Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number: Sia & Other Artists Who Topped the Hot 100 After 40
Just how unusual is that achievement?
Sia is the first woman, as a lead artist on a song, to claim their first No. 1 over the age of 40 since 1989, when Bette Midler (then 43) flew to No. 1 with “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Before Sia, among all women – in both lead and featured roles on a song – the last female to score their first No. 1 over 40 was Loleatta Holloway, in 1991. The singer, then 44, was the featured artist on Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations.”
Overall, Sia is the first woman over 40 to hit No. 1 since 2000, when Madonna (then 42) topped the list with “Music” (her 12th No. 1).
“Cheap Thrills” features Sean Paul – another over-40 artist – who collects his fourth No. 1 at the age of 43. He’s the first man over 40 to hit No. 1 in just a little over two years: when Pharrell (then 40) began a 10-week run at No. 1 with “Happy” (his second leader).
As both Sia and Sean Paul are over 40, “Cheap Thrills” is the first No. 1 hit to boast two soloists each over 40 years old since “All For Love” in 1994. The track was credited equally to Rod Stewart (then 49), Sting (42) and Bryan Adams (36).
They aren’t the only chart-toppers, though, who’ve reached No. 1 after their 40th birthday. Noticeably, until the 1990s, it appears that veteran acts more commonly topped the Hot 100 than today.
In the 1980s, several acts had built up long chart histories dating to the early rock era. (The Billboard Hot 100 chart was launched in August of 1958.) Take for example The Beatles’ George Harrison, who was 44 when he led with "Got My Mind Set on You" in 1988. Or, Bill Medley -- who had ruled the Hot 100 in the 1960s as half of The Righteous Brothers – as he led in 1987 at age 47 with the Dirty Dancing classic "(I've Had) The Time of My Life.”
Further, as Medley’s duet partner on that hit was Jennifer Warnes, then 40, "Cheap Thrills" is the first Hot 100 No. 1 since "Life" billed to a male and female artist both at least 40 years of age.
As for the 1980s and 1990s: why did acts over 40 perhaps lead the Hot 100 less often by the early 1990s? Factors could include the splintering of mainstream pop, home to several veteran acts, into younger-leaning grunge and rap. Plus, the establishment of video, first fostered by MTV and then by social media, has also surely favored more youthful acts.
Check out this selection of artists who have seized the Hot 100 crown after turning 40:
2014 - Pharrell, “Happy” (40 years, 11 months)
The star producer and artist first scored a No. 1 north of age 40 as a featured act on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” in 2013, and followed with another chart-topper the next year. “Happy” led the Hot 100 for 10 weeks in 2014.
2013 - Eminem, “The Monster” (41 years, 2 months)
When Eminem and Rihanna reunited for a follow up to their Hot 100 No. 1 smash “Love The Way You Lie,” the result sparked a repeat performance. “The Monster” led the chart for four weeks in 2013 and 2014.
2009 - Dr. Dre, “Crack a Bottle” (44 years)
The NWA member and successful producer scored his first Hot 100 leader as a lead artist at age 44, helping out protégées Eminem and 50 Cent. He’d previously visited the crown as a featured act on Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” a four-week leader in 1996.
2000 - Madonna, “Music” (42 years, 1 month)
Madonna upped her Hot 100 leader count to 12 with this 2000 smash, which reigned for four weeks. “Music” made Madonna only the second act at the time (after Janet Jackson) to score chart-toppers in the 1980s, ‘90s and ‘00s.
1999 - Cher, “Believe” (52 years, 9 months)
At 52, Cher remains the oldest woman to command the Hot 100. “Believe” held the No. 1 post for four weeks and was named the top Hot 100 year-end single of 1999. “Believe” marked a musical comeback for the diva, as it was her first top 10 hit since January of 1990 (“Just Like Jesse James”) and her first No. 1 since 1974’s “Dark Lady.”
1992, 1997 - Elton John, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” & “Candle in the Wind 1997” (44 years, 10 months and 50 years, 6 months)
Sir Elton joined the 40-and-over club twice, notably both times with new takes on previously released hits. A live duet with George Michael of his 1974 track “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” climbed to No. 1 in 1992. A little over five years later, John returned to the summit with a reworked version of “Candle in the Wind,” crafted as a tribute to his close friend, Diana, Princess of Wales.
1993 - Meat Loaf, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (46 years, 1 month)
Meat Loaf swept to No. 1 for the first time with this declaration in late 1993, leading the list for five straight weeks. Meat Loaf had been absent from the Hot 100 since 1981 when he staged his triumphant return in 1993 with “I’d Do Anything For Love” and its parent album, the Billboard 200-chart topping Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.
1989 - Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (40 years, 7 months)
“We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the historical survey of major events of Joel’s lifetime, crowned the Hot 100 just after the singer-songwriter crossed a personal milestone: He’d turned 40 just seven months before the song reached No. 1.
1989 - Bette Midler, “Wind Beneath My Wings” (43 years, 6 months)
The Divine Miss M soared to No. 1 for the first time with this track on the Beaches soundtrack, more than 15 years after her first top 10 hit. “Wings” would go on to snare Grammy Awards for record and song of the year. “Wings” was Midler’s first top 40 hit on the Hot 100 since 1981 (“My Mother’s Eyes”).
1988 - George Harrison, “Got My Mind Set on You” (44 years, 10 months)
The last Hot 100 No. 1 by a Beatle to date, Harrison’s track (his third solo No. 1) made him the third member of the Fab Four to snag a chart-topper after age 40. John Lennon last topped the survey with “Just Like Starting Over” in 1980, weeks after his assassination at age 40. Paul McCartney, meanwhile, crossed the four-decade mark when “Ebony and Ivory,” a duet with Stevie Wonder, was in the middle of a seven-week No 1 stint in 1982. The following year, McCartney also crowned the list again with another duet: “Say Say Say,” with Michael Jackson.
1987 - Bob Seger, “Shakedown” (42 years, 2 months)
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee shook up the Hot 100 with his first and only No. 1 to date, a cut from the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack.
1987 - Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” (45 years)
After “Respect” topped the Hot 100 in June of 1967, the Queen of Soul waited nearly 20 years for her second visit (and so far last) to the penthouse. The moment finally arrived in April of 1987 courtesy of this duet with George Michael, which scored the pair a Grammy Award.
1986 - Peter Cetera, “Glory of Love” & “The Next Time I Fall” (41 years, 10 months and 42 years, 2 months)
The former Chicago frontman reached the pinnacle twice in his 40s: first with “Glory,” the theme to the hit film The Karate Kid II in 1986. He then teamed up with Amy Grant for “Fall,” which rose to No. 1 three months later.
1984 - Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (44 years, 9 months)
Twenty-four years after she first reached the Hot 100 – as half of Ike & Tina Turner in 1960 – Tina claimed her first leader on the list. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” clocked three weeks at the summit in 1984.
1975, 1978 - Frankie Valli, “My Eyes Adored You” & “Grease” (40 years, 10 months and 44 years, 3 months)
Valli -- the legendary leader of The Four Seasons -- reinvigorated his career with solo chart-toppers in his 40s. In 1975, “Eyes” became the singer’s first top 10 hit in eight years, while the smash success of the film Grease thrust Valli’s recording of the title track to the summit in 1978.
1972 - Chuck Berry, “My Ding-a-Ling” (46 years)
The rock and roll pioneer solidified his place as Hot 100 chart royalty in 1972, when his novelty track “My Ding-a-ling” rang up a week at No. 1. It was his first, and only, leader on the Hot 100.
1972 - Sammy Davis Jr., “The Candy Man” (46 years, 6 months)
The classic movie tune, originally written for the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, became a runaway success when Davis covered the track in 1972. The tune became the Rat Pack member’s sole leader on the list, and spent three weeks at No. 1.
1966, 1967 - Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night" and “Somethin’ Stupid” (50 years, 6 months and 51 years, 4 months)
Sinatra achieved both of his Hot 100 No. 1s over the age of 50, as his solo smash “Strangers in the Night” acended to the top when he was 50, while his duet with his daughter Nancy Sinatra on “Somethin’ Stupid” led the tally the following year, when he was 51.
1964 – Dean Martin, “Everybody Loves Somebody” (47 years, 2 months)
Martin beat his Rat Pack pals Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra to No. 1 on the Hot 100, as Martin’s scored his first No. 1 on the list in 1964 with “Everybody Loves Somebody.” (Sinatra and Davis Jr. would notch their first No. 1s in 1966 and 1972, respectively.) Notably, like Davis Jr. and Sinatra, Martin’s Billboard chart history pre-dates the launch of the Hot 100 in 1958. Martin and Sinatra first began visiting Billboard’s various pop singles charts in the 1940s, while Davis Jr. made his pop singles chart arrival in the mid-1950s.
1964 - Louis Armstrong, “Hello Dolly” (62 years, 9 months)
The jazz legend became the Hot 100’s oldest No. 1 hitmaker when he said hello to No. 1 with this tune. He also forced The Beatles to say goodbye to the top, as the Fab Four ended a 14-week stretch at the top by way of three different songs.