Billboard’s Top Hits of 1984!

This week’s Time Capsule!

Every year Billboard “freezes” the charts for the last week of December or first week of January, holding all the hits at the same position as the previous week. The charts published in that week’s magazine show the top hits for the entire year. Let’s take a moment to look at the chart champs for 1984 as revealed in the December 29 issue.

Top 10 hits on the Hot 100

  1. When Doves Cry – Prince
  2. What’s Love Got to Do With It? – Tina Turner
  3. Say Say Say – Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
  4. Footloose – Kenny Loggins
  5. Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) – Phil Collins
  6. Jump – Van Halen
  7. Hello – Lionel Richie
  8. Owner of A Lonely Heart – Yes
  9. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
  10. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club

Although Prince was a major presence on the 1984 charts with two #1 hits on the Hot 100 and R&B charts as well as a massive #1 album, the Purple One wasn’t the big champ of the final 1984 countdown. Lionel Richie had the biggest presence, coming in with four hits, three of them in the Top 50. The Footloose soundtrack matched that performance, putting two songs in the Top 20 for the year and two more in the lower reaches of the year’s biggest. An impressive eight acts managed to log three year-end singles. Two women show up with their first three hits: Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. The other six acts with three songs on the final list are the Cars, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News (with three songs that all peaked at #6), and the Pointer Sisters. The champ of 1983, Michael Jackson, figures in three entries as well: a duet with Paul McCartney, the title track from his monster album Thriller, and a Top 3 hit with his siblings, the Jacksons.

The biggest hits of 1984 on the other Billboard Charts — all of which show up on the Hot 100 final list — were:

  • ADULT CONTEMPORARY: Hello – Lionel Richie [6 weeks at #1, #7 on the Hot 100 final countdown]
  • COUNTRY: To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before – Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias [2 weeks at #1, #50 on the Hot 100 final]
  • R&B: When Doves Cry – Prince [8 weeks at #1 and the Hot 100 topper as well]
  • ROCK: Jump – Van Halen [8 weeks at #1, #6 on the Hot 100 final]

The album charts for 1984 set a minimalist record, with only five albums topping the chart during the entire year.

  • Thriller logged the last 15 of its 37 weeks at the top from January through mid-April and was the biggest seller of 1984.
  • Footloose dethroned Thriller and stayed at the top for ten weeks.
  • Huey Lewis and the News surprised everyone with the second-biggest selling album of the year, Sports, which sneaked in one week at the top at the end of June, mid-way through its run of five Top 20 hits.
  • Bruce Springsteen took over the top spot for four weeks with Born In the U.S.A., which then stayed in the Top Five for months, eventually logging three more #1 weeks in 1985.
  • The most weeks at the top were spent by Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain, which peaked on August 4 and spent 24 weeks at the top, edging into 1985.

It is useful to note Billboard’s methodology for the year-end charts. They use an inverted point system for every week a hit is on the chart (#1 = 100, #2 = 99 and so on). This means that a song with longevity may rank very high relative to its peak and a flash-in-the-pan #1 may rank relatively low. The result is not too surprising for a really big #2 hit like Springsteen’s Dancing In the Dark [#14 for the year] or the #4 Self Control by Laura Branigan [coming in at #20].  Three long-lasting singles from the lower half of the Top 10 made it into the year-end Top 40, however, beating a handful of Top 3 singles.

  • I Can Dream About You – Dan Hartman [peaked at #6, 25 weeks on the chart, #29 for the year]
  • The Glamorous Life – Sheila E. [peaked at #7, 26 weeks on the chart, #30 for the year]
  • Borderline – Madonna [peaked at #10, 30 weeks on the chart, #35 for the year]

On the opposite end of that spectrum is the Jacksons’ State of Shock. It blasted into the Hot 100 at #30, soared to #3 in its sixth week, then plummeted down the charts. With a brief 11 Top 40 weeks and 15 total chart weeks, it ended up at only #61 for the year.

It’s also signifcant that points are calculated by a very strict 12-month window for tabulation and publication purposes, usually ending in early November. That means that any song that debuts in the latter part of a year may split its score across two years and rank fairly low in each year despite a high aggregate score. Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, with an impressive five weeks at #3, peaked on November 12, 1983, splitting its run neatly in half and ending up stuck at #39 for the year. Two #1 hits fared even worse: Islands In the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton peaked in late 1983 and wound up at #56; Billy Ocean’s Caribbean Queen hit the top on November 3, 1984 and slumped in at #51 on the final list.

The biggest loser of the year, ironically, was by Prince and the Revolution. Purple Rain behaved a lot like State of Shock, coming in at #28 on October 6, peaking at #2 in its seventh week, then dropping fast. Splitting its short run between 1984 and 1985, it’s a rare #2 single that did not appear on any year-end chart.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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