Beloved music critic Tom Breihan's fascinating narrative of the story of popular music through the lens of twenty game-changing number one singles from throughout the history of the Billboard Hot 100, inspired by the author's ongoing Stereogum column.
When Tom Breihan launched his column in early 2018, "The Number Ones"—a space in which he has been writing about every #1 hit in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, in chronological order—he figured he’d post capsule-size reviews for each song. But as he dug in, he realized there was so much more to uncover. The column expanded to full-on essays, in which Breihan unpacks the history of each track, its place in the culture at the time, its legacy (or lack thereof), and, of course, the song itself. The column has taken on a life of its own, sparking online debate, attracting constant readers, and occasionally death threats from, say, the guy who wrote “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”
The Billboard Hot 100 began in 1958, and after four years of the column, Breihan is still in the mid-‘90s, with decades of music and years of posting to come. But readers will no longer have to wait for Breihan’s brilliant synthesis of what the history of number ones has meant to music and our culture. In The Number Ones, he writes about twenty game-changing #1s throughout chart history, revealing remarkably fluid and connected story of music that is as entertaining as it is enlightening. He marks the greatest pop artists of all time, from the Brill Building songwriters to the Beatles and the Beach Boys; from Motown to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Mariah Carey; and from the social media revolution and the Korean pop system. Breihan also ponders great artists who have never hit the top spot, like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and James Brown. Breihan illuminates what makes the indelible ear candy across the decades, leaving readers to wonder what could possibly happen next.