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The Week in Number Ones: Lizzo, Steve Lacy, and Jim Croce climb the charts

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, we gave some love to Burna Boy and his jam ‘Last Last’ (President Obama is a fan too), got a little premature about Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ reaching ‘Old Town Road’-level heights, and went back in time to revisit The Rolling Stones’ first American number one with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.

While I’m writing this on Wednesday, today marks the 35th anniversary of Rick Astley’s unkillable number one, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. Sadly, the song hit number in August 1987 in the UK and March 1988 in the US, making it ineligible for this week’s column. But you bet your ass that I’m still going to be talking about it.

As the highest selling single in the UK in 1987, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ was a legitimate phenomenon, solidifying the sounds of high energy (if not precisely HI-NRG) pop music as the cutting edge. It was the peak for Astley as a contemporary pop star, even though it was only his debut single, and was also the peak for production team Stock Aitken Waterman, the architects behind hits like Mel and Kim’s ‘Respectable’ and Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’.

Astley kept producing hits in the UK throughout the late 1980s and early ’90s before retiring at the incredibly young age of 27 to raise his daughter. He staged a relatively modest comeback in the early 2000s, just as a strange new phenomenon was taking over the internet. Rickrolling coincided with the rise of YouTube, providing Astley with a strange new second life as one of the first online phenomenons.

By this point, Astley has taken a full 15 years of strange internet cultural obsession with class and dignity in ways that few other stars have. All the while, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ went from genuine hit to ironic punchline to meme to once again being a beloved song. It’s a story unlike any other in pop music, and after 35 years, it’s the rest of the world that has never truly given up on Rick Astley, not the other way around.

This week, we give a shout-out to the major moves being taken by Steve Lacy, celebrate the return of Lizzo to the top of the charts, and take a deep dive into Jim Croce’s only song to top the charts during his lifetime. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘Afraid to Feel’ – LF System

In terms of top ten chart news, Burna Boy is the biggest mover this week. The Nigerian reggae pop singer managed to leap up to number four with his infectious and Obama-approved single ‘Last Last’. It wasn’t enough to unseat the rigid top three of LF System, Harry Styles, and George Ezra, but it’s still a major accomplishment for the artist.

Since the rest of the top ten hasn’t really changed all that much since last week, let’s look a little further down the chart at number 25. Right between Doja Cat’s Elvis soundtrack contribution ‘Vegas’ and Metallica’s Stranger Things-boosted ‘Master of Puppets’ sits Steve Lacy, the eclectic singer/guitarist whose ‘Bad Habit’ leapt up 44 spots this week.

Lacy is probably best known as the guitarist for the American alternative band The Internet, but he also has two awesome studio albums under his belt as well. 2019’s Apollo XXI was Grammy nominated for all the right reasons, and this year’s Gemini Rights is another awesome wonky blast of R&B, pop, jazz, hip hop, rock, and whatever else Lacy is feeling at any given moment.

‘Bad Habit’ sits somewhere between the pop and R&B genres. It’s already reached number one in Canada and Ireland, along with its current placement at number 14 in the US, so ‘Bad Habits’ is a certified hit. Now the Brits are catching on to the song as well and its blurry blend of old-school synths and barbershop harmonies.

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

  1. ‘Afraid to Feel’ – LF System
  2. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘Green Green Grass’ – George Ezra
  4. ‘Last Last’ – Burna Boy
  5. ‘Break My Soul’ – Beyoncé
  6. ‘Crazy What Love Can Do’ – David Guetta/Hill/Henderson
  7. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  8. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  9. ’21 Reasons’ – Nathan Dawe ft. Ella Henderson
  10. ‘IFTK’ – Tion Wayne & La Roux

Current US Number One: ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo

Say it with me now, people: It’s about damn time that Lizzo got her second number one single! That’s right: three years after ‘Truth Hurts’ solidified Melissa Jefferson as a pop juggernaut, Lizzo has once again ascended to the top of the pop charts with ‘About Damn Time’, the monster single from her recent studio album Special.

‘Truth Hurts’ had a fascinating run behind its climb to number one. Originally released as a stand-alone single back in 2017, ‘Truth Hurts’ was meant to keep the momentum of Lizzo’s 2016 EP Coconut Oil going. The song didn’t actually chart at the time, and it wouldn’t be until the release of 2019’s Cuz I Love You and some well-timed TikTok trends that ‘Truth Hurts’ began climbing the charts and eventually reaching number one.

‘About Damn Time’ didn’t have to wait that long. After debuting halfway up the chart last April, ‘About Damn Time’ has had an old-school climb up to number one, eventually passing pal Harry Styles up to the top spot. But it didn’t take a two-year gestation period for audiences to catch up with Lizzo’s life-affirming pop – the appeal of ‘About Damn Time’ was immediate.

This is the fourth time this year that Styles’ ‘As It Was’ has been knocked out of the number one position. But ‘As It Was’ already has three separate returns to the top of the charts, so chances are actually pretty good that Styles’ summer jam sees another leap up to number one at some point. But for now, let’s just let loose with the bass-heavy funk of ‘About Damn Time’ as it sits at number one. Exact time: Bad Bitch O’Clock.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of July 30th, 2022):

  1. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  2. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  4. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  5. ‘Wait For U’ – Future ft. Drake & Tems
  6. ‘Me Porto Bonito’ – Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone
  7. ‘Break My Soul’ – Beyoncé
  8. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  9. ‘Late Night Talking’ – Harry Styles
  10. ‘Jimmy Cooks’ – Drake ft. 21 Savage

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ – Jim Croce (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, July 28th, 1973)

Jim Croce had lived a number of lives before reaching the top of the charts in 1973. He was a disc jockey, a psychology major, and an Army serviceman before taking his hobby as a musician seriously enough to begin writing songs. As a keen observer of the people around him, Croce always kept an eye out for colourful characters. Eventually, he found one that would become the basis for his number one hit, ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’.

During a television appearance in 1973, Croce explained how real-life Leroy Brown, whom Croce had met in the Army, inspired the song. “I met this guy down there who was in the company. His name was Leroy Brown. Now Leroy was one of those guys who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no’. You tell Leroy to do one thing, and Leroy would do another thing. He was just one of those kinds of characters.”

“He’d come from Chicago, been out in the street a long time, and had to make his own way, so he was about to keep on making it,” Croce explained. “He was down there a couple of weeks, he looked at me one night… and he says ‘You know Jim, I don’t like this place, and I’m gonna go home.’ So he got himself packed up, and he went home without telling anybody. Except in the Army, they call that AWOL: absent without leave. But he did come back at the end of the month to get his paycheck.”

Brown’s brazen attitude, burly demeanour, and slightly dim mindset were fleshed out by Croce into a wild gambler with a notorious reputation for womanizing and brawling. Brown’s title as the “baddest man in the whole damn town” can’t save him from the wrath of a jealous husband, however, and by the end of the song, Leroy’s appearance more closely resembles “a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.”

‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ was part of Croce’s boogie-woogie style that he also showed off on tracks like ‘You Don’t Mess Around With Jim’ and ‘One Less Set of Footsteps’. The other side of Croce’s style was passionate and occasionally heartbreaking folk songs. ‘Operator’, ‘Time in a Bottle’, and ‘I Got a Name’ would solidify Croce’s reputation as a cutting lyricist, but it was his penchant for rollicking rock and roll that would give Croce the only number one single of his lifetime.

Sadly, Croce would only be alive for less than half a year as a contemporary hitmaker. It was while he was on the road in September of 1973 that Croce, his musical partner Maury Muehleisen, and three members of his entourage were killed in a plane crash. Just a day later, Croce’s ‘I Got a Name’ was released as a single.

In the aftermath of Croce’s death, the album cut ‘Time in a Bottle’ began to see major radio play. The track was originally a heartfelt love song for Croce’s wife, but after his death, lines like “There never seems to be enough time / To do the things you want to do once you find them” began to take on a new resonance. By the end of 1973, ‘Time in a Bottle’ became Croce’s second and final number one single, just the third posthumous number one after Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ and Janis Joplin’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’.

Croce’s tragic death and subsequent immortalisation was probably best captured on ‘Time in a Bottle’, but the razor-sharp wit that was essential to his songwriting was perfectly encapsulated by ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’. Most of Croce’s legacy rests on his more emotional folk songs, but Croce was also capable of raucous crowd-pleasing sing-alongs, and if you’re going to choose one from his catalogue, it would be hard to find one better than ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’.

Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten (Week of July 28th, 1973):

  1. ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ – Jim Croce
  2. ‘Yesterday Once More’ – Carpenters
  3. ‘Shambala’ – Three Dog Night
  4. ‘Smoke on the Water’ – Deep Purple
  5. ‘Will It Go Round in Circles’ – Billy Preston
  6. ‘Diamond Girl’ – Seals & Crofts
  7. ‘Kodachrome’ – Paul Simon
  8. ‘Boogie Woodie Bugle Boy’ – Bette Midler
  9. ‘The Morning After’ – Marueen McGovern
  10. ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)’ – George Harrison