Los Angles – You only need one word to sum up the year in pop 2004: Usher. Clearly, it was his house. The rest of us were just overnight visitors.
It began innocently enough, right at the beginning of the calendar year. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated Jan. 10, 2004 (coincidentally, the 55th anniversary of the introduction of the 45 rpm record), the highest new entry was “Yeah!” by Usher Featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris. Six weeks later, “Yeah!” had assumed pole position, and remained there for 12 weeks, tying it as the longest-running No. 1 (with “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and “Smooth” by Santana Featuring Rob Thomas) since Brandy and Monica reigned for 13 weeks in 1998 with “The Boy Is Mine.”
While “Yeah!” was still dominating the chart, along came follow-up “Burn.” The week of May 22, “Burn” replaced “Yeah!” at No. 1, and stayed there for eight weeks. It gave Usher a 20-week lock on the top spot, the longest consecutive run at No. 1 in the history of the Hot 100. The previous record was 16 weeks, held by Boyz II Men (who did it twice) and Mariah Carey.
Now, “Yeah!” and “Burn” have ended up as the No. 1 and No. 2 songs of 2004 on the year-end recap of Hot 100 Singles & Tracks. It’s the first time in 40 years that one artist has owned the top two titles of the year. In 1964, the Beatles were Nos. 1 and 2 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
BUT WAIT,THERE’S MORE
That’s just a small part of the Usher story in 2004. After “Burn” came “Confessions Part II,” another No. 1 hit, and “My Boo,” a duet with Alicia Keys that also ascended to the top. By the time the chart year was over, Usher had held first place for 27 weeks, longer than any other artist in history. He was still No. 1 with “My Boo” as the new chart year began.
Buoyed by his album’s first three hits (“My Boo” was added to a revised edition of the set), Usher topped the Billboard 200 for nine weeks with “Confessions,” his first No. 1 on this chart. Based on its sales strength, “Confessions” is the No. 1 album of the year on the Top Billboard 200 Albums recap.
Although 50 Cent also had the top single and album of 2003, the feat is so rare that before Usher and 50 Cent, you would have to go back to 1994 to find another instance (Ace of Base ruled both recaps that year, with the single and the album both titled “The Sign”).
On the year-end recap of the Hot 100, the top 10 includes only two other artists aside from Usher who have ranked in the top 10 before. Usher had the No. 9 song of the year twice, with “Nice & Slow” in 1998 and “U Got It Bad” in 2002. In 2001, Keys’ first chart entry, “Fallin’,” was the No. 2 song of the year. This year, she finishes in third place with “If I Ain’t Got You.”
The only other artist in the top 10 to repeat from a previous year is P. Diddy, most recently in the top 10 as Puff Daddy
in 1997 with the No. 3 song of the year, “I’ll Be Missing You,” as well as the No. 5 hit that year, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.” This year, Diddy is featured along with Enya on Mario Winans’ “I Don’t Wanna Know,” which is ranked No. 7. That happens to make Enya not only the highest-ranked Irish artist of the year but also the highest-ranked non-American, followed by Canada’s Nickelback at No. 17 with “Someday.”
One irony inside the top 10: Maroon5, a group that has never peaked higher than No. 5 on a weekly Hot 100 chart, has the No. 4 song of the year with “This Love.” The track did indeed peak at No. 5, but comes in higher on the year-end recap thanks to its long, healthy chart life filled with abundant sales and airplay.
What is most remarkable is that for the third year in a row, the best-selling single of the year belongs to an “American Idol” finalist. For the second year, the top two are by “Idol” competitors. This year, the top three are by “Idol” finalists, as well as four of the top six. Third-season winner Fantasia has the No. 1 single of the year with “I Believe,” followed by Clay Aiken’s “Solitaire”/”The Way” and Diana DeGarmo’s “Dreams.” Kimberley Locke has the No. 6 single of the year with “8th World Wonder.”
The No. 1 title on the recap of the Hot Digital Tracks chart is the radio mix of “Hey Ya!” by OutKast. Further down the list are songs that did well in the digital world but didn’t reach the top 30 of the Hot 100, including “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows, “Vertigo” by U2 and “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard.
Within the top 10 of the Billboard 200 recap are two albums by country artists, down from last year’s three. For 2004, Toby Keith is No. 7 with “Shock’n Y’all” and Kenny Chesney is No. 10 with “When the Sun Goes Down.” In 2003, the country acts in the top 10 were Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw.
The gender gap has grown huge when it comes to No. 1 album of the year. Usher’s triumph follows that of 50 Cent, who had the top title of 2003, and Eminem, who placed first in 2002. The last time a female act had the No. 1 album of the year was 1997, when the Spice Girls led the list. The year before, Alanis Morissette had the No. 1 album of the year, the last solo female artist to do so.
With Eminem, 50 Cent and Usher coming out on top the last three years, it’s the longest reign of No. 1 albums of the year by solo male artists since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was No. 1 in 1983 and 1984 and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” was No. 1 in 1985.