(March 12, 2022). As a music blogger, I like to point out historical facts and figures surrounding some of the biggest hits in popular music. No better opportunity presented itself than this week when history was made as a song reached No. 1 in its unprecedented 59th(!) week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
To put that in perspective, no other song before now took longer than 35 chart weeks before finally making its first appearance at the top (Mariah Carey’s 1994 nugget “All I Want For Christmas Is You” accumulated 35 weeks on the Hot 100–spread over several holiday seasons—before it reached the pinnacle in December 2019).
The current No. 1 song is “Heat Waves” by the indie pop-rock sensation Glass Animals, a four-member band from Oxford, England, who moved to the top this week with the viral smash that’s been climbing the charts since January 2021.
“Heat Waves” made its debut at No. 100 on the chart dated January 16, 2021, then dropped off for two weeks before re-entering at No. 91 on Feb. 6 and beginning its slow, steady, and non-linear climb to the summit. On its grueling uphill journey, “Heat Waves” made twelve downward turns including a three-week tumble last July that seemed to suggest that its chart fate might have been sealed then.
But like the little engine that could, “Heat Waves” reversed course each time and kept climbing and climbing until it splashed down at the top this week, accomplishing its incredible history-making milestone. Here are its weekly chart moves (from Jan. 16, 2021 to now):
So, in addition to spending the longest time on the chart before hitting No. 1, “Heat Waves” is also among very few hits—eleven to be exact—that have begun their journey at No. 100 before eventually climbing all the way to the top. (See the complete list of those at the bottom of this article.)
But more telling about the incredible chart run of this No. 1 smash is how much has changed in pop culture and American/world history since that inauspicious debut 14 months ago.
Consider the following:
- When “Heat Waves” first entered the chart for the week ending Jan. 16, 2021, Donald Trump was still president. In fact, it was during that same week (Jan. 13) when Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice for inciting the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol building a week earlier.
- When “Heat Waves” debuted, only 400,000 people in the U.S. had died of the Covid-19 disease. That number has since climbed to more than 966,000.
- In January 2021, Russia was still months away from a major military buildup around Ukraine’s borders, and more than a year from launching a large-scale invasion that is both the largest attack and has sparked the largest movement of refugees across Europe since World War II. Since the initial February 24, 2022 Russian attack, the ongoing conflict has resulted in between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers killed on both sides, according to some U.S. media reports.
- U.S. average gas prices (regular unleaded) during the week when “Heat Waves” debuted was $2.379/gallon, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration’s website. As of the current week, those prices have risen to more than $4.33/gallon (according to AAA), or an increase of 82 percent in those 14 months.
- When “Heat Waves” first entered the chart, Tom Brady had yet to advance to his 10th and final Super Bowl. Since then, Brady won that Super Bowl (February 2021), gaining his seventh title, and has since retired from the NFL (after a second playoff run in 2022 with his last team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
- On the celebrity-couples-you’re-tired-of-hearing-about front, Kim Kardashian-West was still married to Kanye West and Jennifer Lopez was still engaged to Alex Rodriguez (the latter couple would even attend Joe Biden’s inauguration together the following week where Lopez performed). Anyone betting on a Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez redux back then would’ve been tapped to pick lottery numbers for the rest of 2021. Of course, the same could be said for anyone betting on “Heat Waves” being a No. 1 song today.
- When “Heat Waves” debuted, Phil Spector and Ronnie Spector were both still alive, as were Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf. Same goes for Cicely Tyson and Sidney Poitier, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Don Everly (Everly Brothers), B.J. Thomas, rappers DMX, Prince Markie Dee of the Fat Boys, and Shock G of Digital Underground, actress Betty White, baseball legend Hank Aaron, and sports icon John Madden, among many others.
- The only two songs on the chart when “Heat Waves” debuted that are still on the chart today are “Levitating” by Dua Lipa and “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd. Ironically, those two finished 2021 as the top two songs of the year, respectively, so their ongoing endurance—to go along with that of “Heat Waves”—is not totally surprising.
- Speaking of The Weeknd, his “Blinding Lights” broke the Hot 100 record for most weeks on the chart with 90 (before it finally exited in September 2021). It was subsequently named the biggest hit in Hot 100 chart history, just as “Heat Waves” was finally breaking into the weekly top 10. Now “Heat Waves” looks to give “Lights” a run for its longevity record.
- Since “Heat Waves” debuted in January 2021, twenty-one different songs have taken turns at No. 1. That is easily the most that any future No. 1 song has had to “wait out” while it made its own climb to the top. Of those 21 songs, eleven entered the chart at No. 1 in their first week, offering a sharp contrast to the 59 weeks it took “Heat Waves” to get there. (By the way, of those 21 songs, only six remain on the list.)
- Several long-standing chart records have been shattered in the time that it took “Heat Waves” to get to the top, most notably Canadian rapper Drake occupying nine of the top ten slots on the Hot 100 simultaneously last September—including the entire top five—matching a record held solely by the Beatles for 57 years. Also, in November, Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” broke the record for longest song (at 10 minutes and 13 seconds) to reach No. 1, breaking Don McLean’s record for “American Pie” established in 1972. And in January 2022, Elton John gained his first top-10 hit in 24 years with “Cold Heart” (duet with Dua Lipa), giving him the longest span of top-10 hits (51 years) in Hot 100 history not owing to recurrent holiday-themed tunes.
It’s likely that Glass Animals could break several other chart records with their sleeper No. 1 hit by the time its chart run ends. It “only” needs 31 more weeks on the chart to match The Weeknd’s overall longevity record for “Blinding Lights.” That means that the song would have to remain on the chart through October 15, 2022, which doesn’t seem so daunting at this rate.
It also wouldn’t be a stretch to predict that “Heat Waves” will finish 2022 as the Hot 100’s biggest hit when Billboard compiles its year-end rankings in December.
Of course, it’s far too early to make that kind of prediction, but then “Heat Waves” has already defied so many odds and so much has happened in the world since it first gained chart ink, that anything could happen over the next several months (and probably will).
Meanwhile, entering the Hot 100 in the anchor position this week is a song called “Wearing A Cardigan In Atlanta” by Lil Shordie Scott. What are the chances of that tune making it all the way to No. 1 in, say, May of 2023?
PS. Here is that list of eleven songs (out of 1134 total number ones, or less than one percent) that debuted at No. 100 and climbed all the way to No. 1 in the Hot 100’s 63-and-a-half-year history:
- Heat Waves,” Glass Animals, hit No. 1 March 12, 2022
- “See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, April 25, 2015
- “Black and Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa, Feb. 19, 2011
- “Kiss Kiss,” Chris Brown feat. T-Pain, Nov. 10, 2007
- “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” UB40, July 24, 1993
- “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” Vicki Lawrence, April 7, 1973
- ”When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge, May 28, 1966
- “Go Away Little Girl,” Steve Lawrence, Jan. 12, 1963
- “Michael,” The Highwaymen, Sept. 4, 1961
- “Teen Angel,” Mark Dinning, Feb. 8, 1960
- “Kansas City,” Wilbert Harrison, May 18, 1959
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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