This week, “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry knocked Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, thus becoming the 1,000th Number One single of the rock era. As the majority of music buyers (I didn’t say music *lovers* mind you, but music buyers) view music as a song-by-song medium, having a #1 single is a pretty big deal, so to have been one of those 1,000 songs means that, for better or for worse, your song has struck a chord with someone.
However, that’s not to say that the folks that put songs at the top of the charts always exhibit good taste. Of course, some of the most iconic songs in music history have made it all the way to the apex of Billboard’s charts- a look at the amount of chart-toppers by Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, to name a few, bears that theory out. But there are a pretty good amount of legendary artists who have never hit the top of the singles charts. Bruce Springsteen has never had a #1. Neither has James Brown. Or Led Zeppelin. Or The Who. Luther Vandross? Nope. The Clash? Elvis Costello? Run-DMC? Public Enemy? The Beastie Boys? 3 top ten singles between them.
This totally seems unfair in light of some of the songs that have managed to crawl to the top spot. You know it’s a cruel world when Los Del Rio can boast of having a #1 hit and none of the artists listed above can. In this recurring column, celebrating (sort of) the ascension of the 1000th #1 hit of the rock era, I’ll take a look at some of the more dubious chart-toppers in pop music history. And if I hadn’t already given so much unnecessary airtime to the current chart-topper, I’d probably feature it here too.
So, with no further ado, here’s our first victim:
“Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B.
When “Because I Love You” hit the top of the charts at the end of 1990, Stevie B. was already something of a star. At the height of the Latin freestyle era, he’d scored a couple of hits that were pretty minor on a national level, but were smashes in areas like his native Miami and New York City. Danceable tracks like “Party Your Body” and “Dreamin’ of Love” were heavily favored by the Guido-types from Jersey and Long Island who could often be spotted speeding through the city in their Iroc-Z’s, open shirts flapping in the breeze and reeking of Calvin Klein Obsession.
While his more uptempo offerings were hooky and energetic (with the exception of the more midtempo, annoying “Spring Love”, which of course became a massive hit in NYC), “Because I Love You” was a saccharine ballad, complete with an orchestra of synthesized strings and Mr. B’s agonized (and agonizing) vocal delivery. In the years before Pro Tools and Auto Tune, there was only so much a computer could do, and Stevie is off-key through most of this song.
Of course it was a #1 hit!!!
Also worth mentioning is Stevie’s James Brown-esque pompadour, which was a step up from the Jheri-curled mullet he sported on the cover of his first album (complete with racing stripes on the side).
“Because I Love You” was the apex of Stevie’s career, and thankfully it was all downhill from there. Two minor hits followed, and then Mr. B fell off the face of the Earth, returning only for freestyle-era reunion shows with the likes of Lisa Lisa and the Cover Girls.
I’d like to think I have a high tolerance for goopy ballads, but this song makes my ears bleed from the inside. Anyone who makes me long for the relative classiness of the average Michael Bolton or Mariah Carey ballad has to be pretty bad indeed, and it is with a strange mix of pleasure and pain that I induct “Because I Love You” as the first honoree in NUMBER ONE HITS FROM HELL!!!!