This Week in Number Ones: ‘The Box’ is somehow still at the top

Roddy Ricch's 'The Box' is number one this week. (Photo via YouTube)

This Week’s Number One: “The Box” by Roddy Ricch (#1 for 11 weeks)

We truly are in the age of extended stays at number one. Before the ’90s, the longest any song had stayed at the top spot was 10 weeks — shout out to the evergreen catchiness of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” Then, all of a sudden, artists like Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men would have songs that lasted up to 16 weeks at the top. We all remember Lil Nas X’s 19-week run at number one last year, and now “The Box” has put Roddy Ricch in the same echelon. If he stays at number one next week, he’ll join the illustrious ranks of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Santana’s “Smooth” at 12 weeks at number one. So, congrats?

Elsewhere in the top 10:

  • People seem to be turning to old comforts: “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi and “everything i wanted” by Billie Eilish have crept back into the top 10 after falling previously.
  • Harry Styles’ “Adore You” has shot into the number seven spot, making its first appearance in the top 10. Fine Line is more bubblegum than his great eponymous debut, but Styles is currently making some of the best pop music out there, so I’m happy to see his success.
  • You can’t always get what you want. Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” failed to unseat “The Box” and is now sitting at number three behind The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” Was my crusade all for naught? Maybe that’s what I get for challenging the reign of Roddy Ricch.

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This Week in Number Ones: “Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau (#1 for two weeks, March 1987)

Getting a number one song is like catching lightning in a bottle. Songs need to have the right combination of cultural relevance, timeliness, and dumb luck to reach the top spot. They show the trends, technology, and attitudes of specific times in history.

Which is why it’s strange to see songs top the Hot 100 twice. 

Nine songs have hit number one twice. Most of the time these songs are just distinct enough to be memorable but generic enough to allow different artists to make them their own — see “When a Man Loves a Woman” (Percy Sledge in 1966 and Michael Bolton in 1991) and “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva in 1962 and Grand Funk in 1974). And when it comes to messages that transcend time, it’s hard to beat “Lean on Me.” 

Originally written and sung by soul legend Bill Withers, “Lean on Me” is a simple ode to friendship and community. Withers, the product of a small coal mining town in West Virginia who didn’t achieve musical success until his early 30s, was tapping into his humble and modest roots with a simple piano song about the brotherhood of man. It’s like if “Imagine” had a slightly more realistic worldview.

Withers’ original is an absolute classic, so when Club Nouveau decided to cover it, they wisely took the music in a different direction. Unfortunately, that direction was heavy on cheesy ’80s drum machines, synthesizers and clumsy Bob Marley references. The group does some admirable vocal work on the track (the one line “we be jammin” refrain notwithstanding), but their version is hardly essential, especially when put next to the original. 

By the time the second version of “Lean on Me” hit number one, Withers had effectively retired from the music industry. With a legacy that includes songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lovely Day,” it’s surprising that “Lean on Me” remains his only number one. Still, it was a number one beloved enough to be taken to the top spot twice. After that, it’s alright to take a load off.

Billboard Hot 100: March 28, 2020

  1. “The Box” — Roddy Ricch
  2. “Blinding Lights” — The Weeknd
  3. “Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
  4. “Life is Good” — Future ft. Drake
  5. “Circles” — Post Malone
  6. “Roxanne” — Arizona Zervas
  7. “Adore You” — Harry Styles
  8. “Intentions” — Justin Bieber ft. Quavo
  9. “Someone You Loved” — Lewis Capaldi
  10. “everything i wanted” — Billie Eilish

Billboard Hot 100: March 28, 1987

  1. “Lean on Me” — Club Nouveau
  2. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” — Starship
  3. “Let’s Wait Awhile” — Janet Jackson
  4. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” — Genesis
  5. “Mandolin Rain” — Bruce Hornsby & The Range
  6. “Somewhere Out There (From ‘An American Tale’)” — Linda Ronstandt & James Ingram
  7. “Come Go with Me” — Expose
  8. “The Final Countdown” — Europe
  9. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — Crowded House
  10. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” — Aretha Franklin & George Michael

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