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Three monstrous radio hits that didn’t come from radio

Carly Rae Jepsen is suddenly a pop star thanks to one insanely catchy song "Call Me Maybe." Can she transcend the one-hit wonder label, though? CREDIT: AP

Carly Rae Jepsen is suddenly a pop star thanks to one insanely catchy song "Call Me Maybe." Can she transcend the one-hit wonder label, though? CREDIT: AP

Of these three songs, which do you like the best?

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None of the three of the most memorable pop songs of 2012 originated from traditional radio, once the place where most hits were born.

In the old days, record companies pitched songs. Radio stations would test them. The ones that stuck became hits. When MTV came along in the early 1980s, it had a major influence on shaping hits, too. (See Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Paula Abdul, M.C. Hammer) By the 1990s, its influence waned as it reduced music video airplay.

Now credit YouTube, “Glee,” and Justin Bieber for fueling three delightfully fun pop songs to ubiquity this year: Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Fun.’s “We are Young” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

Radio reacted after the fact, giving these songs enough airplay to help propel them all to the top of the pop charts the past four months. (Gotye has been the most played song in Atlanta for the past month, with Fun. and Jepsen getting their fair share of spins on Star 94, B98.5, Q100 and Wild 105.7.)

As this AVclub story noted, none of the three songs veer far from the formula for hit songs. They’re all incredibly catchy with memorable hooks and interesting yet universal lyrical story arcs. After hearing all three songs at least a couple hundred times now, I am not sick of any of them.

I have a college roommate who had given up on top 40 three years ago but admitted on Facebook this week that he actually liked the top 5 songs this week (which include “Payphone” by Maroon 5 and “Starships” by Nicki Minaj, two more great pop songs that came up the traditional radio way.)

- Gotye’s original version is notable for its lack of a regular drumbeat and use of the xylophone. Remixes with a dance beat pushed the song to the top of the dance chart. It had such broad appeal, it also topped the alternative and pop charts. It was covered on “Glee,” “The Voice” and “American Idol.”  The quirky official video has been seen an astounding 264 million times and is in the top 10 of most uploaded songs of all time on YouTube. (No. 1? “Baby” by Bieber.) It hit No. 1 for eight weeks in April and May. Want to know how it became a worldwide smash? Billboard chronicles the climb and Gotye himself explains the appeal:

Gotye credits the plaintive combination of his voice alongside Kimbra’s, coupled with the song’s “anti-pop elements,” as the reason why it has connected on a global scale. “It has a very soft, understated way of building toward the payoff with the chorus,” he says. “I get a sense that people lose themselves in it.”

- A few months ago, Carly Rae Jepsen was a struggling Canadian singer who had come in third on “Canadian Idol.” Canadian native Justin Bieber (who lived in Atlanta for a time before he broke it big) heard the song in Canada over Christmas and Tweeted about it. He then did a spoof, lip-syncing version and away the song went. So far, it’s been seen 185 million times, and that doesn’t count the countless parodies. The Bieber/Selena Gomez/Ashley Tisdale version alone has drawn 43 million. It just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. (She’s now managed by Atlantan Scooter Braun, who discovered Bieber.)

- Fun. (yes, the band has a period at the end of its name) released the song last fall and almost died on the vine. But after a Chevrolet ad aired during the Super Bowl with the song and “Glee” covered it, sales rocketed and radio airplay followed. The New York Times wrote about the song’s rising acclaim in March. It was on the top of the charts for six weeks.


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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

62 comments Add your comment

Danny

June 27th, 2012
5:58 am

This music is crap anyway. Thank God for Classic Rock & Old School R&B Stations…..and for Sirius.

shaggy

June 27th, 2012
6:41 am

Yes, let’s all listen to the same boring song over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over…….
Yeah, that’s some great music scene that exists today, which is a reflection of the vacant texter drones that you see hunched over their little techno boxes. practically everywhere.

Dan Deacon

June 27th, 2012
6:44 am

Here’s music station that’s only Georgia music artists…http://georgiamusicchannel.com

Andy

June 27th, 2012
6:46 am

What’s a radio?

Highlander

June 27th, 2012
7:13 am

Good thread, RoHo, though I disagree a bit with your take on Gotye’s song. I think one of the reasons it (and We Are Young) is a hit is because it DOESN’T sound like all the rest of the usual beat driven dance music so prevalent in Top 40 today. Both songs are a bit quirky and no doubt wouldn’t have been played by the Top 40 stations had they come through the more normal channels.

Call Me Maybe, on the other hand, has the same beat driven sound as 90% of the other music on Top 40 and has a cute little hook. It may have made it anyway, just taken a little longer.

Highlander

June 27th, 2012
7:19 am

The good news is, with the success of these songs and the hits from Adele (though I am kinda sick of hearing her every time I turn on the damn radio!), maybe today’s radio programmers will be a bit more open to playing some more diverse playlists. …..Naaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

But one can hope! :D

Peach Fuzz

June 27th, 2012
7:35 am

Down here, we don’t have a “radio”. – Sheriff Cooley

Danny

June 27th, 2012
7:40 am

Most people buy BOOTLEG CD’s or illegal down loaded music anyway. Good that we have YOUTUBE, Facebook, etc. We are no longer slaves to the record companies.

FenderMan

June 27th, 2012
7:44 am

The radio does not suck totally but its pretty close. BTW, I have no idea what the songs mentioned in this article sound like. I’m a 46 year old quasi-musician listening to Buddy Guy and
Warren Haynes. Hardly the market for The Buzz. One would think radio program directors would take a few clues from satellite stations and add some other music to the playlists bu they won’t. The radio will continue its slow death because program directors are too stupid and think they know what’s best for the listener. Good Morning Blues on 89.3/WRFG/M-F 6-10 is the best program on local radio.
The antenna on my receiver at home is not connected. I do not need it.

Get off my lawn

June 27th, 2012
7:53 am

“Radio hits” a thing of the past? MUSIC is a thing of the past! The medium is hardly the issue.

Peggy

June 27th, 2012
7:56 am

I can’t stand listening to radio. They play the same 10 songs over & over. 9 out of 10 are not even good songs. Old school radio stations play the same 10 artist over & over. If u listened to old school r&B u would think Luther & MJ had 2 hits. They pick out 2 songs from each artist & play them over & over.

Alan Freed

June 27th, 2012
8:02 am

Classic Vinyl and Classic Rewind on Sirius/XM make me want to pour boiling bleach in my ear drums. And I too, have no idea regarding the songs in the article, but I would welcome them over the same old tired crap that CV/CR spew out day after day.

Roekest

June 27th, 2012
8:15 am

I was surprised that 96.1 and 92.9 on the weekends actually play some decent music. Not that I’ll ever turn in my iPod for the radio, but still, it’s nice to know that on at least 2 days during the week, listeners don’t have to be inundated with the mindless chatter of a host and get to hear some tunes.

Sanjeev

June 27th, 2012
8:27 am

I agree with everyone else, the crap they put on the radio these days is the same 10 songs every day.

The Austrian Brotherhood

June 27th, 2012
8:36 am

That song blows. Dimwhits that listen to this are superficially stupid. OOOOH lets go get a tattoo. Every other dikkhead has one. Bunch a stupid lemmings. The Sky’s The Limit. Whoopee fu_kindo. I’m a 20 year old idiot.

Black Sabbath rules.

daniel

June 27th, 2012
8:47 am

this is news ??? “Video Killed the Radio Star” is a song by the British synthpop/New Wave group The Buggles, released as their debut single on 7 September 1979,

Fins

June 27th, 2012
8:48 am

I’ve never heard any of these songs or people who sing them. Obviously, I don’t listen to the radio…especially Atlanta radio. Since Z93 and 96Rock no longer exsist, neither does my need to listen. 97.1 the River, has good taste but limited to 10 songs on their play list. Its a shame, really. Radio killed itself.

Blisscat

June 27th, 2012
8:52 am

Yes, Austin, Black Sabbath DOES rule, but the Gotye is really quite good. I’m a singer/guitar player/songwriter and i can really enjoy it’s simplicity and melody. The other two songs are just the same formulaic for this day and age.

I listen to 88.5. If you can stomach the marble-mouthed twenty-year-old “dj’s” they play a lot of interesting unknown acts. Sure there’s a fair share of cringe-worthy “music” but you’ll hear some real gems.

Blisscat

June 27th, 2012
8:53 am

““Video Killed the Radio Star” is a song by the British synthpop/New Wave group The Buggles, released as their debut single on 7 September 1979.”

The version by co-writer Bruce Wooley and the Camera Club is even better.

gadem

June 27th, 2012
8:53 am

music really sucks today…
I feel so sad for the youth.

You are incorrect

June 27th, 2012
8:55 am

“We are young” gained popularity through a commercial, I would say that is a medium that is more prevalent than ever.

Blisscat

June 27th, 2012
8:55 am

Video Killed the Radio Star (original, you’re welcome):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tArLJ7sNcCQ

"RadioLady"

June 27th, 2012
8:56 am

The true artist suffer in getting out there on radio today; everything has changed! I am now getting more involved with Sirius Radio.

gunga din

June 27th, 2012
8:57 am

todays’ music is mostly crap. rap sux. country has hit rock bottom. and what they call top40/pop is so electronically altered, anyone can become a star ( beiber screaming baby over 50 times is not music)

gadem

June 27th, 2012
8:59 am

Real music died many many years ago…

Britney P

June 27th, 2012
9:01 am

Great article Rodney. Love all three songs!

Myron

June 27th, 2012
9:14 am

Well, I still listen to the radio on my Walkman on the way to work. I enjoy it.

Pirate

June 27th, 2012
9:15 am

I’m too old to have heard any of these. That said, #3-meh, #2-the worst kind of tween pop, #1-incredibly good song and video. Thanks for that one!

Fuzzy Reception

June 27th, 2012
9:22 am

Even though Rodney doesn’t acknowledge 99X, they were playing Gotye in September and Fun in December… LAST YEAR. New music on 98.9 fm (99X), douche bag ditties on 96.1 fm and my ipod on the worst shuffle setting ever at 92.9 fm.

Mike

June 27th, 2012
9:38 am

If you want to hear a lot of good music you will never hear on ATL radio, listen to The Loft on Sirius/XM. Music on ATL radio is so bad I haven’t listened in well over 10 years at least….But I listen to A LOT of great music. It’s just not on ATL radio. I used to care and wish for better. But no more. I’ve moved on.

Mike

June 27th, 2012
9:39 am

One more thing. I recommend a group called ALO. Excellent stuff!

Mike

June 27th, 2012
9:48 am

Actually, “Starships” was covered on Glee too.

I don’t know which I dislike more – the Gotye cover from “Glee” where it’s supposed to be two brothers singing about their failed relationship, or the “dance mix” they’re playing now. It’s like they figured out what made it a hit and deliberately messed it up to squeeze out more airplay for the people who won’t listen to something they can’t dance to while they’re texting and driving.

Mike

June 27th, 2012
9:49 am

This is Mike at 9:48 speaking… the other two Mikes are someone else. Weird…

Fray

June 27th, 2012
9:58 am

Dave FM (92.9 or something) is the worst offender on this. They NEVER go very deeply into any bands, playing the same two or three songs from Tom Petty or the Police or whoever. They simply can’t compete with the variety of Spotify or youtube and their DJs are annoying, especially the noon-time DJ. Thank goodness for college radio and internet radio which leads the commercial stations anyway and plays the good music that is being produced nowadays.

Chess

June 27th, 2012
10:06 am

Video Killed the Radio Star
iTunes killed Video

Typical AJC blog......

June 27th, 2012
10:11 am

Take 3 examples of the thousands upon thousands of songs available to make a statement that 3 radio hits became hits in spite of radio as if it is some future trend we should all be worried about.

Have you thought about spending more time out side of your radio/TV vacuum?

And how come that girl in the second video did not turn around and show us her Ya Ya’s?

SM

June 27th, 2012
10:27 am

The only thing radio is good for is listening to ball games, sports-talk and political-talk. I listen to music every day at work and none of it is less than 15 years old. I dare any popular artist to get up on stage with just a guitar or a piano and perform. 99.9% of them can’t sing, couldn’t write a song to save their life, and couldn’t sell a single song without a video. This entire generation under 30 is the most usless collection of dead space between the ears in the history of the world.

levelhead

June 27th, 2012
10:56 am

Gregory Porter! will put your faith back in musicians. Give him a try if you really want to hear good music. Gregory Porter- “Work Song”.

dre

June 27th, 2012
11:15 am

Ah, a radio blog. Can I start an “insult Steak Shapiro and 790 the Zone” thread here please? I am unable to listen to them anymore due to Steak’s on-air chewing and interrupting of others. And I used to like Mike Bell, but he needs to listen to a recording of himself laugh-talking through an entire show. Wow does that grate on my nerves, it is worse than ever. The stuff he is laugh-talking is not even particularly funny!!

ADL

June 27th, 2012
11:45 am

The Internet Killed the Video Star

I Like VARIETY

June 27th, 2012
11:53 am

I have heard of Gotye, Somebody That I Use to Know & I love it!1 I’m an almost 54 yr old grandmother. I love variety. I love what sounds good to me. Different strokes for different folks. PEACE!!

Mike

June 27th, 2012
12:21 pm

Where’s the 99X (98.9) love? They’ve been playing Gotye and FUN. since last year. They actually have 2 songs by FUN. in the rotation now, We are Young and Some Nights. If it ain’t on 99X then I don’t give a rat’s @$$.

JTesla

June 27th, 2012
12:24 pm

Thanks Rodney. So Beiber, himself a YouTube creation, helped push Carly Rae Jepsen to the top. Interesting trend.

snottrocket

June 27th, 2012
12:25 pm

Atlanta is is such a radio bubble, it’s hilarious. Everyone thinks the station/format they listen to is the only one that exists

@Fuzzy: I said the same thing a week or two ago about Gotye…they’ve been around for a while…been getting air time on 99x (probably the entire alt-rock world as well) for a while and now that they’re getting mainstream airplay, it’s as if they just came out of nowhere.

Once again, 99x is ahead of the curve when it comes to something different. This has been their calling card since day one.

Dave in Marietta

June 27th, 2012
12:31 pm

I’ll tell you what really killed good music is all these shows like American Idol. Talk about appealing to the lowest common denominator and relying on visuals, antics and histrionics to sell records, this is it. The music is insipid, unoriginal, generic, and not the least bit innovative. Can you imagine someone like Johnny Cash having to begin a career on a crap show like that? Real artists don’t come out of a factory or a competition show; they’re born with natural talent and the hone their craft, pay their dues and they’re damn lucky, they hit the big-time.

MyPatootie

June 27th, 2012
12:47 pm

Whoever said the title of a song did not have to be grammatically correct? CRJ’s song lost all credibility with me right off the bat. As she sings it, it’s “Call Me, Maybe” not “Call Me Maybe”. That carries an entirely different meaning and connotation. Why would you call someone “Maybe” if that’s not their name? That tells me it was written by someone with very little education, which I guess would stand to reason these days.

DC

June 27th, 2012
12:58 pm

There is a bunch of old folks on this blog haha…but yeah Gotye is a cut above the rest. He isn’t pop music..that song just broke the barrier. Go listen to his album..that song isn’t even the best one on there. Lullaby song called “bronte” is good along with some other trippy songs. Also check out his previous album.

Also Im gonna chime in on people saying music isn’t good anymore…don’t listen to the radio..it lies to you. Local bands making it big: Manchester Orchestra and O’brother

Manchester is touring overseas at the moment. and O’brother announced their tour dates just the other day.

Oh and FYI Alt Nation on sirius was pumping Gotye before anyone else..time to upgrade your radio!

Fray

June 27th, 2012
1:06 pm

I don’t know about 99x or sirius but radioio has been playing Gotye for years.

cnt

June 27th, 2012
1:15 pm

Satellite radio is the future. I love Sirius/XM.

evansdawg

June 27th, 2012
1:28 pm

As an avid music collector and voyeur of foreign music industries, I have concluded that that the US should be embarrassed by its own music industry. The scene in the UK makes the US look more like a 3rd world country. The UK is still producing top-shelf talent. The US finds a pretty face and digitally creates a voice to go with it. Its a fascade….a farce….a travesty.