Beatles Boost Music Game Sales To New High
Album cover photo for 'Abbey Road'

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.

'THE ANSWER' IS THE QUESTION

Gary,

First, I want to say that "Happy Days Are Here Again" for Barbra Streisand and all her fans! I'm glad she has accomplished the unmatched record of having at least one No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 in five consecutive decades, beginning with the '60s, as "Love Is the Answer" begins at the summit.

My question: if next year Streisand releases a new album and it reaches No. 1, will it count for the '00s, or for the '10s? I know that since there was never a year "0," decades should be counted from year 1 to 10, 1991 to 2000, 2001 to 2010, etc. Joel Whitburn, in his books showcasing weekly Hot 100 charts, has defined decades as 1970 to 1979, 1980 to 1989, for example. I would like to know Billboard's policy in defining decades.

Have a nice weekend,

Andy Leon,
Ruskin, Florida

Hi Andy,

The decade debate kind of reminds me of the "Seinfeld" episode where Newman incorrectly booked his Y2K party - featuring Christopher Cross - due to confusion over when the new millennium actually started. (Or, maybe I'm just very excited about the cast's upcoming reunion on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ...)

Like Whitburn's essential volumes, Billboard considers decades as running from '80 through '89, '90 through '99 and '00 through '09, for example. So, yes, Streisand could notch a No. 1 in a sixth decade as soon as the chart dated Jan. 2, 2010.

On a related note, look for a decade-encompassing charts recap section in this year's year-end issue of Billboard.

It's hard to believe that Streisand first arrived on the Billboard 200 (April 13, 1963) even earlier than the Beatles (Feb. 1, 1964). She owns the most top 10s (30) among women in the chart's history and ranks as the top-selling female artist, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with 71 million units certified.

For more on Streisand's latest landmark achievement, here is an excerpt of Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield's "Over the Counter" column from the print issue of Billboard (Oct. 17) that hits stores today:

"'Answer' was produced by Diana Krall and features Streisand accompanied by Krall's jazz quartet on classics like 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' and 'In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.'

"The album's handsome opening-week sales sum (180,000) was powered by a half-hour sitdown on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' Sept. 24 and interviews on CBS' 'Sunday Morning' Sept. 27 and NBC's 'Today' on the album's release date, Sept. 29.

"Many industry prognosticators focused on what was thought to be a battle for No. 1 between Paramore and Mariah Carey. Those who look into their crystal balls to project first-week sales figures had estimated that Paramore would finish ahead of the two divas.

"As it turns out, Streisand surprised many with how well her album sold in nontraditional ways - Starbucks, QVC and her Web site - and that threw a wrench into forecasting sales."

FOUR, '3' TO ONE

Hello Gary,

With "Down" by Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne ascending to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, the song becomes the fourth, um, four-letter word to reach No. 1 this decade.

Previously, we saw two such hits by Usher top the chart, both in 2004: "Yeah!" and "Burn." Reaching back to 2000, matchbox twenty led with "Bent." (And, before then, it was all the way back in 1993-94 that Mariah Carey's "Hero" spent four weeks, of course, at No. 1).

It will also be fun to see whether Britney Spears can take "3" to the top, making the song her third chart-topper, fittingly, and the shortest title to touch the top in Hot 100 history.

Take care,

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, California

Hi Pablo,

Since you note the last five four-letter Hot 100 No. 1s, let's run "down" every such song to top the Hot 100 since the chart launched in 1958:

1960, "Stay," Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs
1965, "Help!," The Beatles
1975, "Fire," Ohio Players
1975, "Fame," David Bowie
1979, "Rise," Herb Alpert
1979, "Babe," Styx
1980, "Lady," Kenny Rogers
1984, "Jump," Van Halen
1986, "Sara," Starship
1986, "Kiss," Prince & the Revolution
1992, "Jump," Kris Kross
1993, "Weak," SWV
1993, "Hero," Mariah Carey
2000, "Bent," matchbox twenty
2004, "Yeah!," Usher
2004, "Burn," Usher
2009, "Down," Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne

Had rules been in place at the time to allow radio hits that were not commercially available as singles to chart on the Hot 100, or had they been released as commercial singles, there's a good chance that "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia and "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls, both No. 1s on Radio Songs/Hot 100 Airplay in 1998, would appear on the list, as well.

Prior to Jay Sean, who else has gotten "down" at No. 1 on the Hot 100? Petula Clark ("Downtown"), Gordon Lightfoot ("Sundown"), KC and the Sunshine Band ("Get Down Tonight"), Diana Ross "(Upside Down"), Men at Work ("Down Under"), Gregory Abbott ("Shake You Down"), Bob Seger ("Shakedown"), George Michael/Elton John ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me") and Puff Daddy, featuring Mase ("Can't Nobody Hold Me Down").

As for Spears' "3," the song has ranked atop iTunes' sales chart since its release Tuesday (Oct. 6). It will blast onto the Hot 100 next week, but the song's radio life is still beginning, which could prevent it from arriving at No. 1 on the Hot 100 (depending on how many downloads it sells). This past week, the song just missed the 75-position all-format Radio Songs/Hot 100 Airplay chart, registering an audience of 17.3 million (up 455%) among 169 stations, according to Nielsen BDS.

Still, a No. 1 start on Digital Songs looks well within reach.

(And no song is more truly digital than one entitled '3').

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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