Fred and his readers discuss David Cook, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and more!
DAVID COOK VS. THE BEATLES
Knowing I was a music fan, my daughter's friend asked me the other day what I thought about David Cook being "bigger" than the Beatles and having all of those songs on the chart. Of course he came close, but didn't break the Beatles record of 14. However, I was alive and kicking in 1964 and I must say that it's a shame that the media, and to some degree even Billboard reports these stories in the fashion or tone they do.
Any one who remotely believes that the current Cook scenario resembles what happened in '64 with the Beatles, is kidding themselves - that includes "American Idol." In 1964 the Beatles completely dominated nearly all facets of radio and airplay to the point that nearly everyone could hum or sing one or several of their songs.
The over 170 million iPods and iPhones did not exist and were not available as a tool for immediate gratification for "curiosity" or "heat of the moment" downloads, many times only to be lost on a chip with 1000 others. For the most part, by the time my friends and I went to the store to buy a single or record, we already new and had heard most songs over and over again on the radio. Like many, I had to wait sometimes weeks before my mom or dad would go to the store and buy a record or single for me to count as a "sale." There were times in '64 while turning a radio knob that the Beatles would be playing at the same time on nearly every station.
While many in this digital era would say "wow" to what David Cook did, I say "wow" to what the Beatles did. Today's charts and technology clearly define just how amazing the accomplishment of the Beatles was, nearly 45 years ago in 1964.
I can't speak for the rest of the media, but I don't think I suggested that David Cook is bigger than the Beatles. I also lived through Beatlemania in 1964 and beyond, but even people who didn't live through that era understand just how big the Beatles were, and are. The Beatles are simply the greatest band that has ever existed in rock and roll and every group that has followed has been influenced by them in one or more ways.
That doesn't minimize Cook's accomplishment of having 11 songs debut at once on the Hot 100. No matter how you look at it, that's the highest number of debuts in a single week by one artist (beating the previous record of six, held by Miley Cyrus). And it's the highest number of songs on the chart at one time by any artist since the Beatles had 14 songs on the chart at the same time.
It's true that a series of circumstances had to exist for those 11 David Cook songs to chart -- his appearance on the finale of "American Idol," his ultimate victory and the availability of studio versions of songs he performed live on "Idol" being sold on iTunes. But then there were a particular set of circumstances that allowed the Beatles to capture the top five spots on the Hot 100, like the fact that some of their older singles issued by labels other than Capitol were re-released after their success with "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It wasn't as if Capitol had released five singles at once and they took the top five positions. That doesn't diminish what the Beatles accomplished anymore than
current circumstances should diminish what David Cook accomplished.
A THRILLING THREE-PEAT
Last week, when David Cook's cover of "Billie Jean" charted, it was the third remake of a song from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" to chart this year. In February, Michael Jackson and Akon charted with "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 2008," released in conjunction with the 25th anniversary re-release of "Thriller." In April, Fall Out Boy and John Mayer charted with a cover of "Beat It." And now Cook has joined the party with "Billie Jean." I'm having a hard time coming up with another album that inspired three charting remakes within the same calendar year -- quite a testament to the album's enduring popularity.
In an odd twist, the remakes have come out in the reverse order of how the originals charted in 1983. If someone can record a new version of "The Girl Is Mine" by August, the chain can continue.
And then we can work backward from there with remakes of the singles
from the "Off the Wall" album. That would really be starting something.
I don't know [how you feel], but the Hot 100 is a joke. Having that many songs by David Cook debut on the Hot 100 without radio airplay is ridiculous.
People compare this to the Beatles' feat of owning the top five songs, but they did it with airplay and sales. Unfortunately, Radio and Records' CHR chart is more accurate than the Hot 100, which is sad.
By the way, did you know that Casey Kasem's original "American Top 40" is on XM radio? Casey was the reason why I started my record charts; reading your books and columns keep me interested now.
I'm glad you enjoy Chart Beat and my Billboard books, and that you are
still a chart enthusiast.
You probably won't be surprised that I disagree with you about the Hot 100. It's always been possible for songs to chart well based solely on sales or airplay. One prime example is Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997," which is the biggest-selling single of all time and was No. 1 for 14 weeks (with its flip side), despite having scant airplay.
The CHR chart in Radio & Records is an airplay-only chart, compiled by the same chart department that compiles Billboard's Hot 100. The CHR survey is extremely accurate, as is the Hot 100, which is compiled by combining sales and airplay. Since they are based on different formulas, they are bound to be different charts.
This entire column seems to be based on David Cook, and the next e-mail isn't going to change that. Keep reading.
A QUESTION OF WHEN
I am a David Cook fan, but the debut of 11 songs on the Hot 100 compromises the historic integrity of the charts. Cook's 11 songs did not all sell during the chart week, but rather were all reported during the chart week. That is a fundamental difference.
Buyers did not go to record stores or shop online and buy all those songs in the same week, but rather stretched their purchases out over several months. The fact that iTunes held back the sales figures until one big revelation is akin to a label somehow having several months' sales of a CD all count for one big week. It is not fair, and I believe it was a mistake for Billboard to allow this course of action.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
It's true that iTunes did not report sales of any "American Idol" tracks while the finalists were competing against each other. However, the sales figures used to compile last week's Hot 100 were not cumulative. The only sales that counted for last week's Hot 100 were the downloads sold during the reporting week. In fact, iTunes didn't begin reporting sales until after the finale, so those Cook tracks didn't even get a full week of sales to their credit. If they had, some of the songs might have charted higher. And if we had counted cumulative sales, David Cook might have had the top 11 songs on the chart!