Keith answers readers' questions on Stevie Nicks, Madonna, the Spice Girls and more!

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at askbb@billboard.com.


NICKS IN THE MIX

Hi Keith,

Thank you very much for always providing great answers for your readers.

Lately, I have heard a dance remix of Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back" out at clubs. Did she (record new vocals for) the song? Is it going to get any radio play? Also, is the mix an "official mix?" Do you have any information about this? Her official Web site does not even mention it.

Thanks!
Mike
San Diego


Hello Mike,

The new dance mixes of Nicks' classic 1983 single "Stand Back" are indeed official. Reprise Records commissioned Tracy Young, Ralphi Rosario and Morgan Page to retool the tune. The mixes have been serviced to club DJs and it debuted on our Hot Dance Club Play chart on June 23.

All of the re-workings retain elements of the original song, including its famous synth line. This week, on the Hot Dance Club Play chart dated July 14, the song moves up 14-6, surpassing the No. 12 peak of the original version back in 1983.

Collectively, the assorted remixes have sold nearly 4,000 digital downloads.

The most popular version is Young's "Tracy Takes You Home" remix, which has moved over 2,000 downloads. One can also purchase a digital EP of the mixes, and that has sold just over 1,000 downloads.

If all goes according to plan, I hear that more Nicks remixes may get released down the road. Stay tuned!



FREE TO BE ... ON THE CHARTS?

Hi Keith,

I love reading your column all the time and finally decided to ask a question.

Regarding Madonna's "Hey You" single -- which was initially available for free via MSN.com... if an artist is offering a song free of charge, is the song eligible to chart? Are there special rules for cases like this? Also do you know how many copies of the single have been downloaded?

Thank you,
Paul Hollins


Hi Paul,

Billboard charts do not allow free downloads to chart. Neither does Nielsen SoundScan. So, for example, when you snap up iTunes' free download of the week, it won't show up the charts.

SoundScan generally doesn't track free downloads, so we don't know how many free downloads of "Hey You" were consumed. We do, however, know how many people have since purchased the song once it was no longer available for free. So far, it has sold nearly 3,000 downloads.

Madonna is taking part in this Saturday's Live Earth concerts, where she's scheduled to close the London show with a four-song set. One of those songs will be "Hey You," so perhaps sales of the track will jump over the weekend.



THE SPICE IS RIGHT

Keith,

Greetings from Las Vegas.

Hopefully you can settle a bet or two. I just got through reading on Billboard.com that the Spice Girls are reuniting for a limited tour and one of the stops is right here in Las Vegas. But it seems like quite some time since I have heard anything about the group... or even the individual members' solo releases. I seem to recall Geri Halliwell and one of the Melanie's have released solo CDs here in the States.

Bring us up to date Keith. How about the sales figures for the three Spice Girls CDs along with any noticeable sales of solo offerings?

Charles Novak
Las Vegas


Hello Charles,

I've already submitted my name in the lottery in order to get the chance to buy a Spice Girls ticket, so I'm eager to answer this question.

Spice Girls released three albums in the U.S.: "Spice," "Spiceworld" and "Forever." "Spice" has sold 7.4 million in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan, while "Spiceworld" and "Forever" have moved 4.1 million and 207,000, respectively. ("Forever" was released in 2000, after Halliwell had left the group and Spice mania had already faded.)

In the U.S., the group charted seven top 20 singles on The Billboard Hot 100, while over in the U.K., they've hit No. 1 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart a whopping nine times.

Halliwell's debut album, 1999's "Schizophonic," has moved 181,000 in the U.S. None of her later releases were issued in America.

Melanie C's "Northern Star" debut, which spawned the dance hit "I Turn To You," has sold 95,000 in the U.S. Her later albums didn't see a U.S. release.

Emma Bunton's "Free Me" album, released in 2005, has shifted 17,000 in America. Again, no other Bunton sets have bowed in America.

Melanie B. and Victoria Beckham did not release any solo albums in the U.S.

All five of the Spice Girls had success as solo acts outside America. Adding up all of their solo hits, they've earned over 20 solo top 10 singles in the U.K.,¬ eight of which were No. 1s.



GIRL GROUPS GONE WILD

Good day Keith!

So I had to ask, now that the Spice Girls are getting back together and I am so happy, who is the most successful girl group of all time? I have heard so many different things. TLC was, but then so was Destiny's Child, and what about the Dixie Chicks? Who is commercially (the most successful), and who is the most critically accepted? Thanks for any insight into this!

You rock!

Joe Orlowski
Macomb, Mich.


Hello Joe,

Ah, this question again. Every few months it comes up. Usually when a female group is making noise.

Since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales information 1991, the female group that has sold the most albums in the U.S. is the Dixie Chicks, with 26.2 million sold.

Destiny's Child is next, with 16.7 million, while TLC is third with 15.4 million.

Because SoundScan started in 1991, if we want a broader picture of the biggest selling artists, we have to look to the Recording Industry Association of America, who administers the gold and platinum certification program.

According to the RIAA, Dixie Chicks have sold more albums than any other female group in U.S. history, with 30.5 million. TLC is next in line with 22 million, while Destiny's Child is third with 17.5 million.

Why is there a large discrepancy between the RIAA figures and SoundScan's?

Much of TLC's career came in the early to mid-'90s, when record clubs (like Columbia House) were a popular way for consumers to purchase albums. However, SoundScan does not track record club sales but the RIAA does.

... Hence why the RIAA's tally for TLC is so much greater than SoundScan's.

As for your question about which group is more "critically accepted," that's not really for me to say. Each group has received good critical notices, especially Dixie Chicks.

For one last comparison, let's look at the number of Grammy awards each group has received. Dixie Chicks are far and away the leader, with 12 while Destiny's Child has earned two and TLC has received four. (Dixie Chicks are basically Grammy darlings at this point, much like U2. The latter band has brought home 22 awards, including two for Album of the Year.)