Who has the best “Hello” song of the past 60 years…or essentially since the rock era began? Keep reading to find out.
As everyone knows by now, the number one song in the world today is the power ballad “Hello” by Adele. And in addition to the British superstar’s stirring vocal performance, the song’s record-breaking commercial and international chart success, and the feel-good comeback story it instantly created for the singer, there are several sub-stories associated with this “Hello” that come to mind and are worth pointing out.
For instance, the song is sung by a British artist, yet “Hello” is perhaps one of the most American of words, tracing back to the mid-19th century and the days of Thomas Edison (although, to be fair, the etymology of “hello” can be traced to various foreign language variations of the word with different vowels replacing the “e”).
And all the attention that Adele has brought to the word “Hello” instantly raised comparisons to that other #1 “Hello” from 31-and-a-half years ago by legendary balladeer Lionel Richie. There are some similarities between the two. For example, both songs are heart-wrenching ballads sung by artists at the peak of their careers, both songs were the fourth #1 hits for their respective artists (excluding Richie’s two #1s with the Commodores), and both were million-sellers (although Adele’s single reached that sales figure in record-breaking, one-week warp speed, while Richie’s took months…like most platinum singles).
Perhaps the most notable difference between the two is Adele’s “Hello” is a mournful tune, while Richie’s lyrics offer a somewhat more hopeful romantic outcome when asking the now-famous musical question: “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
The impact of Adele’s “Hello” on this season’s pop culture has already been well documented, and it’s likely we’ll be reminded of it again and again as it continues to break records and make music history. However, I thought it might be fun to go back in time and see where this new “Hello” ranks among all the other “Hello” songs out there, essentially where Adele’s tune ranks among the best “Hello” songs since the rock era began in 1955.
As a music blogger, this opportunity proved too tempting for me to pass up. So I didn’t…instead I embraced the chance with a big “Hello” and then sat down to put together my list of the ten best songs in the past 60 years to include our most formal and welcoming of greetings in their song titles. And since one list can never do justice to all the songs that are worthy of inclusion, I’ve added a list of five honorable mentions at the end of the article.
The following list is presented in countdown fashion, like all djroblists, and I’ve included video-clips, where available. You’ll probably remember many of them, and you’ll likely disagree with some of my choices or their rank order. That’s fine, but, hello! That’s what blogging is all about. And I welcome your views in the comments or on my Facebook page (but preferably here).
So let’s get it started…
10. “Hello Again” – The Cars (1984). This quirky new-wave pop tune was the lead-off track from their biggest album, Heartbeat City. It had some big shoes to fill as it was the fourth single released from that album, after the classics “You Might Think,” “Magic” and “Drive” (their biggest chart hit). But it came with big credentials when it was released in the fall of 1984, including song production by Robert “Mutt” Lange (of Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and later Shania Twain fame) and a video produced by Andy Warhol (see it below). The single held its own and peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
9. “Hello Darlin'” – Conway Twitty (1970). This is one of those oldies that I’ve heard a thousand times but never in its entirety (until now). Before compiling this list, I had heard it featured on those TV infomercials selling compilations of old classics where they play 5-second snippets before segueing to the next song. So I am quite familiar with the melody that accompanies the classic intro line “Hello Darling, nice to see you. It’s been a long time…,” and that’s about it. But this country music classic (the #1 country song of 1970 and one of Twitty’s 40 #1 country singles) is the late legendary singer’s signature tune, and certainly worthy of its top ten rank on this list.
8. “Hello” – Adele (2015). Mournful, wistful, sorrowful. Those are just some of the words that come to mind when listening to the current #1 single across the globe. When Adele belts the hook “Hello from the other side!” you feel it in places you didn’t think existed. Is it any wonder the song has touched so many people so quickly? It’s an instant classic we’ll likely be hearing for a long time, but it’s not the best “hello” song out there. In fact, it’s not even the best song simply titled “Hello.” Keep reading to see what is.
7. “Hello Again” – Neil Diamond (1981). The Jazz Singer is one of the best singular-artist soundtrack albums to come from one of the most panned movies of all time. This song is one of the main reasons for the album’s success, having reached the top ten in early 1981. It was squeezed between two other Diamond top-ten hits from that album, after “Love on The Rocks” and before “America.” The Jazz Singer is the legendary New York native’s biggest album, and “Hello Again” has become one of his signature songs over the years.
6. “Hello Stranger” – Barbara Lewis (1963). If you exclude the hooky “shoo-bop, shoo-bop, my baby” parts, the first words spoken in this R&B classic are the song’s title. Then those two words are never uttered again. It’s just one of the interesting song facts about a record where we hear Lewis sing “it seems like a mighty long time” more often than anything else. But that hook and Lewis’ delivery all worked to perfection as the song reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts (and #3 pop) in 1963. It has also been remade a number of times, including a top-20 version by Yvonne Elliman in 1977. I’ve included an interesting remake by Julia Holter in my “Hello” Spotify playlist, which you can access here or at the end of the article.
5. “Hello” – Lionel Richie (1984). Lionel Richie may have been out-done on the charts by Adele’s similarly titled “Hello” this month, but he still has the best single-word “Hello” in my opinion. If you’re old enough to remember the video that went with this, you remember Richie portraying an art instructor whose young protégé student is blind. She’s also the object of his desire. She surprises him by crafting a gift sculpture of the singer…err, instructor by the video’s end. It’s a moving portrayal that MTV was all over in 1984, and the song sped to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts.
4. “Hello, Dolly” – Louis Armstrong (1964). Of the five #1 “Hello” songs on this list (and of all time), this one is perhaps the most surprising. “Satchmo” was 62 when the tune reached #1, making him still the oldest artist to have a #1 song on the Hot 100. Even more astonishing is that he had to displace the hottest young band in the world in order to get that #1 spot. The red-hot Beatles had held a lock on the #1 position for 14 straight weeks with three different songs (their first three number ones), before “Hello, Dolly” replaced “Can’t Buy Me Love” in April 1964. “Dolly” wound up being the third-biggest single of that year, behind those first two Beatle number ones (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”).
3. “Hello, I Love You” – The Doors (1968). “Hello, I love you…let me jump in your game.” How’s that for a come-on line? Classic words by the late Jim Morrison on this #1 pop hit from 1968. But even more provocative are the words “do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel,” near the end of the short, but rousing rocker by The Doors. Morrison was reportedly inspired to write those lyrics by an African-American woman he had dreamt about. If that is true, it foreshadowed other interracial rock lust songs like “Brown Sugar” (Rolling Stones), “Brother Louie” (The Stories) and “Island Girl” (Elton John), just to name a few. Classic psychedelic rock at its best!
2. “Hello, Goodbye” – The Beatles (1967). It’s my favorite Beatles song, and my second favorite “Hello” song of all. It’s also the only one of the top ten to include its antonym “goodbye” in the title, although several other artists have done it (see the honorable mention list below). The Beatles’ 1967 hit may have been an exercise in word association and duality (yes/no, stop/go; why/I don’t know), but it wasn’t the only time Paul McCartney (who wrote the song) would title a song with antonyms and watch it climb to #1 (“Ebony and Ivory” in 1982). Maybe it’s the Gemini in him. I can certainly relate!
And the best “Hello” song of all:
1. “Hello, It’s Me” – Todd Rundgren (1972). Rundgren originally recorded this song in 1968 with his group Nazz, but it was the 1972 solo version on his Something/Anything album that was the hit, reaching the top five in December 1973. The song has since become a classic rock staple and Rundgren’s biggest hit. Similar to Adele’s new song, this one is somewhat mournful, as the protagonist (Rundgren) is reluctantly letting go of a love he obviously still wants in his life. The melody and chord structure are a perfect fit for the song’s melancholy subject matter. And the background singers (particularly with the closing “think of me” lines) bring home the song’s overarching message. Several artists have remade it, including most notably the Isley Brothers, who included their more soulful version on the classic The Heat Is On album a year later. But Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” has always been one of my all-time favorite songs and this article finally gave me a reason to write about it.
“Hello Again” – Amos Lee (2011). “You used to be so beautiful” is the common refrain heard on this easy-going, reflective track. Its parent album Mission Bell reached #1 in 2011 with the lowest sales total (40k copies) of any album up to that point. But this wistful track is damn good.
“Hello” – J. Cole (2014). One of the best tracks from one of the best rap albums (2014 Forest Hills Drive) of the past twelve months. In fact, Cole sings more on it than he raps, and to great effect. (Twana, I hope you’re reading this one!).
“Hello Goodbye” – Ashalei Nickole (2015). The new R&B singer revealed that this song is about that feeling you have when you wish you knew in advance whether your affection for another person is being reciprocated. Amen.
“Hello, Goodbye” – Van Hunt (2004). A pretty good neo-soul song about indecision – as the title implies. Recorded in 2004, it’s worthy of a listen…or three.
“Hello” – Lil Wayne. Rap meets rave. The lyrics are risqué and triple-X-rated. So if you have sensitive ears, don’t listen to this one on my DJRob playlist when it comes up…but it is good.
These songs (if available) are all included in my special Djrob Spotify playlist, which you can access by clicking here. I’ve included remakes of some of the classic “hello” songs as well. I hope you enjoy. And please let me know what you think of the rankings.
As always, thanks for all the love and support.