Friday, January 31, 2020

100 years ago: Ben Selvin hit #1 with “Dardanella” for first of 13 weeks


Ben Selvin

Writer(s): Johnny S. Black and Felix Bernard (music), Fred Fisher (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 24, 1920

Peak: 113 US, 11 GA, 13 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 8.5 (includes 2.0 in sheet music)

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Ben Selvin (1898-1980) launched himself as a professional musician at age 15 playing fiddle in New York City nightclubs. SB Over his career, his 2000+ recordings rank him above any other bandleader. PM The Guinness Book of World Records estimates his output as high as 20,000 song titles, giving him the distinction of having recorded more musical sides on 78-rpm discs than any other person. WK Part of his prolific output was due to him recording for dozens of different labels at a time when the industry was at high growth. WK

His bands featured such famous sidemen as Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman AMG and vocalists like Ruth Etting, Ethel Waters, and Kate Smith. AMG In addition to working as a musician and bandleader, Selvin was an innovator and record producer. WK

He had his first chart hit, the #1 “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” in 1919 when he was still just a teenager. His biggest hit, an instrumental version of “Dardanella,” came the following year. Its continuous bass line helps it stand out. DJ-44 As the first song to sell over 5 million copies PM it became the biggest hit of 1920, CPM one of the ten best sellers of the first half of the 20th century, PM and the biggest-selling song in the first quarter-century of recorded music. SB

Prince’s Orchestra, Harry Raderman’s Jazz Orchestra, and the duet of Henry Burr and Albert Campbell all charted with the song in 1920 as well. PM It was revived in 1949’s Oh, You Beautiful Doll, a biopic about the song’s lyricist, Fred Fisher. DJ-44


First posted 1/24/2013; last updated 1/28/2023.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year

Bad Guy

Billie Eilish

Writer(s): Billie Eilish O’Connell, Finneas O’Connell (see lyrics here)

Released: March 29, 2019

First Charted: April 13, 2019

Peak: 11 US, 6 A40, 34 AA, 12 MR, 2 UK, 11 CN, 12 AU, 12 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 2.4 UK, 20.78 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1576.50 video, 2489.35 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The song most likely to be identified with 2019 for years to come is Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” The song logged a whopping 19 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the biggest song in that chart’s history. Of course, all songs must eventually fall and “Old Town Road” finally succumbed to Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” While the song only spent a solitary week atop the chart, it set a record of its own – the longest run at #2 (nine weeks) before sliding into the pinnacle position. SF

At only 17 years old when the song hit its peak, Billie also secured another significant chart accomplishment. Born in 2001, she became the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 who was born in the 21st century. Just a few months earlier, in April 2019, she’d become the first artist born in the 21st century to top the Billboard album chart with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, from which “Bad Guy” was lifted CNN as the fifth single. By year’s end, her youth also secured her another major accomplishment when she became the youngest artist in history to land Grammy nominations in the Big Four categories (Best Album, Best Song, Best Record, and Best New Artist). HP Two of those nominations – Record and Song of the Year – came for “Bad Guy.”

The song – which has been called pop-trap and nu-goth pop – is a minimalist production built on a synth bass and kick drum. WK Billie didn’t have any expectations for it, considering the chorus has no hook. She told Billboard that she and her brother Finneas (who produced her album and co-wrote the song) tried “to write something else over that but we couldn’t do it because nothing else worked.” SF Vanity Fair said the song “treads the line between her slightly deranged aesthetic and a whiff of familiarity that keeps it squarely pop” VF

Lyrically, the song mocks how people – including herself – try to present themselves as rule breakers. SF She sarcastically taunts her lover for being a bad guy, boasting with tongue firmly in cheek that she’s tougher than he is. As she said, “You will never catch a bad bitch telling everyone she’s a bad bitch.” SF The song earned Billie comparisons to Fiona Apple, Lorde, and Amy Winehouse. WK Sam Prance of Pop Buzz called it “the perfect anthem for anyone…who likes to get in touch with their dark side.” PB


  • CNN (4/10/2019). “This 17-year-old is the first artist born in the 2000s to have a No. 1 album.” By Kendall Trammell.
  • HP (11/20/2019). “Billie Eilish Becomes Youngest Person Ever Nominated in All 4 Top Grammy Categories” by Kimberley Richards
  • PB (4/3/2019). “Billie Eilish sings about seducing your dad in NSFW ‘bad guy’ lyrics.” By Sam Prance.
  • SF Songfacts
  • VF Vanity Fair (7/2/2019). “9 Songs From 2019 That Might Predict the Future of Pop.” By DJ Louie XIV.
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 12/11/2019; last updated 5/4/2024.

Billie Eilish wins Grammy for Album of the Year

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Billie Eilish

Released: March 29, 2019

Peak: 13 US, 5 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 4.51 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop/alternative


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. !!!!!!! (79 CN)
  2. Bad Guy (3/29/19, 11 US, 6 A40, 34 AA, 12 MR, 2 UK, 11 CN, 12 AU, worldwide sales: 19.5 million)
  3. Xanny (4/13/19, 35 US, 26 CN, 10 AU, worldwide sales: 1.2 million)
  4. You Should See Me in a Crown (7/18/18, 41 US, 7 MR, 60 UK, 27 CN, 16 AU, worldwide sales: 2.43 million)
  5. All the Good Girls Go to Hell (4/13/19, 46 US, 5 MR, 77 UK, 19 CN, 8 AU, worldwide sales: 1.2 million)
  6. Wish You Were Gay (1/30/19, 31 US, 13 UK, 12 CN, 5 AU, worldwide sales: 1.31 million)
  7. When the Party’s Over (10/17/18, 29 US, worldwide sales: 5.06 million)
  8. 8 (4/13/19, 79 US, 52 CN, 35 AU, sales: ½ million)
  9. My Strange Addiction (4/13/19, 43 US, 21 CN, 12 AU, worldwide sales: 1.2 million)
  10. Bury a Friend (1/9/19, 14 US, 12 MR, 6 UK, 10 CN, 3 AU, worldwide sales: 3.98 million)
  11. Ilomilo (4/13/19, 62 US, 25 MR, 38 CN, 23 AU, worldwide sales: ½ million)
  12. Listen Before I Go (4/13/19, 63 US, worldwide sales: 0.7 million)
  13. I Love You (4/13/19, 53 US, 35 CN, 20 AU, worldwide sales: 1.2 million)
  14. Goodbye (69 CN, 54 AU)

Total Running Time: 42:56


3.910 out of 5.00 (average of 28 ratings)

Quotable: “No teenager I can recall has ever made such an impressive album.” – music critic Robert Christgau

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Billie Eilish became a teen folk hero with her blockbuster debut — just your average 17-year-old songwriting prodigy with a head full of nightmares.” RS’20 She became the youngest artist in history to receive nominations for the Big Four Grammys. At the 2020 ceremony, she became only the second artist (after Christopher Cross) to win them all – Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year (both for “Bad Guy”), and Album of the Year. She also won Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Engineered Album. By this time, she was eighteen, but still the youngest to ever take home the prizes for Record of the Year and Album of the Year. LeAnn Rimes was 14 when she won Best New Artist and Lorde was 17 when she landed Song of the Year for “Royals.”

Eilish had already released an EP, but When We All Fall Asleep was her official debut album. It debuted at #1 in the U.S. and UK. She became the youngest solo female act ever to top the charts in the United Kingdom. WK Critic Robert Christgau said, “No teenager I can recall has ever made such an impressive album.” WK

She “makes a bold entrance into the mainstream, leaving the fringes behind to embrace her role as an anti-pop star for the disaffected Gen Z masses.” AMG She has said the record, which explores climate change, drug addiction, heartbreak, mental health, and suicide, was inspired by lucid dreams and night terrors. WK

Eilish largely co-wrote the album with her brother Finneas O’Connell, who produced it from his bedroom studio in the house where they grew up. His production focused on amplified bass, minimalist percussion, and acoustic sounds. Musically, it has been described as “a youthful, hybrid blend that incorporates elements of indie electronic, pop, and hip-hop.” AMG Exclaim!’s Matt Bobkin said the album displayed “a bold artistic vision and a willingness to move beyond the boundaries of pop conventions.” WK

Critics described her vocal style “as soft and whispered;” WK The Daily Telegraph’s Neil McCormick said she could “shift from coquettish to threatening, playfully ironic to emotionally sincere in a breath.” WK He said she “sounds modern and old fashioned at the same time.” WK “Like Lorde’s devilish little sister, Eilish delivers her confessional lyrics in hushed bursts of breath, at times dirge-like in their sedateness and otherwise intensely threatening in their creepiness.” AMG

Intro/“Bad Guy”

The album kicks off with !!!!!!!, a thirty-second “intro in which Eilish slurps saliva from her Invisalign aligners and announces that ‘this is the album,’ before she and her brother descend into laughter.” WK She follows that with “the whispery trap-pop strut of Bad Guy,” RS’20 using “a bass, a kick-drum and amplified finger snaps.” WK Lyrically, she taunts her partner and suggests she is the “bad guy” and not him. The worldwide #1 hit – the fifth single from the album – was released simultaneously with When We All Fall Asleep.


Xanny was inspired by a party where Eilish’s friends were drinking and throwing up and becoming “completely not who they were.” WK It was built around “a jazz-inspired loop in order to replicate the feeling of being ‘in secondhand smoke.’” WK

“You Should See Me in a Crown”

The “trap-influenced electropop song” WK was inspired by an episode of the BBC TV series Sherlock. Eilish sings over “blaring synths and rapid-fire hi-hats.” WK It was the first single, preceding the release of the album by six months.

“All the Good Girls Go to Hell”

Stereogum described this as a “punchy piano number” and one of the album’s “poppiest tracks.” WK It explores the notion that God and the Devil are observing humans as a meek group of people and pondering, “What are they trying to do here?” WK

“Wish You Were Gay”/“When the Party’s Over”

On this “jazzy classic pop song” WK Eilish sings about a man she likes who doesn’t show romantic interest in her. She wishes that he was gay so that it would explain his lack of interest in her. WK In a different vein, the “piano ballad” When the Party’s Over was written when her brother left his date’s house “kind of for no reason.” WK Both songs were top-40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

“8”/“My Strange Addiction”

The album’s eighth song, appropriately titled 8, “is a ukulele-based lullaby which manipulates Eilish's vocals to make her sound like a small child.” WK the bass-heavy My Strange Addiction follows. She got approval from Steve Carrell, B.J. Novak, John Krasinski, and Mindy Kaling to use samples of their voices as featured in the “Threat Level Midnight” episode of the TV sitcom The Office.

“Bury a Friend”/“Ilomilo”

This was the second-highest charting song from the album, reaching #14. Eilish wrote this tale of “gothic angst” RS’20 from the perspective of what a monster under a bed feels. Musically, the “minimalist electronica and industrial song” WK contains a vocal line resembling the Doors’ “People Are Strange” and a beat similar to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.” WK The beat from the song “leads seamlessly into…Ilomilo, an electropop cut named after the 2010 video game.” WK

“Listen Before I Go”/“I Love You”/“Goodbye”

Finneas explained that the songs are related because they express “different sentiments about a farwell.” WK Eilish sings Listen Before I Go from the perspective of someone about to commit suicide. Eilish said I Love You, whose chorus has drawn comparisons to “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, was about how “it sucks to be in love sometimes.” WK Goodbye features lines from each of the other songs on the album, except for the intro.


In the end, this is a remarkable beginning for such a young artist. “She’s a highly relatable kid – not yet of legal voting age at the time of the album’s release – and an avatar for an audience that deals with similar mental health struggles and growing pains.” AMG

Notes: The Japanese edition added the tracks “Come Out and Play” and “When I Was Older.” A Japanese limited deluxe edition also added a remix of “Bad Guy” with Justin Bieber and a Japanese complete edition included “Everything I Wanted” as well. A reissue from Target added “When I Was Older,” Bitches Broken Hearts,” and “Everything I Wanted.”

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 12/12/2020; last updated 4/25/2022.