(March 3, 2021). In its 64th week on the Hot 100, The Weeknd’s never-say-die smash hit “Blinding Lights” racks up yet another record-extending week in the top 10 as it spends its 51st frame in the chart’s upper decile.
The synth-heavy, throwback pop and R&B bop has been in the top ten (and top five) for eight consecutive weeks after returning from a one-week Hot 100 hiatus during the 2020 Christmas holiday season. Its current eight-week top-10 streak is added to the incredible 43 weeks it spent in that tier during 2020, when it finished as the biggest Hot 100 hit in Billboard’s year-end recap.
The number 43 factors into another bit of chart history as it relates to longevity in the top ten: it is 43 years ago to the week that another song set the then-record for most weeks in the top 10, albeit with a much smaller number.
On the chart dated March 4, 1978, the phenomenal Bee Gees managed to keep their Saturday Night Fever ballad and first single, “How Deep Is Your Love,” in the top-10 for a record-setting 17th (and final) week – or just one-third the time that “Blinding Lights” has racked up in the past year or so.
Both feats – “Blinding Lights” with 51 weeks and “How Deep Is Your Love” with 17 – are considered amazing for their respective eras, even if the two cases are in complete contrast with one another.
First consider that the Bee Gees had just outperformed the juggernaut it replaced at the top – Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” – which spent a phenomenal (and then-record) ten weeks at No. 1 and happened to rank as the biggest hit of the 1970s, despite only managing 14 top-10 weeks between October ‘77 and January ‘78.
The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” had also eclipsed the top-10 record that was just established by the group’s little brother Andy Gibb months earlier. His “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” resided in the chart’s top tier for sixteen weeks in the summer and fall of 1977, more than any other up to that point.
What’s more, Andy was the artist at No. 1 on the March 4, 1978 chart with his followup smash, “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” which itself would be sandwiched between the No. 1 runs of The Bee Gees’ two followup singles, “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever,” both of which happened to take up residence in that week’s top 10, concurrently with “How Deep Is Your Love.”
It marked the first time since the Beatles had done it 14 years earlier that an act had three or more songs in the top ten simultaneously. The Bee Gees were also associated with two more top-10 singles that week: Andy Gibbs’ No. 1 plus a rising top-five smash by Samantha Sang, “Emotion,” which was co-written by the Bee Gees’ Barry and Robin Gibb.
Clearly, the incredibly talented Bee Gees could do no wrong in the winter and spring of 1978.
But “How Deep Is Your Love” had run its course and would disappear from the top-10 the following week, beginning its slow descent down the chart. It would eventually fall off the Hot 100 entirely that May. The 17-week record it held for most weeks in the top ten seemed as if it would stand forever. It lasted for the next 14 years until Billboard famously transitioned to its current Nielsen/MRC Data (formerly known as SoundScan and BDS) chart calculation methodology. Since 1992, the record for most top-10 weeks by a song has been broken many times, including most recently by Post Malone’s “Circles,” which briefly held the mark last fall before giving way to the current champ.
Fast forward to this week and The Weeknd’s record-extending 51st frame in the top ten with “Blinding Lights.” That tune has been a singular phenomenon whose chart run has been aided by several factors, not the least of which is that 30-year-old change in the chart methodology, which incorporated actual piece-count sales (and now downloads and streaming) and uses actual radio airplay audience – not ranked program director lists – in the determination of each week’s chart.
Then there’s the fact that radio doesn’t remove singles from their playlists nearly as fast as they used to. In the 1970s – and for many decades before and after – labels often marketed followup singles to radio within two months of each other to keep up artist interest and to boost album sales. The Bee Gees were a case in point. “Stayin’ Alive” was released as a single before “How Deep Is Your Love” even reached No. 1. “Night Fever” was hitting store shelves just as “Stayin’ Alive” was rising to the top.
Rarely did radio play more than one record by the same artist in heavy rotation, and the concurrent chart runs of the Bee Gees’ hits were a rare exception.
These days, there are no artificial limits to how long radio will play a hit tune. A song can receive heavy airplay for many months, heck even a full year or more (and even with a label pushing its followup), as has been the case for “Blinding Lights.”
There’s also little regard for the notion of a must-release followup single (even the word “single” is a misnomer these days as there are rarely any physical forms of the medium to speak of in stores). In The Weeknd’s case, followup single “Save Your Tears” (from the same After Hours album, mind you) wasn’t even pushed to radio and video outlets until January, roughly a year after its immediate predecessor was first marketed. “Tears” has yet to surpass “Blinding Lights” in weekly chart rank – despite “Lights” having been on the Hot 100 since November of 2019(!).
Then, when you factor in advances in technology like downloads and streaming, which means that fans can heavily “consume” their favorite tunes indefinitely (and have those clicks count towards chart position), you further have the makings of a long-running hit. No longer is a song’s chart performance artificially constrained by whether it has been prematurely removed from radio playlists or whether fans can still find it in stores.
It was for those reasons that Billboard instituted an expiration policy to remove older product from the charts when they fall below certain thresholds. If a song has been on the list for 52 weeks or more and ranks below No. 25, it is automatically removed. If it ranks below No. 50 in its 21st week or more, it is also removed – unless extenuating circumstances exist.
Those rules explain “Blinding Lights” one-week absence from the Hot 100 in early January when it was pushed off the list by the onslaught of Christmas holiday tunes.
Yet the song is stronger now than it was in the months leading up to the holidays, which prompted its chart re-entry and enduring top-five status since. A Super Bowl halftime performance in February nearly returned “Blinding Lights” to its No. 1 peak, which would have set another record for longest gap – ten months – between No. 1 peaks for a song in its original release cycle.
To put that in historical perspective, ten months after the Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love” had exited the top ten, the trio of brothers had moved on to their next album and another No. 1 single, “Too Much Heaven,” which reached the top in January 1979. And their label was about to issue the followup single “Tragedy,” another No. 1 smash that March.
That would be four additional No. 1 singles by the Bee Gees within a year of “How Deep Is Your Love” exiting the top 40.
By that point, “How Deep Is Your Love” was a pleasant, but faded chart memory. On the contrary, nearly a year after the reign of “Blinding Lights,” that song is still as ubiquitous as ever.