During the week, using complex radio airplay tracking systems and mathematics, a list of the top fifty songs played on Australian commercial radio in the previous week was compiled by D-Star Data. This list excluded songs released in the last two years, but somehow still paints an accurate portrait of the radio landscape of 2013.
As the editor of Australia’s number one radio magazine, The Music Network, Nathan Jolly reviewed all fifty.
1. Adele: ‘Rolling in the Deep’
Jamie xx remixed this and Childish Gambino added his own verse, which includes the lyrics, “Fuck Macaulay Culkin, never going home alone”. Had this been the version that was blasted on commercial radio every hour, on the hour, who knows how far it would have elevated culture? Mars landings or something, probably.
2. Maroon Five: ‘Moves Like Jagger’
Have you seen Jagger move recently? Boasting about having moves like a 70-year-old is certainly no boast, unless of course he means he shares Jagger’s seduction moves, in which case, boasting about having “moves” like a 70-year-old who spawned seven children with four different women is certainly no boast.
3. Coldplay: ‘Paradise’
Coldplay are the most avant garde band to be played on Australian commercial radio since The Beatles. Deal with it.
4. Gotye: ‘Somebody That I used To Know’
A single built off a ‘Ba-Ba-Black Sheep’ motif, featuring long meandering verses sung by a guy who sounds like Sting and whose name cannot be pronounced. This will not work on radio, unless Topher Grace or someone tweets about it.
5. Beyonce: ‘Crazy In Love’
The relentless, forward-propulsion of this Beyonce classic is halted by Jay-Z’s verse, which is so behind the beat it’s coming out in 2014.
6. Adele: ‘Someone Like You’
In concerts and on record, Adele sings like a beautiful, heartbroken ingenue. In interviews she speaks like she’s manning the counter at the local chippie for half an hour or so while Shazza ducks off for a sneaky ciggie and to call Brad and find out what the deal was with that cow he was seen having it off with. “Hands off the counter-top, I just Windex’d that!”
7. Kings Of Leon: ‘Sex On Fire’
A cover of the Noiseworks classic ‘Hot Chilli Woman’, with slight lyrical changes for the American market.
8. U2: ‘Beautiful Day’
Upon news that Coldplay were the new U2, Bono stole Coldplay’s favourite drumbeat, noticed that it wasn’t raining anymore, and wrote this classic. U2 became the new U2.
9. Eagle Eye Cherry: ‘Save Tonight’
For hundreds of years, the Bible was assumed lost to the ages, before it was unearthed and used as the nub of an entire religion. This song would have met a similar fate had it not been for the tireless work of cover bands in RSL clubs all around the country.
10. The Police: ‘Every Breath You Take’
The most-celebrated of Sting’s creepy stalker trilogy (which also features ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’), this track predicted Notorious B.I.G’s untimely death and the rise of hip hop ( I think. I haven’t listened for a while).
11. The Four Seasons: ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’
“What a very special time for me” and “you know, I didn’t even know her name” cannot co-exist as lyrics in a romantic pop song. Personal favourite: “As I remember, what a night“. As I remember… What horrors is Frankie Valli blocking out?
12. Silverchair: ‘Straight Lines’
If Diorama was Daniel Johns in Pet Sounds mode, then follow-up album Young Modern is very much his build-a-tent-in-the-living-room-wear-fire-hats-and-go-batshit-crazy Smile period. He traded a Paul Mac for a Preset, and scored the most successful single of his career.
13. Scissor Sisters: ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’
A dance floor filler about not feeling like dancing by a band who couldn’t decide whether to be Elton John or Barry Gibb, so just became both.
14. Lady Antebellum: ‘Need You Now’
In the tradition of bands like Blondie and Little Birdy, the female vocalist in this country pop outfit is destined to be known as “Lady Antebellum” for evermore. Hey, Evermore haven’t been in this list so far…
15. Nik Kershaw: ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’
You know a society is post-everything when a song from Pretty In Pink, which sounds so ‘80s it should come bundled with an AIDS pamphlet and an offer to join the Columbia Record Club, is now known as “that song from Grand Theft Auto.”
16. Train: ‘Hey Soul Sister’
You know how Shaggy is a one-hit wonder, but with a different “one-hit” each seven or so years? That’s also the Train trajectory. Please don’t stop at all stations, Train; skip Triple J at least.
17. Jason Mraz: ‘I’m Yours’
“Okay Jason, there’s a three-hour window in April where neither John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Pete Murray, Beautiful Girls or John Butler will have a single at radio. This is your time to strike.”
18. Cee Lo Green: ‘Fuck You’
Somewhere, there is somebody’s mum who has only heard the clumsy ‘Forget You’ radio edit of this track, who will be casually shopping in a Lowes, hear the opening, buoyant bars of this Motown throwback, and tell her six-year-old daughter, “Oh, I quite like this song, it’s nice…” Hilarity will ensue, and she will leave without any of the kids’ winter uniforms.
19. Bryan Adams: ‘Summer of 69′
Bryan Adams was actually nine during the Summer of ’69, which means the numeral in the title actually refers to something else. A bus-route maybe?
20. R.E.M: ‘Losing My Religion’
Ahh the old commercial radio-baiting trick of building a track around a mandolin riff and an archaic Southern saying, and then neglecting to write a chorus.
21. Black Eyed Peas: ‘I Gotta Feeling’
22. Simple Minds: ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’
This song deserves to be higher in the list. It reminds me fondly of a high school experience that I’m not sure anyone actually had.
23. The Verve: ‘Bittersweet Symphony’
When you grow up in Northern England, the sky is perennially grey and weeping, your block is broken and violent, and you drape your life-affirming songs with life-affirming strings and fucking come at me if you’ve a problem, innit?
24. Bruno Mars: ‘Marry You’
You know when something is meant as a compliment but as it leaves your lips you realise it’s actually a massive insult? I imagine that was the feeling that spawned Bruno Mars’ “It’s a beautiful night / We’re looking for something dumb to do / Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you.”
25. Toto: ‘Africa’
This song was actually the first usage of the now commonplace, almost cliched saying, “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.”
26. Bruce Springsteen: ‘Dancing in the Dark’
Courtney Cox. New Jersey. The gun-hire business that never took off, despite the catchy jingle.
27. The Killers: ‘Somebody Told Me’
The Killers are the only band who have successfully transitioned from Vegas boys obsessed with Blur to Vegas boys obsessed with Springsteen to Vegas men who know Roy Orbison is the shit — and for this they should be commended.
28. Lady Gaga: ‘The Edge of Glory’
If this song had more reverb on the drums and more dirt on its hands, it would be a Springsteen single. Look at that title; so Springsteen.
29. Jessie J: ‘Domino’
Jessie J wrote ‘Party In The USA’. Commercial radio is therefore contractually obliged to play everything she releases.
30. Men At Work: ‘Down Under’
American people assume that, almost thirty years after this terrible novelty song was released, it is still one of the most played songs in Australia — and I guess that instead of crossing our arms and insisting that we have a diverse, dense musical culture, we now have to admit that they are very correct.
31. Pearl Jam: ‘Better Man’
Here’s a fun game to play whenever anyone mentions Pearl Jam in reverential tones: say, “I love those guys”, and then start singing a Matchbox 20, Lifehouse, or 3 Doors Down song.
32. Coldplay: ‘Viva La Vida’
Seriously, Coldplay are so busy making you think this kinda oddball psychedelia is bland radio fodder that one day soon they will drop a two-chord, two-minute piano ballad and it will blow your fucking minds.
33. Coldplay: ‘Clocks’
It’s a double-dose of the Coldies on HitFM — and speaking of coldies, you can win a year’s-worth of VB, thanks to our Backyard Barbie Bash competition, details up next.
34. Goo Goo Dolls: ‘Iris’
Go to karaoke, and put on ‘Piano Man’. Then sing this over the top. You will be carried out a hero or a disturber of the peace, but the song’ll still have fit perfectly, and there’s nothing anyone can do to take that away from you.
35. 1927: ‘That’s When I Think of You’
This song is off an album called Ish, which is both the sound of a video game punch, and the way to radio-edit the word ‘shit’.
36. Cyndi Lauper: ‘Time After Time’
One of the greatest songs of all time.
37. The Calling: ‘Wherever You Will Go’
A few months ago, this guy was kidnapped, beaten half to death and thrown on the train tracks to die. The world is pretty fucked up. Also, he stole the middle eight of this song from ‘Awful’, by Hole.
38. Bon Jovi: ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’
Back in the ‘80s, the key-change wars were getting so intense that Bon Jovi needed to couple their most epic key-change yet with a skip-beat, and they still couldn’t best Roxette’s ‘Fading Like A Flower’. There’s a ‘Tommy and Gina’ sequel song too, written years later — but there’s also about to be a sequel to Twins called Triplets.
39. Phil Collins: ‘In the Air Tonight’
There’s a story about how a childhood Phil Collins witnessed a local ne’er-do-well watching someone drown without helping, then years later invited him to a concert to “j’accuse”, via this song’s lyrics. It’s total bullshit of course, having been debunked numerous times, but I choose to believe it because I really wish it to be true. Also: for a great drummer, Collins has terrible drum sounds on his records.
40. Queen: ‘We Are the Champions’
One of four songs written by Queen for the Mighty Ducks franchise.
41. Michael Jackson: ‘Billie Jean’
During the Motown 25 debut of this track, Jackson premiered the moonwalk, and unleashed a performance so spellbinding he should have been burnt at the stake. While the world went apeshit, he was sitting backstage, gutted because at one point during the routine he didn’t balance on his toes for long enough. That’s why he is the best. Unfortunately, this track didn’t kick off the ‘paternity-pop’ craze we all wanted.
42. Natalie Imbruglia: ‘Torn’
This song is actually a cover of a Danish pop single. I like to imagine Natalie Imbruglia still lives in that boho apartment in the clip, California dreaming about the Central Coast.
43. David Guetta: ‘Without You’
This song should be played over slow-motion footage of Pat Rafter when he dies. Only the first minute or so, though. Unless he dies in a nightclub or something.
44. Michael Buble: ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’
Robbie Williams took his eye off the ball for one album, and look who swept in and slept with your mother and her sister (your aunty).
45. Bruno Mars: ‘The Lazy Song’
The lazy review. Also, if I ever forget to get married and instead buy a robot dog, I have dibs on the name ‘Bruno Mars’.
46. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: ‘I Love Rock n Roll’
I think Joan Jett secretly got into Joni Mitchell-style folk music years ago, and listens to it at home with her ‘erb garden and flowing summer dresses and yoga-yogi — but because of this song, every time she nips out to the store she has to cake on the eyeliner and dress in leather and keep living the lie.
47. Phil Collins: ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’
There’s a This American Life episode where Phil Collins speaks so beautifully and openly about past heartbreak that instead of hearing horrible drum-production and tasteless vocal choices, I now hear pure, soul-bearing, open-diary, bleeding-wristed agony. Oh, it’s a cover? Nevermind then.
48. Daryl Braithwaite: ‘The Horses’
This is technically a cover of a Rickie Lee Jones hit, but surely Braithwaite owns this belter so completely that he would have a fairly good claim for copyright.
49. Crowded House: ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’
In the second verse, Neil Finn pronounced the word “paper” with a few ‘w’ sounds thrown in, and American radio realised he wasn’t one of them and swiftly banned him from the airwaves until he could return with a song about weather. Americans love weather.
50. Lady Gaga: ‘Born This Way’
The official anthem of tolerance towards women born half alpha-babe, half motorcycle.
Top 50 compiled by Stephen Green from D-Star data.