Sunday, November 09, 2014

BACK IN THE DAY: Retro Rewind in the Q4 Time Machine

Those of you who know me know I'm a bit of a Chart Nerd. Today, in the vein of a Back In The Day meets my old What's Going On columns of yore, we're going to take a trip in the DeLorean (if you don't get that reference, you're too young for me) and see how music (and the Hot 100) has changed in the past twenty years. Let me know what you think of this format in the comments -- I'm really enjoying it.

1994 - Dance Hits & True R&B Strength

10. Craig Mack - "Flava In Your Ear"
9. Janet Jackson - "You Want This / 70's Love Groove"
8. Immature - "Never Lie"
7. Brandy - "I Wanna Be Down"
6. Madonna - "Secret"
5. Bon Jovi - "Always"
4. Real McCoy - "Another Night"
3. Sheryl Crow - "All I Wanna Do"
2. Ini Kamoze - "Here Comes the Hotstepper"
1. Boyz II Men - "I'll Make Love To You"

Twenty years should feel like an eon ago, but when you also followup that statement with the year 1994, it's pretty hard to believe the two equate to the same thing. I was seven years old and there was so much fantastic dancey R&B on the radio. Janet Jackson's iconic janet. album, now 21 years old and among the first I ever bought, continued to spawn hits, "You Want This" being one of the lesser remembered among the era of "If" and "Again". Brandy burst onto the scene with her first song ever, "I Wanna Be Down". Boyz II Men were slaying everyone with yet another beautiful, timeless ballad.

In the midst of this, Sheryl Crow was also in the midst of making her first mark on the industry, promoting "All I Wanna Do" off her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club. Heavyweights Madonna and Bon Jovi were releasing ace ballads that would continue to hold up through the test of time. 

Remember Real McCoy? "Another Night" was the namesake for their debut album for this German dance group and also contained radio staples in "Come And Get Your Love" and "Run Away". 

1999 - Pop Staples

10. Len - Steal My Sunshine
9. Jessica Simpson - I Wanna Love You Forever
8. Whitney Houston - My Love Is Your Love
7. TLC - Unpretty
6. Puff Daddy - Satisfy You (feat. R. Kelly)
5. Mariah Carey - Heartbreaker (feat. Jay-Z)
4. Marc Anthony - I Need To Know
3. Lou Bega - Mambo #5 (A Little Bit Of...)
2. Brian McKnight - Back At One
1. Santana - Smooth (feat. Rob Thomas)

Ahhh, 1999. It was the time most pop afficionados recall to be the last big music boom -- CDs were still being purchased (and in mass quantities), MP3s were still a somewhat foriegn concept, and there was a new teenaged popstar being hustled out to the masses every week. As for me, I was in the seventh grade and the key demographic for the teen pop fluff that was so utterly popular during this time.

The Top 10 contained not one but two "one hit wonders" (Len, Lou Bega), although many would be keen to also toss Marc Anthony into that fold (at least in terms of his mainstream catalog). America was knee-deep in the 'Latin Explosion' as it was dubbed with Anthony's debut English song, the dancey "Mambo #5" (although it should be said that Lou Bega is actually German), and the iconic Santana and Rob Thomas keeping it "Smooth" at #1.

Familiar heavyweights abounded. Mariah Carey sexed it up with "Heartbreaker" (with Jay-Z by her side -- pre-Beyonce and pre-mainstream acceptance and embrace, it would be ten more years before Miley Cyrus is name checking him in her own hit). Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" was written by Wyclef Jean, produced by Darkchild, and was from arguably her last great effort in the album of the same name. TLC's "Unpretty" was off the heels of the groundbreaking "No Scrubs". "Back At One" was essentially Brian McKnight's final "big" hit despite making an indelible mark on mainstream R&B (and many mainstream male pop artists including Justin Timberlake).  And Diddy (back then known as Puff Daddy) was the biggest rapper in the game.

The Teen Pop I was so partial to is also present here. While Christina Aguilera's debut "Genie In A Bottle" and Britney Spears' early hit "(You Drive Me) Crazy" would land just outside the Top 10 at this point in time, the Bronze Blonde Bombshell -- Jessica Simpson -- tried her hand with her debut single "I Wanna Love You Forever". It wouldn't be for a few more albums (and a reality show where she confuses chicken with tuna) that she'd really gain a footing from outside the two aforementioned's shadow.

2004 - Party Rap is King

10. Eminem - "Just Lose It"
9. Ja Rule - "Wonderful (feat. R. Kelly & Ashanti)"
8. Trick Daddy - "Let's Go (feat. Lil Jon & Twista)"
7. Maroon 5 - "She Will Be Loved"
6. Kelly Clarkson - "Breakaway"
5. Ciara - "Goodies (feat. Petey Pablo)"
4. Nelly - "Over & Over (feat. Tim McGraw)"
3. Destiny's Child - "Lose My Breath"
2. Snoop Dogg - "Drop It Like Its Hot (feat. Pharrell)"
1. Usher - "My Boo (feat. Alicia Keys)"

By 2004, it was clear that the majority of mainstream hip hop was no longer about talking about real world issues but more about making you dance (while using choice vocabulary). At this time in 2004, I had entered my senior year of high school.

Much of the "hip hop" (term used loosely, I suppose) that littered the top ten was at the hands of familiar faces. Undoubtedly, the three biggest artists of the time were Eminem, Ja Rule and Nelly -- all three having huge successful runs despite their styles of rap being starkly different. "Drop It Like Its Hot" marked the true "return" of OG Snoop Dogg and the world was officially introduced to a young Pharrell Williams who showed us "these ice creams" with a rap verse in this now iconic jam that was produced by his production group The Neptunes. Who would have thought ten years later we'd all be jamming to him singing instead on G I R L?

I remember giving Nelly a lot of props for "Over and Over", a departure from his usual works that featured country star Tim McGraw. The song received mixed reviews, mostly because Nelly himself was singing (interesting juxtaposition when you compare him to Pharrell -- the difference being Pharrell can really sing). Nelly tried to replicate this weird bit of magic somewhat recently when he jumped on a remix of Florida Georgia Line's breakthrough hit "Cruise".

Trick Daddy's "Let's Go" was a dark horse and mostly gained spins due to its heavy reliance on the Ozzy Osbourne song it sampled ("Crazy Train"). You might recall this was during the height of fame for The Osbournes reality show on MTV.

Maroon 5 and Ciara were rookies back then, both promoting their debut albums. Meanwhile, Destiny's Child returned to the game as a trio following Beyonce's runaway solo success with her Dangerously In Love album. The Usher and Alicia Keys duet was a tacked on addition to his brilliant and ridiculously successful Confessions album, that drew comparisons to Michael Jackson for the amount of hit singles it spawned.

2009 - Girl Power + The Rise of Production Houses

10. Beyonce - "Sweet Dreams"
9. Rihanna - "Russian Roulette"
8. Britney Spears - "3"
7. Lady Gaga - "Paparazzi"
6. Miley Cyrus - "Party In The U.S.A."
5. Jay Sean - "Down (feat. Lil Wayne)"
4. Iyaz - "Replay"
3. Jason DeRulo - "Whatcha Say"
2. Jay-Z & Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind"
1. Owl City - "Fireflies"

2009 marked the end of one era for me and the beginning of another. I had graduated from college that May and my one year anniversary of living in New York City was looming. This blog was also celebrating its one year anniversary!

Clearly its true what they say about trends coming back into vogue every ten years -- while 2009 wasn't quite as utterly poppy as 1999 turned out to be, it didn't do too badly for itself. Half of the songs in the Top 10 were by female pop powerhouse brands that continue to have hits (although in some cases, more minor ones) to this day.

Following the Pre-Grammy Fight Heard Round The World, "Russian Roulette" marked the beginning of a darker, tougher Rihanna and the true beginning of her image change post-Good Girl Gone Bad that made her a star. Lady Gaga was still spinning hits from her debut set while Miley Cyrus made one last big pop bow (with a song co-written by a pre-fame Jessie J) before making twerking a word on everyone's lips. Interesting that she sings "And a Britney song was on!" as Britney sits just below her at #8.

It was also the era of the Franchise Producer. While Max Martin and the Cheiron gang were carrying the torch with Britney's "3" (and Martin continues to to this day), 2009 saw the rise of RedOne ("Paparazzi"), Dr. Luke ("Party In The U.S.A.") and Beluga Heights/J.R Rotem ("Replay", "Whatcha Say"). 

2014 - International, Multi-Genre Mainstream

10. Hozier - "Take Me To Church"
9. Ed Sheeran - "Don't"
8. Bobby Shmurda - "Hot Boy"
7. Jeremih - "Don't Tell 'Em (feat. YG)"
6. Iggy Azalea - "Black Widow (feat. Rita Ora)"
5. Jessie J - "Bang Bang (feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj)"
4. Maroon 5 - "Animals"
3. Tove Lo - "Habits (Stay High)"
2. Megan Trainer - "All About That Bass"
1. Taylor Swift - "Shake It Off"

While it's arguable that 2009 marked a true pop boom, the scales in 2014's mainstream pop music landscape have shifted to be a party where everyone's invited. The current Top 10 can be noted for relying more on the ladies. It features five female popstars (Rita Ora, Jessie J, Tove Lo, Megan Trainor, and arguably Taylor Swift) and a teen pop starlet (Ariana Grande), along with not one but two female rappers, undoubtedly the two biggest in the game for this current generation (Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea).

In addition to being female heavy, the current American landscape is wrought with international acts taking up the majority of the space. Irish alt-rocker Hozier, Brits Ed Sheeran and the aforementioned Jessie J, Australian Iggy Azalea, and Swedish pop-upstart Tove Lo account for almost half of the artists represented.

Maroon 5 who appear here at #4 remain to be the only act that also had relevancy not just five years ago but ten years ago. Five of the acts in the current Top 10 can be considered "rookies", promoting songs on their debut album (Hozier, Bobby Shmurda, Tove Lo, Megan Trainer, and Iggy Azalea).

While still relevant five years ago, it's unclear to tell when was the true Era of Taylor Swift -- her record-breaking sales have always been impressive since her rise with "Teardrops On My Guitar" all those years ago. Her change-over to pop should be nothing new, she's been emulating Shania Twain long before Red hit shelves. "Shake It Off" is an interesting jam because not only does she poke fun at herself (for once) which I respect, it also has shades of Toni Basil's "Hey Mickey" (and Rihanna's "Umbrella").

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