Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind Today’s Biggest Hits…Chart Position #3.

The songs listed in this post were found using the Top 40 charts of the following music organizations: CHUM-FM, CFNY-FM, KEXP-FM, Billboard Magazine, Spotify and BBC Radio 1. All songs listed below occupied position #3 on their respective music lists from this past week. So, let’s take a quick look at today’s five songs and then, a bit of a longer look at the song in today’s spotlight: “About Damn Time” by Lizzo.

I have to start out by stating that the songs featured in this post are my favourite collection of songs and artists in any Top 40 post since the series began. All the songs have great stories to go with them. All singers and bands have great stories, too. In addition to all of that, several of the songs/singers have also created work in a way that speaks to the modern way music is released and to how artists and audiences interact in these modern times. So, without further delay, here are today’s Top 40 selections….bangers, all!

When You’re Gone by Shawn Mendes (CHUM-FM)

Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes when they were a couple.

There weren’t a lot of uplifting stories that happened during the pandemic, but one of the nicest was the romantic relationship between singers Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello. The first inkling that there may have been something going on between them was when Mendes appeared on Cabello’s single, “Senorita”. The pair exuded sexual chemistry. He is a handsome young man and she is a beautiful young woman. It was obvious to most who watched them on stage together that they were becoming more than mere duet partners. So, when the news broke that Cabello and Mendes were “quarantining” together during the early stages of Covid, fans were very happy. The pair appeared together, virtually, singing on a variety of benefit concerts from home that were all the rage during the pandemic. They seemed very relaxed with each other and gave the impression of being two people who had found their soulmate and were completely comfortable building a life together. The world certainly thought beautiful babies were on the horizon. Then, as the Covid restrictions began to lift and live music concerts began to happen, the individual schedules of Mendes and Cabello ramped up and the two suddenly found themselves apart. The stress of having personal careers that were exploding caused them to be apart for much of the past year. After much consideration on both of their parts, Cabello and Mendes announced that they were taking a formal break from their relationship and that they would stay as friends going forward. There was no infidelity. There was no disappointing behaviour evident by either party. It seemed to simply be a case of each partner recognizing that the dreams and aspirations of the other deserved to be explored fully while the timing was right, so they agreed to separate. As newly minted solo artists, each has released a song that touches on their relationship. Cabello went first with “Bam Bam”. Mendes follows up this week with “When You’re Gone”. What is refreshing about both songs is that they wax nostalgic for what was and what has been lost. Both artists sing kindly about the other. It is obvious that their time together meant something to both and that they continue to regard each other with fondness. In this day and age of people becoming “famous” due to obnoxious behaviour, it is refreshing to see two stars playing nicely and maturely. Well done to both singers. I wish them well and hope that the future brings with it all the happiness and satisfaction they desire.

Gloria by The Lumineers (CFNY-FM).

The amazingly talented, Lumineers!

I absolutely love The Lumineers! Like many, my first exposure to this band came via their debut smash hit, “Ho Hey!”. That song went to #1 on the charts and became such a huge hit that it threatened to dwarf all of their other musical offerings. In the time since “Ho Hey!” debuted in 2012, I have listened to many of their songs and have watched them live numerous times. I marvel at the intelligence of the songs they sing and how tight they are as a band. The Lumineers are known as Folk-rockers in the same mode as acts like Mumford and Sons. the Avett Brothers and so on. To listen to them sing is to witness a band that appears to be having the time of their lives every single time they play. I adore them. So, it was a source of frustration to me when the only song I ever heard played on the radio by them was “Ho Hey!” The Lumineers are no one-hit-wonders by any stretch. So, it was with great delight that I learned that they had released a new album and saw the song “Gloria” racing up the Alternative music charts.

“Gloria” is a song about addiction. More specifically, it is a song about how deep the roots of addiction burrow, how difficult it is to successfully treat it and how impactful addiction can be on a family. Speaking about the inspiration for the song, lead singer Wesley Schultz talks openly about it being about a member of his own family. Schultz states that until he and others tried to help his loved one, he had no idea that addiction was more than a lack of willpower and a propensity for poor choices. SInce the release of “Gloria”, Schultz said that he is overwhelmed by the response from audiences and is humbled by how many people have reached out with words of sympathy and/or advice, as well as their own tales of attempting to deal with a loved one with an addiction. The video that accompanies the song comes with a trigger warning. It is a bleak and unsparing look at alcoholism. There is nothing redeeming in this video. It is raw and filled with heartbreak. If alcoholism or any form of addiction has taken root in your life, then it may be best to skip this video. As it stands, viewer discretion is certainly advised. Having said that, “Gloria” is a tremendously powerful song! Kudos to The Lumineers for daring to broach such a serious topic. Kudos, as well, for doing so with such sensitivity and honesty and musical finesse. I predict that come year’s end, “Gloria” will win awards for Song of the Year and will easily populate critic’s Top Ten polls. It is just that good.

Go by Cat Burns (BBC Radio 1)

From Tik Tok fame to the top of the charts. This is Cat Burns.

Cat Burns is a young, up-and-coming singer out of the UK. She has a soulful, jazzy singing style and reminds me a little bit of singers such as Sade or Erykah Badu. Cat Burns is in her early twenties and arrived in the musical spotlight because of her own sense of determination and creativity. Initially, Burns was rejected by record labels because her jazz-oriented style didn’t seem likely to produce the hits that the industry demands. Undaunted, Burns took the initiative of circumventing the usual process one takes when having your music heard by the masses and decided to use existing social media platforms to do the work for her. So, Cat Burns began releasing snippets of her songs on Tik Tok. By using a social media platform that only allows short pieces to be aired, Burns was able to play enough of each song so as to allow viewers to enjoy it and get a sense for how talented and beautiful and intelligent she was, but at the same time, she always left them clamouring for more. In this way, Cat Burns became a social media Tik Tok star way before she ever appeared on more traditional venues such as BBC, etc…. As you read these words, the music industry is only just now starting to appreciate the marketing potential of such streaming platforms as Tik Tok. I am starting to read of more and more artists who have a new record ready to release but are being forced to put out Tik Tok videos that have to go “viral” before the record label will support them with publicity, tour money, etc. I have no doubt that record labels will soon ruin Tik Tok for viewers there, who in no time will find some other underground manner in which to connect with the up-and-coming stars of the future. For now, know that singers such as Cat Burns are legitimately talented and are deserving of your attention. Her song “Go” is a break-up song told from the female perspective. Burns is seen as being a voice for female empowerment much the same way as Alanis Morissette was in the 1990s and Taylor Swift was throughout the last two decades. There are clean and profane versions of this song. I will play the clean one for you in the link above.

Spitting Off the Edge of the World by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (KEXP-FM)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

If you want to know me better then listen to this song. I love how this song sounds! This is my type of music! As much as I love songs that tell a good story, I really like songs that have good sound quality. By that I mean songs where the notes are crisp and clear, where there is an atmospheric quality to the mood being created and so on. “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is a song that sounds great with headphones on, as well as cranked loudly on good speakers. There is a lot of buzz about this song and several reasons for this buzz.

First of all, the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs was one of the most influential and popular Post-Punk bands to emerge in the early 2000s. They were contemporaries of a music scene in NYC that included The Strokes, Interpol, The White Stripes and many others. Several of their earlier hits are viewed as being among the best songs of all time. In fact, two songs…”Cheating Hearts” and “Maps”… made the cut as being in the Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History that I wrote about in my previous music series. *You can read about those songs in posts here and here. After being together for over fifteen years, Yeah Yeah Yeahs went on hiatus nine years ago so that they could focus on family life, solo projects and the like. Often, when a band goes on “hiatus”, they usually don’t come back, or if they do, it is as a nostalgia act that only plays former hit songs. So, it was with much excitement that Yeah Yeah Yeahs announced that they were reuniting AND that they were coming back with a whole album of original material. The first song from this new album is “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” which features Tik Tok star, Perfume Genius in a scenery chewing supporting role.

In order to understand and appreciate why this song and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs reunion is creating so much energy and hype, it is instructive to read the post I wrote previously for their song, “Cheating Hearts”. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always been an inclusive band and have forged strong connections with their fanbase. The “Cheating Hearts” video demonstrates a bit of that loving vibe by showing fans from all over the world reenacting their music video in full costume, all dance moves down pat and so on. It fills my heart to watch this video. Well, one of the reasons that Yeah Yeah Yeahs wanted to come back was to support the thousands of young people around the world who are trying to make change happen during this critical time in the life of our planet. Lead singer, Karen O., says she was very moved by all of the climate activists such as Greta Thunberg, all of the young survivors of school shootings in the US who are marching for gun control laws, all of the Black Lives Matter activists, and closest to their hearts, all of those young people who are fighting to be their true selves regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, etc…. So, the idea for “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is that the band wanted to create an anthem for any or all of these young rebels and to acknowledge their efforts and reaffirm that the band believes these young people are our last, best hope for a brighter future.

In the video for this song, Yeah Yeah Yeahs show their connection with the youth of the world by collaborating with another Tik Tok star who goes by the moniker Perfume Genius. At the end of the video, Karen O. throws herself into the arms of her adoring audience, trusting that they will catch her and protect her and treat her well…and they do. As well, I can guarantee you that you have never seen a limo quite like the one used in this video, either. All in all, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is a very welcome and impressive return to the stage for Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Lizzo.

About Damn Time by Lizzo (Billboard Magazine and Spotify)

Today’s featured artist is Lizzo. Lizzo burst on to the music scene in 2015 but really hit her stride in 2019 with the monster hit “Good as Hell”. For anyone who does not know who Lizzo is, she is Black, she is female and she is plus-sized. For many people, any of those three attributes is enough to bring on a barrage of criticism and put-downs. It isn’t always easy to make it in a world that is motivated so much by superficial criteria such as body size, race or gender. Lizzo has battled all three issues her whole life but has made her greatest life statement by the nature of how she has embraced the whole of who she is. Lizzo has produced songs that celebrate her femininity, her colour and/or her body type. Because of that, she is adored by fans all over the world. The video for “Good as Hell” has been viewed over 111 million times! Not only is Lizzo known for her philosophy of self-love and empowerment, she has also been very respectful of those Black female singers who have come before her and blazed the path that she now follows. I wrote about this in a previous post about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was the person most responsible for the start of Rock n’ Roll as we know it. *You can read that post here. Lizzo appeared as musical guest on Saturday Night Live and had her backup musicians don outfits and use instruments just like Sister Rosetta did in her day. Such respect for history is admirable.

“About Damn Time” is another song in which Lizzo gets to preach about the power of positivity and self-love. She dances up a storm all throughout the video for this song, and in doing so, causes us to change our preconceived notions as to what agile dancers should look like. Not only does Lizzo dance to the music, but she has encouraged others to get up out of their seats and dance, too. When the video for “About Damn Time” was released, it came with an accompanying Tik Tok dance challenge in which viewers were asked to record themselves dancing to the song as Lizzo did. The challenge emphasized that dancers of all shapes, genders, age ranges, ethnicities and sexual orientations would be welcome to take part. As a result, the Lizzo “About Damn Time” Tik Tok Challenge has been a social media phenomenon. Thousands and thousands of ordinary folks have moved their bodies to the beat because Lizzo has made it ok to do so. You can view a variety of video compilations of people dancing to this song here, here and here, too!

Lizzo puts on a brave face when she sings about overcoming the social stigmas that she faces on the daily. But, her efforts are making a difference in the lives of ordinary people and for that she is to be commended. “About Damn TIme” is a catchy tune with an important message. After hearing it and watching the video, maybe you would like to take up the Tik Tok Dance Challenge? If so, feel free to post your video in the comment box below. My blogging site is a safe place to be your true self. Until then, take care. Thanks for reading all about Today’s Top 40. What a great week for music in our world!

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #350: Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #350: Nothing Holding Me Back by Shawn Mendes.

We are 150 songs into this countdown! Thanks for your continued interest and support. As always, every 25th song goes to one of my girls so, today we will be talking about the #8 song on Sophie’s personal all-time Top Ten list, “Nothing Holding Me Back” by Canada’s own, Shawn Mendes.

For Sophie, this song brings back happy memories of one of the last times she can remember being in a large, social, party-type situation since Covid began. It was the occasion of one of her best friend’s birthday. Sophie was one of five or six girls invited to go out to another town for lunch and a matinee movie. As the gang of girls drove down the highway, they took turns singing songs that were coming on the radio. Sophie said that, “Nothing Holding Me Back” was one of the first songs played that all of the girls knew all of the lyrics to and, as such, it was the first song they all sang together as they drove. Singing out with your besties as you head on down the highway….well, it doesn’t get much better than that. The memory of it makes her smile to this day.

As a father, I am happy that my daughter has such good friends and such happy memories with them. I am, also, happy that some of those memories revolve around such a singer as Shawn Mendes. He is only 22 years old but has already accomplished much in his life. He was born in Ajax, Ontario, which is just 45 minutes west of where we live in Cobourg. His parents were/still are working professionals, in the real estate and restaurant business, specifically. Shawn Mendes was raised to work hard and to always do right by others. He went to public school. He played sports, like basketball and volleyball (because he is tall). He lived a fairly typical teenager’s life……with one exception….music. As Mendes was entering his teens, he became aware of the story of Justin Bieber. Bieber grew up not too far from Ajax, in a place called Stratford, Ontario. His story centres on him being “discovered” as he was busking on the streets of Stratford as a teenager. Bieber went on to become a professional musician and, by the time he was twenty, he already had several hit songs under his belt. Well, Shawn Mendes thought that he would emulate what Justin Bieber did only, he didn’t busk on the street corners of Ajax. Instead, like many young people these days, he turned to technology. In the early 2010s, there was a social media format called a “Vine”. “Vines” were six-second clips that pre-dated today’s “TikTok” clips that are so popular. Mendes began to create Vines of himself covering hit songs by people like Bruno Mars and other popular singers of the day. Because of his singing talent and good looks, the Vines that Mendes created became viral sensations which, in time, led him to being “discovered”, just like his hero, Justin Bieber, and being offered a record contract of his own.

As a professional musician, Shawn Mendes has enjoyed much success and, as he was taught by his parents, has used his fame to do much that is good in the world. His parade of hit singles includes songs such as, “Stitches”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (with soon-to-be girlfriend, Camila Cabello), “Treat You Better”, “If I Can’t have You”, “Senorita” (with current girlfriend, Camila Cabello) and, of course, “Nothing Holding Me Back”. He has, also, been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live…twice! He has won ten Juno Awards, multiple MTV Music Awards, been nominated for serval Grammy Awards and has already been enshrined on Canada’s “Walk of Fame” in Toronto. Did I mention that Shawn Mendes is only 22 years old!!!!! When I was 22 years old, I still didn’t have my driver’s license. (I got that when I turned 24). He is quite the accomplished young man.

As mentioned above, Shawn Mendes was raised to believe in the philosophy of strengthening communities by giving back to them in gratitude for all that those communities provided to him growing up. Consequently, he has volunteered to be involved in numerous charitable organizations that help out with issues such as Mental Health awareness (www.dosomething.org), promoting schools in Africa and, more to the point, allowing girls the access to education that they need to climb out of poverty and succeed in life (www.pencilsofpromise.org), as well as, (www.nogirlleftbehind.com) under the banner of Global Citizen, with the support of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Shawn Mendes regularly performs at benefit concerts for causes such as disaster relief, Aids and Cancer research, too.

So, if Sophie and her friends want to sing along with each other to the words of a Shawn Mendes song, I am ok with that. He is a good role model and is wished much future success as his career and personal life unfold. My wish for Sophie is that she gets to safely sing with her friends again soon. ***(This post was originally written prior to Covid vaccines becoming wisely available. Sophie is now double-vaxxed, as are her friends. As such, they have had a few happy get-together.) Those kind of happy times are among the most precious of treasure. In the meantime, here is the pride of Ajax, Ontario, himself, Mr. Shawn Mendes, with “Nothing Holding Me Back”. Good picking, Sophie! Enjoy, everyone.

The link to the video for the song, “Nothing Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Shawn Mendes, can be found here.