When I started this project, I had two goals. One, I wanted to do a long-form project and see it to the end. With Happy wrapping up the chart, I have accomplished that goal. Two, I wanted to understand the pop charts, and I think I’ve managed that as well. So, what have we learned?
1- The Billboard number one doesn’t mean everything. There are a ton of musical movements that never got their spot at the top, many acclaimed artists that never reached there either. When you look back on decades of music, the actual number one single in America is giving you an incomplete vision of what people are listening to. Take the ’90s, when ballads reigned supreme, that was hardly what everyone was listening to, but it was what shot to the top, and what Billboard recognized. My own playlist from any era isn’t going to reflect the big hits.
2- The Billboard number one means something, however. Even if it’s a bit late on the uptake, this was still popular culture, and these are still popular songs. There are often cases where the more difficult, more hard hitting songs are nowhere near the top of the charts, but stuff that’s a bit more palatable can catch on, and a movement can gain steam and sweep the nation. Pop music isn’t a vacuum, and it’s often the case where underground movements find their way into the mainstream.
3- Everything works in cycles. The pop cycle goes that something breaks through, gets increasingly popular, the charts get saturated and things begin to stagnate until the next breakthrough. We are currently overdue for another breakthrough, there have been some promising movements – especially in 2012 – but it feels as though we’ve been stuck in the stagnating part of the cycle for a while. Then again, it’s hard to judge what the next trend will be when you’re in the middle of it. If someone does this same effort in 2054 they might be better able to grasp where we were going.
4- Novelty songs signal death. Seriously, they only really reach the top during the stagnation period, when just being mildly amusing can get you more ears than anything else. Every time novelty songs start becoming frequent, it doesn’t take long before a style shift takes place and we get a new song gracing the top of the chart. Novelty songs are also the worst songs, but that’s my highly biased opinion because I hate the damn things.
5- The actual worst song is the Macarena. This was the one song that I couldn’t listen to the entire thing. There was some crap on here, some real outright garbage that had no business being as popular as it was. But I could, and did, listen to the whole thing. The Macarena defeated me.
So now what? I’m not going to tackle another chart, this was a long form project that took a great deal of energy, and I would like to focus that energy on other projects for now. I haven’t decided whether or not I will keep track of the Hot 100, I at least have another week before I have to make up my mind on that one. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the fact that I’ve succeeded in my goals, listened to the entire chart, and even gained an appreciation of artists and genres I used to ignore. Thanks for reading, if you commented thanks for commenting, and for now, we’re finished.