Saturday, August 2, 1980

Olivia Newton-John hit #1 with “Magic”

First posted 10/24/2020.


Olivia Newton-John

Writer(s):John Farrar (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 23, 1980

Peak: 14 US, 13 CB, 13 HR, 12 RR, 15 AC, 32 UK, 12 2, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 15.5 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

After the huge success of Grease, it was a no-brainer to find another film vehicle for Olivia Newton-John. She agreed to do Xanadu because, as she said, “this musical fantasy appealed to me” BR1 and she would get to sing and dance with one of her idols – Gene Kelly. She played Kira, a muse who came down from Mount Olympus to inspire Sonny (Michael Beck) to open a night club. The roller-skating-themed movie, however, turned out to be what she called “a character-building” bomb. BR1

The soundtrack, however, was a success. Featuring music from Olivia and Electric Light Orchestra, it generated five top-20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The lead single was “Magic” and it found its way to the top of the U.S. pop charts for four weeks. The song played in the movie when Kira and Sonny first met, again when she has to go back to Olympus, and a third time when she reappears as a waitress at the nightclub.

The song’s theme about finding “inspiration for pursuit of one’s dreams and love” WK was fitting in the context of the movie, but also had a broader message about “destiny and faith” SF that worked even for those who hadn’t seen the movie. Considering the failure of the movie, it was a good thing that the song worked outside of the context of the movie.

The song boasts “an easy-going melody and clear vocals” SF that continued to push Olivia farther away from her more country sound of the early ‘70s. “Magic” was her third trip to the top following the 1974 ballad “I Honestly Love You” and “You’re the One That I Want,” her smash duet with John Travolta from 1978’s Grease. She went on to hit the top one more time – with the monstrous song “Physical” from 1981. It spent a whopping ten weeks on top of the charts, becoming the biggest hit of the ‘80s.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Olivia Newton-John
    DMDB page for Xanadu soundtrack
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 528.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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