America’s New No. 1 Song Is Both a Big Step Forward and a Total Throwback

Sam Smith and Kim Petras both make history atop the Hot 100, but “Unholy” is not without precedent. From the summer of 1978 through the summer of 1979, singer-songwriter Sylvester James Jr., known by the mononym Sylvester, scored three consecutive Top 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100: “Dance (Disco Heat)” (No. 19), the hi-NRG landmark [...] Read more

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” Didn’t Get to No. 1 Just Because It’s Catchy

Its historic success is less about the song’s greatness than about how the chart works. In 2021, the Billboard Hot 100 was topped by an array of bespoke popular song forms: power-torch balladry (“Drivers License,” “All Too Well”), bubbly ’80s-style synthpop (“Save Your Tears,” “Stay”), Chicago drill–slash–New Orleans bounce (“Up”), flamenco-inflected hip-pop (“Montero”), classic pop-punk (“Good [...] Read more