This Week’s Number One: “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd (#1 for one week)

Ladies and gentleman: we’ve done it. We’ve lived through an important historical period. Some may bemoan the lengths of time we’ve had to endure, but we have endured nonetheless. Of course I could only be referring to one thing: the fact that “The Box” is no longer the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. 

So who is this artist — nay, this hero — to bring down the reign of Roddy Ricch? Well, it’s none other than everyone’s favorite Uncut Gems extra, The Weeknd. “Blinding Lights” was at number two last week, and now one Abel Makkonen Tesfaye has scored his fifth number one song. 

“Blinding Lights” completes The Weeknd’s transition from the darkly moody R&B artist who put out House of Balloons to a full on pop star, taking an uptempo 808 beat and mixing in some sparkling synths that sound like they were stolen right out of Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack. 

The track also benefits from the magic touch of producer/songwriter Max Martin, for whom this is his 23rd chart-topper, making him the songwriter with the third most Billboard number ones ever (sitting behind two unknowns named Paul McCartney and John Lennon). He’s co-written everything from Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” on top of The Weeknd’s own “Can’t Feel My Face.” If anyone was going to take down Ricch, it was probably destined to be Martin.

It’s important, however, not to get ahead of ourselves. “The Box” currently sits at number two, and it is not unprecedented for songs to fall out of the top spot before reascending back to number one. I may not be done writing about “The Box,” but I’m taking one small victory at a time.

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This Week in Number Ones: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel (#1 for six weeks, February — April 1970)

Even the goofiest sidekicks in pop culture history get their moments in the sun. Robin was meant to become Nightwing, Han Solo was way more interesting than Luke Skywalker and Tupac started out as a backup dancer for Digital Underground. So it was only a matter of time before the world’s greatest second banana, Art Garfunkel, got his time to shine.

Here’s the thing: Garfunkel is a way better singer than Paul Simon. But Simon & Garfunkel’s shtick was harmonies, so the two were inextricable in the vocal department. That meant that, as the songwriter, Simon got the glory that mostly eluded Garfunkel. The two were famous for their tumultuous relationship, so it’s surprising that Simon would give up one of his most heartrending ballads to his partner/rival to sing lead on.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a lot of things. Melodramatic? Yes. Pompous? Perhaps. But it’s also one of those songs that, when it hits you at the right time, it hits you hard. When you’re in a vulnerable place — or maybe a few drinks deep — this song can just completely decimate you. I attribute a lot of that to Garfunkel. His high notes at the end should be taught in pop arrangement classes all over the world. The grandiosity of the piano and strings come and go for me, but that voice never wavers. It builds and builds until it climaxes like a great ballad vocal should. Garfunkel’s voice is unpretentious in a way that Simon’s isn’t, and perhaps Simon recognized his voice couldn’t quite convey the drama of the song the way Garfunkel’s could.  

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was Simon & Garfunkel’s last hurrah. By the time it came out, neither one could stand to be around the other, and they split just a few months after reaching number one for the last time. Simon carved out an acclaimed solo career that included one more chart topper, while Garfunkel never reached number one, or ever had much success, as a solo artist. 

Simon & Garfunkel would reunite numerous times over the next 50 years, but the good feelings never lasted for very long. They’ll most likely die without ever singing another note together. That might be sad, but weepy white guys should take note: this is how it’s done.

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Billboard Hot 100: April 4, 2020

  1. “Blinding Lights” — The Weeknd
  2. “The Box” — Roddy Ricch
  3. “Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
  4. “Heartless” — The Weeknd
  5. “Circles” — Post Malone
  6. “Life is Good” — Future featuring Drake
  7. “Adore You” — Harry Styles
  8. “Intentions” — Justin Bieber featuring Quavo
  9. “Say So” — Doja Cat
  10.  “Roxanne” — Arizona Zervas

Billboard Hot 100: April 4, 1970

  1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — Simon & Garfunkel
  2. “Let it Be” — The Beatles
  3. “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” — John Lennon
  4. “ABC” — Jackson 5
  5. “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” — Edison Lighthouse
  6. “Spirit in the Sky” — Norman Greenbaum
  7. “House of the Rising Sun” — Frijid Pink
  8. “The Rapper” — The Jaggerz
  9. “Come and Get It” — Badfinger
  10.  “Easy Come, Easy Go” — Bobby Sherman