Ask Billboard: Solo Duets, Almost-Heatseeker Graduates & Kenny Chesney

In this week's mailbag, your assistance is required when it comes to remembering solo hits which probably should've been billed as duets.

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

SOLO DUETS

Hi Gary,

In your Jan. 18, 2013, column about David Bowie, you said about Mick Jagger regarding their cover of "Dancing in the Streets": "Although Jagger has tallied 23 Hot 100 top 10s with the Rolling Stones, this Martha & the Vandellas cover is his only solo top 10."

However, lest we forget the Jacksons' No. 3 smash, "State of Shock," which was, by and large, a Michael Jackson duet with Mick. Jagger was never credited, however, except in the liner notes on the Jacksons' "Victory" album, which was very strange, since it absolutely was a full-fledged duet.

Which brings me to my point of interest: How many all-out duets (backing vocals would not count) have hit the Hot 100's top 10 where one of the artists was not credited on the single or on the album cover? I know that Prince's "U Got the Look," for which Sheena Easton should have been given such credit but was not, hit No. 2 in 1987.

 

And, if you want to go beyond the top 10 and instead mine the entire top 40 for such hits, another that comes to mind is Elton John's "Wrap Her Up," clearly a duet with George Michael, even though the Wham! alum was never given equal billing. It reached No. 20 in 1985.

I know there must be a million more I'm leaving out. Do any others come to mind?

Regards,

David Fritz
Reseda, California

Hi David,

If not a million, many, at least, do, including another involving Jagger, although it falls more into the category of backing vocals: he sings on (and may even be the subject of ...) Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." The song topped the Hot 100 40 years ago this month.

I actually touched on the subject in a 2010 Chart Beat column, "Un-Featured Featured Artists," although it included many uncredited instrumental appearances, as opposed to only vocals. I.e., Bruce Hornsby's piano playing is as much a part of Don Henley's 1989 top 10 "The End of the Innocence" (he also co-wrote it with Henley), but Henley is solely the song's credited artist.

Vocals-wise, the article also mentions one of the '80s' most notable examples of an un-featured featured singer: Sting closes out Dire Straits' 1985 No. 1 "Money for Nothing" with his famous "I want my MTV" refrain. Again, since it's more akin to a background vocal at the end of the song, it's easy to see how Sting didn't receive official credit - and a first solo Hot 100 leader following the dissolution of the Police. (Notably, he led as a soloist at last 19 years ago today: On Jan. 22, 1994, "All for Love" began a three-week Hot 100 reign. Not that he was entirely solo: Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams share vocals, and credit, on the song, fittingly, as it's from the movie "The Three Musketeers.")

Not only do a bunch more come to mind, but three are by the same artist: Flo Rida. Ke$ha sings the chorus of his 2009 No. 1 "Right Round," but is not credited (in the U.S., anyway; she was in the U.K.) Last year, the Sunshine State rapper peaked at No. 3 with "Good Feeling," in which he turns the chorus over to Etta James, also not officially featured (along with Avicii, whose instrumental "Levels" is sampled). Flo Rida's most recent top 10, "I Cry," which reached No. 6, similarly sports a sample of the Bingo Players in the chorus.

Still, Flo Rida has been generous with featured credits, as five of his nine top 10s feature acts:

T-Pain, on "Low" (No. 1, 10 weeks, 2008)
will.i.am, on "In the Ayer" (No. 9, 2008)
Wynter, on "Sugar" (No. 5, 2009)
David Guetta, on "Club Can't Handle Me" (No. 9, 2010)
Sia, on "Wild Ones" (No. 5, 2012)

As Billboard associate chart production director Alex Vitoulis notes, legalities sometime present difficulties toward vocalists receiving featured billings, especially when they're not on the same label as a song's main artist.

Other examples related to the topic?

Rockwell's No. 2 1984 hit "Somebody's Watching Me" clearly features an uncredited Michael Jackson singing the hook.

 

Eddie Money (long before he ran a fake travel agency) enlisted Ronnie Spector to reprise her "be my little baby" line … just like Ronnie sang ... in the Ronettes' 1963 No. 2 hit "Be My Baby" on his "Take Me Home Tonight." The sort of-mash-up reached No. 4 in 1986.

And, Billboard publisher Tommy Page co-wrote his 1990 No. 1 "I'll Be Your Everything" with Jordan Knight and Danny Wood of New Kids on the Block, with the group's members singing their own verse at the end of the track, intertwined with Page trailing out with the chorus. Of course, it's just partially NKOTB, so a lack of a featured credit is understandable, even if the song's close boasts the boy band's trademark penchant for harmony.

Babyface has been on both sides: He sings on - and co-wrote and -produced - Madonna's 1995 seven-week No. 1 "Take a Bow" but is not billed as a featured act on it. On his sixth and most recent top 10, 1997's "Every Time I Close My Eyes," Mariah Carey adds her unmistakable vocal touch (with Kenny G adding saxophone flourishes, as well) but the song is credited only to Babyface.

Beyond the Hot 100's top 10, "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" gives credit only to Meat Loaf, even though Ellen Foley sings a significant portion of the song (with some play-by-play courtesy of Phil Rizzuto). Amazingly in hindsight, the classic rock classic peaked at a modest No. 39.

 

Fast-forwarding to more recent hits that peaked inside and outside the top 10, Taylor Swift isn't credited on John Mayer's "Half of My Heart" (No. 25, 2009; we'll leave relationship-based conspiracy theories out of why she wasn't) and Avril Lavigne isn't billed on Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink to That)" (No. 11, 2011), even though it samples her 2003 top No. 4 hit "I'm With You."

Ask Billboard asks you: Can you think of more examples of songs that are essentially duets, even though only one act receives official billing? Get on touch on Twitter - @gthot20 - or by e-mail at askbb@billboard.com and I'll include your additions in the next "Ask Billboard."

If you include your name, I'll even give you credit.

NEXT


As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

ALMOST HEATSEEKER GRADUATES

Hi there, Gary.

There has always been a question I've been meaning to ask about the Billboard charts, the Heatseekers Albums chart, specifically.

I remember way back in the '90s Merril Bainbridge just barely missed becoming a "Heatseeker Graduate," peaking at No. 101 on the Billboard 200 with "The Garden." I was curious to know if there have been any other artists that have that same distinction, peaking at No. 101 with their highest-ranking sets and, thus, never getting a "Heatseeker Graduate" award on the Billboard 200.

Jason Steuber
Columbus, Ohio

Hi Jason,

First, just so we're all clear on the rules, Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart houses albums by acts that have never reached the Billboard 200's top half or the top 10 of the Country, R&B/Hip-Hop, Latin, Christian or Gospel Albums charts. Once an artist crashes those barriers, it's no longer eligible for the Heatseekers Albums list, which is meant to spotlight rising acts. (The newer Heatseekers Songs chart does the same job for singles by acts that have yet to reach the Hot 100's top 50).

 

So, by peaking at No. 101 on the Billboard 200, Bainbridge never "graduated" to top 100 status on the Billboard 200. At least we have her catchy 1996 No. 4 Hot 100 hit "Mouth" by which to remember her.

Just like in real life, however, it's never too late to graduate on Billboard charts. If Bainbridge reached the Billboard 200's upper half next week, she'd be a graduate at last. (There's only one other way not to be eligible for Heatseekers charts: to, well, pass away, as, at that point, it's fairly unlikely that an artist's career won't be burgeoning.)

Anyway ... the topic is albums by acts whose top-peaking sets on the Billboard 200 stopped at No. 101! Since Heatseekers Albums launched the week of July 13, 1991, just after Nielsen SoundScan data began powering the Billboard 200, here is the list, in addition to Bainbridge:

Curtis Stigers
The singer's self-titled set remains his lone chart entry. As with Bainbridge, he still enjoyed a Hot 100 top 10 from it: the saxophone-infused "I Wonder Why" reached No. 9 in 1991.

Subway
"Good Times" remains the only charted album for the Michael Bivins-signed act. Its "This Lil' Game We Play" reached No. 4 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums in 1995. A lesson: some acts, like Bainbridge, Stigers and Subway, wind up scoring what are referred to as "turntable hits," songs that become big radio singles but just don't translate to album sales, often due to a lack of a hit follow-up song.

Bob Mould
He rose as high as No. 101 with an eponymous set (1996), after climbing as high as No. 117 as a member of alternative outfit Husker Du (1987). Finally, in 1994, he entered the Billboard 200's top half, although again with a band, Sugar, whose "File Under: Easy Listening" ascended to No. 50. (My girlfriend, Michelle, is a Bob Mould expert and helped with this entry. In the spirit of the previous e-mail, I'm giving her credit.)

 

Tina Arena
"Don't Ask" peaked at No. 101 in 1996. It includes her No. 17 Pop Songs hit "Chains."

Ricochet
At least the group's debut (1996) yielded three Country Songs top 10s, including the two-week No. 1 "Daddy's Money." Speaking of Daddy's money …

Kelly Osbourne
M'daughter,yaknow,onlygotto101Billboardwith"ShutUp"in2002,Ithink,yeah,
butIstillloveherloads,yaknow ... Shaaaaaaaaaaarooooooooon!

(I let Ozzy handle that one.)

Vendetta Red
"Between the Never and the Now" reached No. 101 in 2003, powered by the No. 16 Alternative Songs hit "Shatterday."

Dan Auerbach
Technically, he's still a Heatseekers artist, since his 2009 set "Keep It Hid" peaked at No. 101. But, he's also a member of the Black Keys, who've since tallied two top five albums, along with far-reaching critical acclaim.

Serena Ryder
"Is It O.K." (2009) includes the Canadian artist's No. 8 Triple A hit "Little Bit of Red."

Alejandro Escovido
The singer/songwriter topped out at No. 101 with 2010's "Street Songs of Love." Numerical luck was more on his side with his next entry: "Big Station" just made the list, spending a week at No. 200 on June 23, 2012.

Face to Face
Charting since 1995, the punk band (not to be confused with the group of the same name that hit No. 38 on the Hot 100 in 1984 with "10-9-8"; thanks, .com-menter Chuck M Miller below!) remains a Heatseekers act. It almost shed the title in 2011 but its album "Laugh Now...Laugh Later" peaked at, yup, No. 101.

Chris Webby
Despite its lower-half peak on the Billboard 200, his 2011 release "There Goes the Neighborhood" earned the rapper praise from the Fuse network, touting him as a possible "next Eminem." "I get it. I'm a white kid from the suburbs," he says.

 

Casey Abrams
The pop/jazz singer's self-titled debut album spent a week on the Billboard 200 at No. 101 in July 2012 after he finished sixth on "American Idol" the year before.

Dr. Kokastien
"Dr. Kokastien Hosted By DJ King Assassin" became the rapper's highest-charting release last August. He'd drawn Billboard 200 chart ink as far back as 1994, billed as Kokane.

Patterson Hood
His "Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance" peaked at No. 101 in September. As a member of country/rock band Drive-By Truckers, he's reached the Billboard 200's top 100 five times, motoring to a highpoint of No. 22 with 2010's "Big To-Do."

And, a noteworthy Heatseekers Graduate success story: Underoath rose to No. 101 with its first Billboard 200 title, "They're Only Chasing My Safety," in 2005. A year later, however, the act bowed and peaked at No. 2 with "Define the Great Line," which became its first of three No. 1s on Christian Albums. In November, the metal act released its retrospective "Anthology 1999-2013," which reached No. 31 on Christian Albums.

NEXT


As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

CHECKING IN ON CHESNEY

Hi Gary,

I just saw that Kenny Chesney has fallen short of the top 10 on the Country Songs chart, as "El Cerrito Place" peaked at No. 17.

With this being a rare top 10 miss, his latest album "Welcome to the Fishbowl" is his first since 1997's "I Will Stand" to produce more than single that missed the top 10, as lead track "Feel Like a Rock Star," with Tim McGraw, stopped at No. 11. ["I Will Stand" included "A Chance" (No. 11) and the title track (No. 27)]. "Place" is also his lowest-charting radio-promoted hit since 2001's "The Tin Man," which peaked at No. 19.

Respectfully,

John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska

Hi John,

A noteworthy week for country music, as Cumulus flipped its newly-acquired New York City frequency to country-formatted "Nash FM 94.7" (at 9:47 a.m.) yesterday. The city hadn't had a full-time country station in 17 years. For posterity, here were the first 10 songs played:

"How Country Feels," Randy Houser (the new No. 1 on Country Airplay)
"Gone Country," Alan Jackson
"Southern Comfort Zone," Brad Paisley
"Boot Scootin' Boogie," Brooks & Dunn
"Blown Away," Carrie Underwood
"I Run to You," Lady Antebellum
"Better Dig Two," The Band Perry
"Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks
"My Kinda Party," Jason Aldean
"Begin Again," Taylor Swift

As for Chesney, he's still clearly a country format cornerstone. He hasn't missed the Country Songs top 40 with a non-seasonal radio-promoted single since 1996, during which he's racked up 22 No. 1s, the most of all artists. He's also topped Country Albums with each of his last eight (non-holiday-themed) studio releases dating to 2000 and has collected 11 No. 1 on the list overall.

 

I also wouldn't worry about any loss of career momentum: In between "Rock Star" and "Place" (which reached No. 10 on Country Airplay) "Come Over" spent two weeks atop Country Songs in August.

Next up: Chesney's next album, due on April 30. Before then, his "No Shoes Nation" tour starts in March and is set to run through August. "The fans are the foundation of 'No Shoes Nation'," says Chesney, winner of Billboard's 2012 touring "Top Package" award for last year's top-grossing tour.

"They built it from the ground up and they built it with heart, passion and the love of life and music, and I can't wait to feel that connection again ... throughout ... 2013."