The “Old Town Road” Controversy Reveals Problems Beyond Just Race

  Music The debate about Lil Nas X’s No. 1 hit is only the latest sign that Billboard’s methodology is broken. By Chris Molanphy April 12, 20194:23 PM <img src="https://compote.slate.com/images/6f8b3507-72bb-4d74-928b-46a983211fe4.jpeg?width=780&amp;height=520&amp;rect=1560x1040&amp;offset=0x0" alt="Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus" /> Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Columbia Records; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty [...] Read more

Why Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” Is the Ultimate “Bop,” for Better or for Worse

Writing about popular music is lousy with obnoxious words. Indeed, there are so many—jangly, crunchy, seminal—that there is a whole book of them (and shamefully, I have used my share). Making things more complicated, much of this language is also subject to a generational divide—words coined by the young are understood to be off-limits to [...] Read more

Does Travis Scott Deserve His First No. 1, or Is He Just a Master of Chart Gimmicks?

Why “Sicko Mode” sits atop the Hot 100. In early 1984—as Michael Jackson’s Thriller was nearing the end of its epic run at No. 1, about 15 months after its release—a non-album single appeared on the radio that sounded like a Jackson bonus track. It was clearly Michael’s voice, singing the chorus, sounding paranoid about [...] Read more

How Maroon 5 Fused With the Pop Machine to Score a Second Life on the Charts

The band’s new No. 1 is only their latest collaboration with the song factory. The Beatles. Led Zeppelin. The Clash. Talking Heads. The Police. Nirvana. All of these hit-making, Hall of Fame–level rock bands recorded together for fewer years than Maroon 5, who have now been releasing hit albums and, especially, hit singles for 16 [...] Read more

Cardi B’s “I Like It” Is the Latest Version of a Song that Took 50 Years to Get to No. 1

Last year’s undisputed Song of Summer, “Despacito,” was a lilting, thumping, Latin-Anglo hybrid by a pair of Puerto Ricans, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, sung mostly in Spanish with a brief English-language assist from Justin Bieber. This year, the race for Song of Summer has, to date, mostly been a faceoff between streaming gods Drake [...] Read more

XXXTentacion’s No. 1 Hit Presents the Ultimate Music-Industry Test of the #MeToo Age

Though he’s far from the first troubled victim of gun violence to go to No. 1. Serial killer Charles Manson’s only studio album was released while Manson was being held on charges for the two-night series of 1969 killings he instigated via his “family” cult, known as the Tate–LaBianca murders. Morbid curiosity couldn’t, however, make [...] Read more