In The Ones of the ‘10s, I’ll be reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and work my way up into the present. This column will be done in the style of Stereogum’s column The Number Ones where writer Tom Breihan has spent the last two years reviewing every #1 song in the entire history of the Billboard Hot 100 from 1958 to the present where he is currently up to 1978. Seriously, read his column it’s so good! Start with the latest song he’s reviewing and work your way backwards. My mission with this column is to give my thoughts on the songs that were big in the 2010s while also giving you guys the stories behind the songs and artists you either love or hate. And with that, we can try to make sense of what the 2010s were musically and where music is going now. In a nod to Breihan’s column, I will grade each song from 1 to 10. After my review, I’ll post Bonus Beats where I post various clips of the song’s use in popular culture from movies, TV, commercials, performances, covers, and samples. I’ll also post The Number Twos and the 10s of the ‘10s where I give my rating to songs that peaked at #2 and elsewhere in the Top 10 behind the song I reviewed that’s usually an 8 or higher. There are a lot of #1 songs to get through so I plan on posting one song review a day or as close to every day as my schedule will allow. Enjoy!
Taio Cruz ft. Ludacris- “Break Your Heart”
HIT #1: March 20, 2010
STAYED AT #1: 1 week
Throughout pop music, there’s always been songs that sound happy while the lyrics themselves are anything but that. This type of musical dissonance shouldn’t work as well as it does but there are many classics that use that tactic well. Songs ranging from the Supremes’ “Baby Love,” Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party,” and The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup,” all set downbeat lyrics to joyous singalong music and manage to strike the right balance. On the other hand, you get Taio Cruz and Ludacris’ “Break Your Heart,” a pretty generic upbeat electropop song of a man bragging about how much of a bad guy he is and warning a girl he’ll do nothing but break her heart.
Born Adetayo Ayowale Onile-Ere in London to a Nigerian father and a Brazilian mother, Taio Cruz started writing songs as a teenager which led to him signing a publishing deal at just 19 to RedZone Entertainment, the writing collective led by Tricky Stewart, the American music exec who produced many hits in the 2000s for acts like Rihanna, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce. After being signed, Cruz had a hand in writing a big hit in the UK, “Your Game” by Pop Idol winner Will Young which went to #3 on the UK Singles Chart. The song won the award for Best British Single at the 2005 Brit Awards, the British equivalent of the Grammys, which was awarded to Cruz as a songwriter.
On the heels of that success, Cruz formed his own label Rokstarr Music London and became its chief executive. With that, he started releasing his own music making his debut with 2006’s “I Just Wanna Know” which became a UK Top 30 hit and landed him a major record label deal with Island Records. Now with a record label, Cruz released two more singles with “Moving On” and “Come On Girl” with the later becoming a UK Top 5 hit. All of this culminated in his self-written 2008 debut album Departure which spawned a couple more UK Top 20 hits. He also was scheduled to record what would become Rihanna’s star-making hit “Umbrella” but narrowly missed out on recording it (Rihanna will be appearing this column very soon).
Even with the album and singles success, Cruz kept writing behind the scenes for other artists in the UK furthering his hitmaking reputation even notching a #1 hit in the UK with 2009’s “Never Leave You” that he wrote for grime artist Tinchy Stryder. Through all this, Cruz recorded and released his second album Rokstarr in October 2009 with “Break You Heart,” originally written for Cheryl Cole before doing the song himself after not hearing back from Cole’s label, released as the lead single and topping the UK Charts right after “Never Leave You” vacated the #1 spot and his third single, “Dirty Picture” hitting the Top 10. While he was enjoying big success in his home country, he hadn’t made much of an impact internationally.
To break him through, Cruz re-released Rokstarr for an international release. As for a single, Mercury Records president David Massey, after seeing the success of “Break Your Heart” in the United Kingdom, pushed hard for it to be released in the United States. To give it the biggest chance of success in the States, Massey suggested to Cruz and his people that they should get an American rapper with chart credibility on “Break Your Heart” to help introduce himself to an American audience. That American rapper with chart credibility they picked turned out to be Ludacris. Once Ludacris’ manager played him the original “Break Your Heart,” Ludacris was immediately a fan and recorded his parts within a week.
At this point, Ludacris was coming off a very successful 2000s landing in the Top 10 many times including two #1 hits on his own, 2003’s “Stand Up” with Shawnna and 2006’s “Money Maker” with Pharrell Williams (Pharrell Williams will eventually appear in this column). During this time, Ludacris quickly became a favorite as a featured guest on many high profile hits and before “Break Your Heart” landed two featured #1 hits on Usher’s 2004 smash “Yeah!” and in 2007 on Fergie’s “Glamorous.” By the time of “Break Your Heart,” Ludacris had just released his Battle of the Sexes album which gave him his last Top 10 hit on his own “How Low” right before “Break Your Heart” topped the charts (“How Low” peaked at #6. It’s a 4.). So from a business standpoint, getting Ludacris on the song seemed like the perfect idea to finally break Taio Cruz into America. That doesn’t mean the song’s gonna be good though.
Lyrically, “Break Your Heart” is Taio Cruz warning a girl he’s dating that he’s not going to be a good partner and admitting his flaws in vague lines like, “There’s no point trying to hide it/No point trying to evade it/I know I got a problem/Problem with misbehavin’.” Meanwhile, Ludacris gets a bit more explicit in how much of a heartbreaker he is with “Listen, now I’m only gonna break yo heart/And shatter and splatter it all into little bitty pieces.” Speaking to the British music magazine Blues & Soul, Taio Cruz said in regards to the lyrics, “It’s about breaking a girl’s heart, but in a way that’s kinda not on purpose. It’s more that I’m just a single guy, trying to be single and trying to remain single. And sometimes, when you are in that place, you get girls who wanna be a part of what you’re about – but, because you’re not really ready for a relationship, those girls can end up being heartbroken. So what I’m basically saying is ‘I might just break your heart. But I’m only gonna break your heart if you come through this way right now.” So to Taio Cruz, “Break Your Heart” is about a young guy warning a girl that he’s going to break her heart because he’s not ready for a committed relationship.
“Break Your Heart” has all the touches of the electropop that was dominating in 2010: glitchy synths, heavy bass, simple four chords, AutoTune, and a breezy melody but the song itself just doesn’t leave much of an impression. With the breezy melody, you could listen to “Break Your Heart” many times and not pick up on the fact that it’s about a guy telling a girl he’s not going to be a good partner even despite the title. It’s not exactly a lyrics first song. The same problem goes with Taio Cruz. As a singer, he just doesn’t leave you with much of a personality. You don’t get a sense of who Taio Cruz is to the point where even “doing it for the paycheck” Ludacris is able to display more personality in his little intro and bridge verses he gets than the actual lead artist. It’s a fine enough song but it never really rises anything above that.
Taio Cruz only notched one more Top 10 single in America, the eternal Dr. Luke produced party anthem “Dynamite,” which in many ways is the better remembered Taio Cruz song than the actual #1 “Break Your Heart” is (“Dynamite” peaked at #2 later in 2010. It’s an 8.) His subsequent singles all ranked lower and lower on the Hot 100 but he did have a hand in one more Top 10 hit with co-writing David Guetta & Usher’s 2011 EDM hit “Without You” which peaked at #4 (It’s a 6.). Since then, he’s released more singles that haven’t landed and hasn’t released an album since 2011 but is still doing behind the scenes work for other artists.
As for Ludacris, he’d land in the Top 10 two more times both as a featured artist, 2010’s “Baby” with Justin Bieber (It’s a 4.), and 2011’s “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ (Fucking) You)” with Enrique Iglesias (It’s a 1.). He still releases music every now and then but his sales have declined with his ninth album Ludaversal in 2015 and is currently working on his tenth album which has yet to be released. He has since focused on other mediums such as acting in various movie and TV spots which includes Tej Parker in The Fast & The Furious movies (The Fast & The Furious franchise will eventually appear in this column), opening a Chicken-n-Beer restaurant at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has his own stake in Conjur Cognac, and heads his own youth outreach organization Ludacris Foundation. Both of them are doing fine.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s “Weird Al” Yankovic covering part of “Break Your Heart” as part of a medley in 2011’s “Polka Face”:
BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s a compilation videos of teens using “Break Your Heart” for a TikTok challenge:
THE NUMBER TWOS: Lady Antebellum’s desperate late night hookup country ballad peaked at #2 behind “Break Your Heart.” It’s a 9.