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The Number Ones

Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 15, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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Nov 15, 2022




Beloved music critic Tom Breihan's fascinating narrative of the history of popular music through the lens of game-changing #1 singles from the Billboard Hot 100.

When Tom Breihan launched his Stereogum column in early 2018, “The Number Ones”—a space in which he has been writing about every #1 hit in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, in chronological order—he figured he’d post capsule-size reviews for each song. But there was so much more to uncover. The column has taken on a life of its own, sparking online debate and occasional death threats.

The Billboard Hot 100 began in 1958, and after four years of posting the column, Breihan is still in the early aughts. But readers no longer have to wait for his brilliant synthesis of what the history of #1s has meant to music and our culture. In The Number Ones, Breihan writes about twenty pivotal #1s throughout chart history, revealing a remarkably fluid and connected story of music that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.

The Numbers Ones features the greatest pop artists of all time, from the Brill Building songwriters to the Beatles and the Beach Boys; from Motown to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Mariah Carey; and from the digital revolution to the K-pop system. Breihan also ponders great artists who have never hit the top spot, like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and James Brown. Breihan illuminates what makes indelible ear candy across the decades—including dance crazes, recording innovations, television phenomena, disco, AOR, MTV, rap, compact discs, mp3s, social media, memes, and much more—leaving readers to wonder what could possibly happen next.

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“Tom Breihan’s The Number Ones is a glorious rabbit hole dive into the biggest hits in popular music, analyzing the very physics of how they became hits and taking a forensic look at what made them ‘pop.’ It’s massively enjoyable when you love the song in question, and perhaps even more so when you don’t. One of the most enjoyable books on pop to ever roar up the charts."—Edgar Wright
"Tom Breihan is an absolutely crucial chronicler of the hit parade, a madman scholar digging deep in the vaults. The Number Ones is a revelatory celebration of pop history in all its glorious weirdness, the way only Breihan could tell the tale. These are classic tunes that everybody knows, but Breihan brilliantly blows away the dust, and makes them sound fresh and new. A hell of a storyteller, and a hell of a T-Pain fan."—Rob Sheffield
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