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.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk