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Music

The Week in Number Ones: Jack Harlow, Lil Baby, and The Black Eyed Peas hit

@TylerGolsen

Welcome back to The Week in Number Ones, where all the biggest movers from the US and UK charts get condensed into one article. Last week, trekked the global domination that Harry Styles mustered up thanks to his new single ‘As It Was’ and did what some might call a completely unnecessary but thorough deep dive on when a bagpipe rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ was both a number one song in the UK and a top ten hit around the world.

Over on the album charts this week, newly minted indie queens Wet Leg have crossed all the way over by landing their self-titled debut album at number one on the UK album charts. This complete flies in the face of a claim I made in last week’s article, where I said that Wet Leg “wasn’t a mainstream potboiler.” Shows what I know. 

In fact, the top three albums are all new rock-centred releases, with Father John Misty’s Chloe and the Next 20th Century landing at number two and Jack White’s Fear of the Dawn settling in at number three. White will have another opportunity to land a number one album this year when Entering Heaven Alive drops in July. It wasn’t his fault that this particular weekend was stacked for album releases.

Luckily for the general public, all three of those albums are solid listening experiences. If you want some immediate excitement, I would recommend Wet Leg. Feeling a little more lush and serene (and possibly horny?), then go with Father John Misty. How about aggression and experimental guitar rock? In that case, Jack White is your guy. Whatever you choose, it’s hard to go wrong with this particular list.

This week, we catch up with rambunctious white boy rapper Jack Harlow as his new track ‘First Class’ lands at the top of the charts, try to get a hold of the Lil Baby phenomenon with his two new chart hits, and cash in all of our Black Eyed Peas stock as they go on an unprecedented late 2000s run. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles

Another week of dominance for Britain’s favourite son Harry Styles. ‘As It Was’ represents the first taste of what’s to come from Harry’s House, Styles’ third solo album, and it appears as though the British public are taking to it kindly. But Styles got some stiff competition from America’s current favourite white rapper not named Eminem, Jack Harlow.

Even if you couldn’t recognise the guy on the street, chances are good you’ve heard Jack Harlow rap somewhere. He’s already got a number one song in America, thanks to his Lil Nas X collaboration ‘Industry Baby’, and now he has his highest-charting UK hit with the solo smash ‘First Class’. 

Harlow is everything you’d want from a white guy in a predominantly Black genre: he’s reverential to the right people, self-aware enough to crack some jokes, but also skilled enough to hold his own. Harlow could easily be knocked down as a novelty, but his songs are catchy enough to transcend some of his more obvious flaws.

‘First Class’ is the exact same: catchy, relatively basic, complete with a solid hook and some non-embarrassing rapping. Harlow extends his persona as a good hang into his latest hit, and his crowds are growing exponentially, so much so that he was able to topple Styles and grab his first solo number one in America with ‘First Class’. He wasn’t quite able to blast past on Harry’s home turf, but the fact that he even challenged Styles is a sign of things to come from the 24-year-old rapper.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of April 20th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  3. ‘Starlight’ – Dave
  4. ‘Baby’ – Aitch/Ashanti
  5. ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
  6. ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
  7. ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
  8. ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy
  9. ‘Bam Bam’ – Camila Cabello ft. Ed Sheeran 
  10. ‘Where Did You Go’ – Jax Jones ft. MNEK

Current US Number One: ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow

Poor Harry Styles, another victim of the fickle nature that is the American pop music landscape. Styles’ ‘As It Was’ couldn’t hold on to the number one spot for more than a week, getting knocked down by the power that is Jack Harlow. Now all our former One Direction singer has to his name is a current number two song, a Coachella headlining gig, and one of the year’s most hotly anticipated albums. These really are trying times for our boy Harry.

Maybe I should have used this section of the article to talk about Jack Harlow, considering how he’s actually at number one in America and not the UK, but we’ve already gone through ‘First Class’ enough. Similarly, the rest of the top ten have been hanging around for ages: Glass Animals, The Kid Laroi, Kodak Black, Justin Bieber. We’ve talked about those acts plenty, so let’s step slightly outside the top ten and check out what’s going on with Lil Baby.

If you’re not as up to date on the differences between similarly named American rappers, rest assured this is not DaBaby, who has been fighting an uphill battle to stop saying and doing idiotic things. No, this is Lil Baby, the Alpha of the two-man Baby Brigade. 

Earlier this year, Lil Baby just missed out on nabbing his first number one single when his collaboration with Nicki Minaj, ‘Do We Have a Problem?’, stalled out at number two. He previously came close when the Drake collaborations ‘Wants and Needs’ and ‘Girls Want Girls’ also topped out at number two, having been stiff-armed by Encanto’s ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’, and Drake’s own songs ‘Way 2 Sexy’ and ‘What’s Next’, respectively.

Lil Baby is a legitimate phenomenon, with number one albums and a massive fanbase behind him. But for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to grab that elusive number one single. This week, he’s got two tracks hanging just outside the top ten: ‘Right On’ sits at number 13 while ‘In a Minute’ hangs at number 14. Maybe these two tracks could be Lil Baby’s breakthrough to number one, but considering how unchanged most of the top ten has been recently, I wouldn’t put my money on it. One day, Lil Baby, but not today.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of April 23rd, 2022):

  1. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  2. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  4. ‘Big Energy’ – Latto
  5. ‘Enemy’ – Imagine Dragons X JID
  6. ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
  7. ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
  8. ‘Woman’ – Doja Cat
  9. ‘Ghost’ – Justin Bieber
  10. ‘That’s What I Want’ – Lil Nas X

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Boom Boom Pow’ – The Black Eyed Peas (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Week of April 18th, 2009)

Back in 2019, a legitimate cultural phenomenon surrounded the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in decades. That’s because Lil Nas X was making a run. Not just any run: a historic run that knocked cultural heavyweights like Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber out of the history books. When ‘Old Town Road’ spent a record 19 weeks at number one, it became one of the biggest music stories of the entire year. And yet, I would argue that The Black Eyed Peas beat Lil Nas X at his own game a decade prior.

OK, so ‘Boom Boom Pow’ and ‘I Gotta Feeling’ aren’t the same song. Technically. But they both serve the exact same function: giving kids and teenagers the brightest, shiniest, and most candy-coated pop hooks that were ever created in whatever lab will.i.am haunts. In the summer of 2009, The Black Eyed Peas were so culturally relevant and so inescapable that it almost seemed as though they would never leave the charts.

First, let’s rewind a bit. The Black Eyed Peas were formed in 1995 as a socially-conscious hip hop group featuring three rappers and hook singer Kim Hill. By 2000, the group were reduced to just its three male rappers and had a relatively solid standing within the world of hip hop. But that wasn’t enough: they wanted to be massive pop stars.

So the trio recruited new vocalist Stacy Ferguson and changed their sound to include the biggest earworms that they could muster up. Introspective lyrics and atypical beats were shunned in favour of party vibes and mainstream slickness. It was a pure sell out, but done so purposefully that it was hard to even be mad at. The Black Eyed Peas were aiming straight for the top, and it didn’t take them very long to get there.

Granted, they had to get over some cringe-inducing mid-2000s barriers, like re-recording some of their songs in Simlish and changing one of their biggest hits so that they didn’t have to be the band that said ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ on the radio. But they eventually figured it out, and after the success of 2005’s Monkey Business, The Black Eyed Peas honed in on what would take them to the top of the pop music mountain: big, dumb, shiny pop music.

2009’s The E.N.D. is not a good album. It’s a strange blend of pop, rap, and electronica that sounds incredibly dated in every way, from its production to its lyrical references. It was already out of date when Fergie rapped “You’re so 2008” on one of the album’s two biggest songs, but none of that mattered. When you have the gigantic one-two punch of ‘Boom Boom Pow’ and ‘I’ve Gotta Feeling’, nothing else matters.

Few listeners would have been surprised when ‘Boom Boom Pow’ hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during the week of April 18th. But then it hung around; not just for weeks, but for months. Three months later, literally any other song would have been a welcomed respite from ‘Boom Boom Pow’-mania. Little did we know that the follow up would be ‘I’ve Gotta Feeling’, with America deciding to double down on their love for The Black Eyed Peas.

All told, ‘Boom Boom Pow’ and ‘I’ve Gotta Feeling’ gave The Black Eyed Peas 26 consecutive weeks at number one. From April to October, seven full months out of the year 2009, The Black Eyed Peas had the biggest song in America. Unsurprisingly, that’s a record that has yet to be broken. I can attest: I was eleven years old, which was the perfect target audience for The Black Eyed Peas. Every gym class you went to, every parent’s car you got into, and every supermarket you walked through the doors of was playing The Black Eyed Peas.

Occasionally, I have nightmares about this column. Not actual nightmares, but anxieties that play out from the staleness that can often come from chart-watching. Lots of songs and artists make long runs, and finding new ways to talk about them can be boring for both the reader and the writer. But if I had been attempting to get this column off the ground during the summer of 2009, I would have probably quit not only my attempt but my entire job as a music journalist. The Black Eyed Peas should be applauded for beating the charts in the same way that Elon Musk should be applauded for beating capitalism, but the truth is that living through both can be its own special kind of Hell.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of April 18th, 2009):

  1. ‘Boom Boom Pow’ – The Black Eyed Peas
  2. ‘Poker Face’ – Lady Gaga
  3. ‘Right Round’ – Flo Rida
  4. ‘Kiss Me Thru the Phone’ – Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em ft. Sammie
  5. ‘Blame It’ – Jamie Foxx ft. T-Pain
  6. ‘Dead and Gone’ – T.I. ft. Justin Timberlake
  7. ‘Day ‘N’ Nite’ – Kid Cudi
  8. ‘Gives You Hell’ – The All-American Rejects
  9. ‘You Found Me’ – The Fray
  10. ‘The Climb’ – Miley Cyrus