Forever No. 1 – Billboard

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Forever No. 1 is a Billboard series that pays special tribute to the recently deceased artists who achieved the highest honor our charts have to offer – a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single – by taking an extended look at the top songs of the charts which makes them part of this exclusive club. Here we pay tribute to the late Olivia Newton-John, who passed away this week at the age of 73, with Billboard East Coast Chief Digital Officer Joe Lynch celebrating that flops can beget bops, as was the case with the 1980s Xanadu and her single “Magic”, her fourth number 1.

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At the beginning of Xanaduthe musical starring Olivia Newton-John that followed Fat at two, we see the former Sandy Olsson in a role that’s neither shy schoolgirl nor tough vixen. Instead, she’s a roller-skating Greek muse from Mount Olympus who walks into the life of a struggling entertainer – played by fresh out of 1979’s Michael Beck. The Warriors. After kissing him on the street and walking away, they have their first real interaction in an abandoned theater, where the still-skating Muse teases and flirts with the confused performer, as the strains of “Magic” echo through all empty space.

Like the whole Xanadu experience, “Magic” aims for a mixture of the strange and the sweet; Unlike the film, which surged at the box office in 1980 and helped inspire the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards, the soundtrack’s first single resonated with audiences, becoming its fourth No. 1 on the Hot 100 when he dethroned “It’s Still Rock” by Billy Joel. and Roll to Me” (on the chart dated August 2), and stay there for four consecutive weeks.

A little like Xanadu, “Magic” – written and produced by John Farrar, who worked with her on previous No. 1’s “I Honestly Love You”, “Have You Never Been Mellow”, and “You’re the One That I Want” with John Travolta – doesn’t seem quite right at first. The guitar sound is unusual, with the first chord strummed and the second lifted, making it seem, for a moment, that the second chord was an accident on the guitarist’s part. It’s a slightly booming Pretenders-lite guitar riff that hints it’s jarring, but never quite goes there; of course, by the time the riff rolls for the fourth time, you’re wowed by a slightly quirky but surprisingly angelic tune.

Maybe that’s it Xanadu director Robert Greenwald, who would go on to direct documentaries targeting everything from Wal-Mart to the Iraq War to Rupert Murdoch, was hoping when he paired Newton-John with Golden Era Hollywood icon Gene Kelly for a fantasy film musical with a soundtrack by Jeff Lynne, the mastermind of Farrar and the Electric Light Orchestra: Something that reads oddly on paper but works strange magic in practice. The thing is, unlike “Magic” (which ended 1980 as the third-greatest song on Billboard‘s Year-End Hot 100), the film hits unusual notes without finding its rhythm – and most tragically, it fails too spectacularly, which means it’s not such a bad cult classic either, it’s Well.

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, FOREVER NO. 1:
“I sincerely love you” (1974) | “Have You Ever Been Sweet” (1975) | “You’re the One I Want” (1978)

One thing that does work, however, in this majestic pleasure dome is the music. ONJ presides over the hit soundtrack (#4 on the Billboard 200 album chart), which features an exhilarating mix of big band and hard rock on “Dancin’”; a wacky title track that answers the question “What if Olivia Newton-John faces ELO instead of Jeff Lynne?” » ; and a nice ballad in the classic ONJ/Farrar vein with “Suspended in Time”.

But the centerpiece is “Magic,” which predated the film’s release by three months and shot to No. 1 on the Hot 100 by the time it hit theaters. “Come take my hand, you should know me / I’ve always was in your mind” sings Newton-John at the start of the song. It’s a beautiful voice, yes, but also a brilliant performance as an actor; its sounds – cooing and ethereal on the verses, warm and raspy on the chorus – fit the role of Kira perfectly, who happens to be Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance and chorus.

Unlike the Christian religion that followed, the Greeks liked their immortal gods to be fallible and fleshy, terrifying and tantalizing at the same time. And the Muses – lithe, beautiful women who inspired poets and bards while remaining forever elusive and a little dangerous (nine cocky girls were turned into howling birds for daring to compare themselves to the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne) – were such a compelling part of Greek Mythology that, wouldn’t you know, “muse” is still the word we use to describe those who inspire artists to this day.

While the film certainly hasn’t become essential viewing even for Newton-John fans, the fact that she played a classic Muse on the big screen feels even more fitting now that the world is mourning her loss at age 73 years old. Following the news of her death, everyone from Mariah Carey to Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Go’s to Keith Urban shared how much she inspired and meant to them, not just as a singer/actress, but as a human being who went above and beyond to Make the world a better place.

Whereas Xanadu gave Newton-John the chance to work with one of the great Hollywood singer/dancers who inspired her, she certainly continued to solidify her status as a pop icon in her own right. And part of that journey was “Magic,” her fourth No. 1 hit and an enchanting ode to love and artistic creation that set her up for what would later become her biggest hit, The Monster.” Physical”. But as Forever No. 1, “Magic” remains exactly that.

Olivia Newton John

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