Alternative Number Ones
February 21, 2024 12:32PM
For those who may subscribe to Stereogum, lead author Tom Breihan has an ongoing series that began a little while ago covering all the Number 1 hits on the Billboard Alternative Charts from the date of its launch, which he calls the Alternative Number Ones.

I'm finding it fascinating, especially as that chart launched in the late 80s, when the aesthetics of "what is alternative music" were completely undefined. All kinds of stuff made it to Number 1, from Sinéad to World Party to one-offs like Camper Van Beethoven's "Pictures of Matchstick Men," along with bands that had been formative in "college rock" before it became institutionalized as "alternative," like R.E.M. and others, and legends like Lou Reed who maintained an alternative credential or cachet.

Currently, he's caught up to summer 1990, and I'm finding his discussion of bands like Concrete Blonde and others surprisingly resonant. It was before my time, just a bit - I wasn't yet in college or running a college radio station, which I did from 1992-1996, but I was already gravitating toward alternative rock in high school, so these were the kinds of bands I was craving and wasn't yet exposed to.

Anyway, if folks want to spend $5 a month, or $55 a year, to subscribe to Stereogum, it's well worth considering as Tom is building out the series.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/21/2024 12:33PM by zwirnm.
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 21, 2024 04:21PM
I don't subscribe to Stereogum, so I don't follow this series, but the early days of that Billboard chart are fascinating. Their first top 30 included 3 reggae songs. If you watch an episode of 120 MINUTES from that period, the Anglophilia leaps out, while Tori Amos fit the concept of "alternative rock" without leaving her piano. Grunge popularized the format, but by 1995, the alternative radio charts were glaringly male, American, guitar-based and full of bands like Everclear and Candlebox.
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 21, 2024 07:02PM
yeah, not looking forward to the commodification of teen angst in the grunge era...
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 21, 2024 11:22PM
I like reading them, even when it's an artist that I'm not into (maybe even more so - eg : Butterfly by Crazy Town).
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 22, 2024 12:04AM
Yeah, that's Tom Breihan's Billboard Pop Hit Number Ones column. It gets tiresome to me when he's in the middle of long runs of club-rap hits that went to Number One, but sometimes he gets positively effervescent with one-hit wonders and fun tracks like Gotye or, well, Fun.
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 22, 2024 11:29AM
I was today years old when I found out that you could *subscribe* to Stereogum. I thought it was just a regular web site.

Fairly or unfairly, I still regard Stereogum as a 00's-era music blog holdover like early Pitchfork - i.e., some "mainstream," but mostly "major" indies (indie labels that have major distribution and significant non-commercial radio airplay, like Thrill Jockey, Anti-, 4AD, etc.) So much so that I often the see the same publicist-suggested descriptions, RIYL's, FCC-friendly edits, etc., when I see the same artist covered on different blogs (often 1-2 days apart.)
Re: Alternative Number Ones
February 22, 2024 02:36PM
They added a subscription-model with premium content to preserve their financial welfare and independence; I think they were on the verge of going under a few years ago. Yes, they are definitely from a similar vintage of indie-leaning popular music with a focus on well-promoted acts, although I think Pitchfork was around earlier, and Stereogum also is trying to do more jazz and rap and R&B coverage now too
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