Ask Billboard: Lady Gaga Vs. ...

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Taylor Swift at the American Country Music Awards 2010

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


Dear Gary,

After your analysis last week of the chart performances of Madonna and Lady Gaga in their first two years each, I'd like to compare Lady Gaga to another artist. How does Taylor Swift's first two years on Billboard charts compare to Gaga's?

Thank You,

George Mattar

Hi George,

Madonna and Lady Gaga make for a logical comparison, considering the similarities in everything from their pop/dance musical leans to flashy fashion sense. Comparing Lady Gaga to Swift, however, also makes for in interesting exercise, as they are two of the most successful female stars to arrive with debut albums since the second half of the 2000s.

As we did with Madonna and Lady Gaga, who's been appearing on the Hot 100 for almost two years, since Aug. 16, 2008 (Madonna's birthday, coincidentally, as Chart Beat reader Ron Raymond, Jr., of Portland, Maine, reminded in an e-mail following last week's "Ask Billboard" posting), we can look at how each artist has performed in their first 23 months on Billboard charts:

Billboard Hot 100

Lady Gaga: 10 entries, 7 top 10s, 2 No. 1s (and 4 Platinum titles, according to the RIAA)
Taylor Swift: 6 entries, 1 top 10 (and 5 Platinum titles, according to the RIAA)

Billboard 200

Lady Gaga: 2 entries, 2 top 10s
Taylor Swift: 3 entries, 2 top 10s

Adult Contemporary

Lady Gaga: 5 entries
Taylor Swift: 3 entries, 3 top 10s, 2 No. 1s

While Lady Gaga easily outnumbers Swift in Hot 100 top 10s (7-1) almost two years into each artist's career, Swift banked one more Platinum single in that span and enjoyed a faster crossover to adult radio.

Ultimately, Lady Gaga and Swift target different core audiences. While Lady Gaga has notched seven No. 1s on Dance/Club Play Songs, Swift has registered comparable success on Country Songs, sending five top 10s, including two No. 1s, onto the chart from May 2006 through May 2008.

To date, with Swift having released her first album two years earlier than Lady Gaga, total album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, clearly favor the former artist:

11,761,000, Taylor Swift
4,718,000, Lady Gaga

The pair's digital sales, according to SoundScan, however, are much closer:

28,499,000, Taylor Swift
26,026,000, Lady Gaga

Overall, as with Madonna and Lady Gaga, looking simply at chart performances and sales figures between Swift and Lady Gaga offer just one angle in a view of the performers' careers.

Still, since both artists write their own material, have already helmed successful headlining tours and become ubiquitous on radio and in pop culture, it seems logical that two of the brightest relatively newer female stars in music are only at the beginning of potentially long-lasting residences in the public consciousness.I SWEAR, HE HAD SO MANY HITS

Regarding Billboard's recent look at the top 25 country artists of the past 25 years, no, I'm not going to ask where Merle Haggard or Patsy Cline are. I get it: chart success in the past 25 years.

But, how was John Michael Montgomery, who, for a time rivaled Garth Brooks for airplay, not on the list? He must have scored a handful of Country Songs No. 1s and several other songs that charted in the top 10. And, no other country artist in '90s had, not one, but two songs covered as major pop hits: "I Swear" and "I Can Love You Like That" by All-4-One.

Maybe I'm remembering Montgomery to have enjoyed more success than he really did, but I don't think so.

Straighten me out, please?


Lance Collins

Hi Lance,

While Montgomery did build an impressive chart resume throughout the '90s, a 25-position spotlight means that some artists were bound to fall just short of the list.

As noted in the feature, here is how the rankings were compiled:

"The Top Country Artists 1985-2010 ranking is based on actual performance on the weekly Country Songs and Country Albums charts from Jan. 5, 1985, (through) May 29, 2010. Artists are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at the lower end of the chart earning the least."

Beginning in October 1992, Montgomery has placed 36 titles on Country Songs, including 20 top 10s and seven No. 1s. He notched four of his leaders consecutively in 1994-95: "Be My Baby Tonight," "If You've Got Love," "I Can Love You Like That" and "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)."

On Country Albums, Montgomery has logged 13 appearances, including seven top 10s and two No. 1s: "Kickin' It Up" (six weeks, 1994) and "John Michael Montgomery" (13 weeks, 1995).

He has sold 10.6 millions in his career, according to SoundScan.

The 45-year-old Danville, Ky., native will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame next April, alongside fellow '90s country radio staples Patty Loveless and Steve Wariner, among others.


Hi Gary,

I was glad to see your acknowledgement of the 40th (yikes!) anniversary of "American Top 40." As a 12-year-old who listened, mesmerized, to that very first show on a transistor radio at my local community pool, you can't imagine how surreal it was to join the staff of the program as a writer/researcher just six-and-a-half years later.

For the next three years, I got to grow up in what was then a very robust and free-wheeling music industry. From interviews with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to travels with the Bee Gees and friendships with the Beach Boys' Wilson brothers, my adventures were not unlike what Cameron Crowe depicted in his film, "Almost Famous."

And, what I learned about storytelling from Casey Kasem and radio production from company president Tom Rounds informed and made possible a career that continues today. And, I'm still young enough to remember most of it!

It was an amazing time and "AT40" was compelling radio that would just not be possible in today's media-saturated world.

Thanks for remembering how significant it was.


Scott Paton
Fulton, Maryland