Today’s track was one of the initial inspirations for my ’31 Numbered Songs’ series. I’ve been a big fan of this song since I first heard it nearly two decades ago and at one point I considered making it the kick-off track of a 2-week series on songs numbered 20 through 29. Fortunately, I didn’t jump the gun and we all got to discover some obscure rap artists in the 1-10 range.
I discovered Travis’ “20” as a hidden bonus track on the band’s acclaimed sophomore album, 1999’s The Man Who. It’s one of three hidden tracks that are each as strong as anything on the album proper.
Our next numbered song is one of the unlikeliest hits of the 80s, British electronic artist Paul Hardcastle’s spoken-word Vietnam war anthem ’19.’
Inspired by a documentary on PTSD, Hardcastle sampled news reports and interviews over a bed of electronic music, centered around the (possibly incorrect) statistic that the average age of a soldier in Vietnam was 19.
The ’31 Numbered Songs’ series reaches adulthood with ’18,’ a 2014 track from One Direction’s fourth album, appropriately titled Four. How many numbers can I get in one sentence?!
This song was written by Ed Sheeran (with Oliver Frank) for the band at the request of Simon Cowell. It wasn’t released as a single, but Niall Horan’s pronunciation of “chance” as “chonce” launched a thousand fan memes.
Many of these numbered songs are named after ages, especially once I hit the teens. Alessia Cara’s ‘Seventeen’ is a more upbeat approach to the territory Taylor Swift mined in ‘Fifteen.’
This is a better video than song, using some clever camerawork to age Cara from childhood to middle age over the course of one bus ride.
I’ve featured only one K-POP (Korean pop) song on my blog — Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style,’ which at the time was the most-viewed video on YouTube. ‘Gangnam Style’ has since dropped to number four on that list, unseated by new #1 ‘Despacito’ (approaching 5 billion views!) as well as Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’ and Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You.’
K-POP band OH MY GIRL, abbreviated as OMG, are a few billion views shy of Psy. Their top video clocks in with five and half million views, which still ain’t shabby.
As with Big Star’s ‘Thirteen,’ I knew exactly which song I’d feature for today’s number before I even started looking. Taylor Swift’s ‘Fifteen’ is lovely and iconic and certainly the best song ever written with this title.
Swift is also in contention for slot #22 with, you guessed it, ’22,’ but I have decided to go with only one song per artist, so somebody else will get the nod in a week.
Paula Cole… now there’s a blast from the past. The singer-songwriter made a big splash in the late 90s with top ten hit ‘Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?‘ and the even better ‘I Don’t Want to Wait.’ Her sophomore album Fire, on which those songs appeared, went double platinum.
Cole was nominated for seven Grammys that year and won Best New Artist. She was never seen again.