Glee surpasses Elvis on the Hot 100, signaling the death of originality

<I>Glee</I> surpasses Elvis on the Hot 100, signaling the death of originality
No longer losers to to Elvis, Glee has put more singles on the Hot 100 charts than the King.

Originality is a tough sell. People tend to like the things they already like, because the idea of new is foreign and scary and seems poised to usher in a depraved era of dogs and cats living together, which would be immoral. "Can't understand it?" MF Doom once rhetorically asked. "Ban it."

That's the fundamental reason that almost all pop music is rooted in the couple of chord changes our brains can easily identify as familiar and thus absorb. Still, with the right marketing, historically we've been able to accept modest adjustment to these paradigms.

It works cyclically: The new sound is, at first, out-there and crazy, and, subsequently, rejected or ignored. Then elements of that new sound are combined with familiar sounds and toned down, and eventually that toned-down version is married to the pretty face that can sell it to the mainstream, and a new paradigm is born. These changes are like ethnicity: subtle differences, same fundamental composition. It doesn't take much unfamiliarity to scare us.

A great example of this phenomenon is Elvis Presley, who, somewhat unusually, personified it on both ends. As young Elvis, he did just that: put a handsome, polite (and let's not forget white) face on an already-existing style of music and sold it to the suburbs.

Later, he came to represent the conservative values he had originally represented a rejection of; his distaste for free love, marijuana and hippies was well known, to the extent that in 1970, he actually applied to the FBI to be an honorary narcotics officer. And get this: When the FBI wouldn't give him the badge, he went over their heads and got the badge from no less than Richard Nixon, the ultimate personification of THE MAN. To recap: Elvis asked Nixon to make him a fucking narc. He then ended his life as a Vegas sideshow, literally and metaphorically a figure of bloated excess.

So if the King of Rock and Roll, then, was neither a pioneer of rock and roll nor a very good example of the spirit of it, then let's say that his status as the King is based on sales figures: He put more singles on the Hot 100 than any other pop artist ever.

Until now.

Last week, Elvis's chart dominance was surpassed by Glee, a television show about a high-school glee club that does covers of popular songs.

Before I go on, let me just say that I actually like Glee. I think it's cute and clever, and it's a good TV show. This is not an indictment of Glee. It is, however, pretty fucking sad that a fictional glee-club cover band is now the de facto King of Rock and Roll. In fact, it pretty much represents the nadir of our culture.

If an established paradigm is essentially a rejection of the original in favor of the familiar, then a cover band is the ultimate extension of that rejection: By definition, a cover band only offers us that which we already know — particularly in the case of Glee, whose repertoire is limited to faithful versions of already chart-topping hits. As a collective society, then, our fear of the unknown has become such that a fake band that only rehashes that which we already like has become the most popular band of all time, managing in the process to make a narc appointed by Richard Nixon look like fucking Captain Beefheart and "Revolution No. 9" rolled into one.

Originality, I pronounce thee dead.

 
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4 comments
sholly
sholly

"As young Elvis, he did just that: put a handsome, polite (and let's not forget white) face on an already-existing style of music and sold it to the suburbs."America has never forgiven Elvis for not being black. Luckily the rest of the world judges him on his output.

Craig
Craig

Not only is Glee not creative, but Glee is a perv show for adults.

It's a train wreck on many levels.

Brian Quinn
Brian Quinn

From This Week's 'Billboard' Magazine:

While "Glee" passes the King this week for most Hot 100 appearances, it's certainly not too early to consider how much more history the cast can write.

It does seem like a safe bet that the "Glee" cast will hold the record for most Hot 100 hits for a very long time. But, to quote the artist whose music infused Tuesday's (Feb. 15) episode, never say never.

It's hard to imagine another type of act that could boast the cache/marketing push/multi-media platform to release multiple songs week after week and enjoy enough consumer support to send them onto the Hot 100.

By the end of the second season of "Glee" this spring, if the cast continues to place tracks on the Hot 100 at its current pace, it would add another approximately 40 titles to its total, bringing it to about 150 overall.

With the series renewed for a third season, 22 episodes x five Hot 100 hits a week = another potential 100 or so chart entries.

Thus, by spring 2012, the "Glee" cast, if it maintains its release schedule and popularity, could count approximately 250 Hot 100 chart hits.

Beyond that, who knows how long the show will remain a Fox juggernaut?

With Presley at 108 and no other artist in triple digits, no artist we now know of seems in the running to top the troupe's Hot 100 record.

Of course, at this time in 2009, "Glee" had yet to debut on TV. While the series was set up to be a ratings success, having premiered after "American Idol," who could've predicted that in less than two years the cast would have passed Presley for such a prestigious honor?

Thus, if "Glee" can overthrow the King so suddenly, perhaps another TV show can do the same to "Glee" in the future.

And, just as the digital era has revolutionized the way consumers can purchase music so instantaneously, we don't know what future means of music delivery could affect chart performance many years from now.

It's also worth placing the cast's latest achievement in a broader historical chart context.

While the ensemble's feat is unquestionably impressive, a few facts in Presley's favor:

The King's career predates the Hot 100's Aug. 4, 1958, launch. Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" book counts 31 Presley songs that reached various Hot 100 predecessor charts beginning in 1956.

So, in terms of overall Billboard chart hits, Presley's total could stand at an unofficial 139 when combining multiple song surveys.

Further breaking down the "Glee" cast's Hot 100 resume, of its 113 Hot 100 entries, just two have hit the top 10: "Don't Stop Believin' " (No.4) and "Teenage Dream" (8). (36 of the 113 have reached the top 40).

Conversely, with 80 top 40 Hot 100 hits - 25 of which reached the top 10 - Presley is far and away the leader. Elton John ranks second with 57 top 40 titles, followed by the Beatles (50). 36 top 40 entries places the "Glee" cast in a tie with R. Kelly for 15th place.

Also, Presley's 108 Hot 100 entries translate to 994 cumulative weeks spent on the chart, second-most all-time after John's 1,021.

As just 23 of the "Glee" cast's 113 Hot 100 songs have logged more than one week on the list, the troupe's total weeks count is 150.

And, of course, Presley introduced a bounty of classics to mainstream audiences, while the "Glee" cast has so far charted solely remakes (a streak that could end in upcoming weeks with the show's rumored promise of original songs).

Ultimately, the "Glee" cast's passing of Presley in one of the Hot 100 100's most sacred categories is laudable.

It's only one statistic, however, when examining the artists who have made some of the most memorable impacts in Hot 100 history.

Further, as onother fan points out on the http://www.elviscommunity.com forum:

"Few inventions have had as much effect on contemporary American society as television. Before 1947 the number of U.S. homes with television sets could be measured in the thousands. By the late 1990s, 98 percent of U.S. homes had at least one television set, and those sets were on for an average of more than seven hours a day. The typical American spends (depending on the survey and the time of year) from two-and-a-half to almost five hours a day watching television. It is significant not only that this time is being spent with television but that it is not being spent engaging in other activities, such as reading or going out or socializing.........

United states Population in 1955:

165,931,202

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to 02/19/11 at 18:40 UTC (EST+5) is:

310,850,439

The WORLD population by date is as follows:

1955 2.8 billion 1960 3 billion 1965 3.3 billion 1970 3.7 billion 1975 4 billion 1980 4.5 billion 1985 4.85 billion 1990 5.3 billion 1995 5.7 billion 1999 6 billion 2006 6.5 billion 2009 6.8 billion 2012 7 billion

There is no comparison....Elvis is The King for a reason...."

Finally, Marty Lacker has commented on this story at www.elvis-express.com as follows:

"The comparison of Glee and Elvis on Billboard's Hot 100 is ridiculous and it is like comparing apples to oranges.

Elvis is a recording artist,Glee is a TV Show. Technology back then is nothing what it is today where not only can they download the music from the internet, many kids do it directly to their cell phones.

They also don't mention the fact of Elvis' number one records and many of them in the early years were at #1 across the board, pop, Black Music and Country charts. Not to mention that Elvis changed the culture of the world in the 50's as well as being a cultural historical icon. In another few years,if not sooner, Glee will be forgotten as just another TV show that faded out and was cancelled.

All this hoopla was to get publicity for Billboard and Glee."

Show and Tell Moderator
Show and Tell Moderator

Boy, that's a little victimized, don't you think? My point was not that Elvis sucks because he was white, but that his whiteness made the music safe, could dissociate it from black culture, which is of course where it came from.

 
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