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Ask Billboard: Mark & Mars Move ‘Uptown’ to No. 1

Lipps, Inc. and more: a history of "funk"-y hits. Plus, more No. 15 hits for '15.

As always, submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. 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,

Happy New Year!

So, Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Bruno Mars, is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. A terrific homage to all the funky music that didn’t receive enough pop airplay in the ’80s. I lived in a suburb far away from Chicago during my high school years, and during that time pop stations were focusing on most things not funky, with exceptions being some tunes by the Pointer Sisters and such. But, the Gap Band, Cameo and so on definitely didn’t receive as much attention as they could have. Those were the years following the disco era and listeners, and the powers that be at radio, wanted REO Speedwagon.

Okay, as for unbiased writing, as we know from reading your recent column, the ascent of “Uptown Funk!” signifies the first time the word “funk” has topped of the Hot 100. Still, counting variations of the word, “funk” and “town” have reigned together before: Lipps Inc. crowned the Hot 100 with “Funkytown” for four weeks in 1980 (and Pseudo Echo took the composition to No. 6 in 1987 with its less-than-funky version). The other, and first, “funk”-filled leader: Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” in 1976 (which Vanilla Ice took to No. 4 as a remake in 1991).

As for the word “town,” “Uptown Funk!” is the first Hot 100 No. 1 with “town” in its title since “Funkytown.” Three others first reached the summit: Petula Clark’s “Downtown” in 1965 (more on that classic in a moment), Johnny Rivers’ “Poor Side of Town” (1966) and the Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” (1977). Honorable mention to the band Crazy Town, whose “Butterfly” spread its wings and flew to No. 1 for two weeks in 2001.

(And, of course, Billy Joel has his own “uptown” smash: “Uptown Girl,” his ode to Christie Brinkley, hit No. 3 in 1983.)

Meanwhile, the word “up” is quite common atop the Hot 100. “Uptown Funk!” is the 15th topper to include the word in its title, although the first since Ludacris’ “Stand Up,” featuring Shawnna, on Dec. 6, 2003. The first? Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” in 1962. The rest: “I’m Leaving It Up to You,” Dale & Grace (1963), “Tighten Up,” Archie Bell & the Drells (1968), “Pick Up the Pieces,” AWB (1975), then three in 1977: “Don’t Give Up on Us,” David Soul, “Got to Give It Up (Pt. I),” Marvin Gaye, and, the song among these to spend the most time “up” at No. 1 (10 weeks), “You Light Up My Life,” Debby Boone.

The ’80s then brought these “up”-titled No. 1s: “Coming Up (Live at Glasgow),” Paul McCartney and Wings, “Upside Down,” Diana Ross (both in 1980); “Up Where We Belong,” the late, great Joe Cocker, with Jennifer Warnes (1982); “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” Wham! (1984); “Never Gonna Give You Up,” Rick Astley (1988); and “Straight Up,” Paula Abdul (1989).

As for the other part of the title of “Uptown Funk!,” that exclamation point. Now that the song has made its (exclamation) mark at No. 1, it’s the first time that an exclamation point has been part of a No. 1 song title since 2005. The last was “Run It!” by Chris Brown. Only eight other “!”-titled hits have led the Hot 100, with the first six bunched up in 1962-65: “Hey! Baby,” Bruce Channel; “There! I’ve Said It Again,” Bobby Vinton; “Hello, Dolly!,” Louis Armstrong; “Stop! In the Name of Love,” the Supremes; “Help!,” the Beatles; and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” the Byrds.

Before “Run It!,” the exclamation point finally returned for two other No. 1s in the 2000s: “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (2003) and “Yeah!” by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris (2004).

I’ll close with this: Ronson and Mars’ “Up”-ward move complements the Hot 100’s No. 1 nearly 50 years ago to the week: Beloved British singer Clark held down (up?) the top spot for two weeks with “Downtown,” beginning Jan. 23, 1965. This week’s chart is dated Jan. 17, 2015. Thus, if “Uptown Funk!” can keep at No. 1 next week, on the chart dated Jan. 24, 2015, it would reign exactly 50 years (give or take a few hours) after its lyrical opposite, “Downtown.”

And that’s what’s “up,”

Pablo Nelson
Oakland, California 

Hi Pablo,

When it comes to your incomparable trivia, thanks as always for keeping us “up”-to-date.

As you started by giving props to funky hits that didn’t get their due decades earlier, Mars feels the same way. As he Tweeted upon learning of his new spot atop the Hot 100, “Thank you to all the amazing Funk and Soul bands that have come before us to pave the way for a song like this to even exist.”

Fun angle about exclamation points, too. Mr. Lippman might not agree it was needed in the title of “Uptown Funk!,” but, given its success, the grammar works.

One other song that combined “up” and an exclamation point in its title: “Up!” by Shania Twain. It stopped at No. 63 on the Hot 100 in 2003, but rose to No. 12 on Hot Country Songs. The catchy cut doubled as the title to her fourth studio album, which topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks, and Top Country Albums for six.

Looking forward, I think we already have a contender for a possible future Hot 100 No. 1, one that could even dethrone “Uptown Funk!,” depending on timing and popularity: Kelly Clarkson’s new single, “Heartbeat Song.” She’s offered a sample (with an adorable co-star) before it hits radio:


That’s a catchy chorus (“This is my heartbeat song …”), while the song’s other main hook centers around her singing (what else?), “up, up, up.”

You should be hearing it immediately upon its release, and for months after, every time you turn your radio … up (up, up).

MORE No. 15 HITS FOR ’15

Dear Gary,

I always love your annual New Year’s list of songs that peaked on the Hot 100 at the position with the last two digits of that year. Here are my 20 No. 15-peaking honorable mentions for 2015, along with some No. 15 trivia:

“Little Deuce Coupe,” the Beach Boys, 1963
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” the Animals, 1965
“Words,” Bee Gees, 1968
“Delilah,” Tom Jones, 1968
“Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the Who, 1971
“Straight On,” Heart, 1978
“Come to Me,” France Joli, 1979
“Half the Way,” Crystal Gayle, 1979
“Breakdown Dead Ahead,” Boz Scaggs, 1980
“The Old Songs,” Barry Manilow, 1981
“We’re in This Love Together,” Al Jarreau, 1981
“Hold On,” Santana, 1982
“Heart to Heart,” Kenny Loggins, 1983
“Stop to Love,” Luther Vandross, 1987
“Don’t Make Me Wait for Love,” Kenny G, 1987

“Beautiful Life,” Ace of Base, 1995
“If You’re Not the One,” Daniel Bedingfield, 2003
“This Is My Now,” Jordin Sparks, 2007
“Sober,” P!nk, 2009
“No Surprise,” Daughtry, 2009

Most songs by an artist to peak at No. 15:

Three each:
Eric Burdon/The Animals, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (1965), “When I Was Young” (1967), “Monterrey” (1968)

Bread, “Diary,” “Sweet Surrender” (both 1972), “Aubrey” (1973)

James Brown, “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” (1969), “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (Part 1)” (1970), “Hot Pants, Part 1 (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)” (1971)

Supertramp, “Give a Little Bit” (1977), “Goodbye Stranger” (1979), “Dreamer” (1980)

Most versions of a song by different artists to peak at No. 15:

Two: “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” the Animals; Santa Esmerelda Starring Leroy Gomez (1978)

Artists to peak at No. 15 both as group members & as soloists:

David Gates:
With Bread: “Diary,” “Sweet Surrender,” “Aubrey”
Solo: “Goodbye Girl” (1978)

Robin Gibb:
With Bee Gees: “Words”
Solo: “Oh! Darling” (1978)

Gibb also shared songwriting credits on yet another No. 15 hit: “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” by Pras Michele feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard & “introducing” Mya (1998). It samples “Islands in the Stream,” which was written by the Bee Gees and became a No. 1 hit – on the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs – for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in 1983.

Happy ’15!

Jeff Lerner
Long Island, New York

Thanks Jeff – to you, as well!

It’s always a fun New Year’s ritual spotlighting hits that correspond Hot 100 peak-wise. (I’ll take it over the cold and crowds in Times Square.)

How about a few more notable No. 15 hits on other Billboard charts?

Adult Contemporary:
“Theme From St. Elsewhere,” Dave Grusin, 1984
“No More Lies,” the Moody Blues, 1989
“You,” Bonnie Raitt, 1994
“Learn to Be Still,” Eagles, 1995

“Remember When It Rained,” Josh Groban, 2004

Alternative Songs:
“Suck My Kiss,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1992
“Mighty K.C.,” For Squirrels, 1996
“Zoot Suit Riot,” Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, 1998
“Jump Jive an’ Wail,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 1998
“Charlie Brown,” Coldplay, 2012

Hot Country Songs:
“Desperadoes Waiting for a Train,” Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, 1985
“Feed Jake,” the Kentucky Headhunters, 1991
“I Will Always Love You,” Dolly Parton & Vince Gill, 1995
“Kerosene,” Miranda Lambert, 2006
“Every Other Weekend,” Reba McEntire with Kenny Chesney, 2008

Dance/Mix Show Airplay:

“Hollywood,” Madonna, 2003
“And Then We Kiss,” Britney Spears, 2006
“Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow,” Paula Abdul & Randy Jackson, 2008
“Ready for the Weekend,” Calvin Harris, 2009
“All the Lovers,” Kylie Minogue, 2010

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs:
“I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” LL Cool J, 1986
“911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy, 1990
“Get It Up,” TLC, 1993
“Bug a Boo,” Destiny’s Child, 1999
“There Goes My Baby,” Charlie Wilson, 2009

… and 20 No. 15-peaking albums on the Billboard 200:
The Beatles Song Book, the Hollyridge Strings, 1964
Tiny Bubbles, Don Ho, 1967
By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell, 1968
This Is a Recording, Lily Tomlin, 1971
Poems, Prayers & Promises, John Denver, 1971
A Fifth of Beethoven, Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band, 1976

Jane Fonda’s Workout Record, Jane Fonda, 1983
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Eurythmics, 1983
Somebody’s Watching Me, Rockwell, 1984
Stay Hungry, Twisted Sister, 1984
Hunting High and Low, a-ha, 1985
Lost Boys, soundtrack, 1987
Everything, Bangles, 1989
Jon Secada, Jon Secada, 1993
Yes I Am, Melissa Etheridge, 1995
Tidal, Fiona Apple, 1997
Dizzy Up the Girl, Goo Goo Dolls, 1998
Riot!, Paramore, 2007
Cannibal, Ke$ha, 2010
Oh, What a Life, American Authors, 2014


Hey Gary,

If it’s not too late, I thought I’d give you my favorite songs of 2014:

10, “Counting Stars,” OneRepublic
9, “Mary, Did You Know?,” Pentatonix
8, “I’m Not the Only One,” Sam Smith
7, “Am I Wrong,” Nico & Vinz
6, “Pompeii,” Bastille
5, “Turn Down for What,” DJ Snake & Lil Jon

4, “Night Changes,” One Direction
3, “Blame,” Calvin Harris feat. John Newman
2, “Uptown Funk!,” Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
1, “Talk Dirty,” Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz

My favorite album was probably the Frozen soundtrack, since I was forced to listen to it umpteen times with my kids.

Chester Raleigh
Dayton, Ohio

Hi Gary,

Thank you for all you do keeping us informed and entertained throughout the year with your chart columns! I wanted to include my personal top 20 for 2014 (from the list of 114 that I tabulated):

20, “Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be),” Gruff Rhys
19, “21 Flights,” Heavy English
18, “Feel,” Bombay Bicycle Club
17, “Sonsick,” San Fermin
16, “Freshbloom,” Sundara Karma
15, “Sweet Ophelia,” Zella Day
14, “Burn the Pages,” Sia
13, “Amsterdam,” Imagine Dragons
12, “Shoulder to Shoulder,” Rebecca Ferguson
11, “Let Go,” RAC feat. Kele & MNDR
10, “This Is How You Find the Way,” Thea Gilmore
9, “Perfectly Sane,” the Mohrs
8, “Stay High (Habits)” (Remix), Tove Lo feat. Hippie Sabotage
7, “Tempest,” Lucius
6, “Fall in Love,” Phantogram
5, “Howling at the Moon,” Phantogram
4, “Never Thought That This Would Happen,” Arkells
3, “Fade to Love,” Polina
2, “Take It or Leave It,” Cage the Elephant

and … I think you may like the new band that ended up with my favorite tune of the year (if you haven’t already heard of it). The group is from Malta and released its first single and video this past summer. It was a hit in Malta, of course, but not yet anywhere else:

1, “Dustpile,” the New Victorians


Walter Janaro
Front Royal, Virginia
(Music lover since 1966)

Thanks to you both!

Walter, I liked this song from the first listen – thanks for making me and readers aware of it. Great harmonies that only sisters can produce (and it reminds me of one of my favorite new acts that I discovered in 2014, Lily and Madeleine). “Dustpile” is definitely deserving of much more attention in the U.S.

“Sister duo Bettina and Philippa [Cassar], who, together with their family and pet chameleon, live in the small village of Bidnija, Malta, have made music together all their lives,” reads the New Victorians’ Facebook bio. “Philippa (now 19) used to push Bettina (22) away from the camera to be the only one in the home-movie. ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ was her favorite solo.

“Now, they’ve matured. Phil doesn’t extremely mind if her older sister stands next to her and sings along. It’s even OK if she shows.

“There is something about sisters. Sisters are friends and partners and soulmates. Sisters share stories and clothes and tears and wine. Sisters talk and listen and fight and compete. Sisters resemble each other, but are also very different. Sisters have conversations, silly and honest and deep and enlightening.

“Their music is all that and more.”