Fred and his readers discuss discuss All Saints, outed artists, Linda Ronstadt and more!
I WANT TO BE IN THAT NUMBER
Noticed a funny little thing on the U.K. charts this week (and I'm sure you did as well).
The No. 2 single is the U2/Green Day collaboration, "The Saints Are Coming." This title proves to be highly prophetic: nipping at their heels one notch below at No. 3 is none other than All Saints and their comeback hit "Rock Steady."
Vancouver, British Columbia
I did notice the U2/Green Day single at No. 2 and All Saints at No. 3, but as obvious as it was, I didn't make the connection until I read your e-mail. Since All Saints haven't had a single debut on the chart in the United Kingdom for five years, I'm sure U2 and Green Day couldn't have guessed the femme band would have an adjacent position on the charts to "The Saints Are Coming."
A BARRIER TO HAVING HITS?
I saw the letters [that ran in Chart Beat Chat] these past two weeks regarding sexual orientation and having U.S. hits. I have for a long time pondered this point and noticed a slight disparity between women and men with regards to being out and successful on American radio. It struck me that Melissa Etheridge only had her string of pop hits AFTER having come out, yet not even five years later, George Michael's coming out nearly single-handedly ruined his career in the United States (though not here in Canada, where his latest album "Patience" went to No. 5).
It also then struck me that it has not always been this way. I recall there being a time in the late 1980s when Boy George had a No. 5 R&B hit. The concept seems absolutely ludicrous today for many reasons, but it does indeed sadden me that there's possibly so much perceived homophobia in America that not just urban radio but pop radio believes there's no longer a place for gay male artists on radio. Could it be that one has to be out at the very beginning of their career to have any possibility of a successful chart career today?
I question whether the Scissor Sisters' lack of success in America is simply a fluke or whether there's a definite sense on American radio that gay men aren't welcome on the airwaves. Especially since, as we speak, Scissor Sisters are No. 20 on the Canadian BDS radio chart -- which leaves the United States as the only major holdout to making the group a real international success. I just hope that Scissor Sisters lead the way to letting more gay and lesbian artists on the American airwaves once more, if indeed they don't make it in America themselves.
Perhaps if in the next couple years one of the winners on "American Idol" comes out right at the beginning, we could see some attitudes shift. What kind of a catalyst do you think might be needed to change the minds of radio?
Thanks for bringing this train of thought out there, not only is it fascinating, but it's really an important issue to discuss.
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
I'm glad to provide the forum for the discussion, but I don't pretend to have all the answers. I do think one day it will all be a non-issue, but we're not there yet and I don't know how long it's going to take.
CHART LIKE A WHEEL
I have a couple of questions about Linda Ronstadt that I hope you can answer for me. I have been told that Linda was the first female artist to have simultaneous top 5 hits. Is this true? If so, what were they, and when did they chart?
I thought that achievement was made by either Olivia Newton-John ("Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "Summer Nights") or Donna Summer ("Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls").
Next question: Was Linda Ronstadt the only female artist of the '70s to score three No. 1 albums (excluding soundtracks like "Grease" and "A Star Is Born")? I count "Heart Like a Wheel," "Simple Dreams" and "Living in the USA." I recently became tuned into the mega-talented Ronstadt and am hungry for some chart info on her. She was immensely popular as I recall. Is there any statistical information on who was the hottest female solo artist of the '70s?
Thanks for considering my questions!
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
You're right about Linda Ronstadt having three No. 1 albums in the '70s, and you've named them correctly. However, she was not the only female artist to have a hat trick of chart-toppers in that decade. Without doing any research, I thought of one off the top of my head: Carole King ("Tapesty," "Music" and "Wrap Around Joy"). You've excluded "A Star Is Born," but if you count that LP, Barbra Streisand had three No. 1s in the '70s. Donna Summer had two No. 1 albums ("Live and More," "Bad Girls") and then a third that debuted in 1979 but didn't reach the top until 1980 ("On the Radio," a greatest hits collection).
Billboard doesn't keep track of stats like who was the most successful female solo artist of a decade, but Joel Whitburn's new book "The Billboard Albums" does rank artists by decade. On his list of the top 50 acts of the '70s, the top solo females are: Barbara Streisand (No. 4 among all artists), Carole King (No. 9), Diana Ross (No. 24), Aretha Franklin (No. 32) and Linda Ronstadt (No. 49).
You're also right about Donna Summer and Olivia Newton-John having simultaneous top five hits on the Hot 100. Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and the duet of "Summer Nights" by Newton-John and John Travolta first met in the top five the week of Sept. 30, 1978. Summer's "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" first came together in the top five the week of June 23, 1979.
Ronstadt also had two top five hits at once and she did it before Newton-John and Summer. "Blue Bayou" and "It's So Easy" made their first joint appearance in the top five the week of Dec. 10, 1977.
THAT'S WHAT 'FRIENDS' IS FOR
I enjoy your columns and read them every week without fail. I'm also a fan of Dionne Warwick and am enjoying her latest release, which you mentioned has debuted on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart -- her first in 13 years. What you don't mention is at what position it charted. All I know is it didn't appear in one of the top 50 positions, but it's higher than No. 84, which is where "Friends Can Be Lovers" peaked.
I'd love to see her return to The Billboard 200 (though that's highly unlikely in today's musical climate), but knowing it's her highest charting album since "Reservations For Two" peaked at No. 32 is promising.
Inquiring minds want to know...
It was an oversight -- I should have mentioned that Dionne Warwick's "My Friends and Me" enters Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums at No. 66. If the album can build sales over the next few weeks, it's possible that we'll see it enter The Billboard 200. If it does, it will be Warwick's first entry on this tally in 16 years, since "Dionne Warwick Sings Cole Porter" went to No. 155 in 1990.