The lifecycle of a hit song is pretty well-defined: A song is released, it works its way up the charts, stays there for a little while, and eventually falls off, living on in the Spotify playlists and radio dials of its fans but never re-appearing on the charts.
But sometimes fate intervenes and, for one reason or another, a song will find itself charting (or at least working its way back into pop culture consciousness) once again years or decades later – the original version, not an update or a cover. (These are the most covered songs in music history.)
One common reason for this occurrence is the death of the original artist; after Prince and Michael Jackson passed away suddenly, for example, some of their biggest hits re-appeared on Billboard charts as mourning fans listened to their music once again.
Another reason is TikTok. A song is used in a video that goes viral, and suddenly it’s just as popular as it was the first time it was released. For evidence, look no further than Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic “Dreams,” which again found fame after a brief video of a man skateboarding while drinking cranberry juice and lip synching to the song went viral.
The other most common reason is the song’s use in a popular film or TV show. Older fans remember why they loved the song in the first place, and younger fans discover a great song for the first time. This famously happened with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in “Wayne’s World” as well as The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” in “Ghost,” and currently a new generation is falling in love with Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill,” which has cracked the Billboard Top 10 after being featured prominently in season four of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” (Learn which artists have had the most dominant reigns in Billboard history.)
To determine the classic songs that have returned to the Billboard Hot 100, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on historical Billboard Hot 100 chart performance. We identified songs that exited the Hot 100 and re-entered the chart after a period of at least 20 years. Supplemental data on chart performance during a song’s initial appearance on the Hot 100 and its latest appearance also came from Billboard. Holiday songs were not considered.
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