Pop Music

Glee has more chart hits than anyone besides Elvis - and even the King better watch his back

Buried in blurbs about this week's chart, Billboard.biz had this somewhat alarming stat: The cast of Glee debuted three new songs in the Hot 100 this week, bringing the total number of songs they've had on the chart to 93.

To put this figure in perspective, that's two more than James Brown, who had the second most hits in history until this week, and it's just fifteen behind Elvis, who had 108. Which means, categorically, that Glee will soon top The King.

Once again: 93 charting singles for a TV show that premiered less than a year and a half ago. Thus far there have been 29 episodes. So they're on pace to break the record sometime around Christmas.

We enjoy wonky sales figures that seem to imply new world orders. That, in fact, is pretty much the whole point of Poptimystic. But here we have no less an icon than Elvis Presley losing his crowning statistic to a glorified Kidz Bop.

As more and more pop music is created and more and more people express how they feel about it, the canons all dissolve. There are plenty of people out there who think Pavement was/is the best band ever, and plenty of people who think Pavement is unlistenable. When iTunes released The Beatles' catalogue this week, we got a chance to see just how many people are still willing to buy Abbey Road, and we also got a chance to see how many people think it's time to move on.

The only absolutely, completely unassailable way to gauge music has always been chart performance. We are not implying that the charts always have the best music on them. Obviously, the charts are frequently filled with the worst music. But there's no hard and fast way to objectively prove that Glee is not, in fact, better than James Brown or even Elvis Presley. For that, you must turn to subjectivity, which is tricky business for the left-brained among us. Because no argument you can construct about music cannot be defeated, rhetorically. Which makes liking a band literally an act of faith.

Glee's success really has nothing to do with it being good by any useful metric of musical quality. It is a popular TV show and its stars are now celebrities. It's impossible to escape its imagery, which keeps it in the public conscious. More importantly, it is all covers. And least common denominator covers, as in songs that are either currently popular or staples that remain embedded in everyone's mind somewhere. That makes Glee a totally safe bet every week if you'd just as soon have your music picked for you.

Glee will soon have more Hot 100 singles than anyone else in history. That fact may mean nothing more than a weird thing to tell your friends. Or it may mean that there is very little faith left in music.