In addition to announcing his high-profile pair of shows with Jay-Z, Eminem has made a bit of history this week. As of this morning, his "Not Afraid" became only the 17th song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to debut in the top position. Fueled by robust digital sales and a surge in airplay since it first dropped last week, the success of "Not Afraid" proves that Eminem remains not only one of the finest MCs on the planet but also one of the biggest pop stars in the world.
In fact, Eminem joins some bona fide legends on the list of the artists who have had songs debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. And because "Not Afraid" is actually a pretty excellent tune featuring some vintage Slim Shady wordplay, it catapults way up to near the top of the rankings. Here are the other songs that have made their debut at number one, in order of quality (starting with the best).
Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)"
Hill's success at the top of the chart is a testament not only to how unbelievably popular the Fugees were but also how weird and transitional radio was in 1998. "Doo Wop (That Thing)" is a great song, but hardly has the kind of broad crossover appeal that most of the rest of the songs on this list have.
Mariah Carey, "Fantasy"
Carey holds the record for most top-shelf Billboard 100 debuts (she has done it three times), and this was her first (and arguably best, if only because the "Fantasy" single contained a great remix featuring Ol' Dirty Bastard as the B-side). "Fantasy" is everything a bubbly summer jam should be, which is why it was weird that it debuted in the fall.
Whitney Houston, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" brought together one of the biggest voices on the planet in Houston and one of the hottest songwriters of the era in Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds for a song for the soundtrack to the hit film "Waiting to Exhale." The result is a smooth jam with a crazy-catchy groove that sticks like peanut butter on the brain.
Britney Spears, "3"
As the only new song on Spears' most recent hits compilation, "3" distilled everything that made her great. It sounded good in the car, on your iPod, at a club or in the middle of a carefully choreographed chase scene. "3" may not be as iconic as other Spears hits like "...Baby One More Time" or "Womanizer," but it does drive home why she is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Also, it's the only song about a menage a trois to ever debut atop the Billboard Hot 100, which is pretty amazing.
Eminem, "Not Afraid"
Slim Shady's latest joint is great because it brings back Em's old school wordplay and also acknowledges that Relapse might not have been all that good. Props on both accounts.
Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, "One Sweet Day"
Was there any wonder this song not only debuted at number one but then stayed there longer than any other song in history? This juggernaut R&B ballad is a little overblown, but does bring together some of the best voices of the '90s.
Mariah Carey, "Honey"
Carey's third and final number one debut is one of her weaker singles but still manages to utilize all of her amazing instrument and float a fantastic groove care of Diddy and Q-Tip.
Michael Jackson, "You Are Not Alone"
"You Are Not Alone" sort of has the same problem as "Honey," as it's a massively iconic performer paired with a weaker song in the catalog. Doesn't it feel sort of strange that though Jackson had plenty of chart-topping singles, this weak ballad from HIStory is the only one that opened at number one?
Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112, "I'll Be Missing You"
Yes, it's a tribute to the late, great Biggie Smalls, but it's basically just a Police song with some rapping mixed in. Not necessarily the stuff of legends.
Elton John, "Candle in the Wind 1997"
See above, except replace "Biggie Smalls" with "Princess Diana" and "Police" with "Elton John." (And "rapping" with "weeping," I suppose.)
Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"
Here's the thing: "My Heart Will Go On" was everywhere in 1998, which made it way, way overrated. But because everybody wanted to get away from it because of its ubiquity, most people forget that it's sort of a great song, which ends up making it a tad underrated. On balance, it's right in the middle, but not quite as good as the songs above it.
Aerosmith, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Further proof that 1998 was indeed a weird year: Aerosmith scored their first and only number one debut with a Diane Warren song about kissing Liv Tyler's eyelids before going into space to destroy an asteroid. Or something. Heck, it wasn't even the best Aerosmith song from the soundtrack to "Armageddon" (that would be "What Kind of Love Are You On").
Celine Dion and R. Kelly, "I'm Your Angel"
Not a particularly memorable moment for either artist.
Fantasia, "I Believe"
Carrie Underwood, "Inside Your Heaven"
Clay Aiken, "This Is the Night"
Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud"
Unless you're a hardcore "American Idol" fan, these songs probably didn't make a huge impression on you. Really, they should probably be disqualified because of the fact that they had a hit TV show promoting them in their debut weeks. Also, how is it possible that these all debuted at the top of the chart but Kelly Clarkson's madly anticipated "A Moment Like This" didn't? (The answer, by the way, is Nelly and Kelly Rowland's "Dilemma," which ruled the charts with an iron fist in the fall of 2002.)
What's your favorite of these songs? Let us know in the comments!