2017 BET Awards
Ask Billboard: If Taylor Swift Hits No. 1 ...
A look at chart feats that could await Swift tomorrow. Plus, women are dominating the Digital Songs chart
As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to [email protected]. 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
IF TAYLOR SWIFT HITS No. 1 …
Reviewing some stats, I found three fun things that can happen on this week's Billboard Hot 100 regarding Taylor Swift and her new hit, "Shake It Off":
If she debuts at No. 1, fittingly it will be song number 22 to debut at the pole position.
Swift would also become the second Taylor to debut at the top, following Taylor Hicks in 2006. He started at the summit with "Do I Make You Proud" after he won American Idol.
And, her latest song would be the second No. 1 debut in-a-row containing the word "shake." Remember Baauer's "Harlem Shake" last year?
Luis Manuel Acosta
Fun stuff! And, it's certainly looking like "Shake" will start at No. 1 on the Hot 100. As reported yesterday, the song launches as the first to debut in the top 10 (at No. 9) on the Adult Pop Songs radio airplay chart, while tying Mariah Carey's 21-year-old record with a No. 12 launch on the Pop Songs chart.
I love the "22" tie-in, referencing her hit from last year.
Taylor Hicks made his first Billboard chart appearance on June 10, 2006, fresh off his Idol win. Who would've guessed that that other new Taylor, a then-16-year-old country newcomer, would go on to such immensely greater heights than the champion of TV's top show at the time when she made her chart debut three weeks later?
Oh, and three other Taylors have topped the Hot 100 (although not with songs that debuted at No. 1): James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" crowned the July 31, 1971, chart; on April 3, 1976, Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady" began a four-week reign; and, 14 years later, on April 7, 1990, Taylor Dayne reached No. 1 with "Love Will Lead You Back." The latter diva remained the only female Taylor to rule until Swift's only No. 1 so far, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," hit the top on Sept. 1, 2012.
As for Baauer, it was only a year ago that his hit ignited a viral craze and spent its first five weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Swift's new album is named 1989, titled in part since she was born Dec. 13 that year. Baauer wouldn't be out of place calling his next album 1989: he was born that April 30.
We'll find out tomorrow if "Shake" shakes its way to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Based on monitoring radio last Monday, Swift's song already feels omnipresent. In fact, hearing it on Z100 here in New York at the top of each hour that night made it seem that Clear Channel's tradition of playing selected new hits hourly might not be enough. In an on-demand age, perhaps a song as buzz-worthy as "Shake" could merit plays every half-hour, or even several times in a row upon its release. Then again, I'm a binge-listener, having played my new favorite song, Camera Obscura's "Break It to Me Gently," on-repeat, obsessively, and at the expense of all other songs, on a long walk last weekend. But, in a time when we binge-watch TV shows, i.e., Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, or the current Simpsons marathon on FXX, maybe such a new strategy wouldn't sound like overkill on radio.
Speaking of The Simpsons, the show and Swift's new song are possibly the two most prominent stories in entertainment right now. How else are they tied together? Again, Swift was born Dec. 13, 1989. The Simpsons was born (as its own series) on Fox … four days later.
Mmm … coincidences …
I've noticed that women seem to be dominating the Digital Songs chart right now.
On the Aug. 30 survey, Nos. 1-4 are all by lead female artists: Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" is No. 1; the supertrio of Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj holds at No. 2 with "Bang Bang"; Iggy Azalea's "Black Widow," featuring Rita Ora, jumps 7-3; and Grande's "Break Free," featuring Zedd, bounds 14-4.
That makes four songs by six women (and one lucky guy in their midst, Zedd) controlling the top four.
Plus, Grande's "Best Mistake" (No. 6) and Sia's "Chandelier" (No. 10) bring the total to six of the top 10, along with Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" (12-8), featuring Jess Glynne.
And, of course, Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" is all but guaranteed to start at No. 1 this week.
These songs join hits including Grande's "Problem," featuring Azalea (No. 11 on Digital Songs), Charli XCX's "Boom Clap" (No. 12), Azalea's "Fancy," featuring Charli XCX (No. 13), and Becky G's "Shower" (No. 15).
Could you tell us more about the history of women ruling the Digital Songs chart?
Women are definitely ruling pop music right now, with all due respect to the likes of MAGIC!, Maroon 5 and the artist with the new No. 1 on the Adult Pop Songs chart, Sam Smith.
The past two weeks, in fact, have seen women monopolize the top four on Digital Songs, as, two weeks ago, Nicki Minaj's own all-about-that-bass hit "Anaconda" debuted at No. 3.
The last time women dominated the top four on Digital Songs? Not that long ago, actually. On Oct. 5 of last year, Lorde's "Royals," Katy Perry's "Roar," Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" and Perry's "Dark Horse," featuring lone male Juicy J, ranked at Nos. 1-4, respectively.
Before that, Perry's "Part of Me," Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (following her passing), and Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and "Set Fire to the Rain" held the Nos. 1-4 spots, respectively, on March 3, 2012.
And, approximately a year earlier (March 26, 2011), Perry's "E.T.," featuring Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor," featuring Pitbull, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and Rihanna's "S&M," featuring Britney Spears, were at Nos. 1-4, respectively.
Thus, women's control of pop music has constituted a trend this decade, thanks to stars like Perry, Cyrus and Lady Gaga and a steady stream of newcomers like Adele, Lorde and Trainor.
Meanwhile, look for a possible similar rule by women on this week's Hot 100. Not only is Swift likely to debut at No. 1, but "Anaconda" should soar toward the chart's upper ranks following the release of its video last Tuesday (Aug. 19). They could join Trainor's hit, among the songs by women listed above, in the top chart's top four.
Let's not discount the impact that Smith is making, however, per the next email …
A MATTER OF TIME
I remember reading in Billboard's recent cover story about Disclosure that the duo was surprised that its song "Latch," featuring Sam Smith, amounted to much of anything. One of the reasons that the brothers give? The song is in 6/8 time.
I imagine that almost every No. 1 hit of all-time has been in 4/4 or 3/4 time. Are there any exceptions, or those with distinctive signature changes? What is the weirdest time signature to appear toward the top of the charts?
I imagine this one won't be easy to answer. Gauntlet thrown!
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
That's a heavy gauntlet to try to pick up. Fun question, John!
Since I'm no expert on weird musical composition (weird, I'm familiar with; the technical aspects of music, not so much), a little online research revealed a site dedicated to unusual time signatures, singling out some notable hits.
From rateyourmusic.com's "Odd-Time Library: A List of Songs in Odd Times" (and starting with two former Hot 100 No. 1s), here are five:
"We Can Work It Out," the Beatles. "Not an odd time at all, but … the bridge has changes between 4/4 and 6/8, switching from simple to compound time, which does sound very interesting, even if it isn't quite 'odd.' "
"Hey Ya!," OutKast. "The phrases are constructed as follows: 4/4 + 4/4 + 4/4 + 2/4 + 4/4 + 4/4."
"Ring of Fire," Johnny Cash. "The instrumental bits (such as the very start) where the horns are on their own without the vocals, are in 3/4 + 4/4. The vocal bits are in 4/4 + 3/4 + 4/4 (except the bars that lead into the chorus, which cut off the first 4/4 bar). The choruses are in 4/4 with a 2/4 bar during the first "ring of fire" after the "burns, burns, burns" bit. The least you need to know is that the song is structured out of 7/4, 11/4 and 4/4 sections, with little trip-ups in between occasionally."
"Solsbury Hill," Peter Gabriel. "7/4 throughout the whole song, excluding two 4/4 bars before the choruses."
"Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden. "Mostly in 4/4 with a few intermittent bars of 6/4, but the instrumental bit in the middle is in 4/4 + 5/4."
I'll add one example, and bring the conversation back to Taylor Swift: her trap-infused "I Knew You Were Trouble."
Mainly, though, this one's for Chart Beat readers more experienced about music structure. Please feel free to contribute via @gthot20 on Twitter or by emailing [email protected].
Ultimately, it's a song's quality, not signature, that determines whether or not it becomes a hit. "We thought 'Latch' was too weird for the radio and not clubby enough for the clubs," Guy Howard told Billboard; he and younger brother Howard compose the duo. "It's in 6/8 time, not even 4/4, which is house's tempo.
"'Latch' is just a strange song that people like."