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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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


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?


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.