<b><i>A brand new Fred Bronson Chart Beat column will return the week of December 29, 2008 after a brief break for the holidays. Enjoy his most recent column below.</i></b>

OUT OF ‘AFRICA’: Actually, they are out of Indiana. That’s home base for Straight No Chaser, the 10-man a cappella group that soars 13-7 on the Adult Contemporary chart with a live version of “12 Days of Christmas” (Atco). This is the first time in the 47-year history of this survey that this traditional holiday song has appeared on the AC list.

It’s not the first time on the AC tally for one of the songs sampled in the Straight No Chaser interpretation. Toto’s “Africa” peaked at No. 5 in 1983. Now, 25 years later, it’s possible that Straight No Chaser’s “12 Days” may peak higher than Toto’s “Africa,” as AC radio will continue to play holiday music well into next week.

TRUE ‘BLUE’: For the third week in a row, Elvis Presley makes chart news. His latest accomplishment: a return to the Adult Contemporary chart after a 26-year gap.

The “Blue Christmas” duet with Martina McBride that bowed on Hot Country Songs last week shows up on the AC list as the Hot Shot Debut, at No. 22. It’s Presley’s first AC chart entry since “The Elvis Medley” peaked at No. 31 in 1982 and Presley’s highest-charting AC title since “Guitar Man” picked its way to No. 16 in 1981.

This new version of “Blue Christmas” is Presley’s 53rd AC song to reach the AC survey. The chart was initiated in 1961 and Presley first made the list that year with “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame,” which spent two weeks at No. 2.

The Presley/McBride take on “Blue Christmas” marks the second appearance of the song on the AC tally. A recording by Harry Connick, Jr., went to No. 21 in January 2004. So Presley needs to climb one rung to tie Connick, Jr.’s peak and two rungs to have the highest-charting version on AC.

The parent album for the Presley/McBride cut, Elvis’ “Christmas Duets” (RCA), holds at No. 3 on Top Country Albums. It is the highest-charting Presley album on this chart since “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits” had a three-week reign in 2002 and the second top 10 album for the King in the last 25 years.

Before “Christmas Duets” and “Elvis: 30 #1 Hits,” Presley last had a top five album on the country chart in 1978, when “Elvis Sings for Children and Grownups Too!” peaked at No. 5.

7 MILE(S): Madonna’s “Miles Away” (Warner Bros.) takes the lead on Hot Dance Airplay, giving the superstar her seventh No. 1 song in a row on this chart.

This survey has only been around for five years, so seven No. 1s is good enough to give Madonna more chart-toppers than any other artist. She was previously tied with Rihanna, who now slips to second place with her six No. 1s.

Justin Timberlake is in third place with four and Beyonce ranks fourth with three.
Madonna also has the highest amount of No. 1 hits on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, where her 39 chart-toppers are more than double the 18 No. 1s accumulated by second-place Janet Jackson.

‘HUMAN’ NATURE: Brandy is back. Her new album, “Human” (Knockout/Koch/Epic), opens on The Billboard 200 at No. 15. She was last on the list with a greatest hits collection, which peaked at No. 27 in April 2005. Her last album of new material to chart was “Afrodisiac,” No. 3 in July 2004.

Brandy was 15 when she made her album chart debut in October 1994 with an eponymous set.

“Human” is Brandy’s sixth solo album to chart in the last 14 years.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS:
I wish all Chart Beat readers around the world a very happy holiday season. This column doesn’t rest during the holidays, but both Chart Beat and Chart Beat Chat will be posted on Mondays for the next two weeks. Look for new columns at Billboard.com on Monday, Dec. 29 and Monday, Jan. 5.