The top 10 radio songs of 2006

154914__mjb_lAt EW’s head offices in Manhattan, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the radio. One, because so few of us commute aboveground — ain’t no FM in the subway — and two, because there are so few good stations (strange, for such a large market, but true). Now that the vast majority of culture-consuming Americans are able to maintain our own personalized playlist at our desk or on our mp3 players, maybe these lists are even a little obsolete. But it’s hard not to be interested in Nielsen’s list of the year’s most-played radio tunes, below. (In fact, Nielsen has several fascinating year-end lists here.)

Top 10 Most Played Songs on the Radio – 2006
(Data from Jan. 1 – Dec. 18, 2006)

  1. "Be Without You," Mary J. Blige (395,995 radio plays)
  2. "Unwritten," Natasha Bedingfield (336,276)
  3. "Temperature," Sean Paul (324,555)
  4. "Me & U," Cassie (312,073)
  5. "Hips Don’t Lie," Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean (308,903)
  6. "Promiscuous," Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland (292,264)
  7. "Bad Day," Daniel Powter (291,256)
  8. "Check On It," Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug (290,231)
  9. "So Sick," Ne-Yo (277,958)
  10. "Over My Head (Cable Car)," the Fray (276,601)

(See Leah’s own rating for each song after the jump.)

Now, granted, it was Mary J.’s year. The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul(pictured) snagged a leading eight Grammy nods, and the singlecertainly earned some airtime. But Number 1? I’m guessing it’sbecause the song’s midtempo groove and "let’s stay together" messagepleased a wide swath of listeners, and crossed mainstream radio’susually rigid boundaries between adult contemporary, urban, and popmusic.

Same with "Unwritten" — unthreateningly tuneful, positive message,good self-esteem vibes… still, as far as Bedingfield goes, I’m morepartial to her charming "These Words," and the fierce "Single."

As for Mr. Sean Paul, eh. His offer to replace our seasonallyappropriate outerwear with, um, himself in "Temperature" wasn’t so hot; I found his "Give It Up to Me" duet with Keyshia Cole both sweeter andsmarter. Either way, of course, I have no frakking idea what he’ssaying.

Cassie’s "Me & U," meanwhile, came from the (admittedlyexcellent) school of Janet Jackson Jams, specifically, The PleasurePrinciple" — the voice is far less important than a sexy groove and ahot, dancing-with-myself video. It was certainly enough to get someserious play on my own iTunes lineup.

Frankly, I’m just shocked that "Hips Don’t Lie" is lodged all theway down at Number 5; judging by its cultural ubiquity, I wouldhave put it in the top three for sure. And that’s all I have to sayabout that.

Same with "Promiscuous," a song I once very much enjoyed was turnedinto so much white noise after the 3,589,786th airing. Though it didreiterate (along with all of Justin’s LoveSexy) that Timbaland is basically the man running the entire R&B-tinged pop racket these days. Sorry, Pharrell.

Daniel Powter, of course, had his "Bad Day," and because of it — andthe song’s American Idol saturation — a pretty fantastic year. But what’sup with that omnipresent skull cap? Bad hair day, Daniel?

Now, Beyoncé’s 2006 has been pretty spectacular, and her Dreamgirls’07 almost definitely won’t suck, but "Check On It" just may be myfavorite output of hers this year. ("Ring the Alarm" is also in hotcontention.) The percolating, cotton-candy-coated track easily bestedthe film it sprang from — that leaden Pink Panther redux — but dang if Mizz Knowles wasn’t the hottest thing in fuchsia (and bubblegum, and rose, and flamingo-pink… see the video here).

And Ne-Yo’s "So Sick"? I’ll put that in the Mary J. category — anexcellent slow jam, but not exactly earth-shattering. Still, betweenthe two of them, they pretty much covered anyone who has ever lovedand/or lost: If you were keeping it strong with your long-term lover,then good for you! Blige. Dumped and destroyed? Ne-Yo, please.

Finally, at number 10, we have The Fray, a.k.a. The Band For PeopleWho Find Coldplay Too Hardcore. Which is not to say that "Cable Car"wasn’t a fantastic pop song, because it really, truly was. But, youknow, you didn’t hear that (zip it!) from me…

I guess the only question left is, Where was the rock? Is pop andR&B the only language that speaks to the masses these days? Surelythere were a few in the top 20, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a littlemore guitar — in all its fuzzy, imprecise glory — and a little less ProTools ruling in 2007.

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Comments (12 total) Add your comment
  • aron

    Well, radio doesn’t play rock, or real pop for that matter-so that’s really why. And it hasn’t for a few years, that’s why I really don’t listen to the radio anymore. None of these songs is a real pop song, in the full use of that term. they fall into r and b/ballad mode.
    Pop and rock are dead thanks to radio programmers in this country.

  • Slammy

    I’m proud to say I haven’t heard a single one of those.

  • ChuckE

    Another reason Mary J. was #1 was that the song was literally played all year long–it was released at the end of 2005.
    I’m surprised to see Sean Paul so high, since his genre is almost as polarizing as straight hip-hop, which you’ll notice doesn’t have any representatives in the top 10.

  • Jasper

    I’m not surprised at all by the list and Be Without You was played a lot and it was out all year so that makes since. I only actually liked 3 or 4 of the songs but that’s okay cuz I’m not 14. At my age (26) it’s still comforting to at least KNOW the songs on this list.

  • Shawn

    Is it me, or does that photo look like Star Jones, post-stomach stapling? Or at the very least, a drag queen?

  • Fatima

    Wow Slappy, I admire your snobbiness so much. Can I take classes from you or something!?

  • beb

    I’m also highly suspect of anyone that believes “Ring the Alarm” among the best product Beyonce’s put out there this year. The rock was out there…are you bummed that Nickelback didn’t make the list???
    Aron, what is your definition of a “real pop song” – Spice Girls? Britney Spears??? I would contend that “Unwritten” falls into the pop category.

  • Nancy Walker

    I am not a fan of Mary J Blige, but I do think she needs to take that silly looking weave off. Is she trying to be like Beyonce? By the way, I have heard it rumored that Beyonce’s hair was once darker than what it is now. Some of her people have said that her hair is naturally the color she is sporting but I have heard otherwise.

  • Jennifer

    “Hips Don’t Lie” is a pretty good song, and I’ll admit it is pretty catchy, but I don’t understand why it is getting all the accolades it is getting. I don’t find it to be that exceptional. It sounds pretty standard to me, but what do I know?

  • dma69

    “Be Without You,” Mary J. Blige
    Her best yet.
    “Unwritten,” Natasha Bedingfield
    Didn’t know what to make of it at first, but it grew on me.
    “Temperature,” Sean Paul
    Great song.
    “Me & U,” Cassie
    So bland I fall asleep whenever it comes on. Yeah, she’s pretty, but such a bland voice. Will be a one-hit wonder by next year.
    “Hips Don’t Lie,” Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
    Addictive song.
    “Promiscuous,” Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
    Big improvement over I’M LIKE A BIRD. The Year or Timbaland.
    “Bad Day,” Daniel Powter
    I am absolutely, positively sick of this song. If I want to hear Elton John, I’ll listen to Elton, not this wannabe. This and YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL I hope to never, ever, ever, EVER hear again.
    “Check On It,” Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug
    Good song for a bad movie (Pink panther remake).
    “So Sick,” Ne-Yo
    Okay song.
    “Over My Head (Cable Car),” the Fray
    Another overplayed song, but not bad. I like this better than HOW TO SAVE A LIFE.

  • Scooter Stereo

    I’m wierded out that “Crazy” wasn’t on that list. It seemed to me that the song was everywhere this summer, and I rarely go a day that the song isn’t heard in a car stereo, store’s background music or on the radio. I must be listening to the wrong stations…

  • V.M.L.

    I agree with Scooter Stereo. The radio kept repeating “Crazy” and I liked it!
    Believe it or not, I don’t recall “Be Without You” being the most overplayed song of ’06. Maybe because San Diegan radio stations don’t care about Mary J. Blige. O_o

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