Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
Just like our charts, where Adele and Rihanna's recent successes are carrying over into the new year, one of the most attention-generating "Ask Billboard" topics in recent memory spills over into 2012. Below are more e-mails on Capitol Records having discounted Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away" for 69 cents in the iTunes store, as well as the label having released a remix of the song featuring B.o.B. As "One" could make her album "Teenage Dream" the first to yield six Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s, readers have shared their thoughts on whether chart rule changes might be needed in light of such potential chart history.
The first e-mail this week is below, followed by my response. I'll run additional submissions on page 2 but my let my words on this page serve as my latest thoughts. (At least for this week).
Please also read on for additional musings on AWOLNATION's uncommon Hot 100 chart run with "Sail" and some best-of-2011 reader leftovers.
Happy New Year!
ARE CHART RULE CHANGES NEEDED?, READERS RESPOND, CONTINUED
I recently read your article, "Ask Billboard: Are Chart Rule Changes Needed? Readers Respond" (Dec. 31, 2011) on Katy Perry and her potential sixth Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song, "The One That Got Away," from her album "Teenage Dream." While many readers brought up true and very solid points, most of them seem to miss the bigger picture.
The point is not if Perry should be awarded a No. 1 and how she gets it, but the record she is aiming at besting. Perry is trying to set the mark for most No. 1s off one album, a very ambitious goal. That said, the change many of us are suggesting is not to exclude remixes and sale-reduced counts for the single for charting purposes, but to not let the remix count as part of the album.
For instance, "E.T." featuring Kanye West does not appear on "Teenage Dream" yet the song is credited as being the fourth No. 1 from it. "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" featuring Missy Elliott was the fifth No. 1 from the set yet that song also does not appear on the album. If you are going to credit a remixed song as being the Xth No. 1 from any album, the remix should also appear on the album. For Perry's last two Hot 100 leaders, that is not the case.
I am well aware of the politics of the music industry and the evermore fervent attitude of labels to use certain means to their advantage. But, quite frankly and logically, everyone can agree that they are cheating their way to records. I can only imagine Capitol Records executives thinking to themselves, "Hmm, if we can't get sales records, we'll have to settle for chart records."
Michael Jackson (R.I.P.) scored his five No. 1s from "Bad" in 1987-88 without the aid of remixes. Whether or not he might have benefited from reduced prices a la Perry is not the point. Through the entire run of "Bad," all its singles appeared on the album. He never had two songs, the original and the remix, selling at the same time.
The main issue is that Perry has, most recently, had two different songs - her solo "One" (69 cents) and the B.o.B remix (99 cents) - available for sale simultaneously, and both at reduced prices. She has four times the chances of charting higher than her competitors. I personally perceive that as cheating her way to the top.
No matter how you look at it, it's obviously an unfair advantage. And, yes, while the argument can be made that nothing is keeping Rihanna or other artists from doing the same, it doesn't matter. What many of us argue is that when Katy Perry's song does reach No. 1, it is not going to be the original song from the album.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Thanks for your e-mail. Let's clear up three main facts that you cite while covering the bulk of your points. It'll all lead to me comparing Katy Perry to Regis Philbin. Ready?
First, I need to refute your claim that Jackson released only the album versions of songs from "Bad" as singles. Not the case. In fact, when the title cut topped Dance/Club Play Songs in 1987, Billboard listed it as "Bad (Remix)." True, that's the Dance chart listing, not the Hot 100's, but to state that Jackson/Epic Records didn't release multiple versions of songs from "Bad" isn't accurate.
(That was also an era when our charts were compiled by taking ranked reports from radio stations and retailers. In those years, Billboard couldn't have precisely calculated the popularity of all versions of songs in a time before electronically-detected audio and barcodes upped the accuracy of our airplay and sales charts exponentially. So, we can't be sure how truly widespread that, or any remixes, were back then across different formats).
In the '80s, especially, remixes of dance/pop hits were also entirely common. From Jackson to Madonna to countless other acts, 12-inch remixes define a large part of that time's sound. Thankfully, too, as so many are so good.
Secondly, while the version of "E.T." featuring West was the one listed throughout the song's Hot 100 chart life, "Friday" was billed only as a Perry single, not featuring Elliott, although a remix featuring the female rapper was released. Why list one guest and not the other on the Hot 100? For "E.T.," the West version of "E.T." sold the majority of the title's downloads. For "Friday," the Elliott-assisted remix did not.
So, the issue we should debate, and per the main point of your e-mail, is whether "E.T." featuring West should count as a No. 1 from "Teenage Dream."
I still say yes.
And, not because Katy Perry herself says so: "Official lyrics video for Katy Perry's "E.T." featuring Kanye West, the fourth single off Katy's latest album 'Teenage Dream'," reads the line below the song's YouTube lyrics video, posted March 16, 2011, by KatyPerryMusic, her official YouTube channel.
Mainly, the West remix doesn't change the core elements of the original song; it merely adds rapping. I actually think that West's contributions improve it, and that's coming from a pure pop fan at heart. The momentum build-up of the end of his bridge rap - "I ... tell you what to do ... what to do ... what to do!" - crashing back into Perry's "Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me ..." chorus is a highlight of the song.
Granted, the West interlude replaces Perry's sung bridge on the album version ("Boy, I'm your lucky staaar ...") While that's a noticeable difference, it's a mere part of the song. The verses and chorus are the same in each version. To me, and per Billboard's guidelines about how remixes count toward a song's chart life - ("Billboard will treat re-recorded songs that bear no resemblance to the original recording as a separate and distinctive song for the purposes of chart tracking. The guidelines are lyric and melody: if neither element is similar to the original recording, the two versions will not be merged.") - "E.T." is ultimately one song, available in original and remixed versions.
Plus, it's not as if the original solo "E.T." has not had its own success. Just as the remix of "Bad" was the favorite at '80s dance clubs, you'll likely hear only the version of "E.T." without West on AC and adult pop radio. As adult stations still largely avoid rap, they favored Perry's solo version and Billboard accordingly listed the song as by only Perry as it reached No. 2 on Adult Pop Songs and No. 18 on Adult Contemporary. (It's not the only such case. As remixes have become more prevalent but still too edgy for AC, "I Like It," for example, was credited only to Enrique Iglesias during its 20-week AC chart run, since AC stations played a Pitbull-free edit of the song).
As "E.T." was such a mass-appeal hit on Adult Pop Songs, the song reached a peak weekly audience of 20 million at the format (June 25, 2011), according to Nielsen BDS. Over its entire stay on the survey, it racked 248 million total audience impressions. With that chart contributing to the Hot 100, it's clear that a large portion of consumers are most familiar with Perry's unaccompanied album version of "E.T."
And, maybe I'm traditional-thinking enough that I simply consider that an album is still an encompassing body of work. As long as, again, the main characteristics of a song remain in a remix, to me, a remix is solely an offshoot of a song to which I was first introduced on its parent album.
I will grant you that there's a greater difference in a remix with different instrumentation as opposed to one that features a newly-added artist. True, if you buy "Teenage Dream" you're not getting the remixed version of "E.T." with West that crowned the Hot 100. It's not enough to make me think that "E.T." wasn't released from "Dream," but it's fair, in my opinion, for Billboard to note in our applicable stories that the West remix is not available on the album. It would've made sense to do so in such previous cases as Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home," the single version-only of which features Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, so it's certainly reasonable for us to do the same in the case of "E.T." and "Dream."
(If you're still reading at this point, by the way, thank you. Consider this an extended remix of a typical "Ask Billboard" answer).
One more point.
You write that because Perry has released two versions of "One," each discounted on iTunes, she has "four times the chances of charting higher than her competitors."
I didn't do well enough in my Boston University statistics course (something I probably shouldn't admit as a Billboard chart manager ...) to know if that math is entirely correct and I'm guessing that you're ultimately generalizing the potential advantages of iTunes discounting, but I'm not sure that more is always more.
Just because different versions of a song are available doesn't mean that fans will buy them all, even at low, low prices. Singles-buying pop fans are traditionally believed to be younger-skewing; that's why they're buying singles instead of more expensive albums. They have only so much money to spend on music, even when it's a matter of 69 or 99 cents, and especially in current economic conditions.
By offering multiple versions of any product, you can't guarantee that consumers will want every choice. Surely, some Perry fans bought both the original "One" and the B.o.B remix but it's also possible that others have logged onto iTunes, noticed two versions of the song available, decided which one they wanted and clicked on their choice.
The issue is perhaps in line with a backlash that's erupted over deluxe albums. While a new version of an album is a proven way for labels to extract more dollars from fans who may have already purchased the bulk of a rerelease's song list, another segment of consumers tend to reject the offer, opting instead to pass on a product that's too close to what they already own.
(Maybe I did stay awake in that statistics course more than I realized ...)
Ultimately, the more variations of a product you offer, the more you can risk splitting your audience, as opposed to expanding it. It's why, for instance, television networks don't run their biggest primetime hits at 8 and again at, say, 10. They run it once at 8, hoping to make the biggest possible one-off splash; re-running it might not mean more viewers but merely that some people watch it earlier and some later. You also lose some specialness and event status in the process.
There's no guarantee that greater options result in greater returns. The positive intentions of extra exposure can, ironically, lead to overexposure.
One of the biggest TV success stories of the late '90s was ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." The Regis Philbin-hosted game show was so popular, in fact, that the network aired it three nights a week at its peak, with all three episodes sometimes scoring top 10 ratings. The glut of its availability, however, led to its downfall, as the public eventually decided just how much of the series, however likable, was enough.
When it comes to Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away" and its journey up the Billboard Hot 100 (where this week it holds at its No. 3 peak to-date), that's ... my final answer.
(At least for this week).