Ask Billboard: Ushering In Another No. 1

Singer Usher arrives at the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 31, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
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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.



'RAYMOND V RAYMOND,' VS. WHO ELSE?

Hi Gary,

With Usher having his third consecutive No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, who has the most consecutive No. 1 albums in the history of the chart. And, what are those albums and their release years?

Further, if we separate by male solo artists, female solo artists, and duos/groups, who are the champions for most No. 1s in-a-row in each category?

Thanks!

David Hsiao
San Jose, California


Hi David,

While Usher's streak of No. 1s on the Billboard 200 - "Raymond V Raymond" (2010), "Here I Stand" (2008) and "Confessions" (2004) - is a notable feat, other artists have logged longer stretches of topping the tally consecutively.

At the head of the list is the act whose music was celebrated (to varying degrees, per the judges) on "American Idol" this week. The Beatles linked eight straight No. 1s on the Billboard 200:

Title, Year of Release

"Beatles VI," 1965
"Help!,"1965
"Rubber Soul,"1965
"'Yesterday'...and Today," 1966
"Revolver," 1966
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," 1967
"Magical Mystery Tour," 1967
"The Beatles," 1968

In second place with five consecutive No. 1s are two groups and five males: Chicago, U2, DMX, Eminem, Jay-Z, Elton John and Paul McCartney. Of those acts, Eminem owns the only active streak. With a No. 1 outing on his next try, he would move within two of tying the Beatles' all-time mark for consecutive No. 1s on the Billboard 200.

Two women are tied with four No. 1s in-a-row, and each accomplished the feat with their first four chart entries. Britney Spears banked four toppers from 1999 through 2003, as did Alicia Keys from 2001 through 2007.


IN THE BEGINNING ...

Dear Gary,

In Chart Beat yesterday (April 8), you reported that MercyMe now has the most No. 1s on the Christian Songs chart after "All of Creation" assumed the top spot, marking the band's eighth trip to the summit. You also mentioned that Casting Crowns rank second with seven leaders and Jeremy Camp, Third Day, and Matthew West are third with four No. 1s each. Can you tell me when the Christian Songs chart began?

I would've thought that Steven Curtis Chapman led the way, given his extensive collection and string of hits that began in the late '80s and continues today. I know that he enjoyed numerous hit songs from his first album, "First Hand," through his 1999 release, "(Speechless)."

When I searched for his chart history on this site, I couldn't find any charted hits on the Christian Songs chart before his "All About Love" album from 2003.

Thanks,

Dean Smedley
Birmingham, Alabama


Hi Dean,

It wasn't until June 21, 2003, that Billboard premiered the Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC Songs charts, the latter of which is viewable at billboard.biz, each fueled by Nielsen BDS monitored data.

For a deeper gauge of how artists in the Christian genre have performed, we can look at the Christian Albums survey, which dates back significantly longer. The chart actually just celebrated its 30th anniversary, having launched as a bi-weekly list in the March 29, 1980, issue of Billboard, as Best-Selling Inspirational LPs. It adopted its current name 20 years ago yesterday (April 7, 1990) and became a weekly chart exactly 15 years ago today, in the issue dated April 8, 1995.

Since his first debut on the Christian Albums chart almost 22 years ago, Steven Curtis Chapman has collected nine No. 1s, including his most recent entry, "Beauty Will Rise," in November. He first reigned with "For the Sake of the Call" in 1991.

How does Chapman stack up against his contemporaries during his career? Here is a look at the acts with the most leaders on Christian Albums since his maiden chart appearance on Aug. 27, 1988:

No. 1s, Artist
19, Michael W. Smith
9, Steven Curtis Chapman
8, Amy Grant
5, Carman
5, Kirk Franklin
5, MercyMe
5, P.O.D.

Of those acts, fans of secular pop are likely most familiar with Smith and Grant, each of whom has reached the Billboard Hot 100's top 10.

Speaking of Grant, she makes news on Christian Albums and Christian Songs this week. "Somewhere Down the Road," her first studio set in five years, arrives on the former chart at No. 2 with 13,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

On the latter list, lead single "Better Than a Hallelujah" claims the Greatest Gainer award with a 17-15 jump (3.8 million in audience, up 29%, on 42 stations).LIFE IS A HIGHWAY

Gary,

It is not very often that a highway rolls to the top of a specific chart. Such is the case with this week's new No. 1 on the Country Songs list, "Highway 20 Ride" by Zac Brown Band.

Not only is it on top this week, but it is just the second hit with a highway number in its title to top the chart. For the week ending July 9, 1983, Ricky Skaggs sped out in front with "Highway 40 Blues."

(I might be biased toward the chart's new No. 1, based on geography. 20 is also the number of a U.S. Highway here in northeast Nebraska that goes through nearby cities such as Laurel).

John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska


Hi John,

You always make a number of astute observations about Country Songs, and this week, you add one about numbers.

"Highway 20 Ride," in fact, is just the sixth No. 1 on the chart to feature a numeral (as opposed to any numbers spelled out) in its title.

Here is the select group of such leaders:

"Lonesome 7-7203," Hawkshaw Hawkins, May 4, 1963
"9 to 5," Dolly Parton, Jan. 24, 1981
"Highway 40 Blues," Ricky Skaggs, July 9, 1983
"100% Chance of Rain," Gary Morris, April 5, 1986
"19 Somethin'," Mark Wills, Jan. 11, 2003
"Highway 20 Ride," Zac Brown Band, April 17, 2010



SEND ME AN 'ANGEL' RESPONSE

Hi Gary,

I was wondering why Mariah Carey's latest album, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," wasn't able to gain traction in the U.S. Several good singles have been released, including some great remixes, but only one barely cracked the top 10 on Adult Contemporary. What happened?

Thanks,

Johnathon P. Atwood
San Jose, California


Hi Jonathon,

While her latest album may pale in comparison to some of her earlier sets that yielded multiple No. 1s on the Hot 100, Carey is still going strong two weeks after turning 40.

"Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," which has sold 470,000 copies to date, has actually produced a pair of top 10s. "Obsessed" peaked at No. 1 on Dance/Club Play Songs, Hot Dance Airplay and Hot Videoclips, No. 7 on the Hot 100 and No. 8 on Pop Songs. Her remake of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" reached No. 2 on Dance/Club Play Songs and No. 10 on Adult Contemporary.

And, "H.A.T.E.U.," "Angels Cry" and "Up Out My Face" followed those cuts onto R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

I agree that the album's single releases have been strong, especially the Seamus Haji and Paul Emanuel remix of "Obsessed" and the Donnie Hotwheel uptempo mix of "I Want to Know What Love Is."

(My favorite song on the album hasn't been released as a single, and is subtitled an "interlude," for that matter: the melodic "Languishing").

While radio hasn't been as open to Carey's recent singles as they were throughout the '90s, when she notched the first 14 of her 18 Hot 100 No. 1s, her 14-week No. 1 "We Belong Together" in 2005 proves that a monster radio comeback is always possible. On Pop Songs, that track began a run of five top 10s for Carey in the last five years after posting one between 1998 and 2004.

Remember, too, that current-driven radio formats, such as top 40 and R&B/hip-hop, often tend to favor younger artists, such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Ke$ha.

Thus, it's always a notable achievement when veteran performers continue to reach the top 10 at those formats. In addition to Carey, Monica, 15 years after her first chart appearance, sits atop R&B/Hip-Hop Songs this week with "Everything to Me" and Mary J. Blige ranks at No. 9 on the list with "I Am," her 22nd top 10 dating to her first 18 years ago.