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Ask Billboard: What Are the Biggest Hits This Week From the ’80s?

@gthot20 Please do this more often!!!! If possible all decades starting from the ’60s …

@mmoises1213

That tweet followed the March 19 “Ask Billboard” in which we looked at the biggest hits that week from the 1990s.

To recap, here’s how the top songs released in the ’90s stacked up (by applying the Billboard Hot 100’s airplay-, sales- and streaming-based methodology, with ranks reflecting songs’ sales and streams in the week ending March 11 and all-format airplay in the week ending March 14, according to MRC Data).

1, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
2, “Thunderstruck,” AC/DC
3, “Under the Bridge,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
4, “Iris,” Goo Goo Dolls
5, “Enter Sandman,” Metallica
6, “No Scrubs,” TLC
7, “Santeria,” Sublime
8, “Come as You Are,” Nirvana
9, “Killing Me Softly,” Fugees feat. Bounty Killer
10, “It Was a Good Day,” Ice Cube
11, “I Want It That Way,” Backstreet Boys
12, “Neon Moon,” Brooks & Dunn
13, “Everlong,” Foo Fighters
14, “All the Small Things,” Blink-182
15, “Return of the Mack,” Mark Morrison
16, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
17, “Wonderwall,” Oasis
18, “Time of Your Life (Good Riddance),” Green Day
19, “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt
20, “California Love,” 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman
21, “Creep,” Radiohead
22, “Waterfalls,” TLC
23, “Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey
24, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole
25, “Scar Tissue,” Red Hot Chili Peppers

To paraphrase a certain ’90s movie, if we’ve gone this far, maybe we’re willing to go a little further …

What are the biggest hits this week that were released in the ’80s?

Again, here are the top 25 based on the Hot 100’s formula for sales and streams in the week ending May 27 and all-format airplay in the week ending May 30.

Top 25 Songs This Week From the ’80s
1, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey
2, “Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen
3, “Livin’ On a Prayer,” Bon Jovi
4, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses
5, “Africa,” Toto
6, “Take On Me,” a-ha
7, “Free Fallin’,” Tom Petty
8, “In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins
9, “Every Breath You Take,” The Police
10, “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
11, “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor
12, “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Def Leppard
13, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” AC/DC
14, “Back in Black,” AC/DC
15, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears
16, “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
17, “Under Pressure,” Queen & David Bowie
18, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” Eurythmics
19, “Your Love,” The Outfield
20, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” Whitney Houston
21, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Bon Jovi
22, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds
23, “Jack & Diane,” John Cougar
24, “Jessie’s Girl,” Rick Springfield
25, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its resurgence over the years by syncs in The Sopranos, Glee and more, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” is the week’s top ’80s song, with 13 million in radio audience, 6.4 million U.S. streams and 1,300 sold. To compare, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirt” topped the ’90s tally in March with 4.3 million in airplay audience, 3.7 million streams and 600 sold.

Notably, the ’80s and ’90s recaps are led by songs that didn’t hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, although each reached the top 10. “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” peaked at No. 9 in 1981 (while the Glee Cast took its cover to No. 4 in 2009) and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit No. 6 in 1992.

Some other differences show between the two lists, however. Only four of the top 25 hits from the ’90s hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 (while two others topped the Radio Songs chart but were ineligible to appear on the Hot 100 at the time as they were not available as commercial singles, only on albums).

For the ’80s, a whopping 16 of the 25 songs above led the Hot 100.

Why such a disparity that, per the metrics above, many of the most enduring ’90s songs weren’t so mass-appeal at the time, while big ’80s hits remain in their familiar lofty chart perches? Sean Ross, author of the Ross on Radio newsletter, muses, “There was less of a shared pop experience in the ’90s.” As hit music splintered to country, grunge and hip-hop ahead of pop’s renewal thanks to the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and more, pop radio “barely existed for five years” in around 1992-96, Ross notes, leading to hits better known only to fans of specific sounds.

Conversely, rock rules both charts above. For the ’90s, 15 of the top 25 songs were hits on Billboard‘s Alternative Airplay or Mainstream Rock Airplay charts during their original runs.

On the ’80s ranking, 21 songs either hit a rock chart in their original runs or likely would’ve had Mainstream Rock Airplay existed before March 1981.

Similarly, the classic hits radio format, which favors hooky ’80 rock, mixed with pop, continues to thrive.

Meanwhile, the elite acts to appear on both the ’80s and ’90s recaps? AC/DC and Tom Petty.

For the latter, reflecting Petty’s timeless draw, “His was a career you could take home to Mom,” Billboard‘s Andrew Unterberger wrote after Petty’s passing in 2017. “Relatively void of dizzying highs or petrifying lows, but dependable and rock-solid, liked and respected by nearly all. They were songs that you lived for your entire life, songs whose casual, chiming perfection very unassumingly lodged in your heart forever.”

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