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There Were No Black Artists With Number One Singles In 2013

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Jason Koenig)

If you look back on 2013, not a single black artist scored a No. 1 single. Not J. Cole, Jay Z, Beyonce, or even Kanye West. 2013 marked the first-ever year since Billboard began charting Top 40 songs in 1958 that zero black artists made their way to the top of the singles chart.

The top spot on the Hot 100 -- today's version of the singles chart -- was dominated by white acts throughout the past year. Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that white artists even sat atop the R&B and Hip-Hop Songs chart for 44 out of 52 weeks of 2013. Compare this to ten years ago, when every No. 1 Hot 100 single was performed by an artist of color. 

And in a final interesting twist, there are no living black artists being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 -- although Clarence Clemons will be inducted posthumously as part of the E Street Band. That's only happened once before in Rock Hall history. 

To try and understand how and why 2013 was so unprecedented, Soundcheck host John Schaefer talks to pop chart analyst and writer Chris Molanphy, as well as author and commentator for The Daily Beast and The Root, Keli Goff. 

Read Chris Molanphy's piece for Slate discussing black artists, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Hot 100 in 2013.

Interview Highlights

Chris Molanphy, on technical changes to the charts that partially account for crowding out of black artists:

What's happened is, whether it's radio, whether it's iTunes -- there's now a lot of data feeding into the Hot 100.... The charts of ten years ago when Outkast was No. 1 -- iTunes was not a factor in the charts yet because it was brand new. There was no YouTube -- it literally didn't exist -- and so this great feedback loop we used to have where we had crossover from the R&B charts to the pop charts has kind of gotten swamped. 

Keli Goff, on marketing white acts and black acts:

It almost reminds me of the '50s and '60s when you had a lot of music that was being made by white artists and being popularized by them but it was coming from black artists. It's much easier to sell a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, an Eminem, a Justin Timberlake, to mainstream audiences than it is to sell a Jay Z. It is still a preferred feeling in mainstream pop culture that if we can find an attractive white act to do it, why not?


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis held down the top spot on the Hot 100 for six weeks and on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart for 14 weeks in 2013:


Goff, on representation in music:

You know what, if someone's talking about how downtrodden they are and that's what they're rapping about, I'd like to not know that the person is actually a white guy that went to a prep school.

Molanphy on Nile Rodgers of Chic being "the Susan Lucci of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations" with eight nominations and still no induction:

If ever there were a year! He put out a "For Your Consideration" ad: He played the best guitar riff on any pop song of the year on "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk and if not this year, then when?



Keli Goff and Chris Molanphy

Comments [28]


Great, white people are starting to be proud to be white again. I think that's healthy

Jun. 18 2015 01:49 AM
Listener from USA

Good flying grief. What difference does it make? If I buy a song, it's because it's good and not because of how the singer looks. Real racists just see racism in everything they see. Get over yourselves. Whites are NOT racists. Those damned few who may be are just that.

Sep. 03 2014 08:42 AM

Ummm...honestly who cares? Music is music no matter the race. Y'all are seriously reaching. I could give a fuck less who or what is on Billboards top 100. I listen to who and what I like regardless of the artists race. Grow up.

Jan. 13 2014 02:42 PM

Once again, whites being held accountable for the failures of another race, yet still being considered the ones who are 'racist'.

Jan. 13 2014 10:08 AM

Maybe because they're too busy writing trap rap, auto-tune sex pop and other garbage to be deserving of such rewards.

Jan. 13 2014 09:58 AM

you guys are all boring. shut the fuck up and go teach someone something they dont know

Jan. 12 2014 03:08 PM

2013 was a horrible year for music! The music that came out was mediocre, sloppy and in fact weak. The fact that a song like Macklemore's Thrift Shop which is a song that I can not stand, is number one in any music chart is baffling.

Jan. 12 2014 12:13 AM
socialchronic from hell

i did notice that pop culture seemed a whole lot whiter this past year but It wasnt something that alarmed me or made me concerned.

There seems to be a shift going on. A SLEW of new black talent have come out and putting out super quality stuff but its almost underground and being consumed almost exclusivlelyby the listeners of that specific genre. hip hop and r&b In the mid to late 90's had a lot of cross over acts but a bulk of the those artist that were out were only known and consumed by black people and/or the lovers of a certain genre. This in turn made for some pretty good artist with some really solid albums. Personally im glad this is happening. I could care less about Billboard charts as long as artist are putting out quality work. When the major labels started sticking claws into black music it started sounding different and all u geard in rap songs was money money money which makes sense when you think about it.

Hopefully the people who love the music can begin to take control and start putting out qualitiy work again. its definitely happening and i for one hope that the record industry and Billboard or the powers that be do not take notice. I long for the days when i could go to a concert and be surrounded by people who loved and understood the music and not engulfed by posers and suburbanites who are only there because said music is cool. It was just one year. let this run its course before we start holding up the bloodstained banner of racism.

Jan. 11 2014 10:50 PM

Black people quit using your race in order to call it the billboard hot 100. Just because there was no number 1 singles by a black american does not mean they are racist,evil,putting the man down. 2013 was one of the best years. Hip Hop had slowly been destroying music over the past year. since then it has almost vanished. Good Riddance.

Jan. 11 2014 11:08 AM
Walt from NYC

The ironic thing is that the term R&B was created by the record industry to be the "black" genre in order to separate those artists from the white artists lumped into Rock and Roll.

Jan. 11 2014 08:17 AM
a real mf!

Rap and R&B are just like Rock&Roll! Created by blacks and stolen by whites! Its to the point that alot of black ppl dont even like Rock&Roll at all! But thats how white ppl do... shit on everyones culture that differs from their own but steal the best parts of that same culture! It's okay. When my ppl (BLACK PPL) let you have rap it'll be because we've already come up with something better that you'll try and steal down the line.

Jan. 10 2014 09:34 PM

2013 was truly a sad year in music. i just wanted to take a second to call out all the trolls out there who are trying to deny that 2013 was the most racist year in pop music yet by citing all the examples of #1 hits that black artists were featured on. that right there is the key word; african americans were FEATURED on #1 songs. yes there were many (the monster, thrift shop, can't hold us, blurred lines, etc.) but the bottom line is that the aforementioned hits are not their songs. they are by WHITE artists, and the black artists are merely featured on these songs to spice up the dull sonic palette of white mainstream pop music, to quote bell hooks. but of course, race apologists have no idea who she is huh?

anyways, at the end of the day, no matter how you try to spin it, there were no #1 hits on the pop charts BY and STARRING african americans. and we try to pretend that this country is becoming more progressive. please. white people appropriated the hell out of traditionally black dominant genres like rap and R&B in 2013 and the public ate that shit up (JT, robin thick, ariana grande, etc). yet when black artists released music in their respective genres that was just as excellent (tamar braxton's love and war, chance the rapper's acid rap, etc.) the audience passed them up. just black people being stereotypically black right? ugh disgusting.

Jan. 10 2014 08:32 PM
jamie starr from NY

Wasn't get lucky a number one single by a black artist ?
Good job discrediting your whole article at the end.

Jan. 10 2014 06:54 PM
jamie starr from NY

Wasn't get lucky a number one single by a black artist ?
Good job discrediting your whole article at the end.

Jan. 10 2014 06:50 PM

"Compare this to ten years ago, when every No. 1 Hot 100 single was performed by an artist of color. "
Are we looking at the same list? The 2003 list had Eminem and Clay Aiken on it.

Jan. 10 2014 01:52 PM

There is no system, but there is a culture.

Jan. 10 2014 09:25 AM
Tired of the System

You're kidding yourself if you think we live in less racist times, perhaps less violent yes but the majority of charterers on a television show are usually all white with one black and music is likewise. Would be nice if the media industry stuck out their hands a little bit more in hiring and including more minority's to participate in the industry, but not just minority's everyone of any color because I think everyone has potential for creative talent. But that will never happen and why I couldn't care less about television, film, and current music. Or the system.

Jan. 10 2014 08:22 AM
001 from New York

I think the focus here is a comment on the media representation of whose sitting atop the charts and the marketability of Caucasian acts.

As much as I wish I could say being successful on the charts solely has to do with the quality of music (which is all subjective in its own right), it really depends on how these artists are represented. And this year, artists like Macklemore and Robin Thicke played frontmen to styles rising from African American culture (not to say that hip hop and R'n'B are limited to African American culture). But the question here is, why did other singles (i.e. J. Cole's Crooked Smile, Drake's Hold On We're Going Home) not reach the success level of Macklemore (can be said that Thrift Shop sounded a lot like Le1f's Wut) and Robin Thicke (granted Blurred Lines was also produced in conjunction by Pharrell but marketed as Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell) ?

It's not about suggesting their music was bad, but to take into consideration were acts of other races (not to lump this into a Caucasian v. other races dichotomy) promoted in America? Many of the albums released this year by African Americans were by already established artists (i.e. Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye).

Just something to take into consideration.

Jan. 10 2014 01:25 AM
DinnyQ from New York

Have y'all never heard of Rihanna? She's only the most popular female artist under 30!! Girl has a No. 1 EVERY year! Monster is still topping the charts.

Jan. 09 2014 10:27 PM
Uncle Grambo

This is crazy town in addition to being patently false. "Blurred Lines" is indeed a Robin Thicke song, but it featured both Pharrell and T.I. Additionally, Macklemore's songs both prominently feature Wanz ("Thrift Shop") and Ray Dalton ("Can't Hold Us"). And are you also saying that Rihanna isn't black ("The Monster")?

Jan. 09 2014 01:16 PM

Truly an absurd discussion. People are entitled to like the music that they like. Or are all private preferences now to be subject to critique from the anti-racism crowd?

At least in the 1950s, one could claim that white artists were being forced on an unwilling public by music promoters and radio programmers. But today, with so many black-owned music outlets and with iTunes, people can freely choose the music they prefer. If they chose music by white artists, so be it. Maybe the lesson for black artists is to make better music.

As to John Schaefer's comment that he felt taken aback when he learned that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are white: Are you also taken aback when you hear Andre Watts play Chopin or Martina Arroyo sing Verdi?

The point is that once a style of music has been created, it becomes public property. Anyone can play or sing in that style, and even innovate within it, if they have the ability.

Jan. 09 2014 10:47 AM

Maybe the top black artists you mentioned (Jay Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Outkast. LMFAO, etc) are washed up. But, hell, they're successful as producers, musicians, and are doing well selling out concerts.

"Top 10 hits" don't measure much, anyway.

Jan. 09 2014 09:08 AM

I know this kind of story gets a lot of people in a huff but it really is ridiculous. Why don't we count how many people under the height of 5 feet aren't included. Or how many people on the charts are from Mississippi? Or how many left-handed artists are charted. How many artists charted who were blind? Or were handicapped? Or were South Asian? Or East Asian? Or Jewish? or Muslim? We could go on forever.

Jan. 09 2014 07:43 AM
Ann from Earth

What passes as pop music today is uninspiring and
Robotic. The musicality and musicianship is lacking.
Thank goodness for great recordings of jazz, folk, classical,
and blues & rock'n roll of yesteryear.

Jan. 09 2014 07:28 AM
Blind Dog

Just another fraud perpetrated by the man to keep a brutha down.

Jan. 08 2014 10:23 PM

You can take the following with as big a grain of salt as you like, because I am old, but....
I found the whole conversation about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Hot 100 chart to be somewhat ludicrous, bordering on obnoxious. I thought music was about MUSIC. Not about the race of the musician, the height of the musician, the gender of the musician, the IQ of the musician, or whether or not the musician is a saint or an a$$h*le.
The idea of the R&RHF is absurd -- only a finite number of people can be inducted each year, regardless of who or how many are deserving? Is that what the spirit of rock was about? Making arcane bureaucratic rules and following them to the letter?
And btw, I've always thought Nile Rogers was an important artist, and until tonight I had no idea if he was black or white. Should I have found out if he was black or white before I decided to like him? If I were a voter, would I have to educate myself as to the person's race? Their DNA? Whether they had a black grandmother or a white grandfather? Is THAT what the spirit of Rock was about? I thought the spirit of the music was about overturning the categories that separate us, and uniting us in the glory and the ecstasy of the MUSIC.
I sympathize with those who have to chart songs today. It must be damned near impossible to quantify. What do you count? What people listen to? What people are willing to pay for? What people are willing to accept as a Pandora offering? As music gets closer and closer to free most of the time, is there really any relevance to the charts, or are they as much a relic of the past as those little adapters we used to put in the 45s?
People, please: It's about the music. Once we get away from that, once we say gee I like this song but it's not "diverse" enough, that's the point where it is no longer popular music. That's the point at which it is just another commodity.

Jan. 08 2014 10:13 PM

Its called America.

Jan. 08 2014 09:59 PM

Why do black ppl continue to live in a dream. Whenever white Amerika decides to exclude ppl of color from any aspect of Amerikan culture they do it. The powers that be have determined that Amerika won't acknowledge cultural differences. Other people don't matter.

Jan. 08 2014 09:49 PM

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