Carrie Underwood: The Billboard Cover Story
Carrie Underwood on the cover of Billboard, issue date Oct. 24, 2009. Matthew Rolston

ALTERNATIVE KINGS: Crash Kings complete a 20-week climb to the summit of Alternative Songs, as their first chart entry, "Mountain Man," hikes 2-1.

The band crowns the chart with its introductory track less than two months after Phoenix reigned with its first format hit, "1901." Prior to this year, no new act had sent a maiden charted title to the top of Alternative Songs since the Raconteurs, who led the July 29, 2006, survey with "Steady, As She Goes."

"'Mountain Man' was a one-listen track," recalls Willobee, operations manager of alternative panelist WEQX/Albany, New York, which has played the song 620 times through March 30, according to Nielsen BDS.

"We got it and put it on the air without hesitation. Our hunch was followed by requests and great research.

"It shows that the format is starting to take a leap of faith when it hears obvious hits and is not waiting until the audience has discovered these songs elsewhere. We should be, given the many other avenues now available to the new music listener."

The only station that has spun the song more is WZNE/Rochester, New York, with 710 plays to date. Program director Nik Rivers echoes the importance of the adventurousness inherent in the format's name.

"I think that there is a new generation of programmers who believe in and realize that it was new music that was at the root of this format in the '90s. They are realizing that if you don't play new music, your station won't grow.

Jacent Jackson, program director of WLUM/Milwaukee, which played "Mountain Man" a format-high 74 times in the chart's March 22-28 tracking week, likewise believes in touting the format's unique acts. "We need to take more risks and break new artists that won't be co-opted by other formats."

"It seems that the stations that are making strong moves in the format are doing more of that, and it's healthy for alternative artists and radio in the long run."

'TEMPORARY' HIGHER: Carrie Underwood collects her ninth No. 1 on Country Songs, as "Temporary Home" advances 2-1.

The song is Underwood's second leader from "Play On," following "Cowboy Casanova," which topped the Nov. 21, 2009, tally.

She sent four songs - "So Small," "All-American Girl," "Last Name" and "Just a Dream" - to No. 1 from her sophomore set, "Carnival Ride," in 2007-08 and three - "Jesus, Take the Wheel," "Before He Cheats" and "Wasted" from her debut, "Some Hearts" in 2006-07.

Since Underwood's first week at No. 1 on Jan. 21, 2006, with "Jesus, Take the Wheel," only two other women have reigned: Taylor Swift (four No. 1s) and Reba McEntire (one). Underwood is the first solo female to release three consecutive studio albums each boasting at least two No. 1s on Country Songs since McEntire strung together four such sets - "Whoever's in New England," "What Am I Gonna Do About You," "The Last One to Know" and "Reba" - that yielded two toppers each from 1986 through 1989.

WE HAVE LIFTOFF: Stone Temple Pilots' "Between the Lines" makes the largest positional gain in the 10-month history of Billboard's Rock Songs chart, as the lead single from the band's May 25 self-titled reunion album rockets 40-2. The song improves from 2 to 11.8 million audience impressions (up 496%) on 146 stations.

On Alternative Songs, the track bolts 39-9, marking the second-greatest positional increase in the chart's archives. Only Dave Matthews Band's "Don't Drink the Water" (36-5 in 1998) and the Smashing Pumpkins' "The Everlasting Gaze" (40-9 in 2000) made bigger week-to-week jumps.

On Mainstream Rock, "Between the Lines" vaults 36-7 for the chart's biggest positional leap since Van Halen's "The Dream Is Over" soared 46-15 on the chart dated Feb. 29, 1992 (fittingly, the extra day of that leap year).

COMPLETE BEAT: As previously reported, 16-year-old Justin Bieber becomes the youngest solo male to command the Billboard 200 since Aug. 24, 1963, when then-13-year-old Stevie Wonder spent a week at No. 1 with "Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius." Check Chart Beat tomorrow for more on Bieber, who recently told Billboard, "There's more people that like me than there are who hate me, so I kind of brush it off. People say, 'Oh, people just like him because he's pretty.' Or the funniest one: 'When he goes through puberty, he's not going to be a good singer anymore.' How does that make sense when we've seen people like Michael Jackson and Usher and Justin Timberlake do it?"

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