Chart Beat

Ask Billboard: Names in Those Tunes: 'Uma,' 'Marvin' & 'Cougar' Climb the Hot 100

BB26 hot 100 2015

As always, submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, tweet @gthot20


Hi Gary,

On the latest Billboard Hot 100 (dated Sept. 5), two celebrities appear in names of songs in the top 25: Kill Bill actress "Uma Thurman" is the title character of Fall Out Boy's current hit (No. 23), while late music legend "Marvin Gaye" serves as the title of Charlie Puth's song, featuring Meghan Trainor (No. 25).

Meanwhile, John (Cougar) Mellencamp is referenced in Keith Urban's "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" (No. 48). And, recently, Madonna reached No. 84 with her self-referencing (and self-effacing) "B**** I'm Madonna.' "

What do you think is behind this run of songs named after celebrities, including other musicians (or in Madonna's case, herself)?


Blair Buchta 
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 

P.S.: Honourable mention to Taylor Swift's recent hit "Style," which is rumoured to be about One Direction's Harry Styles.

Hi Blair (and reader Rick Thomas of Frankfort, Kentucky, who also wrote in about the trend).

While the amount of name-checking hits has swelled of late, it's not new territory for songwriters. More than a half-century ago, in the early stages of Beatlemania in 1964, the Carefrees hit No. 39 on the Hot 100 with "We Love You Beatles," and name-dropping in pop song titles hasn't stopped.

Other such notable hits in the rock era, among so many others: "Rock Me Amadeus" (Falco), "Bette Davis Eyes" (Kim Carnes), "Clint Eastwood" (Gorillaz), "Buddy Holly" (Weezer), "When Smokey Sings" (ABC), "Brian Wilson" (Barenaked Ladies) and even Ray Stevens' spoof "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow." ("It's the most flattering thing to happen to me in a long time," Manilow said of the song in 1979.)

As for "Uma Thurman," "We were like, 'Why don't we write something in the Quentin Tarantino world?' " Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz recently told Billboard. "Then, the Uma idea came up. We reached out to her; I don't know how she feels about the song, but she's OK with us naming it 'Uma Thurman.' "

Is there a thread as to why Thurman, Gaye, Mellencamp and others are currently appearing in the title, not artist, field of hit songs? I reached out to two of pop music's most observant chroniclers, Sean Ross, Edison Research VP/music and programming, and Sony Music vet Rich Appel (also both Billboard contributors).

Ross and Appel feel that, given the tradition dating back decades, it's part coincidence that a spate of such songs is currently clustered. However, a more concrete factor may be key: today's increased competition for consumers' attention.

Co-opting a name "launched a career for Taylor Swift," Ross notes, as Swift arrived in 2006 with her No. 6 Hot Country Songs smash "Tim McGraw." "There has always been a regular parade of name-checks in country lyrics, to show both rock and country cred."

Cases in point: in addition to Urban's latest, Alan Jackson is currently charting at country with "Jim and Jack and Hank" (aka, "Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Hank Williams Sr. … or Jr. … or both," Jackson says). Re: rock clout, Eric Church, for example, topped Hot Country Songs in 2012 with "Springsteen."

Appel also cites the history of name-dropping in song titles and muses that technological evolution is, in part, driving the current crop. "It's a potential shortcut to recognition," he says. "That is, building your song around, and titling it after, someone famous might be regarded as a quicker path to Internet buzz, curiosity to stream the song or video and discussion with peers."

Notably, "Uma" adds another element of familiarity: its interpolation of the theme to The Munsters.

"At a time when just getting a song on the radar is so difficult, and when just what you title a song matters – the shorter, the better, as we've recently seen – this could be a formula for success all by itself. As in, 'Here's a name that everyone knows. Let's write a song around him or her.' "

Appel even gives some retroactive advice, contemplating that a song from a year ago might've risen even higher than it did if it had a more specific title.

"Would Fifth Harmony's 'BO$$' have been a far bigger hit had it been titled 'Michelle Obama'? I bet it would have."


Hi Gary,

It would've been cool if Drake's featured appearance on The Game's "100" had been Drake's 100th Hot 100 appearance. Perhaps it will rest at No. 100 at one point, eh?
Pablo Nelson
Oakand, California

Hi Pablo,

As always, you give 100 percent in finding interesting observances on Billboard charts.

So far, "100" has spent three weeks on the Hot 100, its first two at No. 90 and its latest at No. 98. It's one of Drake's 91 Hot 100 hits, a sum which places him tied, with James Brown, for fourth place in the chart's 57-year history. The cast of Fox's Glee leads with 207 entries, followed by Lil Wayne (126) and Elvis Presley (108, with the King, who stamps his 53rd top 40 album on the Billboard 200 this week, having begun his career two years prior to the Hot 100's 1958 origin).

Notably, "100" is the first song by that title ever to hit the Hot 100. But, it's far from the first all-numerically-named chart hit. Here's a look at all the songs to reach the ranking whose titles have contained only numbers (and, in some cases, punctuation).

From "#1" to, now, "100," and higher, here's the list:

Title, Artist, Peak, Year
"#1," Nelly, No. 22, 2001
"1+1," Beyonce, No. 57, 2011
"1-2-3," Len Barry No. 2, 1965
"1-2-3," Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine, No. 3, 1988
"1-2-3," The Chimes, No. 86, 1990
"1, 2, 3, 4," Plain White T's, No. 34, 2009

"3," Britney Spears, No. 1, 2009
"5:15," The Who, No. 45, 1979
"5-1-5-0," Dierks Bentley, No. 33, 2012
"," City Boy, No. 27, 1978
"7," Prince and the New Power Generation, No. 7, 1993
"7/11," Beyonce, No. 13, 2014
"8 X 10," Bill Anderson, No. 53, 1963
"10-9-8," Face to Face, No. 38, 1984

"17," Rick James, No. 36, 1984
"18," One Direction, No. 87, 2014
"19," Paul Hardcastle, No. 15, 1985
"20/20," George Benson, No. 48, 1985
"20-75," Willie Mitchell, No. 31, 1964
"22," Taylor Swift, No. 20, 2013
"23," Mike WiLL Made-It feat. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J, No. 11, 2013
"24/7," Kevon Edmonds, No. 10, 1999
"24/7," Dino, No. 42, 1989
"30-60-90," Willie Mitchell, No. 69, 1969
"98.6," Keith, No. 7, 1967
"99," Toto, No. 26, 1980
"99 1/2," Carol Lynn Townes, No. 77, 1984
"100," The Game feat. Drake, No. 90, 2015

"143," Bobby Brackins feat. Ray J, No. 76, 2010
"409," The Beach Boys, No. 76, 1962
"777-9311," The Time, No. 88, 1982
"808," Blaque, No. 8, 1999
"853-5937," Squeeze, No. 32, 1988
"911," Wyclef Jean feat. Mary J. Blige, No. 38, 2000

"1234," Feist, No. 8, 2007
"1901," Phoenix, No. 84, 2010
"1941," Tom Northcott, No. 88, 1968
"1973," James Blunt, No. 73, 2007
"1979," The Smashing Pumpkins, No. 12, 1996
"1984," Spirit, No. 69, 1970
"1985," Bowling for Soup, No. 23, 2004
"1994," Jason Aldean, No. 52, 2013
"1999," Prince, No. 12, 1983

In what's a long-feted fun fact among chart fans, Prince and the New Power Generation's "7" is the only song above whose title matches its peak position.

And, in 2007, Avril Lavigne hit No. 95 on the Hot 100 with "Hot," the only song by that title ever to appear on the list. Perhaps someone will create a mash-up of that single and The Game and Drake's new track, and perhaps it will reach the chart. That way, we could celebrate a Hot 100 hit called … "Hot/100."


@gthot20 Uptown Funk is now up to 40 weeks in the Top 20 (18 or higher every week). Where does that rank all time?

Brian C. Cole ?@BrianCCole

Hi Brian,

Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk!," featuring Bruno Mars, soared 65-18 on the Hot 100 dated Dec. 6, 2014 and has, as you note, been imbedded in the top 20 since. (How long ago was December 2014? At the time, the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals were considered 2015 World Series favorites and Donald Trump was campaigning, for TV ratings, with these running mates.)

With 40 (of its 41 total) weeks on the Hot 100 in the top 20, here's a look at the songs to spend the most time in the region:

Weeks in Top 20, Title, Artist, Peak, Year
46 weeks, "You Were Meant for Me"/"Foolish Games," Jewel, No. 2, 1997
40, "Uptown Funk!," Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, No. 1 (14 weeks), 2015
40, "Party Rock Anthem," LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock, No. 1 (six), 2011
38, "Smooth," Santana feat. Rob Thomas, No. 1 (12), 1999
38, "Too Close," Next, No. 1 (five), 1998
37, "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons, No. 3, 2013
37, "I Gotta Feeling," the Black Eyed Peas, No. 1 (14), 2009
37, "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes, No. 2, 1997
36, "Truly Madly Deeply," Savage Garden, No. 1 (two), 1998
34, "Dark Horse," Katy Perry feat. Juicy J, No. 1 (four), 2014
34, "Love Story," Taylor Swift, No. 4, 2009
34, "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)," Los Del Rio, No. 1 (14), 1996

It's worth pointing out that the leader on the list above ranks first largely because of its release as a double-sided commercial single, with Jewel having totaled that run thanks to each song's radio run (and at a time when double-sided physical singles were eligible to chart as one Hot 100 entry). Thus, this week, "Funk" ties "Anthem" for the most weeks in the top 20 among singular songs (excluding A and B sides combined).

Interestingly, "Funk" is not the highest-charting 41-week-old song on the Hot 100 this week. Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" (which debuted a week before "Funk" and fell off the chart for a frame, Dec. 6, before solidifying its momentum and remaining on each week since Dec. 13) jumps back into the top 10 (14-10) in its 41st week. Whereas "Funk" flew up the Hot 100 upon its release and has logged a gentle descent, "Dance" steadily crossed from rock radio formats and is still peaking at adult radio, spending a fourth week at No. 1 on Adult Contemporary.

"Dance" is also close to an historic honor on the Hot Rock Songs chart, as it's led the survey for 22 weeks. With one more week on top, it will tie Hozier's "Take Me to Church" and Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" (see above) for the list's longest reign since it launched in 2009. If "Dance" notches two more weeks at No. 1, it will claim the record all to itself.