The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music

Hachette. Nov. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780306826535. $29. MUSIC
In 1958, Billboard magazine combined its singles sales and radio-play charts into one list, calling it the Hot 100. Breihan assigned himself the daunting task of reviewing every song to reach the number one spot on the magazine’s Top 100 chart for Collected here are the stories of 20 songs the author deems historically important, from Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” in 1960 to BTS’s “Dynamite” in 2020, with other songs by the likes of the Supremes, the Beach Boys, Prince, and Puff Daddy. Breihan admits that being ranked number one doesn’t mean that these are necessarily the best songs of their time; there are many wonderful releases and performers that did not grace that top spot, and several fairly questionable ones that did. What makes this book fascinating is the author’s ability to set these songs firmly in their social, cultural, and musical contexts. These songs often act as apt representations of pivotal and changing times and tastes.
VERDICT An entertaining and informative survey of some milestones of popular music. This book should delight anyone who has felt the magic only pop music can provide.
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