Fred and his readers discuss Babyface, Diana Ross, "American Idol" and more!

SHOULD BABYFACE TAKE A BOW?

In your most recent Chart Beat column, you state, "Babyface's remake of James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain' on the Mercury label climbs 12-10, equaling the peak position of 'When Can I See You' in 1994. 'When Can I See You' and 'Fire and Rain' are Edmonds' only top 10 hits on the AC list."

Wasn't Babyface a featured artist on Madonna's "Take a Bow"? Considering that single was a ballad - and spent more weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 than any other Madonna release - I would guess it also hit the top 10 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Am I wrong?

While we are on the topic, how has Madonna fared on the AC chart?


Thanks in advance.

Dwight Fischer
Wichita, Kansas

Dear Dwight,

If you look in the new fourth edition of my book, "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits," you'll see that "Take a Bow" is No. 1 on the list of the top 50 songs by Madonna (based on chart performance on the Hot 100). "Take a Bow" ranks No. 3 on the top 50 songs produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface (behind two Boyz II Men hits, "I'll Make Love to You" at No. 1 and "End of the Road" at No. 2).

You'll also note that "Take a Bow" is credited solely to Madonna and that Babyface does not receive billing as an artist.

It doesn't matter if Babyface appears on the recording or not; what matters is the way the artist credit appears. So Babyface is not officially considered an artist on "Take a Bow" any more than Elton John is on Neil Sedaka's "Bad Blood" or Mick Jagger on Carly Simon's "You're So Vain."

As to Madonna's AC fortunes, she has had 35 chart entries beginning with "Borderline," which debuted the week of June 2, 1984. Of those 35, 15 have reached the top 10, and of those, five have achieved pole position. Of those five, the most successful is "Take a Bow," which was No. 1 for nine weeks in 1995. Her other four chart-toppers are:

"Live to Tell," three weeks (1986)
"La Isla Bonita," one week (1987)
"Cherish," two weeks (1989)
"I'll Remember," four weeks (1994)





FROM THE KENNEDY CENTER TO THE BILLBOARD CHARTS

Dear Fred:

Watching the recent Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Diana Ross made me wonder just how many No. 1s she has had across all the charts as a soloist and in combination with other artists (the Supremes, Lionel Richie, USA for Africa, etc.). Where does she really stand in the annals of music history?

Greg Walters
Johnson City, Tenn.

Dear Greg,

You asked about all Billboard charts, which is a tall order. Let's just look at some of our main charts, starting with our singles surveys:

On the Hot 100, Diana Ross had 12 No. 1 hits as part of the Supremes. The first 10 were billed to the Supremes and last two to Diana Ross and the Supremes. After Ross left the trio in January 1970, she collected six more No. 1s. She received solo credit on the first five and the sixth was "Endless Love," her duet with Lionel Richie.

On the chart known today as Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, the Supremes had five No. 1s, but keep in mind that Billboard did not publish an R&B singles chart from November 1963 to January 1965, so we'll never know how "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love" and "Come See About Me" would have fared. After she left the Supremes, Ross had four No. 1s as a solo artist and also topped the chart with that Richie duet on "Endless Love."

On the Adult Contemporary chart, Ross had three solo No. 1s and then topped that tally with Richie on "Endless Love."
The Supremes didn't have any AC No. 1s and didn't even appear on this survey until November 1969, when the final Ross-led single, "Someday We'll Be Together," made its debut.

On our Hot Dance Club Play chart, Ross had four No. 1s between 1979 and 1995. Billboard did not publish this dance tally between March 1975 and August 1976, so she might have had another No. 1 with "Love Hangover," but we'll never know for sure.

As for our album charts, the Supremes had two No. 1 LPs on their own and a third teamed with the Temptations. As a solo artist, Ross had one more chart-topper, with the soundtrack to "Lady Sings the Blues."

The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" topped the very first R&B albums chart, dated Jan. 30, 1965. The group went on to have four more No. 1 LPs on its own and two with the Temptations. As a solo artist, Ross had three No. 1 albums on the R&B tally.

All in all, a very impressive chart career that extends back almost 46 years. When Diana guest starred on "American Idol" last season, I had a chance to talk with her after the show, and I confessed I had been a fan since "Let Me Go the Right Way" (which peaked at No. 90 on the Hot 100 in early 1963). "Oh," Diana said. "That was a long time ago."




ON IDLE?

Hey Fred,

Thanks for answering some of my questions in the past, and I hope you have a great 2008.

My first question of the new year is: do you think the "American Idol" bubble has burst? In the last week, Ruben Studdard, Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks have all been dropped by their record labels - or in PR speak, "have left by mutual consent."

Kelly Clarkson's album has badly underperformed, and Jordin and Blake's albums barely scraped into the top 10. Of course, there are exceptions like Carrie Underwood who seems unstoppable. But judging by viewing figures dropping toward the end of last season, interest seems to wane once the wannabes and weirdos have been [thrown] out and the final 12 have been announced.

Is there anything that can be done to make sure next season's finalists don't see their careers snuffed out soon after they've begun? Jordin has done well with her current single - I see it went top 10 - but do you think it was a mistake not to release Jordin's winning song on CD single? And which American Idols are surprising you with their staying power?

Cheers mate!

John Marrs
London, England

Dear John,

To answer your first question, I don't think the "American Idol" bubble has burst. For one thing, the ratings are still the envy of all other TV series and I expect the start of the seventh season next week to keep the show on top of the rankings. Of the top 20 most-watched broadcasts of 2007, 11 were episodes of "American Idol" and no other series had an episode ranked in the top 20.

As for the Idols themselves, I wouldn't always assume that the parting of the ways with their labels was against the artists' wishes. I can give you an example I am very familiar with. After recording her first album, Diana DeGarmo asked RCA to release her from her contract. I'm not saying that the label would have made a second album with Diana, but the point is, she asked for the release before the label could make a decision. It was still reported in many media that the label dropped her, but I know for a fact that was not true.

I do know that Ruben Studdard is still being managed by 19 Entertainment, that he is recording a new album and that he will be touring the country in a production of the Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehaving." His third album may not have sold enough for J to record a fourth CD, but the lead single topped the Adult R&B chart for eight weeks, so I think Ruben still has a career ahead of him. Taylor Hicks is also recording a new album and while I don't know what Katharine McPhee's next recording project will be, she has roles in two upcoming films.

Kelly Clarkson's latest album, "My December," failed for a number of reasons that have been well publicized. If she returns to form with her next release, she could have another "Breakaway" on her hands. We'll just have to wait and see. And Carrie Underwood has gone from neophyte to superstar in a very short time, setting all kinds of chart records along the way.

Kimberley Locke continues to dominate the Adult Contemporary and dance charts, scoring the seventh Billboard No. 1 of her career this week (see Chart Beat for details). Elliott Yamin has done very well and Chris Daughtry's band had the No. 1 album of 2007 on our annual recap of The Billboard 200, along with success on the Hot 100, AC, Adult Top 40 and rock charts.

And don't forget Fantasia, who had an excellent year on the R&B and Adult R&B charts and managed a star turn in "The Color Purple" on Broadway.

I think Jordin Sparks' career is just beginning. "Tatoo," her first pop single away from her finale song, is still in the top 10 of the Hot 100 and another track from her debut album debuts this week. Jordin's album debuted at No. 10, as did the debut set from Blake Lewis. I know Blake's single "Break Anotha" didn't do well, but there are three or four potential hit singles on his album, if the label will continue to release tracks from the CD.

We're still likely to hear from other Idols who haven't even charted yet. Phil Stacy has just released a country song, "If You Didn't Love Me," on the Lyric Street label, and I'm hoping that Melinda Doolittle will sign a recording deal soon. Jon Peter Lewis from season three is recording his second album after releasing an indie CD. Then there's the new gang coming up, the seventh season contestants, who will soon be down to a top 12. And just four months from now, we'll have a new American Idol who will be ready to climb the Billboard charts. So I think the bubble is far from bursting.
Someday the phenomenon will come to an end, but not yet.