A Pitchfork Best Music Book of 2022
Beloved music critic Tom Breihan's fascinating narrative of the history of popular music through the lens of game-changing #1 singles from the Billboard Hot 100.
When Tom Breihan launched his Stereogum column in early 2018, “The Number Ones”—a space in which he has been writing about every #1 hit in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, in chronological order—he figured he’d post capsule-size reviews for each song. But there was so much more to uncover. The column has taken on a life of its own, sparking online debate and occasional death threats.
The Billboard Hot 100 began in 1958, and after four years of posting the column, Breihan is still in the early aughts. But readers no longer have to wait for his brilliant synthesis of what the history of #1s has meant to music and our culture. In The Number Ones, Breihan writes about twenty pivotal #1s throughout chart history, revealing a remarkably fluid and connected story of music that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.
The Numbers Ones features the greatest pop artists of all time, from the Brill Building songwriters to the Beatles and the Beach Boys; from Motown to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Mariah Carey; and from the digital revolution to the K-pop system. Breihan also ponders great artists who have never hit the top spot, like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and James Brown. Breihan illuminates what makes indelible ear candy across the decades—including dance crazes, recording innovations, television phenomena, disco, AOR, MTV, rap, compact discs, mp3s, social media, memes, and much more—leaving readers to wonder what could possibly happen next.