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“On My Own” No Longer — Do #1 Songs Have Deeper Meanings?

Note: This blog was originally published on September 2, 2022

I like to believe every chart has a different meaning for different people. Sort of like how a group of people can go to a museum and each take a different perspective from a work of art. And who among us hasn’t looked up the #1 song from the day they were born? For me the #1 song on the Hot 100 on June 14, 1986 was “On My Own” by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. If you want a deep dive into the song, I’d recommend Tom Breihan’s excellent review of the track for his Number Ones column on Stereogum.

Now, if you’ve never heard the song before, you’re not missing much. Yet this bland, middle of the road ballad seemed ominous to me. For starters, although it’s a duet between two accomplished singers, they never shared the same studio while recording it. In fact, LaBelle and McDonald recorded their respective parts on opposite sides of the country. I think you can hear this distance in the lack of chemistry between the two. And then there’s those three words in the title. Now sure, millions of people were born during the three weeks this song reigned atop the pop charts, and most of them turned out just fine with their romantic lives. But then most of those people don’t have my insane love for music. So for me, this was obviously a sign I was going to be stuck in an endless cycle of short-term dating spells mixed in with a lot of lonely Saturday nights.

Which brings me to this past Saturday. As the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” spent its 4th week at #1 on my top 40, I was getting married to my wonderful partner, Gina, at a hotel in Brooklyn. A few of you reading this post may have been there to witness the festivities. And you’re probably thinking that this fact invalidates the entire previous paragraph.

Well, yes and no. To me, “On My Own” wasn’t a destiny that I had no control over, but a self-fulfilling prophecy that I had to overcome to find happiness. Because I ascribed such a deep connection between the song and my birthday, I allowed myself to believe that I would be alone for the rest of my life. As a result, I could dodge the hard work of trying to find a partner and build a relationship. It’s a bullshit mentality. Nothing falls into your lap unless you can figure out where you’re supposed to be sitting.

(I guess I should take a moment to note that I suppose I wouldn’t be saying any of this if I actually liked the song. I would’ve much rather Nu Shooz’ banger "I Can't Wait" be at the top instead of peaking at #3 that week.)

So what does “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” mean with regard to my marriage to Gina? Well… I don’t know. That’s a rather anti-climatic answer, but these things take time to figure out! Or maybe I shouldn’t make it mean anything other than it happened to be my favorite song on what turned out to be the best day of my life so far.

What song was #1 on the day you were born? Or the day you got married? And do you think it carries a deeper significance because of that coincidence?

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