Best of '99: 'Love' Is In The Air, On The Air, And On The Charts

Modern artists such as Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston top Valentine's Day chart.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Saturday, Feb. 13.]

If you measured romance by the Billboard charts, it would seem people are more

tuned in then ever to their favorite love songs.

The upper portion of the chart magazine's list of the top 50 love songs is dominated by

tunes from this decade — nine of the top 10 were released from 1991 to 1996. For its

website (www.billboard.com), the veteran music magazine prepared its list of the 50

most popular singles of the past 40 years based on those that had the word "love" in their

titles.

Topping the list are "I'll Make Love to You," the 1994 single by R&B vocal quartet Boyz II

Men at #1 and Whitney Houston's 1992 remake of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love

You" at #2.

But before you start celebrating a rebirth of romance, consider this: Charts Director Geoff

Mayfield suspects the success of the later releases is a product of changes in the record

industry and radio stations, rather than in the heart of music listeners. SoundScan, the

sales tracker that monitors weekly sales of albums and singles, was instituted in 1991,

yielding sales statistics that in all likelihood exceed those of the pre-SoundScan years.

In addition, radio stations now allow songs to remain in rotation until requests dissipate,

Mayfield said.

And that could take a while.

Still, Haynes Johns, music director for WNND, a soft-rock station in Chicago known as

Windy 100, said love songs are tough birds to kill. And some of the oldest remain firmly

in the hearts of the romantic, he added.

"It's that emotional tie. Those are emotional songs," Johns said. "It puts into words the

feelings people are trying to communicate, especially men. It's like, 'This is what I'm

feeling.'"

Mayfield said that for the "love" chart, the magazine editors ranked the singles — all of

which have spent time in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 — using a staggered

point system. The higher the song crested in the top 10 and the longer it appeared on

radio playlists, the more points the song received.

The list covers songs from as far back as 1958 and includes tracks from each of the last

five decades.

In turn, the list is peppered with romance-infused pop favorites of recent times —

including "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey at #7 and two songs by French-Canadian pop

star Celine Dion at #5 and #10 — and with such rock nuggets of yesteryear as "She

Loves You" by the Beatles at #28 and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by defunct glam

rockers Queen at #19.

Keeping some of the more vintage love tunes alive are radio stations aiming to tug at the

hearts of an older listener, while capturing a new generation of lovers. For example,

Johns said a 1994 version of "Endless Love" crafted by R&B singers Mariah Carey and

Luther Vandross is played regularly on Windy 100.

And at this time of the year, love tunes are all over the air, as radio stations play request

after request for songs of romance — of love found, love lost and love forever sought.

Among the older songs ranked high on the Billboard chart is Diana Ross and

Lionel Richie's 1981 duet "Endless Love" at #3. Further down are such classic love

tracks as "How Deep Is Your Love" by the BeeGees and "To Sir With Love" by Brit-pop

singer Lulu at #16 and #18, respectively. Bringing up the bottom of the chart is

"Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" by pop-rock artists Patty Smyth and Don Henley at

#50.

The chart was originally released in a September issue of the magazine commemorating

the 40th anniversary of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart,

"People identify with [these songs]," Johns said. "Everyone gets mushy."

But in some of the songs on the list, it's the relevance that gets a little mushy. Take entry

#8, for example: the jukebox ode "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (RealAudio

excerpt) by riff-rockers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Well, at least "love" is in the title, Mayfield said.

"We're not claiming that anyone gives 'I Love Rock 'N Roll' to their girlfriend for

Valentine's Day," he said. "It just has the word 'love' in the title."

Karol Kamin, a management representative at Blackheart Records, Jett's New York-based

label, said the distinction tickled her.

"I think it's pretty cool," she said. "This is a song that resonates for all generations."