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Music

The Week in Number Ones: Kendrick Lamar, Harry Styles, and 'Moulin Rouge' go up

@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. After a brief Covid-heavy hiatus, this column is back and ready to kick off a new summer of mega hits… that is if Harry Styles ever relinquishes his strangelhold over the top spot.

We’re probably still a few days away from seeing it officially land, but does anyone have any early guesses as to how high Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ is going to chart? Thanks to its prominent use in the fourth season of Stranger Things as the song that literally saves main character Max Mayfield’s life from the evil dream spell of main villain Vecna, ‘Running Up That Hill’ is seeing the kind of major pop culture resurgence that could very well land it at a prominent char position. 

The 1985 Hounds of Love cut originally peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart during its original run, but ‘Running Up That Hill’ only managed to reach number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. With its recent surge, the track has already reached number one on iTunes’ download chart, and its major jump in streams could very well translate into notable chart success on either side of the Atlantic.

The resurgence of ‘Running Up That Hill’ is just the most recent example of streaming services largely making traditional concepts like time and place irrelevant for chart success. The fact that ‘Running Up That Hill’ is almost 40 years old won’t stop it from climbing the charts: as long as Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ keeps landing at number one every Christmas, pretty much any song from any era could viably do the same with the proper amount of thrust behind it.

‘Running Up That Hill’ probably doesn’t have enough juice to actually threaten a number one run, but there’s no reason that the intense popularity of Stranger Things couldn’t propel Bush back into the charts. Wherever ‘Running Up That Hill’ lands will be a fascinating case study in modern media crossover success, but in the meantime, let’s all just be happy that more people are discovering the awesomeness of Kate Bush for themselves.

This week, Harry Styles continues to reign supreme, Kendrick Lamar takes a surprising dive off the charts, and we take a deep dive into the songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 on two separate occasions. 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

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Harry’s House. The front door is open, leave your shoes and pants by the door. Yes, Harry Styles’ highly anticipated and wonderfully horny third LP has officially taken over the singles chart, and not just one song at a time like it has in the past few weeks. While ‘As It Was’ continues to dominate the top slot, Styles now has two more tracks rounding out the top three slots with ‘Late Night Talking’ and ‘Music For a Sushi Restaurant’.

Landing all three top spots on the singles chart is a surprisingly rare feat: as of right now, it’s only happened once before when Justin Bieber notched ‘Love Yourself’ (No.1), ‘Sorry’ (No.2) and ‘What Do You Mean?’ (No.3) back in 2016. Acts like The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Shadows, John Lennon, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood all managed to nab the top two chart positions simultaneously, but Bieber and Styles are now occupying a very elite club.

Will ‘Late Night Talking’ and ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant’ stick around for the weeks to come? My guess would be no, considering how their success can probably be tied to being the first two tracks on Harry’s House, which is undoubtedly boosting their streaming numbers.

Would ‘Matilda’ or ‘Boyfriends’ have been top three hits if they were sequenced earlier in the album? Perhaps, but all of Styles’ songs from Harry’s House have at least a solid earworm base, so it’s hard to see any other reason for ‘Late Night Talking’ and ‘Music For a Sushi Restaurant’ to stand out like they do.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of May 27th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘Late Night Talking’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘Music For a Sushi Restaurant’ – Harry Styles
  4. ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
  5. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  6. ‘Space Man’ – Sam Ryder
  7. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  8. ‘IFTK’ – Tion Wayne & La Roux
  9. ‘Bam Bam’ – Camila Cabello ft. Ed Sheeran 
  10. ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran

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

The biggest surprise stateside this week is how little staying power Kendrick Lamar actually had over the course of just seven days. While Lamar landed at least eight songs from Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers in the top 20 last week, a grand total of one of them have stuck around this week. The highest-charting track, ‘N95’, dropped from number five to number 20 in one week’s time, while most of the other charting tracks are now scattered across the mid-to-lower rungs on the Hot 100.

The “massive album release turning into major singles success” story hasn’t been exclusive to Lamar: in fact, Styles is doing the exact same thing right now with four songs in the top ten and seven songs in the top 20 from the recently released Harry’s House. But Styles already had a number one hit in ‘As It Was’ floating around the top of the charts before the release of his LP. Lamar, on the other hand, made major gains for exactly seven days before largely dropping off after the fact.

What kind of conclusions can we cull from this? Are audiences and listeners more flighty than ever before, absorbing content in massive but ultimately fleeting bursts? That’s tempting, but it doesn’t gel with the fact that songs like Glass Animals’ ‘Heat Wave’, which was bumped down to number 12 last week but has returned to number six this week, are making record-setting runs on the Hot 100. It’s probably not genre-based, considering how Lamar’s collaborator Kodak Black is still notching solid streaming numbers for ‘Gremlin’. Why were the Mr. Morale songs so popular for such a small amount of time.

The answers probably aren’t as cut and dry as they appear. Sure, an album as hyped as Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is going to inspire some massive interest, but why wasn’t that interest sustained for it’s individual songs beyond one week? We might need a few more massive album drops to compare and contrast, but then again, Lamar was never the biggest singles chart artist anyway. ‘Humble’ is his only number one (not counting his feature on Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ remix), and Lamar does relatively little to push his songs in that format. Maybe singles just aren’t really for him, and that’s fine, because Lamar’s audience is still pushing them anyway, even if they don’t stick around for very long.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of June 4th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  3. ‘Waiting For You’ – Future ft. Drake & Tems
  4. ‘Late Night Talking’ – Harry Styles
  5. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  6. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  7. ‘Big Energy’ – Latto
  8. ‘Music For a Sushi Restaurant’ – Harry Styles
  9. ‘Matilda’ – Harry Styles
  10. ‘Me Porto Bonito’ – Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Lady Marmalade’ – Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Week of June 2nd, 2001)

In the entire history of the Billboard Hot 100, only nine songs have ever gone to number one twice. It was actually an occurrence that happened at least once every decade from the 1970s to the 2000s, but it has yet to return over the last 20 years. Maybe covers don’t quite have the staying power that they used to, or maybe the integration of samples has made covers moot, but one thing is for sure: it was exceedingly rare for both versions to actually be good.

The very first time a song hit number one twice was in 1971 when Donny Osmond took Steve Lawrence’s schmaltzy and weirdly creepy ‘Go Away Little Girl’ and turned it into a slightly more schmaltzy and slightly more innocent chart-topper. Even though it was written by the legendary songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, ‘Go Away Little Girl’ is definitely one of their poorest efforts, despite somehow managing to hit the number one spot.

Two more 1970s hits revived classic 1960s songs: Grand Funk took a souped-up rock version of Little Eva’s 1962 number one single ‘The Loco-Motion’ to the top in 1974, while The Carpenters turned The Marvelettes’ super-catchy Motown hit ‘Please Mr. Postman’ into a watered-down whitebread number one in 1975. Neither cover was particularly inspired, but neither was particularly offensive either. 

Arguably, the most successful double number one came when British pop trio Bananarama dusted off Shocking Blue’s nonsensical earworm ‘Venus’ for a second trip to the top of the Hot 100. Whether you prefer the garage rock sounds of the original or the synthpop punch of the cover, ‘Venus’ is one of those unkillable crowd-pleasers that can get people moving no matter which version is getting spun.

Motown was a remarkably adaptable song machine, seeing as how Kim Wilde managed to take a second Hitsville, U.S.A. classic back to number one through her cover of The Supremes’ 1966 all-time classic ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ back to the top with a very 1980s version of the track in 1987. Wilde’s version does sound a bit like the opening theme to a Saturday morning cartoon, but it certainly doesn’t do anything to ruin the track.

The same can’t be said for Club Nouveau. Evidently, 1987 was a great year for old-school nostalgia since two different classic tracks returned to number one through covers. Bill Withers’ 1972 hit ‘Lean On Me’ is just simply one of the greatest songs ever written, so any cover is probably going to disappoint. But when Club Nouveau brought an entire army of cheesy synths, clanging percussion, and Jamaican toasting to the track, they almost single-handedly ruined what remains an amazingly simple and straightforward piano ballad. Bigger is not always better, and it took Club Nouveau’s bastardized version of ‘Lean on Me’ to prove it.

The ‘90s saw two more relatively inconsequential returns to number one – the first was the hilariously over-the-top bleating of Michael Bolton taking Percy Sledge’s pleading 1966 epic ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ to number one in 1991, while Mariah Carey got a fun but a fairly flaccid cover of The Jackson 5’s ‘I’ll Be There’ to number one after she performed it at her MTV Unplugged Special in 1992. 

So that’s eight return trips to number one, and the most recent just might be the biggest: the revamped version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack featuring the titanic pairing of Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink. The original LaBelle track is still one of the greatest crossover soul songs of all time, but the infectious melodies and ear-catching harmonies of the track were just waiting to be reworked for a new generation. ‘Lady Marmalade’ would only work in the hands of a master of over-the-top kitsch, and luckily the perfect man arrived in director Baz Luhrmann.

The second version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ is a wonderful confluence of Billboard chart chicanery. Had the song been released a few years prior, it would have been ineligible for inclusion on the Hot 100 due to not being released as a commercially available single (at least at first). The Moulin Rouge! version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ hit number one thanks largely to radio play alone, something had only happened twice before with Aaliyah’s ‘Try Again’ and Shaggy’s ‘Angel’. The Hot 100 also had a checkered history of crediting multiple artists on the same song, something that was resolved by the time the fearsome foursome of Xtina, Kim, Mya, and Pink came through. 

If ‘Lady Marmalade’ were to come out today, there would almost certainly be room for a featured credit for Missy Elliott, who produced the song and provided its engrossing intro. Perhaps the marketing team thought that four names were already pushing things, but Elliott’s distinctive production fingerprints are all over the track, most notably on the cowbell-heavy verse from Lil’ Kim. While the quasi-electronic pulse of the track sounds firmly rooted in the early 2000s, the chemistry between the four main players remains evergreen two decades later.

The Moulin Rouge! version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ remains the last number-one single to take two trips to the top of the chart. It’s still the only number one hit for both Lil’ Kim and Mya. It was the final of four number ones for Aguilera as a lead artist (she nabbed one more through her feature on Maroon 5’s ‘Moves Like Jagger’), but for Pink, ‘Lady Marmalade’ was the first number one of four that she would continue to rack up as her career continued. For all involved, though, ‘Lady Marmalade’ is still one of the most popular tracks in each performer’s respective discographies, showing that some number one songs are too good to have just one trip to the top of the charts.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of June 2nd, 2001):

  1. ‘Lady Marmalade’ – Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink
  2. ‘All For You’ – Janet Jackson
  3. ‘Survivor’ – Destiny’s Child
  4. ‘Hanging By a Moment’ – Lifehouse
  5. ‘Ride Wit Me’ – Nelly ft. City Spud
  6. ‘Follow Me’ – Uncle Cracker
  7. ‘Fiesta’ – R. Kelly ft. Jay-Z
  8. ‘Thank You’ – Dido
  9. ‘Get Ur Freak On’ – Missy Elliott
  10. ‘What Would You Do’ – City High