Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. At least, that’s the lesson to be taken away from this week’s Billboard Top 10. All 10 songs from last week remain, with the top five staying exactly the same.
“The Box,” the meme-tastic cut from Roddy Ricch’s debut Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, is starting to look like an unstoppable juggernaut, notching its sixth week at number one. While that might not seem so impressive considering we just came off of the historic 19-week number one run of “Old Town Road” last year, it’s important to note that “The Box” has never been released as a single, and generally breaks all the old-school rules of a Billboard number one.
In the pre-streaming days, Billboard had specific rules for Hot 100 eligibility. If a song wasn’t a commercially available single, it could chart on the Hot 100 Airplay chart that measured how often a song was played by radio stations across the country, but not the flagship Hot 100.
But now, Billboard has a number of charts for songs, and they all feed into the data that determine the Hot 100. Billboard is constantly changing how they accumulate their data, giving different weight to different means of consumption. Streaming stats account for a much higher percentage than they did even two years ago. That’s why “All I Want for Christmas is You” was able to take the number one song at the end of 2019: streams and YouTube views are how the majority of people are consuming their music, and the charts are starting to reflect that.
“The Box” is readymade for ridiculous memes, TikToks and internet culture as a whole. The biggest hook is some randomly ad-libbed squeaky noise (“EEH EER”) that just keeps on coming back throughout the song like the complete nonsense that it is. But it’s memorable nonsense, and pop music has never been above some good memorable nonsense.
And at this point “The Box” sees no signs of slowing down. That means another week of “EEH EER”s is in our future.
This Week in Number Ones: “Wannabe” by Spice Girls (#1 for four Weeks, February/March 1997)
1997 was the year America went British. The English Patient won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Then-President Bill Clinton began a cozy relationship with newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair. Princess Diana’s death caused an outpouring of grief around the world and Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997” — the piano ballad rewritten to memorialize Diana at her funeral — to catapult to the top of the Hot 100 for 14 weeks. America had an incredible desire for British culture, and in came the Spice Girls to fill this insatiable need.
Formed in 1994 to compete with popular British and Irish boy bands, such as Take That and Boyzone, the Spice Girls were designed to be a generic pop group — everything about them was meant to sell. Each member devised a persona that poised them to take over British pop culture. The image, the music and even the “Girl Power!” philosophy was all meant to further the group’s successes.
All this cynicism can’t beat the fact that “Wannabe” is a straight-up banger. Written at their first collaborative session, the Spice Girls, along with songwriters Matt Rowe and Richard ‘Biff” Stannard, distill the complete essence of the group in less than three minutes. No boy could threaten the strength of Girl Power. Friendship never ends.
And the music is straight out of the late ‘90s pop playbook. The same beat could have been used by NSYNC, 98 Degrees or Britney Spears and no one would have noticed. The piano bass line is the main instrumental hook of the song, and all other musical elements are strictly decorative, meant to boost melodies and raps from the group.
Then there’s “zigazig-ah,” the complete nonsense word that Scary repeats throughout the song. It doesn’t really matter what it means, because it means nothing. It means whatever you want it to mean. It’s like a Yves Klein painting: see in it whatever profound (or not profound) thoughts you desire. If it really bugs you, you can say goodbye. But you’ll almost certainly never get it out of your head.
The group’s impact is astounding, especially considering their relatively short commercial period. Most of the love for the group is still centered around the U.K., but for a brief year, the British once again invaded America. What they left was “Wannabe” — an earworm that forever preserves the group’s kitschy, bombastic legacy. That’s all that they could ever really, really want.
Billboard Hot 100 Top 10
Week of February 22, 2020
1. “The Box” – Roddy Ricch
2. “Life is Good”- Future ft. Drake
3. “Circles” – Post Malone
4. “Memories” – Maroon 5
5. “Dance Monkey” – Tones and I
6. “Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa
7. “Roxanne” – Arizona Zervas
8. “Someone You Loved” – Lewis Capaldi
9. “10,000 Hours” – Dan + Shay, Justin Beiber
10. “everything i wanted” – Billie Eillish
Week of February 22, 1997
1. “Wannabe” – Spice Girls
2. “Un-Break My Heart” – Toni Braxton
3. “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” – Puff Daddy ft. Mase
4. “I Believe I Can Fly” – R. Kelly
5. “Don’t Let Go (Love)” – En Vogue
6. “Foolish Games/You Were Meant for Me” – Jewel
7. “I Believe In You and Me” – Whitney Houston
8. “Nobody” Keith Sweat ft. Athena Cage
9. “In My Bed” – Dru Hill
10. “Discoteque” – U2