Ask Billboard: Katy Perry Regains No. 1 Momentum

Katy Perry performs during the semi final show of 'The Voice Of Germany' on December 13, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.

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A monster mailbag on Perry topping the Hot 100 again after missing the top 10; Mariah Carey's best-selling songs; Hall & Oates' 20 biggest hits and more

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, 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

KATY PERRY REGAINS No. 1 MOMENTUM

Hi Gary,
 
Katy Perry's "PRISM" album now has three hit singles: the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Roar," followed by the No. 14-peaking "Unconditionally" and third single "Dark Horse," which has now reigned for three weeks so far.

This is an interesting pattern that surprisingly has surfaced quite a few times in Hot 100 history: a non-top 10 radio-promoted single sandwiched between two No. 1s, all from the same album. I guess it goes to show that it an artist or label can't always predict the best song to release as a follow-up to a No. 1 smash.

Here are the examples that I've found in the Hot 100's 55 years of existence. Are there other such instances that I've overlooked?

Roxette "Look Sharp!" (1989)
"The Look" (No. 1, one week)
"Dressed For Success" (No. 14)
"Listen to Your Heart" (No. 1, one week)

Enrique Iglesias, "Enrique" (1999-2000)
"Bailamos" (No. 1, two weeks)
"Rhythm Divine" (No. 32)*
"Be With You" (No. 1, three weeks)

Destiny's Child, "The Writing's on the Wall" (1999-2000)
"Bills, Bills, Bills" (No. 1, one week)
"Bug a Boo" (No. 33)*
"Say My Name" (No. 1, three weeks)

*"Bug a Boo" was not released as a commercial CD or cassette single, and "Rhythm Divine" was released only as a 12" maxi single. So, these two songs surely would've fared better on the Hot 100 had they been given proper commercial releases.

Nelly Furtado, "Loose" (2006-07)
"Promiscuous" (featuring Timbaland) (No. 1, six weeks)
"Maneater" (No. 16)
"Say It Right" (No. 1, one week)

Rihanna, "Good Girl Gone Bad/Reloaded" (2008)
"Take a Bow" (No. 1, one week)
"If I Never See Your Face Again" (Maroon 5 featuring Rihanna) (No. 51)**
"Disturbia" (No. 1, two weeks)

**One could argue that this was a Maroon 5 single, as Rihanna was a featured artist on it, but since it was also on Rihanna's album, I think this could count.

Katy Perry, "PRISM" (2013-14)
"Roar" (No. 1, two weeks)
"Unconditionally" (No. 14)
"Dark Horse" (featuring Juicy J) (No. 1, three weeks to date)

And, how about some honorable mentions?
 
Prior to airplay-only songs being able to chart on the Hot 100 as of Dec. 5, 1998, some artists scored airplay-only hits that were ineligible to chart on the Hot 100, in between No. 1s. Had they been commercially released, they could have likely vied for the chart's highest ranks.

Two examples:

Mariah Carey, "Butterfly" (1997-98)
"Honey" (No. 1 Hot 100, three weeks)
"Butterfly" (No. 16 Hot 100 Airplay; chart now called Radio Songs)
"Breakdown" (featuring Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone) (No. 53 Hot 100 Airplay)
"My All" (No. 1 Hot 100, one week)

Brandy, "Never Say Never" (1998-99)
"The Boy Is Mine" (Brandy & Monica) (No. 1. Hot 100, 13 weeks)
"Top of the World" (featuring Ma$e) (No. 44 Hot 100 Airplay)
"Have You Ever" (No. 1 Hot 100, two weeks)
 

And, two more examples regarding songs promoted to only specific radio formats, a strategy that has historically affected how they performed on the Hot 100 … or didn't at all:

Whitney Houston, "Whitney Houston" (1985-86)
"Saving All My Love for You" (No. 1)
"Thinking About You" (did not chart on Hot 100; promoted to R&B radio only)
"How Will I Know" (No. 1)

Rihanna, "Loud" (2010-11)
"What's My Name?" (featuring Drake) (No. 1 Hot 100, one week)
"Raining Men" (featuring Nicki Minaj) (promoted to R&B/hip-hop radio)
"S&M" (No. 1 Hot 100, one week)

Kindest regards,

Tyler Andrade
Toronto, Ontario

Mmm … No. 1 sandwiches …

Tyler, the creator of one of the most insightful "Ask Billboard" emails in recent memory! And, a fun, chart-rank intensive angle upon which the Chart Beat column was founded (by Paul Grein) in 1981.

With Iglesias, Destiny's Child and Carey, you covered the part about how, between the Hot 100's December 1998 inclusion of non-commercial singles to before the advent of downloads contributing to the chart the week of Feb. 12, 2005, it was not uncommon for acts to sandwich No. 1s around lower-peaking hits that received limited commercial releases, or Radio Songs-only hits that were promoted to radio but not released commercially at all.

In other cases, and more at the heart of the topic, some in-between non-top 10s simply didn't perform as well on the Hot 100 as their predecessors or follow-ups. In Roxette's case, I can see the logic of "Dressed for Success" succeeding "The Look," as it took the duo from its edgier debut hit to a more pure-pop follow-up (closer to the pair's core sound). "Success," thus, led the way for the act's segue to AC radio with ballad "Listen to Your Heart." Had Roxette's label, EMI, gone to directly from "Look" to "Listen," it might've been a more jarring transition, even if "Listen" seems like the more obvious hit single.

As for Iglesias and Furtado, you could make the case that "Be With You" and "Say It Right" are just better/more commercial songs than "Rhythm Divine" and "Maneater" (with no major shifts in the acts' core sounds, a la Roxette's flow to a softer style on "Heart") and probably should've been respective second singles, given their strength and, obviously, eventual No. 1 ranks.

With Perry, Capitol has noted that "Unconditionally" is a Perry "PRISM" favorite and that the label allows artists to choose singles (with significant label input). Perhaps she let her heart overrule any more logical thinking that "Horse" might've been a better follow-up to "Roar"?

It's also worth noting that the concept of what a single is has changed in the digital era. Traditionally, a single is a track released commercially and promoted to radio – often with, since the dawn of the MTV era, an official video; the last component is now even more important than ever chart-wise, since last year's addition of YouTube data to the Hot 100's weekly formula. But, now that songs are often released as preview tracks leading up to album releases, they can become known without radio promotion or proper video clips. Among those recently? "Horse." That's partly why the song achieved the rare feat of debuting on Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Pop Songs airplay chart before it was an official single. "From Shazam rankings to retail to research, 'Dark Horse' has actually outperformed 'Unconditionally'," WJFX Fort Wayne, Ind., program director Brooke Taylor told Chart Beat in December when the station was playing 'Horse' before Capitol had serviced it to radio. "It also might be forgotten that 'Dark Horse' was a fan-selected favorite in a recent Pepsi/MTV Video Music Awards promotion," Taylor added.

If there's a lesson to be learned for labels and artists regarding how best to follow a No. 1, it could be that we have more research than ever before to help make an informed decision. In 1989, EMI largely had to rely on its gut in selecting a second "Look Sharp!" single. (Interestingly, there was another choice that might've worked well: "Dangerous." Similar to "Success" in its sound, it reached No. 2 as the album's fourth single.) Now, from digital sales of album tracks to plays on streaming services to social media commentary, it's likely more evident what album tracks are buzz-worthy and, thus, more apt to make for smart single picks.

Tyler, you asked about other instances you might've missed. This one just falls shy of qualifying, but the Bangles reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 1986 with "Manic Monday," the first single from their commercial breakthrough album "Different Light." Follow-up "If She Knew What She Wants" peaked at No. 29 before third single "Walk Like an Egyptian" not only spent four weeks at No. 1 but also became Billboard's top single of 1987. Hard to fault Columbia Records for not going with "Egyptian" second, given the song's offbeat nature. Plus, "Wants" is a more classically-structured pop song (written by Jules Shear, who also wrote Cyndi Lauper's No. 5 Hot 100 hit "All Through the Night").

I'll also point to two notable examples on Hot Country Songs, which I followed especially loyally in the '90s (my favorite era for the format). Garth Brooks followed the No. 1 Hot Country Songs ballad "She's Every Woman," the lead single from his 1995 album "Fresh Horses" – how's that for a nice coincidental tie-in to "Dark Horse"! – with "The Fever," which peaked at No. 23. Then, he returned to the summit with next single "The Beaches of Cheyenne." The album's yo-yo chart pattern continued with its third, fourth and fifth singles: "The Change" (No. 19), "It's Midnight Cinderella" (No. 5) and "That Ol' Wind" (No. 4).

By the way, I asked Billboard's Nashville-based senior chart manager Wade Jessen what he recalls about "The Fever." Here's his front-line take: "At the time of its release in 1995, 'Fresh Horses' was Brooks' first set of new material in more than two years. Expectations for hit singles ran high, and the lead single, 'She's Every Woman,' quickly rose to No. 1 on Hot Country Songs. The second track was a partially re-written cover of Aerosmith's 'The Fever,' with the rock-star narrative altered to that of a rodeo cowboy, and aimed at Brooks' blue-collar fan base. Although 'Fever' was a huge success as a show opener at Brooks' concerts, the frenetic energy that the song provoked in concert arenas didn't ultimately translate to the airwaves. The chart was solely driven by radio airplay in those days, and the song peaked at No. 23."

And, one more example from around the same time: Patty Loveless bookended the No. 13-peaking "A Thousand Times a Day" with the great No. 1s "You Can Feel Bad" and "Lonely Too Long" from her 1996 album "The Trouble With the Truth."

In all, this intriguing topic reinforces that predicting hits, despite all the research now available, will surely remain an inexact science, because music is, after all, art, not science. The beauty is in finding out how songs connect with fans once they're released, an emotional equation that's central to the joyous experience of listening to music.

NEXT: Mariah Carey's best-selling songs

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