Ask Billboard: Britney Spears' '3' Decades of No. 1s

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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.


BRITNEY SPEARS' '3' DECADES OF No. 1s

Hi Gary,

Does Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me" having reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 (Jan. 29) gain her entrance to the list of artists who've hit No. 1 in three decades?

How many artists have achieved that honor?

Thanks,

Roderic David
New York, New York


Hi Roderic,

As Billboard.com readers choose sides between Lady Gaga's just-released "Born This Way" and Spears' latest dance/pop smash, Spears is one of just seven artists to top the Hot 100 in three decades.

Here's the elite list:

'90s, '00s, '10s
Britney Spears

Usher

'80s, '90s, '00s
Janet Jackson
Madonna

'70s, '80s, '90s
Michael Jackson
Elton John
(*Billboard includes Dionne (Warwick) & Friends' 1986 No. 1 "That's What Friends Are For" among John's solo chart history)

'60s, '70s, '80s
Stevie Wonder

Additional acts belong in the discussion. The Beatles banked 18 of their record 20 No. 1s in the '60s and their last two leaders in 1970. George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, however, all topped the Hot 100 as solo acts in the '70s and '80s. Thus, while not under the same billing throughout, the three singers did score No. 1s in three decades if we combine their group and solo careers.

The same goes for the Supremes (12 No. 1s in the '60s) and Diana Ross solo (six in the '70s and '80s).

And, Cher charted three No. 1s in the '70s and one ("Believe") in the '90s. Adding Sonny & Cher's 1965 No. 1 "I Got You Babe," she also qualifies when mixing group and solo chart histories.

(Elvis Presley narrowly missed authoring a three-decade No. 1 stretch. "A Big Hunk O' Love" reigned in 1959 and six of his songs did so in the '60s. His last leader, "Suspicious Minds," topped the Nov. 1, 1969, Hot 100, thus leaving the King of Rock and Roll two months shy of a No. 1 streak spanning the '50s, '60s and '70s).

With the '10s still young, 10 other acts could join Spears and Usher in collecting No. 1s in each decade beginning with the '90s.

Janet Jackson and Madonna are both one 2011-19 leader away from admission to the excusive club, as the icons are the only artists with No. 1s in the '80s, '90s and '00s. (A No. 1 in the next nine years would also make either singer the first to command the list in four decades).

With Hot 100-topping titles in the '90s and '00s, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Destiny's Child (currently inactive), Diddy, Enrique Iglesias, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez and Santana (plus Rob Thomas/matchbox twenty combined) could also each run their No. 1 streaks to three consecutive decades with a No. 1 anytime before the Hot 100 to be dated Jan. 4, 2020.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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.


COUNTRY STRONG

Hey Gary!

In recent years, thanks in no small part to Taylor Swift, it seems that numerous country singles have registered high digital sales.

Could you please list the 10 most-downloaded country songs in the digital era?

Thanks in advance!

Radin Amin
Kuching, Malaysia


Hi Radin,

Here is a ranking of the 10 top-selling country downloads, release to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Swift not only places four songs on the list, but she also stands as the top-selling digital artist in SoundScan history, with track sales of 33 million:

4,904,000, "Love Story," Taylor Swift

4,620,000, "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
3,624,000, "You Belong With Me," Taylor Swift
3,158,000, "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood
3,145,000, "The Climb," Miley Cyrus (a No. 25 Country Songs hit in 2009, in addition to its Nos. 4 and 1 peaks, respectively, on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary)
2,754,000, "Our Song," Taylor Swift
2,586,000, "Chicken Fried," Zac Brown Band
2,569,000, "Teardrops on My Guitar," Taylor Swift
2,519,000, "Life Is a Highway," Rascal Flatts
2,242,000, "What Hurts the Most," Rascal Flatts

Two of the artists above have made buzz-worthy headlines today.

Underwood has been banned by an Ottawa radio station following the trade of her husband, Mike Fisher, from the NHL's Ottawa Senators to the Nashville Predators; and, Cyrus will host "Saturday Night Live," which should make for a (pretty cool) "Miley Cyrus Show," March 5.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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.


'IDOL' THOUGHTS

Last night (Feb. 10), "American Idol" wrapped its auditions phase and headed to Hollywood.

Per my goal of hoping to identify this year's eventual champion by the beginning of the season's first elimination episode, I pinpointed 34 hopefuls as potential victors since the series returned.

After the first round of cuts last night, exactly half - 17 - remain (pending those not shown last night) and just four were eliminated:

The next "American Idol"?
Casey Abrams
Naima Adedapo
Lauren Alaina (who followed her "duet" with Steven Tyler, below, with an equally strong version of "Unchained Melody" last night)

Jacee Badeaux
Jerome Bell
Rob Bolin
Jacqueline Dunford
James Durbin
Aaron Gutierrez
Mark Gutierrez
Stefano Langone
Brett Loewenstern
Scott McCreery
Chelsee Oaks
Emily Anne Reed
Ashley Sullivan
Jackie Wilson

Eliminated
Stormi Henley
Victoria Huggins
Travis Orlando
Sarah Sellers

As yet unknown
Jimmie Allen
Janelle Arthur
Jovany Barreto
Emma Henry
Alyson Jados
Caleb Johnson
Corey Levoy
Paul McDonald
Matthew Nuss
John Wayne Schulz
Karen Rodriguez
Tiwan Strong
Brielle Von Hugel

To recap, 50% (17 of 34) of my potential picks for this year's future champion remain after the first episode of Hollywood week.

(Since we're competitive about such important matters, my girlfriend, Michelle, had more selectively chosen 20 possible winners. As of last night, 12 have advanced to the next round, a clearly more impressive 60% success rate.

And, of the other eight, none were shown to have been eliminated last night.

Hopefully publication of those results here counts as an early Valentine's Day present?)


Follow Billboard.com's complete coverage of the 10th season of "American Idol" and, as always, please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below or by e-mailing askbb@billboard.com.