This Week’s No. 1: “The Box” by Roddy Ricch (#1 for 10 weeks)
As the world descends into its own version of Contagion, the U.S. is preparing for the worst. Maybe what we as a country really need are some of the comforts from a simpler time. In that regard, “The Box” certainly qualifies — Roddy Ricch’s smash hit has been the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks in a row, which means Americans have been dealing with “The Box” longer than COVID-19 has been in the country. The question is, which one will be eradicated first? At this point, it’s honestly hard to tell.

Elsewhere in the Top 10:
For the first week in what seems like forever, we have some major shakeups from last week. Lil Uzi Vert is the major winner right now, with the first three tracks off his new album, Eternal Atake, landing in the top 10 — alongside 15 other singles in the Hot 100.

My personal crusade is one step away from completion: Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” is currently sitting at #2. I’ll be spending my entire self-isolation period listening to it. See you on the other side!

“Life is Good,” Future and Drake’s long-suffering #2 jam, has fallen to #3 and appears to be on its way out. Sorry guys, might I suggest hopping on a remix of “The Box” instead?

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This Week in Number Ones: “Keep on Loving You” by REO Speedwagon (#1 for one week, March 1981)

It might seem odd these days, but back in the pre-digital era, the best way to ensure a No. 1 song was to take the artist’s limpest ballad and promote the hell out of it. If a rock band wanted to sell records, they’d better have a lighter-than-air piano song ready for teenagers to dance to at their proms.

This is where “Keep on Loving You” by REO Speedwagon comes in. 

Let me be clear: I hate REO Speedwagon. I hate “Keep on Loving You,” and I hate every single song I’ve ever heard the band play. Lead singer Kevin Cronin has a voice that sounds like a rat squealing for its life as a house is being fumigated. “Keep on Loving You” has a monster chorus, big ‘80s drums and zero redeeming qualities. I’m sure the guys in the band are nice enough, but if REO Speedwagon never existed, I’m not exactly sure the world would be worse off.

‘80s power ballads were still in their early stages in 1981, but they’d soon be everywhere. In fact, the Top 10 of this week is littered with old, weepy white guys singing turgid love songs. Styx, who I’m convinced are the exact same band as REO Speedwagon (has anyone seen them in a room together?), were at #3 with “The Best of Times.” Don McLean, the guy who sang “American Pie” was at #5 with “Crying,” and Neil Diamond was at #7 with “Hello Again.”

There was only one weepy ballad that deserved its place: “Woman” by John Lennon, which was at #2. This was four months after Lennon’s murder, and the record-buying public was still mourning en masse by buying just about everything he’d ever made. “Woman” is hard to judge outside of Lennon’s untimely death. Yes, it’s not really that much better than some of the other white guy ballads on the chart that week, but it’s still a John Lennon song. “Woman” never hit #1, and it was Lennon’s highest charting single released after his death.

REO Speedwagon rode through the ‘80s as a stadium act. They managed to score another #1 with “Can’t Fight This Feeling” in 1985 and had a few more hits, including “Take It on the Run,” one of the corniest, cheesiest songs ever recorded. The band is still on the road today, and they’ve sold an estimated 40 million records, which just goes to show the power of the ballad and its impact on audiences at the time. 

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Billboard Hot 100: March 21, 2020

  1. “The Box” — Roddy Ricch
  2. “Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
  3. “Life is Good” — Future ft. Drake
  4. “Blinding Lights” — The Weeknd
  5. “Circles” — Post Malone
  6. “Baby Pluto” — Lil Uzi Vert
  7. “Roxanne” — Arizona Zervas
  8. “Lo Mein” — Lil Uzi Vert
  9. “Silly Watch” — Lil Uzi Vert
  10.  “Intentions” — Justin Bieber ft. Quavo

Billboard Hot 100: March 21, 1981

  1. “Keep On Loving You” — REO Speedwagon
  2. “Woman” — John Lennon
  3. “The Best of Times” — Styx
  4. “9 to 5” — Dolly Parton
  5. “Crying” — Don McLean
  6. “Rapture” — Blondie
  7. “Hello Again” — Neil Diamond
  8. “The Winner Takes It All” — ABBA
  9. “I Love a Rainy Night” — Eddie Rabbitt
  10.  “What Kind of Fool” — Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb