Music has been around for as nearly long as people have, and certainly as long as anyone can remember. However, many people do not think about music much before their lifetime. Every once in awhile music from the 80’s and 90’s will make a comeback, but what about music from the 50’s and 60’s?
I decided to do a review of Billboard’s number one songs in 3-4 year intervals from 1950 all the way to the present to see what was popular in past decades and how popular music has changed..
1950-“Goodnight Irene” by The Weavers
The song “Goodnight Irene” is slow and a little boring. It tells a story about a man who has recently been divorced from his wife, and now wants “to jump in the river and drown”. It’s nothing like music on the radio today, with no autotune or a hint of technology in the song. I appreciated the change in style from what I normally listen to, but because of its boring and depressing nature I don’t think I would listen to “Goodnight Irene” for fun.
1953-“The Song from Moulin Rouge” by Percy Faith F. Sanders
“The Song from Moulin Rouge” is a slow instrumental song with little actual singing. I wasn’t sure about the meaning of the song, but it had a relaxing and calming feel to it. It had the same rhythm and feel to it as a lullaby. “The Song from Moulin Rouge” receives its name from being featured in the 1952 movie Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge won two Oscars in 1952 and received 7 total Academy Award nominations.
1956- “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley
There’s a clear transition between slower and orchestral music and what became known as “rock” between 1950 and 1956. “Heartbreak Hotel” uses more guitar and piano than other songs in the 50’s. It is also much more upbeat and more fun to listen to. “Heartbreak Hotel” was just one of Elvis’s many hits; the song turns 60 years old in 2016.
1959-”The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton
“The Battle of New Orleans” tells the story of The Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. The song has a sound unique from other hits in the 50’s. It’s very folksy, and almost like bluegrass music.”The Battle of New Orleans” is very catchy, and has historical value which may have contributed to the popularity of the song. Despite being different, “The Battle of New Orleans” manages to be a good song overall.
1961-“Tossin and Turnin” by Bobby Lewis
“Tossin and Turnin” sounds like it should be played over a diner scene in a movie about the early 60’s. “Tossin and Turnin” has a great beat, tune, and has a memorable chorus. It’s upbeat and seems much more like Elvis’s rock than pop or the folksy sound from “The Battle of New Orleans”. “Tossin and Turnin” also has some jazz influences, using quite a bit of saxophone. So far, it’s my favorite out of the 5 songs I have listened to.
1964-”I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” gives off a laid back vibe and has a great tune. The Beatles were a revolutionary group, sparking a worldwide mania for their music. Aside from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” the Beatles had many other hits throughout the 60’s. The Beatles were known for their upbeat, simple, pop songs. Their music is more like pop music from today, it doesn’t really tell a story, but it caught people’s attention with it’s cheery sound.I like music by the Beatles in general and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was no exception. However, it seems more like the music of Elvis with more guitar, than the songs from 1959 or 1961.
1967-“To Sir With Love” by Lulu
“To Sir With Love” is a slow song that seems to be accompanied by an orchestra as well as some guitar and drums. I enjoyed listening to “To Sir With Love”, it has a nice beat and tune. Lulu has a great voice as well. The song is from the movie of the same name, about an inner city school in London. The lyrics are relatively simplistic again and despite being slower, still remains cheerier, like music from the Beatles.
1970-“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” starts out very piano heavy but then moves into more strings towards the end. It has a much slower pace than the other songs that have been number one in the past. It’s worthwhile to note that when “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came out, the United States was beginning it’s Cambodian campaign as a part of the Vietnam war, and the Beatles had just broken up, creating a somber environment for this sad song.I do not normally listen to songs like “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” but overall I enjoyed the song.
1974-“The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand has a great voice but I did not love “The Way We Were”. The tune is slow, not appealing and it did not offer much in the way of great lyrics. Because of the slowness, “The Way We Were” seemed boring, and did not grab my attention at all. However, a transition from upbeat guitar centered songs is starting to be made clear here, with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” also being slower and using more orchestral instruments. The movie The Way We Were starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand won the Oscar for “Best Original Song” for this song.
1978-”Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb
“Shadow Dancing” is a full blown disco song, sounding like it came straight out of a movie from the 70’s. It stood out quite a bit from it’s 1970 and 1974 counterparts, seeming like a completely different style of music. Disco music was upbeat, and utilized more pop and funk influences than music from the past. Despite it being catchy, I am not a fan of disco music and did not enjoy “Shadow Dancing”
1982- “Physical” by Olivia Newton John
“Physical” was a hugely popular song at the time, and remained well known for some time after. I already knew the chorus of the song without ever having heard it all the way through. It has a very catchy tune, but it’s nothing extraordinary. The song has some influences from disco music, using the same upbeat rhythm as “Shadow Dancing”, but has less funk influences.Olivia Newton John had also become popular from her role as Sandy in Grease. Despite seeming like just another pop song, I enjoyed listening to “Physical” nonetheless.
1986- “That’s What Friends are For” by Dionne Warwick
I am not a fan of “That’s What Friends are For”. Dionne Warwick actually remade this song, it was originally sung by Rod Steward.I did not enjoy the melody of “That’s What Friends are For”” and I couldn’t place the main instrument but it sounded like a harmonica, and distracted from the song. “That’s What Friends are For” was very soulful, and was nominated for the Grammy awards Record of the Year.
1990-”Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
“Hold On” seems like more of a typical pop song that is around today, however it wasn’t anything special. Despite the song being pleasant and being popular at the time, it didn’t stand out from the other songs I have reviewed. “Hold On” was very drum and guitar heavy, but the lyrics were relatively simple.
1994-”The Sign” by Ace of Base
“The Sign” is featured in the movie Pitch Perfect, and I had already heard this song before. It has a very catchy tune, and there seems to be a transition to more electronic instruments and computer based sounds. I enjoyed listening to “The Sign,” but it seems like the kind of song that would become annoying quickly. It’s very repetitive, and the chords are relatively simple.
1998-”Too Close” by Next
“Too Close” is an R&B song in all of its glory. It’s different from the other 90’s hits, as it’s upbeat and has a totally different sound. “The Sign” and “Hold On” were much slower, and cleaner pop songs, while “Too Close” is considered explicit. The 90’s were a period where new music styles such as “gangsta rap” were introduced, making explicit songs more widely tolerated and accepted. I don’t normally listen to songs like “Too Close”, but I enjoyed the song and experience anyway.
2003-”In Da Club” by 50 Cent
“In Da Club” is a continuation of the hip hop and rap trend that started in the 90’s. It has an appealing hook, but I do not normally listen to hip hop or rap. “In Da Club” is definitely the kind of song thats appeal is directly related to someone’s taste in music. People who like hip hop and rap, will probably like this song.
2007-”Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé
“Irreplaceable” is a slower pop song in classic Beyoncé style. “Irreplaceable”has a great and infectious chorus. It has a heavy base and a large amount of drums and impressive vocals. However, the lyrics are pretty simple and so are the chords. Beyoncé songs are normally hit or miss for me, and “Irreplaceable” was a hit.
2011-”Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
I love Adele and I love this song. It’s got a nice tune and Adele has an amazing voice. Adele uses little to no autotune or electronic influences in her songs. “Rolling in the Deep” has influences from soul, pop, R&B and blues. It won the Grammy award for “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year” in the same year. Only four other songs have earned this achievement, including “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.
2015-”Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars
I really enjoyed “Uptown Funk” the first time I heard it. Listening to it again after listening to disco music and older music, it’s clear that this song has influences from the past, but is still quite modern. These influences create a unique sound and a great beat. “Uptown Funk” is the kind of song that is easy to dance to or sing along to with friends. The song doesn’t tell any kind of story, but the lyrics are very clever.
It’s not possible to put all of these songs into one genre or category, every song I reviewed is unique and different in some way. From the introduction of rock music in the 50’s to rap in the 80’s and 90’s to the electronic based music that is around today,music has changed drastically over the last 65 years, and it will certainly change even more in the years to come.
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