Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss The Eagles, kenny Chesney, Jennifer Hudson and more!

GOING BY THE BOOK

Dear Fred,

About four years ago I wrote to you with a prediction that legal digital downloads would eventually help drive the Hot 100, as 45 rpm records once did decades ago. You agreed, and I guess we were on the right track (no pun intended). Look what happened in 2007.

I was very pleased to see "The Top 100 Digital Downloads" included in the fourth edition of your book, "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits." That brought another question to my mind, after reviewing an earlier edition.

I noticed that in the latest edition of your book, the top 100 songs of each year have changed slightly from earlier editions. I understand why these charts would not match Billboard's original year-end charts (which are not January through December tabulations), but what caused the changes from one edition of the book to another? Even the "Top 100 Songs of 1955" has changed slightly.

Was a new methodology used to compile these lists between editions? Or is perpetual "high tech" sales or airplay data, like digital downloads or airplay tracking, causing adjustments in the former rankings? With digital downloads it's not uncommon to see an "oldie" try to come back to life. I was curious as to whether a song's chart accumulations could extend into infinity if its sales and airplay continue to be tracked.

By the way, that book is one of the best compilations of chart data I've ever seen anywhere!

Steve Goffreda
Program Director
WYRC-LP Power 92 Radio
Spencer, West Virginia

Dear Steve,

I'm glad you are enjoying the new fourth edition of "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits." It was a concept I dreamed up 24 years ago this week, on a flight home to Los Angeles after living in London for 15 months (the complete story is in the book, so I won't repeat it here).

When I started writing the first edition in 1989, the initial step was to compile a database of Billboard's greatest hits. I did that by applying an inverse point system to every Hot 100 chart (and the predecessor Best Sellers in Stores tally) from 1955 on. The song that was No. 1 every week received the most points, the No. 2 song received the second highest number of points, and so on.

This same database was used for the second edition in 1995, but when it came time to update and expand the book for the third edition in 2001, I felt that my point system could be improved. With advice and support from Michael Ellis, who was then Billboard's director of charts, I revised my methodology.

I did that even though it created an unbelievable workload, as I had to revise every chart in the book, and then change text accordingly. But I felt the results were worth it.

So the change that you notice came after the second edition; the fourth edition uses the same database as the third, and trust me, I have no plans to ever revise the database again. Even without a new database, this fourth edition took a year-and-a-half to complete, mainly because I was overly ambitious with the amount of new material I decided to add, which explains why this book is so much thicker than previous editions.

By the way, the year-end charts in "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" are not meant to supplant the annual recaps that have appeared in year-end issues through the decades. Those annual recaps that appear in print and online are based on a 52-week period that covers the chart year, which runs from the beginning of December to the end of November. The year-by-year top 100s in my book are based on the calendar year, and include songs that peaked in that year. Further, songs accumulate all of the points for their entire chart runs, even if those runs spill into an adjacent year.

Hope that explains the differences in charts from the first two editions. And I really do appreciate your comments - it makes all of the work worthwhile.




JUST HOW LONG IS THAT ROAD OUT OF EDEN?

Hi Fred,

Love the column! I've been following Billboard since junior high in the late '80s and I'm finally asking a question.

I saw that the Eagles latest album was certified seven times platinum. Is that a mistake? How on Earth did that happen? I thought it has only sold around 2-3 million. Could you clarify?

Thanks and keep up the good work!
Jason Boegh

Dear Jason,

I'm glad you finally wrote to Chart Beat Chat! And I won't even tell you when I was in junior high because it was long before you were.

Before I answer your question, I should point out that Billboard has nothing to do with certifying albums, but we do run the information on our charts as a courtesy to readers who are interested in this information. The certification process is handled by the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade organization that represents the U.S. record business.

After I read your e-mail, I checked last week's album chart and this week's. Sure enough, the Eagles' "Long Road Out of Eden" was certified triple-platinum last week and seven-times platinum this week.

Then I went to the RIAA website, which has a searchable database for gold and platinum certifications. That's where I noticed that "Eden" was certified gold and triple-platinum on Nov. 30, 2007, and seven times platinum just 11 days ago as I write this. That explains why you now see the album listed as seven times platinum on our chart.

A couple of cautions: remember that certifications represent albums shipped to retailers, not the actual number of albums sold. If a label ships five million copies of an album to stores, it is eligible for a certification of five times platinum, even before a single copy is sold.

Also, the RIAA counts double albums as two copies sold per unit, so shipments of three and a half million double CDs would generate a certification of seven times platinum.

And just to be clear, because I get questions about this all the time, Nielsen SoundScan does not double sales for double CDs, so one unit sold counts as one unit sold for the Billboard charts.



LET GEORGE DUET

Dear Fred:

Is Kenny Chesney's current single, "Shiftwork," being credited to George Strait, for his contributions on the song, in terms of Billboard chart statistics?

When the song debuted as an album cut on the chart dated Sept. 22, 2007, and re-entered as an official single release on Dec. 1, 2007, the artist listing on the chart was along the lines of Kenny Chesney with George Strait. Then, later on in December (I believe with the chart dated Dec. 22), the artist listing was changed to simply Kenny Chesney, and no mention of George. I'm unclear as to what the reasons were for this switch, but I assume it was decided on by Kenny's (BNA) and George's (MCA Nashville) labels.

Now that "Shiftwork" has entered the top 10 this week, at No. 9, it is officially (from what my records show) the 31st top 10 of Chesney's career. I am wondering if this will also be counted by Billboard as the 77th top 10 of Strait's career, and move him within one of George Jones' second place all-time total. And along those same lines, if "Shiftwork" does make it to No. 1 (and thus become Kenny's 14th chart-topper), would it also be counted as George's 43rd? Or does the change in artist listing for the song prevent that?

Thanks a lot,
Jonathan Lammert
Austin, Texas

Dear Jonathan,

When "Shiftwork" originally charted, the artist billing was Kenny Chesney Duet with George Strait. The change to solo billing was due to contractual issues between the two artists' labels, BNA and MCA Nashville.

As I've said many times here in Chart Beat Chat, artists' credits aren't casual, they are determined by the legal and business affairs departments of record labels. Billboard doesn't arbitrarily decide how those credits will appear on the charts (not that you suggested this), we adhere to the official credits as issued by record companies. There are members of our chart department whose responsibilities include working with the labels so songs are accurately credited on our charts.

Since "Shiftwork" is officially a solo Kenny Chesney single, it won't count in George Strait's column as a top 10 hit or, should it occupy the penthouse, a No. 1 song.



AND PETE IS TELLING ME...

Hi Fred,

I would like to add another person to your list of American Idols who have been successful. Jennifer Hudson recently joined a very short list of musical artists who have won Academy Awards for acting. Since 1953, only Frank Sinatra, Burl Ives, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Cher have won non-musical Oscars. There are also other Academy Award nominees who have had success on the music charts (not counting comedians) such as Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Doris Day, Richard Harris, Diana Ross, John Travolta, Bette Midler, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Mark Wahlberg.

And while several other American Idols have transitioned to the screen and stage, such as Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, Tamyra Gray, Ruben Studdard, Diana DeGarmo and Katharine McPhee, it's easy to argue that Jennifer Hudson's Oscar win is most impressive.

I share your opinion that "American Idol" isn't losing its luster. To imagine that Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell can audition thousands of contestants and discover Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson is truly amazing.

Thanks very much for the column,

Pete Pait
Alpharetta, Georgia

Dear Pete,

Winning an Academy Award is extremely impressive and an amazing achievement few people will ever get to experience. Jennifer Hudson has charted in Billboard, but I think we need to wait and see how her debut album for Arista fares before judging her musical career. And I don't mean her talent, but her chart fortunes.

I've been a fan of Hudson's ever since she was on "American Idol." About a year-and-a-half ago I wrote an article for a magazine in which I selected the top 10 "Idol" performances of all time (to that date, of course), and I had Jennifer Hudson's rendition of Elton John's "Circle of Life" at No. 5.

You're not the only person to write to me this week with the Academy Awards on the brain. See our next e-mail.



'ONCE' UPON A TIME

Dear Fred,

In last week's Chart Beat column, you wrote:

JUST 'ONCE': Another soundtrack doing well on The Billboard 200 is "Once" (Canvasback/Sony Music Soundtrax), which until this week had gone no higher than No. 60 (on the chart dated Aug. 25, 2007). Since the duet "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova was named Best Song by the Broadcast Critics, the album could pick up more speed next week and a musical Oscar nomination could keep the momentum going.

If I'm not mistaken, this song will be ineligible for Oscar consideration.

The song, according to information I found through iTunes, appeared on Glen's "solo" album, "The Swell Season," which was released in 2006. While the song is described as being part of a project to record some songs for a film (presumably "Once"), the song was released long before the film was. This appears to violate the Academy's Rule Sixteen, Part B, Point 4 which states, "The work must be recorded for use in the film prior to any other usage, including public performance or exploitation through any media whatsoever." According to iTunes, Hansard's album was released on Aug. 22, 2006; the film was not officially released in the United States (outside the film festival circuit) until May 16, 2007.

I suppose, however, the Academy will make the final call on the matter, but they are pretty strict with the rules and interpretations.

Sincerely,

Joseph West
Montgomery, Ala.

Dear Joseph,

You're correct about the Academy Awards rules requiring nominees for Best Original Song to be written especially for their films, but it appears that "Falling Slowly" qualifies. I know that Fox Searchlight is pushing the song from "Once" for a nomination and has run the familiar "For Your Consideration" ads in our sister publication, the Hollywood Reporter.

In a special "Winter Film and TV Music" edition published this month, the Hollywood Reporter had an "Oscar Watch Song and Score" section. In a sidebar on "Once," there was this back story:

"Director John Carney and Glen Hansard, two old friends, started off together in the popular Irish band the Frames several years ago. 'We discussed working together again for years. John came to me and asked me to go over this idea he had for a film,' recalls Hansard of his ex-bassist, adding, 'The script at the time was a 16-page outline for a film. He asked me to write a couple of songs. Later, John asked me to be in the film, which was amazing.'"