 1. "I Saw Him Standing There" by Tiffany
 2. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Michael Bolton
 3. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)" by New Kids on the Block
 4. "Bread and Butter" by Robert John
 5. "Party All the Time" by Eddie Murphy
 6. "Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau
 7. "Still Cruisin'" by The Beach Boys
 8. "Case of You" by Frank Stallone
 9. "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson
Other chart stats (note that these stats are based on my project, which was to cover all the songs that debuted on a chart in the 80s, therefore lingering songs that debuted in 1979 but were still on the chart in 1980 were not considered):

Most weeks at #1:  "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John - 10 weeks
Most weeks on the chart:  "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell - 43 weeks

Number of songs to debut on the Pop chart in the 80s and get to #1:  230
Number of songs to debut on the Pop chart in the 80s and reach the Top 10 (excluding #1s): 741

Artist with the most #1 hits that debuted the Pop chart in the 80s:  Michael Jackson - 8 (7 solo, 1 with Paul McCartney)*
*Just looking at all the songs to reach #1 in the 80s, Jackson actually had 9 #1s in the 80s, but the first one, "Rock with You," debut on a chart in 1979. So for my stats, that one would not count. One could also argue that George Michael and Phil Collins also had 8 #1s each. However, those totals would include #1 hits with their groups (Wham! / Genesis). Most lists keep a distinct line between being listed as a lead solo artist and being part of a group. I get that. I may not fully agree with it, but I get it.

Artist with the most Top 10 hits that debuted the Pop chart in the 80s (including #1s):  Madonna - 17

Artist with the most songs that debuted the Pop chart in the 80s:  Prince -25**
**If including his singles with Genesis, Phil Collins actually had the most with 30. 
Number of singles to go gold: 308
Number to reach platinum: 56 (Tone Lōc's "Wild Thing" went 2x platinum, USA for Africa's "We Are the World" reached 4x platinum) 

Artist with the most gold/platinum singles:  (tie) Madonna and Phil Collins - 8

Song to debut highest on the chart:  #20 - "Thriller" by Michael Jackson (peaked at #4).
Lowest debut:  Five songs debuted at #100 with only one, "That's When I Think of You" by 1927, spending only one week on the chart.

Longest climb to peak position:  "The Lover in Me" by Sheena Easton debuted at #99 and climbed 97 spots to peak at #2.

Longest trip to #1 on a single's first run:  22 weeks for "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis
Longest trip to #1 for a single that initially peaked, fell of the chart, then re-entered:  A combined 25 weeks for "Red, Red Wine" by UB40

Quickest trip to #1:  4 weeks for "We Are the World" by USA for Africa

Average number of weeks for a song to be on the chart:  13

Position on the chart where the most songs debuted: 90 (270 songs)

Longest song title:  "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" by The Star Wars Intergalactic Droid Choir and Chorale (note that I excluded "Medley" by Stars on 45, which because of US requirement had to have each song in the medley listed in the title, so at 41 words it would be the longest, however elsewhere it was simply known as "Stars on 45," so I chose to list the longest singular title for a full song.)
Shortest song title: (tie) "Go" by Asia, "17" by Rick James, and "19" by Paul Hardcastle
Biggest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s - artists that reached #1 in the 80s, yet never had another single make the Pop chart:
Bobby McFerrin - reached #1 with "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Sheriff - reached #1 with "When I'm with You" (the song charted twice - reached #1 on its second run)
Number of songs rated 10:  108
Number of songs rated 1:  23
Number of songs rated 0:  6
Rating used most often:  7 - 976 given that rating
Average rating for all songs in the 80s:  6.24
Year that had the highest average rating:  1984 - 6.4
Year that had the lowest average rating:  1980 - 5.7
Year that had the most amount of songs debut on the chart:  1980 - 452
Year that had the least amount of songs debut on the chart:  1988 -385

Lowest peaking song that I rated a 10:  "Like Flames" by Berlin - peaked at #82
Highest peaking song that I rated a 0:  "I Saw Him Standing There" by Tiffany - peaked at #7

Artist that had the highest average rating:  Eurythmics averaged an 8.06 rating out of 15 chart entries (from artist that had at least 10 songs reach the chart)
 Artist that had the most songs rated a 10:  U2 with 4
 Artist that had the most songs rated 1 or zero:  New Kids on the Block with 3
Project time - how long it took to cover/post all songs:  10 years, 9 months, 11 days

According to the Blogger stats, here are the 10 most viewed pages/songs from the project (save for "King of the Hill" and maybe "Ewok Celebration," I'm not sure why the others were the most accessed pages):

 1.  "Urgent" by Foreigner
 2.  "Somebody" by Bryan Adams
 3.  "High School Nights" by Dave Edmunds
 4.  "She Loves My Car" by Ronnie Milsap
 5.  "Ballerina Girl" by Lionel Richie
 6.  "First Be a Woman" by Lenore O'Malley
 7.  "King of the Hill" by Rick Pinette and Oak
 8.  "Ewok Celebration" by Meco
 9.  "I Want You So Bad" by Heart
10.  "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp

That's all folks! Perhaps I'll see you in another decade!