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The #1 Hits of 2009
A Review of 2009’s Top Songs and Their Message
An article from David R. Smith at

Another year draws to an end, and teenagers’ iPods have been filled with even more songs. Without a doubt, many of those same songs have filled teenagers’ heads with certain messages.

But, what have those messages been this past year?

Top of the List…Bottom of the Barrel
At the risk of making the biggest understatement of the year, I’ll just say, “Not all music is created equal.”

2009 was a great example of that axiom. Some of this year’s biggest music was inventive, thought-provoking, and encouraging. Unfortunately, several chart toppers didn’t feel the need to stray from the proven recipe of sex, drugs, alcohol, and violence to sell records.

This article will recap all thirteen #1 songs from 2009 by date (according to Billboard), examine their message, and provide links to lyrics and videos so you can inspect them for yourself.

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
As it might be expected, 2009’s first #1 song was actually a carry-over from 2008. With her girl-power hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” Beyoncé took the honor of the artist with the first top song of this year. The song’s lyrics are fairly clean, and center around the heartache her ex feels when he sees her in the club with a new guy. Beyoncé’s response? “If you liked it, you should have put a ring on it.” Take a look for yourself.

Now put your hands up
Up in the club, we just broke up
I’m doing my own little thing
you decided to dip but now you wanna trip
Cuz another brother noticed me
I’m up on him, he up on me
dont pay him any attention
cuz i cried my tears, GAVE three good years
Ya can’t be mad at me

Cuz if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it

The rest of the song’s lyrics can be found here.

“Single Ladies” stayed in the top position until January 10th. Some have called the song pro-marriage because of its lyrics, but the music video, while simple and understated, has Beyonce and Co. dancing in some rather skimpy outfits. Their outfits were just as skimpy when they performed this song at the 2009 MTV VMAs later in the year…in front of 9 million viewers, MTV’s biggest awards show TV audience since 2004.

Just Dance
This tune was the first #1 song for Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), and even though it was Billboard’s top song from January 11 – January 31, it had actually been released in other countries way back in April of 2008. This song is important for two reasons. First, it was a #1 hit. Second, it introduced America to Lady Gaga.

We haven’t been the same since.

Lady Gaga was one of the biggest names of 2009. In fact, she caused such a stir in 2009 that we actually dedicated an entire Youth Culture Window article to discuss the craze she’s created in a few short months.

The song’s lyrics and meaning are more than a little disappointing. Basically, Lady Gaga finds herself in a club after too much to drink and wonders what she can do. Finally, she realizes she’ll “just dance.” See for yourself.

I've had a little bit too much
All of the people start to rush.
Start to rush by.
A dizzy twister dance
Can't find my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What's going on on the floor?
I love this record baby, but I can't see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what's the name of this club?
I can't remember but it's alright, alright.

Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.

The song’s full set of lyrics tell the whole, alcohol-induced story. The music video for the song depicts more than its fair share of alcohol being consumed and thrown about.

Unfortunately, “Just Dance” won’t be the last time you read about Lady Gaga in this article.

My Life Would Suck Without You
I wonder what Jerry McGuire would have sounded like if they’d have used this line instead of the more straight forward (and now famous), “You complete me.” We’ll never know. Regardless, this line did make for a popular little ditty the first two weeks of February.

“My Life Would Suck Without You” was the first and only #1 for American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson in 2009. The song was fairly catchy and easy to sing along with, but the best aspect of this song was its cleanness (for those who don’t mind the word “suck”). In the song, Clarkson realizes that no matter how badly she and her significant other may have spoken to each other in the past and how miserable they may make each other in the present, the truth is, their lives would suck without one another.

Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye
Maybe I was wrong for tryin' to pick a fight
I know that I've got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way, I found out I'm nothing without you

'Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
And honestly,
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you

Being with you is so dysfunctional
I really shouldn't miss you
But I can’t let you go oh yeah

The rest of the song is clean and the music video is a fun little vignette about Kelly tossing everything about the guy to the curb…except the guy.

Just a quick note about Kelly: unlike some of the other female singers on this list, she has kept her act pretty clean since her debut on the first season of American Idol. In fact, the worst thing the media has to say about Clarkson revolves around her weight. So what if she’s not the unrealistic, Photoshopped image people are used to seeing on billboards?! She doesn’t produce toxic music for our young girls, and unless she begins to, we’ll gladly keep her around.

Crack a Bottle
This track is perhaps the most blatant song of filth on the list. It’s the collaboration of three guys who know how to put together a rap/hip hop song – Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent – no matter how vile they must be or who they offend. During the song, each of these mega stars take turns spitting out crud lyrics that demean women and glorify a thug lifestyle.

There’s absolutely nothing I can say that’s positive about this song. Fortunately, it was #1 for only one week in 2009, February 16 – February 21. Here’s a sample from one of the “cleanest” portions of the song.

Oooh! Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for
In this corner, weighing 175 pounds, with a record of 17 rapes
400 assaults, and 4 murders, the undisputed, most diabolical
Villain in the world, Slim Shady!

So crack a bottle, let your body waddle
Don't act like a snobby model
You just hit the lotto
Uh oh uh oh, bitches hopping in my Tahoe
Got one riding shotgun and no not one of them got gloves

Now where's the rubbers? Who's got the rubbers?
I noticed there's so many of them and there's really not that many of us
Ladies love us and my posse's kicking up dust
It's on till the break of dawn and we're starting this party from dusk

The rest of the song’s lyrics will want to make most parents and youth workers “crack a bottle” over these three guys’ heads. The music video shows plenty of destitute moments, but never any of the three singers.

Right Round
Question: What do you do if you were the biggest selling artist of 2008, and have had a bit of a dry spell since then?

Answer: Rip off a song from the 80’s and do a hip hop re-make of it.
That’s exactly what Flo Rida (of “Low” fame) does in “Right Round.” Using Dead or Alive’s 1985 tune “You Spin Me Round” as a basis from which to work, Flo Rida crafts a song that speaks to his “appreciation” of the female body’s abilities and effect on him.

You spin my head right round, right round
When you go down, when you go down down
You spin my head right round, right round
When you go down, when you go down down

From the top of the pole I watch her go [down]
She got me throwin my money a[round]
Ain’t nothin more beautiful to be [found]
It’s goin down down.

From the top of the pole I watch her go [down]
She got me throwin my money [around]
Ain’t nothin more beautiful to be [found]
It’s goin down down

Flo Rida’s return to the #1 position was inevitable, and from February 22 – April 4, yep, more than a full month, he owned the top spot in music with this song. The music video doesn’t offer too many clues as to the meaning, so take a look at the song’s lyrics and decide for yourself what it’s truly about.

Poker Face
Remember when I told you Lady Gaga would be back? Well, from April 5 – to April 11, she was at the top again. Although her ride only lasted one week, this latest song got strong play time for months, a song that she once told a concert crowd was about “fantasizing about a woman while being in bed with a man.” Check out the stoic nature she tries to portray in “Poker Face.”

I wanna roll with him a hard pair we will be
A little gambling is fun when you’re with me (I love it)
Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun
And baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun, fun

Oh, oh, oh, oh ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get him hot, show him what I’ve got
Oh, oh, oh, oh ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get him hot, show him what I’ve got

Can’t read my can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face
(She’s got me like nobody)
Can’t read my can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face
(She’s got me like nobody)


The full set of lyrics from the song describe Gaga’s course of action in winning over the guy. Among other things, the song’s music video includes Gaga dressed in full body leather thrusting around in every setting imaginable. It also has her pointing to her crotch and referring to it as a “muffin.” Fortunately, this will be Lady Gaga’s last time in the top slot (for this year), but she had other songs in 2009 – which sold millions of copies – that were just as crude as these two mentioned here that were routinely in the Top 5.

Boom Boom Pow
Almost every year, the music industry has one artist/group that simply dominates the business. Without a doubt, this year, it was The Black Eyed Peas. In their hit “Boom Boom Pow,” the band is basically singing about the dominance of their music, both now and in the future. Take a look at how they describe their work:

Yo, I got that hit that beat the block
You can get that bass overload
I got that rock and roll, that future flow

That digital spit, next level visual hit
I got that boom, boom, boom
How the beat bang, boom, boom, boom

I like that boom, boom, pow
Them chickens jackin’ my style
They try to copy my swagger
I’m on that next, sit now

I’m so 3008, you so 2000 and late
I got that boom, boom, boom
That future boom, boom, boom
Let me get it now

The rest of the song’s lyrics offer a fuller description. The music video has been described as boring, and I can’t hear this song without thinking of Adam West’s version of Batman (Boom! Pow! Zing!), but, if you think The Black Eyed Peas sound a bit arrogant in their song, just realize, this tune stayed at the top of the charts for almost three full months (April 12 – July 4).

And when “Boom Boom Pow” finally succumbed to another chart topper, guess who owned it?

I Gotta Feeling
In “I Gotta Feeling,” the defining hit of 2009, The Black Eyed Peas showed their musical genius…and a whole lot of skin. The song is really catchy – as are most songs that go #1 – and reveals its professional production at every turn. The “song” side of this hit is simple: it tells of the various band members getting ready for a night that they hope is going be a good one. In short, they “gotta feeling” that the night will go well. See for yourself:

I gotta feeling... (Woohoo)
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good good night

Tonight's the night let's live it up
I got my money let's spend it up
Go out and smash it like Oh My God
Jump off that sofa let's kick it OFF

I know that we'll have a ball
If we get down and go out
And just lose it all
I feel stressed out
I won't let it go
Lets go way out spaced out
And loosing all control

Fill up my cup Mazel tov
Look at her dancing
Just take it...OFF
Lets paint the town we'll shut it down
Let's burn the roof
And then we'll do it again

The rest of the lyrics describe the rest of the night.

But, while the song itself might be considered “clean” by many because of the absence of any profanity, the music video definitely has imitatable behavior and borders on scenes of soft core porn. The video includes scenes of Fergie (their female singer) in the shower, dressing and strutting in lingerie, girls getting their butts slapped on the streets, plenty of dancing by girls in skimpy clothes, and girl-on-girl make out sessions, as well. This song provides parents and youth workers with the absolute best reason for them to be aware of what’s in the song’s lyrics and the song’s music video.

According to this short video interview, even The Black Eyed Peas were surprised with the international hit they had on their hands from July 5 – October 10…over three full months of supremacy on the charts!

After a long and memorable summer at the top of the charts, fall finally came, bringing with it the fall of The Black Eyed Peas.

Before coming to our shores, Jay Sean enjoyed several hits overseas, but this tune introduced America to the British-Asian singer in a big way. “Down” reached the #1 position on October 11th and stayed there for one week. Interestingly, the song’s reign at the top was temporarily interrupted by Britney Spears for a week, but on October 25th, Sean reclaimed the top spot and stayed there until October 31st.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Sean’s single went #1; after all, he chose a partner who’s familiar with the territory at the top, Lil Wayne. Given Sean’s collaboration partner, the song is relatively clean, and features some cool choreographed dance numbers. You can access the lyrics for the song and the corresponding music video to review them.

Britney, who needs NO introduction, finally surfaced at the top of the charts in 2009 with this risqué song about having a threesome. Yep, you read that correctly.

Babe, pick a night to come out and play
If it's alright what do you say?

Merrier the more
Triple fun that way
Twister on the floor
What do you say?

Are - you in
Livin' in sin is the new thing (yeah)
Are - you in
I am countin'!

1, 2, 3
not only you and me
Got one eighty degrees
And I'm caught in between
Countin' 1, 2, 3

You can access the rest of her lyrics here, or just use your imagination. The music video was hyped for weeks online, with fragments of the video released in stages, before the video made its full debut on October 30th. It was exactly as you’d expect. Like a couple of the other one-week-wonders, I’m just glad it only stayed at the top from October 18 – October 24.

There’s not much else to say about Spears’ latest song that we didn’t discuss in this recent Youth Culture Window article about the increasing number of threesomes in today’s youth culture.

This song from the one-man-band Owl City provides a glimmer of hope for songs that make it to the top. Adam Young, an insomniac who professes some faith in Christ, finally put his sleepless nights to good use and released “Fireflies” which twice captured the top spot on the charts: the week running November 1 – November 7 and again on the week spanning November 15 – November 21. (His run was briefly interrupted by the next artist on our list.)

You can access the lyrics and music video yourself, but we invested an entire Youth Culture Window article into discussing Young, his song, his video, and more importantly, his harmless message.

Whatcha Say
In the vein of love-gone-wrong songs, a fairly new artist named Jason Derulo ascended to the #1 position with “Whatcha Say.” In his tune that ranked at the top for one week, November 8 – 14, he is found asking his significant other to forgive him of his cheating. He promises things will be better when he finally makes it big. He wants another chance, so he asks her, “What do you say?”

How, could I live with myself
Knowing that I let our love go (love go)
And ooh, when I do with one chance
I just gotta let you know
I know what I did wasn't clever
But me and you we're meant to be together

So let me in (let me in) give me another chance (another chance)
To really be your man
Cause when the roof cave in and the truth came out
I just didn't know what to do
But when I become a star we'll be living so large
I'll do anything for you
So tell me girl

Mmmm whatcha say,
Mmm that you only meant well?
Well of course you did
Mmmm whatcha say, (whatcha say, whatcha say)
Mmmm that it's all for the best?

The rest of the lyrics finish his apology, and the music video helps fill in some gaps, too. Though the tune is about recovering from infidelity, it’s still good to see a clean song and music video flying under the banner of rap/hip hop music. If you know anything about this genre, you know it’s rare.

Empire State of Mind
At the time of this writing, “Empire State of Mind” is at the top of the charts, and has been since November 22nd. This song welcomes a veteran of record-breaking music back to the top, Jay-Z. He wisely roped in Alicia Keys to join him in the ballad, and she’s no stranger to the top spot, herself.

The message behind “Empire State of Mind” is simple to understand: it’s a song by Jay-Z about his greatness. Not only has he conquered the city streets of New York, he’s conquered the world. In “Empire,” he invites his listeners to join him as he walks through his matchless memories.

In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York
New York, New York (I made you hot ni**a)

Catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game
S**t, I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can
You know I bleed blue, but I ain’t a Crip though
But I got a gang of ni**as walking with my clique, though

Welcome to the melting pot, corners where we selling rock
Afrika Bambaataa s**t, home of the hip hope
Yellow Cab, Gypsy Cab, Dollar Cab, holla back
For foreigners that ain’t fifty, they act like they forgot how to act

The remainder of the lyrics has as many expletives as these, so read at your own caution. This version of the music video is censored so you can get a feel for his ego…I mean…music.

Honorable (and Dishonorable) Mentions
Though only thirteen lucky songs made it to the top of the charts, there were several more that made a strong charge to wind up just short of the summit.

If you want to research some of the other biggest tunes of the year so you can be abreast of the messages being pumped into today’s culture, you may want to check out the following:

“Party in the USA” – Miley Cyrus
“The Climb” – Miley Cyrus
“You Belong with Me” – Taylor Swift
“Love Story” – Taylor Swift
“Use Somebody” – Kings of Leon
“Hotel Room Service” - Pitbull
“I Know You Want Me” – Pitbull
“Paparazzi” – Lady Gaga
“Love Game” – Lady Gaga
“Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga
“You Found Me” – The Fray

From this abbreviated list, and the list of actual #1’s, you can see which names/artists to keep an eye on. For instance, even though Lady Gaga only had two songs go #1, she could’ve easily had three more chart toppers.

Parents and youth workers should always be aware of the music and message behind songs that hit the top, and especially, the songs that hit the top and stay there a while.

You don’t have to be an expert in sound, music, or even culture, to monitor what your teenagers are privately listening to in their iPods. Just routinely check the charts yourself, say once a month, which is easy to do on Billboard’s Hot 100, and then Google what you find there.

That kind of simple research gives you the information you need to have life-changing (and life-saving conversations) with the teenagers you love. And that’s the key…having conversations with our kids. Not lectures or sermons…conversations.

Music is a powerful force; treat it as such. Many of the songs listed here are reason enough to listen along with your kids.

A good lesson learned from 2009 to carry into 2010.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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