Tag Archives: Lists

Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1977

A milestone: this post is hourglass-shaped. The Hague nominees and great ones cancel each other out. As decades approach their ends, tendencies get more pronounced, underscored. Fucking around on your spouse because growing mutton chops is an entitlement was a trope during the Ford years, and, alas, it wasn’t just David Soul and Leo Sayer responding: “Torn Between Two Lovers” at least expresses a semi-healthy statement about making do with infidelity. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles. U.S. edition: 1988

As kind as a hambone, as beholden to several generations of bluesmiths, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” boasted a guitar sound and, better, a vocal yarl that reduced 1988’s pop metal contendahs into warm mayo. Good music should sound like it could pummel you at any moment; Guns N’ Roses’ only #1 did it several times. The single is a rush over the abyss. “One More Try” is the abyss. The gay “Maggie Mae” still gives up no secrets, so committed are the organ and percussion preset to keeping a groove. As a follow-up to “Father Figure,” George Michael may not have sensed the thematic similarities. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1987

“Inspirational” books are like fire blankets, and songs that present themselves as anthems first often fail: no one likes coercion or false cheer, the latter a kind of cultural conformity; but when I listen to Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” and tuneful nonsense like Belinda Carlisle’s” Heaven is a Place on Earth” they work strange magic on me. They inspire me. I want to do things. I am my best self. Likening the hunt as a species of eros as all-encompassing in its capacity to tickle our glands as a successful relationship, “Open Your Heart” is Madonna at her tuffest and most feral. To treat an awesome boyfriend as a numinous experience is the triumph of Belinda Carlisle’s only #1. The relationship doesn’t even blind her to life around her, like, for example, the sound of kids on the street outside; the relationship awakens her senses and capacity to empathize. Continue reading

Ranking #1 songs, U.S. edition: 1986

At last we’ve reached the point when I’ve got a buncha tunes in each category, and, I must say, “West End Girls” rules this list even if I weren’t a partisan: cool, sleek, terse, keeping its secrets to itself. I’d say the spring #1s are the coolest of my life until that point: how else explain “Kiss,” “Rock Me Amadeus,” and “Addicted to Love”? And ‘coolness’ wasn’t an abstract virtue either, for “Venus” hit #1, a remake fit to be sung with the chorus PENIS WAS HIS NAME if you were of grade school age. Peter Gabriel, writing a similarly impassioned number, needed allowances too. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1980

Had Billy Joel written his first #1 single with a decade’s hindsight, he might’ve mentioned “adult contemporary” in the list of things that are still rock and roll to him; given his preference for long vowel sounds and the use of the pissed-off millionaire voice, he might’ve squeezed the polysyllabic term into his verse with nary a rumple on its tight, starched sheets. Programmers, bored, lost interest in disco, replacing those songs with sedatives like “Lady” and “Babe” and “Reunited.” Given the circumstances I appreciate Captain & Tennille’s obsession with fucking each other, and it makes the chest-beating callowness of “Heartache Tonight” look especially bad. Continue reading

Ranking #27 singles, U.S. edition: 1991-1996

Profane, prolix, joyous, “Juicy” is everything I want from hip-hop. Few songs of any era capture the thrill of making it, the self-consciousness of making it, and not giving a fuck anyway (“Stereotypes of a Black male misunderstood/huh/and it’s still all good.” My favorite D’Angelo track from my favorite D’Angelo album is its only match. The white dudes on this list look desperate when they’re not gross down to their chromosomes. Michael Bolton’s “Can I Touch You…There?,” complete with ellipsis he paid an extra 3K for, Bon Jovi as Pepe le Pew in “In These Arms,” and, gad, the aptly named Deadeye Dick stapling the lines “She don’t eat meat/But she sure like the bone” to a decent riff (for better, see: Cracker’s “Eurotrash Girl”) — these are efforts that bring on Kierkegaard’s fear and trembling. Continue reading