How music videos made songs fly up the charts, from Michael to Miley.

From the Human League to Miley Cyrus to Childish Gambino, Videos Make Hit Songs Bigger

From the Human League to Miley Cyrus to Childish Gambino, Videos Make Hit Songs Bigger

Half a century of pop-chart history.
May 25 2018 10:02 AM

Hit Parade: The Twerking and Chatrouletting Edition

Since the heyday of MTV, music videos have made hits bigger. Now, watching them even counts for the charts—which helped make Miley Cyrus’s career.

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Miley Cyrus in her “Wrecking Ball” music video.

MileyCyrusVEVO/YouTube

Listen to Episode 13 of Slate’s Hit Parade:

Even before the launch of MTV, the music video has been making pop songs buzzworthy. And since the early ’80s, it has transformed also-rans into hit-makers—from the Buggles and Duran Duran to Peter Gabriel and A‑ha. But until the early 2010s, watching a video didn’t count on the Billboard charts. That all changed thanks to YouTube—and the biggest immediate beneficiary from the addition of video to the charts was a rising pop star, incubated on the Disney Channel but looking to change her image. Miley Cyrus was born into hit-making, line-dancing, multimedia royalty, and she used video titillation—and even the social site Chatroulette—to top the charts. But what did all that provocation mean for … y’know, the music? And how is the music video still making hits—including the song that’s No. 1 this very week in 2018?

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