Monday, April 1, 2019

Musical Monday - Rapture by Blondie

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: March 28, 1981 through April 4, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: March 28, 1981 through April 4, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Rapture is the first "rap" song that reached number one on the charts. I put "rap" in quotes because even though Deborah Harry raps a decent portion of the lyrics, it bears little relationship to what most people regard as rap. There are no samples, the underlying song is a kind of dreamy tune, the actual rapping is fairly rudimentary, and Harry doesn't look or really sound much like what most people expect for a rap artist.

Leaving all of that aside: While acknowledging Rapture's place in history as the first rap song to reach number one, I kind of question its cultural impact. I suspect that if you went to a hundred people and asked them about the song, the vast majority would give you blank stares in return. The song just doesn't seem to be that well remembered, probably due in large part to the fact that rap music as a genre went in a completely orthogonal direction to the style of this song.

As a comparison, one could look to the Sugar Hill Gang's tune Rapper's Delight, which came out in 1979, a few years before Rapture. Rapper's Delight did reasonably well for its artists, but it peaked on the U.S. Billboard charts at number thirty-six. On the other hand, it became culturally pervasive, influencing several generations of rap artists and helping shape the genre, and showing up in odd places such as Las Ketchup's Ketchup Song: The nigh-incomprehensible chorus of the Ketchup Song is an attempt to copy the opening sequence of Rapper's Delight that starts "I said a hip hop, The hippie to the hippie the hip-hip-hop, a you don't stop".

On a side note, Deborah Harry seems to have had a hand in sparking the creation of Rapper's Delight, so her rap credentials run fairly deep, and her appreciation of the genre probably spurred the creation of Rapture, but her foray into rapping seems to have mostly faded from popular memory enough that Jimmy Fallon isn't making a video using snippets from Brian Williams and Lester Holt to make them sing Rapture.

Previous Musical Monday: Jealous Guy by Roxy Music
Subsequent Musical Monday: This Ole House by Shakin' Stevens

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Keep On Lovin' You by REO Speedwagon
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Kiss on My List by Hall and Oates

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Woman by John Lennon
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Kiss on My List by Hall and Oates

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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