Anatomy of Success: The Top Selling Singles of the Last Five Years


Emily Kimber and John Kerrison


John and I have compiled (copied and pasted from Wikipedia) a list of the top selling singles of the last five years. Aware that everyone wants money and success — while maintaining integrity, of course — we've tried to work out exactly how the following artists have managed to sell more records than there are sofa deals at DFS, so that you, with a little plagiarism, can achieve greatness too. (What $7 million law suit?!) — EK

Eminem ft. Rihanna — Love the way You Lie (2010)

Emily: What Eminem has done here is use a cunning technique in which you put Rihanna in your video and make her sing the most important part of your song for you. Primarily, though, what this video expertly demonstrates is the dangers of fire. I look my best wearing a vest in front of a burning building too, but not so good that I forget the effects of poisonous fumes or the instability that heat adds to a house’s structure, and I think this is the overriding message taken from the song.

There’s another little side note that seems to advocate domestic violence, which Rihanna insists is alright because she likes the way it hurts, but I’m not gonna go into that. Eminem is really angry too and I’m a bit worried for everyone who’s watched this video, actually.

John: I once got so warm at work I had to strip down to a vest in the office. People still talk about it. They almost changed the company dress policy. I should be embarrassed by this but actually I just think it proves that I’m quite a lot like Eminem. Why do you think he’s in a field?

Emily: Because walls are literally and metaphorically restrictive for someone with the performing aptitude of Eminem. The field’s muddy base soaks up the swear words and grammatical errors the way indoor floors, whether concrete or carpeted, just can’t.


“lethal currents and diseased fish make me feel worse about the world”

Adele — Someone Like You (2011)

John: I never really understood the appeal of this song, but millions of people did, which makes me think maybe I’m wrong about quite a lot of things. I think people like it because it’s so relentlessly cheerful. And because the video’s in monochrome. If there’s one thing people hate it’s too many chromes. Also, she has a really good voice, which probably helps. It’s actually quite powerful, isn’t it? I hope she’s okay. I wonder why it is people gravitate towards rivers when they’re sad?

Emily: Let’s work this out with a brief empirical study of ourselves. I go to the Thames. Its lethal currents and diseased fish make me feel worse about the world but better bodily in comparison to the sick carp. It’s that balance of perspective that I constantly crave.

John: I go to River Island. I am not willing to talk about why.


“I think I’d notice if someone was in my wallpaper”

Gotye ft. Kimbra — Somebody That I Used to Know (2012)

John: I feel like Gotye probably takes breakups quite badly. Like he’s the kind of guy that will turn up at your yoga class with loads of friendship bracelets he made for you out of your own hair. Or, you know, stand there naked and just sing right bloody at you, like in this video. Is he being camouflaged in this so he can seamlessly blend into his ex’s wallpaper, do you think?

Emily: I think I’d notice if someone was in my wallpaper, camouflaged or not. But having said that I once didn't even realise I was drinking Tetley until halfway through a cup of tea. I had honestly thought it was PG Tips.

John: We’ve all been mislead before. My girlfriend just pointed out to me the guitar line to this song is literally just Ba Ba Black Sheep. Maybe he’s naked to illustrate his inner desire for three bags of wool.

Emily: Yeah, I think that might be her way of asking you to turn it off.

Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell — Blurred Lines (2013)

John: I once joined in a Twitter Q&A with Robin Thicke to ask what age he was when he realised he wanted to grow up to be a Pound-Shop Ricky Martin. Still yet to hear back, which is rude of him.

There was loads of controversy surrounding this song when it came out because of its RAMPANT MISOGYNY. I’ve typed that in capitals there because that’s how people draw attention to issues on the internet. I’m not sure if that’s why I find it offensive though, I just feel like he’s the kind of guy it’s fine to be openly rude to. I have a theory that this is really only popular because of the ‘hey-hey-hey’s. Hey-hey-heys and clapping in songs are like crack for people with really quiet thoughts.

Emily: I agree about the ‘hey-hey-hey’s. Do you think this video would work in a primary school assembly to demonstrate how boys and girls can get along without fighting? Because if not I’ve just wasted an hour writing a pitch to send to head teachers.

John: I’m not sure if the world is quite ready for children this leery.

Pharrell — Happy (2014)

Emily: I’ve just sat down and watched this video four times in a row and, after a quick brain storm and spontaneous flow chart, I can now tell you that Pharrell has used two techniques to trick listeners into thinking they are happy. First is an advancement on the simple clapping method, implemented from a young age, in which you’re encouraged to clap “if you’re happy and you know it”. The second is the classic self-fulfilling prophecy in which you simply repeat “I’m happy” until it comes true.

I tend to use more sophisticated methods of finding happiness such as vodka, no sleep, and a routine disregard for important emails. But, whatever. I guess we’ll never know which one of us is more successful.

John: I like to think that genuine success can’t really be measured by things like money, fame, or actual success.

Emily: I think it would be reckless of us to ignore the fact that as well as being a millionaire music Lothario, Pharrell is also genuinely funny and probably a great dad.

John: And an above average park ranger, I imagine.

Emily: Oh, definitely.