Happy birthday to me! A few years ago, I made a playlist of every song that’s topped the Billboard Hot 100 on my birthday and ranked them in order of awesomeness. I’ve listened to that playlist every birthday since, and I’ve revised my thoughts on where some of these songs should stand on the list. So here’s an updated version of the post…I still agonize over one and two.
43. “Rude,” Magic!
#1 when I turned 39 on August 13, 2014. This tepid kiss-off may be best remembered, in years to come, as the point when our society collectively decided that asking dads for permission to propose to their daughters is one of those traditions that we can maybe all just quietly leave at the curb.
42. “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” Andy Gibb
#1 when I turned two on August 13, 1977. Maybe you had to be there — and be out of diapers — to get the appeal of ’70s ballads like this.
41. “Incomplete,” Sisqó
#1 when I turned 25 on August 13, 2000. Sisqó gets pegged as a one-hit wonder, but people forget that this ballad actually charted higher than his iconic ode to thongs. “Pretty faces from the covers of the magazines/ From their covers to my covers wanna lay with me.” But this newly-minted Minnesotan only wants you, baby.
40. “London Bridge,” Fergie
#1 when I turned 31 on August 13, 2006. Except for, possibly, “Macarena,” this is the guiltiest pleasure on my birthday hit list. It’s not exactly what you’d call a “good song,” but I can’t help loving the sheer shamelessness of Fergie’s first solo record. The meta “Fergalicious” is even better.
39. “(I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You,” UB40
#1 when I turned 18 on August 13, 1993. You thought UB40 were also a one-hit wonder, but no — they’ve taken two cover songs to the top of the charts in the US, and in the UK they also went to #1 with a cover of “I Got You Babe.” This one just didn’t really need to exist, but it’s a great reminder, for anyone who’s forgotten, of what 1993 actually sounded like on the radio. Those synth horn peals!
38. “Slow Motion,” Juvenile and Soulja Slim
#1 when I turned 29 on August 13, 2004. A hip-hop Kama Sutra (NSFW, obvs) that rides a slinky Danny Kartel beat.
37. “Roll With It,” Steve Winwood
#1 when I turned 13 on August 13, 1988. Props to Steve Winwood for his mid-1980s renaissance and all, but these days, but really, if you’re going to bust out with a song from ’88 at your next dance party, is it going to be Steve Winwood or George Michael? Also, who wore a leather jacket and a swept-back haircut better? Exactly, and exactly.
36. “Cheerleader,” OMI
#1 as I turn 40 on August 13, 2015. What is it with late summer and lazy pop reggae? This song is so slight, it hardly even exists. It gets points, though, for sparking one of my all-time favorite memes.
35. “Magic,” Olivia Newton-John
#1 when I turned five on August 13, 1980. Not the best song on the Xanadu soundtrack (that would be “Xanadu”), but I was definitely okay rocking my way into kindergarten with this one playing in the Gabler family station wagon.
34. “I Kissed a Girl,” Katy Perry
#1 when I turned 33 on August 13, 2008. This song really just couldn’t happen again — let’s hope — but in 2008, it did what it needed to do, and it officially announced the arrival of Taylor Swift’s nemesis as a force to be reckoned with.
33. “Three Times a Lady,” the Commodores
#1 when I turned three on August 13, 1978. You have to take your hat off to lead singer Lionel Richie for the sheer shamelessness of this six-and-a-half-minute slow jam: when he hits the chorus, it seems like the whole world goes into soft focus.
32. “Dilemma,” Nelly and Kelly Rowland
#1 when I turned 27 on August 13, 2002. A sweet little time capsule from the decade it’s proving impossible to name. Nelly, come back!
31. “Right Here Waiting,” Richard Marx
#1 when I turned 14 on August 13, 1989. This song came on the radio as I finished reading Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. I closed the book, sat back, listened to Richard Marx, and imagined Frodo and Sam making their way off together into the sunset.
30. “End of the Road,” Boyz II Men
#1 when I turned 17 on August 13, 1992. This was the theme song for our senior-year homecoming, and I thought it had been imprinted into my brain forever — but how did I forget about the spoken-word interlude?!?!
29. “Stay,” Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
#1 when I turned 19 on August 13, 1994. Remember when acoustic folk-pop could top the charts? It seems like a billion years ago.
28. “Vision of Love,” Mariah Carey
#1 when I turned 15 on August 13, 1990. Mariah released her debut album, and a million would-be karaoke gods were born.
27. “Beautiful Girls,” Sean Kingston
#1 when I turned 32 on August 13, 2007. Kingston slyly scooped a Drifters beat and took this silly little pop song to the top of the charts. Just try not to sing along.
26. “Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem and Rihanna
#1 when I turned 35 on August 13, 2010. An epic piece of dark pop theater from two performers who can’t help but be provocative. BTW, I’m ready for Rihanna to be number one on my birthday again. It’ll happen.
25. “Macarena,” Los Del Rio
#1 when I turned 21 on August 13, 1996. My senior year college roommate had a screensaver featuring uncooked noodles that would fall from the top of the screen and scatter across the bottom. They would then sprout legs and arms and dance a few bars of the Macarena as the computer sang, “Heeeeey, macaroni!” Repeat.
24. “I Gotta Feeling,” the Black Eyed Peas
#1 when I turned 34 on August 13, 2009. Say what you want about will.i.am, but here’s the thing: you know and I know that if either of us could write a song like this, we’d happily take our millions and retire to Aruba. Let the haters hate.
23. “Fallin’,” Alicia Keys
#1 when I turned 26 on August 13, 2001. The hit single that set a template for Ms. Keys’s remarkable career.
22. “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy
#1 when I turned 22 on August 13, 1997. Puff Daddy (a.k.a. P. Diddy, a.k.a. Diddy, a.k.a. Sean Combs) has always been less convincing as a performer than as an impresario, and his genius here is in bringing the right elements together: a song by the Police, a chorus sung by Faith Evans, a contribution from 112, a little modest rapping by himself, and even interpolations of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away”—all in tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. This was also the year that brought us “Candle in the Wind 1997,” so rewriting pop songs in honor of the recently deceased was really a thing.
21. “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy and Monica
#1 when I turned 23 on August 13, 1998. Only 19 and 17, respectively, Brandy and Monica went toe-to-toe with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “The Girl Is Mine” and won handily, thanks to a perfect teaming and a burbling bass line.
20. “Endless Love,” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
#1 when I turned six on August 13, 1981. Bow down: you are in the presence of royalty. Royalty.
19. “Genie in a Bottle,” Christina Aguilera
#1 when I turned 24 on August 13, 1999. It’s funny, in retrospect, that this former Mousketeer felt the need to become “Xtina” and get “Dirrty,” given how thinly veiled this metaphor from her debut album is. This is a track I’ve bumped up several spaces on the list — the pop production really holds up as some of the best of its era.
18. “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” Bryan Adams
#1 when I turned 16 on August 13, 1991. This was the theme song for my junior year homecoming dance, and it seemed like every couple was trying to claim it as “their song.” Because why wouldn’t you want to think about Kevin Costner swinging through the trees every time you made out? That said, this is going down in history as one of the great power ballads, and I’m a sucker for a great power ballad.
17. “Jive Talkin’,” the Bee Gees
#1 when I was born on August 13, 1975). Deeply funky. What an awesome song to enter the world to. I’m trying to make the phrase “Disco Babies” a thing to describe our little Ford Administration birth cohort, but so far it hasn’t quite caught on.
16. “Cheap Thrills,” Sia
#1 when I turned 41 on August 13, 2016. Sia’s great and all, but there’s something incongruous about what sounds like a children’s chorus yelling throughout the chorus. Does Sia really love cheap thrills? I just don’t buy it, but I’m never sad when this song comes on.
15. “Despacito (Remix),” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
#1 when I turned 42 on August 13, 2017. The two biggest Spanish-language pop hits of my lifetime (yep, this and “Macarena”) have both been number one on my birthday, and I’m not sad about it.
14. “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO
#1 when I turned 36 on August 13, 2011. Okay, I’ve bumped this back a few slots from its former top-ten status on this list — but I stand by my assertion that it’s the “Louie Louie” of our time.
13. “Shout,” Tears For Fears
#1 when I turned ten on August 13, 1985. Songs like this were why synth-pop was amazing, why it came back, and why it will never die — right?
12. “We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey
#1 when I turned 30 on August 13, 2005. A timeless, ethereal ballad that was a justifiably massive hit.
11. “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna
#1 when I turned 11 on August 13, 1986. Madonna gets topical yet somehow still stays breezy—and listen to that popping bass line!
10. “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell
#1 when I turned 38 on August 13, 2013. I’m not even going to embed the real video for this song because the whole theme is just so terrible, yes, absolutely — but the brilliance of Pharrell’s writing and production is just undeniable. My memory of summer 2013 will always be this song coming on and everybody screaming with frustration, then filling the dance floor.
9. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” U2
#1 when I turned 12 on August 13, 1987. I never quite managed to yearn along with Bono, but objectively speaking, this is a pretty killer single.
8. “Good Times,” Chic
#1 when I turned four on August 13, 1979). Just wind Nile Rodgers up and let him go. A generation of rappers listened to Chic and said, “THAT. That beat is what I want playing when I’m on the mic.”
7. “Waterfalls,” TLC
#1 when I turned 20 on August 13, 1995. There are legions of people who regard this as one of the singular near-religious moments in the history of popular music. I get that.
6. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Elton John and Kiki Dee
#1 when I turned one on August 13, 1976. Sir Elton at his most effervescent. Fun fact: Kiki Dee is among the backup singers on the Lion King soundtrack.
5. “Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor
#1 when I turned seven on August 13, 1982. If you were a child of the 80s, you remember getting emotional about the title song to Rocky III. The only question is, who did you root for: Rocky…or Mr. T? (There’s only one correct answer here.)
4. “Ghostbusters,” Ray Parker, Jr.
#1 when I turned nine on August 13, 1979. It’s hard for me to objectively evaluate this song, since I was absolutely obsessed with this movie: in fifth grade, I asked everyone to call me Ray.
3. “Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen
#1 when I turned 37 on August 13, 2012. The greatest pop single in Canadian history? Discuss.
2. “Crazy in Love,” Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
#1 when I turned 28 on August 13, 2003. Towering.
1. “Every Breath You Take,” the Police
#1 when I turned eight on August 13, 1983. Sting isn’t considered very cool these days, but the truth is that this is just an absolutely perfect pop song.