Ask Billboard: Why We Follow The Charts
Gloria Estafan


Dear Gary,

Thanks for posting my letter in Ask Billboard last week.

This week, I have a question about - this is Chart Beat, who else? - Taylor Swift. With "Jump Then Fall," um, jumping onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 10 last week before, well, falling to No. 41 this week, not only does Swift now have 13 top 40 hits from "Fearless," as mentioned in this week's Chart Beat, but she also has five top 10s.

Of course, other artists, most recently Lady Gaga, have notched five Hot 100 top 10s from an album, but Swift is the first country artist to do so, as well as the youngest among artists of any genre.

Also, in response to last week's Ask Billboard question about artists who have charted with re-recorded versions of their own hits, I thought of four such instances:

The Ventures, "Walk Don't Run" (No. 2, 1960), "Walk Don't Run '64" (No. 8, 1964).

Neil Sedaka, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (No. 1, 1962), slower version (No. 8, 1976).


Jeff Lerner
Long Island, New York

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for another e-mail packed with insight. Just when you think we've found all the chart successes that Swift has managed ...


Hi Gary,

I always enjoy reading your column. With Carrie Underwood's "Play On" and "Cowboy Casanova" topping the Billboard 200 and Country Songs, respectively, this week, I wanted to point out a fact that shows the effect that I feel Underwood has had on country radio since she first hit the top of the country charts.

"Jesus, Take the Wheel" reached No. 1 on the Country Songs chart dated Jan. 21, 2006. In the three years and 10 months since, no solo female artist who had hit No. 1 before Underwood has been able to return to the top spot as the lead artist. Dolly Parton did so as a featured act on Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going," but all of the No. 1s by females since Underwood's first chart-topper have been by females who had never led the chart prior to Underwood's career launch.

In the year leading up to Underwood's first No. 1, Jo Dee Messina, Faith Hill and Sara Evans had all reached the top. The closest any "veterans" have ventured towards No. 1 as a lead artist since "Jesus, Take the Wheel" has been No. 2: LeAnn Rimes' "Something's Gotta Give" and Reba McEntire's "Because of You." Interestingly enough, McEntire reached second-place with the help of Underwood's fellow "American Idol" alumnus Kelly Clarkson.

Personally, I'm rooting for McEntire's "Consider Me Gone" to break the streak, but until someone does, Miss Underwood will stand as a buffer between the old and the new among chart-topping country females.

Michael Marquardt, Sr.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Hi Michael,

A very observant analysis. I would add that country music has clearly seen a change in guard since the dawn of not just the Underwood era, but also the Taylor Swift era, which also began in 2006 after Underwood's arrival.

Since January 2006, there have been 12 No. 1s on Country Songs by solo women. Eight are by Underwood. The other four belong to Swift.

There have also been six No. 1s by female-led duos or groups sporting lead artist credit in that span: five by Sugarland and one by the Wreckers. Both acts had also not reigned before Underwood began her chart stampede.

In the '90s, Country Songs boasted No. 1s by the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Deana Carter, Patty Loveless, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood. Those and similar artists have released less product in recent years, or segued to different sounds (bluegrass, folk, adult), which joined the Underwood onslaught as factors in certain artists' disappearance from the chart's summit. It will be interesting to see how the format responds to the next release from Shania Twain, who last charted in 2005.

Please read yesterday's Chart Beat for details on Underwood and Swift's latest chart achievements. The two have, in such a short time, inked chart feats that place them in the company of some of the biggest names in music history.

I also passed your e-mail on to Billboard country charts manager Wade Jessen for his take on the Underwood, and Swift, era. While noting that women have always had a harder time receiving heavy rotation on country radio than men, Wade muses that while "Idol" and Underwood have changed that to some extent, the show and its 2005 champion are not solely responsible for recent trends at the format regarding female artists:

"I think the female vets were in trouble, in terms of the consensus vote at radio, long before Underwood came on the scene. I think it might be less a matter of Underwood's dominance than it is about inactivity (Hill), less radio-ready records, in my opinion (Evans, Rimes), and stylistic confusion (Hill, Martina McBride).

As McEntire is demonstrating with her current single, if women release the kinds of records programmers are comfortable playing, they'll enjoy success.

I think radio is leaning toward Underwood because she drives a desirable demographic and theoretically attracts new listeners who know her from other avenues ("Idol," press, pop/adult radio), as does Taylor Swift.

Should country radio decide that Underwood is no longer the flavor of the day, some of the more astute female veterans, or a previously unknown act or two, may gain ground in the female category, which I feel would be a healthy change for the format in the long run."


Hi Gary,

In Ask Billboard last week, you stated that Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Madonna are tied for second-most top 20 Billboard Hot 100 debuts, trailing Taylor Swift, in the chart's history. Could you please list each song and the debut positions for each?


Jarohn Johnson

Hi Jarohn,

Here are the songs by Carey, Jackson and Madonna to launch at such lofty levels:

Mariah Carey
No. 13, "I'll Be There" (1992)
No. 1, "Fantasy" (1995)
No. 1, "One Sweet Day" (1995)
No. 2, "Always Be My Baby" (1996)
No. 1, "Honey" (1997)
No. 2, "My All" (1998)
No. 11, "Obsessed" (2009)

Janet Jackson
No. 14, "That's the Way Love Goes" (1993)
No. 15, "Again" (1993)
No. 5, "Scream/Childhood" (With Michael Jackson) (1995)
No. 6, "Runaway" (1995)
No. 9, "Together Again" (1997)
No. 3, "I Get Lonely" (1998)
No. 14, "All for You" (2001)

No. 15, "Rescue Me" (1991)
No. 13, "Erotica" (1992)
No. 8, "You'll See" (1995)
No. 17, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" (1997)
No. 8, "Frozen" (1998)
No. 5, "Ray of Light" (1998)
No. 20, "Hung Up" (2005)

Interestingly, six of Carey's seven top 20 debuts reached No. 1 (three debuted at the summit), and four of Jackson's have. However, none of Madonna's top 20 entrances have led to No. 1 finishes. Of her seven, "Frozen" went on to peak the highest, at No. 2. Identically, of Swift's eight top 20 debuts, she also has risen as high as No. 2, with "You Belong With Me."


Hello Gary!

I'm a fan to death of Gloria Estefan. I'm only 20, but I really love this woman as if I were 40 or more. I'm really interested in knowing which of her albums have sold the most. If you could please provide that information, I would be thankfully happy!


Carlos F. Olachea
San Diego, California

Hi Carlos,

I've always liked her music, too, as she was a staple at adult contemporary radio from the mid-'80s through earlier this decade. In the span since her first appearance with Miami Sound Machine on the AC chart dated March 22, 1986, with "Bad Boy," her 30 hits trail only the sums of Celine Dion (39), Elton John (38), Rod Stewart (33) and Michael Bolton (31).

Here is a look at Gloria Estefan's top-selling albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. (Please note that SoundScan data began in 1991, several years after Estefan and Miami Sound Machine's first release, so figures for albums released before 1991 are for sales only since that year):

2,976,000, "Greatest Hits" (1992)
1,818,000, "Into the Light" (1991)
1,724,000, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" (1994)
1,209,000, "Mi Tierra" (1993)
879,000, "Destiny" (1996)
874,000, "Christmas Through Your Eyes" (1992)
701,000, "Cuts Both Ways" (1989)
573,000, "Gloria!" (1998)
470,000, "Let It Loose" (1988)
437,000, "Abriendo Puertas" (1995)

Estefan, including efforts with Miami Sound Machine (through 1988), has totaled U.S. album sales of 13,205,000 to date, according to SoundScan.

You can view dynamic footage of Estefan in concert recently on her official web site.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard