Tricky Stewart and The-Dream wrote "Umbrella" with Britney Spears in mind. Her record label rejected it claiming they had enough songs for her upcoming collection Blackout. The song then caught the attention of L.A. Reid at Island Def Jam, and after he sent it to Rihanna she immediately wanted to record it. Upon release the song quickly became the biggest hit of Rihanna's career reaching #1 around the world. "Umbrella" remained at the top of the chart in the UK for 10 weeks, the longest of any song in the decade. It was nominated for Grammy Awards for Song and Record of the Year while winning a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
Stevie Wonder originally wrote the song "Superstition" for guitarist Jeff Beck. However, with insistence from management, he recorded it himself. The song was notable as indicating Stevie Wonder's move into personal exploration with a funkier sound and the use of innovative arrangements of synthesizers and horns. The song was the lead single for Stevie Wonder's Talking Book album and hit #1 in the US in early 1973.
"Respect" was originally written and recorded by R&B legend Otis Redding in 1965. However, it is Aretha Franklin's 1967 version that has become definitive and a signature song for her. The showstopping "R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me" line is unforgettable. The song went to #1 on the US pop charts and won two Grammy Awards for Best R&B recording and Best R&B Female Vocal performance.
"Blue Monday" is one of the most influential dance pop records of all time. New Order recorded it just two years after the group had risen out of the ashes of the post punk band Joy Division which fell apart when lead vocalist Ian Curtis. The band incorporated influential elements from seminal dance artists Kraftwerk, Donna Summer and Sylvester. The breakbeat production work of Arthur Baker in New York was also a strong influence. The 12-inch single became the biggest selling 12-inch of all time.
"American Pie" is considered by many to be an allegorical history of rock music up to the time of its recording. The "day the music died" from the chorus is considered the day that Buddy Holly died in 1959 in an airplane crash with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The actual meaning of the specific lyrics is the subject of ongoing speculation. However, many believe that such figures as the Byrds, Mick Jagger, and the Beatles are subjects mentioned in the song. "American Pie" was a #1 pop single for four weeks.
The biggest hit single by the band R.E.M. went to #4 on the pop singles chart. The sound of the song is built around a mandolin hook. The song's title comes from a Southern colloquial phrase meaning to lose one's temper. R.E.M.'s lead vocalist has said the song is about unrequited love and romantic expression. The accompanying video was highly acclaimed. It won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video.
Madonna worked with producer William Orbit to put together this dance classic. It became the top song played in dance clubs for the year 1998. The accompanying video was inspired by the time lapse photography in the film Koyanisqaatsi. "Ray of Light" was a top 10 smash hit in both the UK and the US. It was one of the first recordings where Madonna full embraced the techno and electronica dance music genres.
The pulsing bass line is the introduction to "Billie Jean." The song's tale of patrimonial accusations is based on a real-life incident. Michael Jackson's vocal hiccups became a trademark. Like so many classics, "Billie Jean" almost missed the cut to be included on the Thriller album. It went straight to #1 and was a top 10 smash across Europe. Many consider "Billie Jean" to be the most prominent and most influential song on the bestselling album of all time Thriller.
This pop standard written in 1933 was first sung by Ethel Waters at the Cotton Club in Harlem. However, Lena Horne's version of the song was included in the 1943 movie Stormy Weather and is probably the best-known recording of this classic. The song is built around a classic weather metaphor used to describe emotion. This recording is included in the Grammy Awards Hall of Fame.
The electronic pop band Human League were skeptical about the release of "Don't You Want Me" as a single and thought it would stall the band's commercial progress. To their surprise it went to the top of the pop singles chart in both the US and the UK. It has since become known as a defining song of New Wave pop. The match of deadpan vocal delivery with an aggressive electronic hook is unforgettable.