Fred chats with readers about charts, Madonna, digital downloads, Mary J. Blige and more.

AIN'T NOTHING LIKE THE 'REAL, REAL, REAL' THING

Dear Fred,

In Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" book, he sometimes lists the sales and airplay chart positions along with the Hot 100 peak position. Sometimes the sales and airplay figures are so different from the Hot 100 peak position that it has me scratching my head.

A recent example I spotted is the 1991 Jesus Jones hit, "Real, Real, Real." It peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, but it's listed as peaking at No. 30 on the airplay chart and No. 67 on the sales chart. Can you explain this?

Bob Johnson
San Francisco

Dear Bob,

It does seem quite bizarre, doesn't it? But there is a very logical explanation. To uncover it, I had to call on Michael Ellis, former associate publisher and director of charts for Billboard. He reminded me of why there was such a discrepancy between the Hot 100 and the sales and airplay component charts published in 1991.

You may recall that beginning with the Hot 100 dated Nov. 30, 1991, Billboard began using sales information provided by Nielsen SoundScan and airplay information supplied by Nielsen BDS. Thanks to advances in technology, this data was much more accurate than the previous methods of collecting such information -- relying on reports from retail stores and radio stations.

"Real, Real, Real" by Jesus Jones charted on the Hot 100 before the changeover to SoundScan and BDS information. However, the Hot 100 Singles Sales and Hot 100 Airplay charts published in 1991 were compiled from SoundScan and BDS data before the Hot 100 was. So those peak positions you saw listed in the Joel Whitburn book are from SoundScan and BDS figures, while the Hot 100 was still being compiled by old-fashioned, less accurate information.

To state the obvious, under the new rules that came into effect on Nov. 30, 1991, "Real, Real, Real" wouldn't have fared as well on the Hot 100.



SORRY; I'LL REMEMBER

Hi Fred,

In [last] week's "Chart Beat Chat," you received letters noting female artists who had previously accomplished Kelly Clarkson's feat of five top 10 hits from one album -- Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson (the clear leader, having accomplished this three times). But shouldn't Madonna's name be added to the list?

I believe "Live to Tell," "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart," "La Isla Bonita" and the title track from her album "True Blue" all cracked the top 10, didn't they?

Best,

Sean McMahill
Brooklyn

Hi Fred!

I'm a big fan of your column, and though I have read it every single week for years now, this is the first time I have something to say. My modest experience in chart history is about 20 years old.

Last week you mentioned female artists with five top 10 hits from one album and -- how could anyone forget Madonna? She scored five top five hits from her "True Blue" album.

I know I'm not going to be the only one mentioning this fact, but it feels great to finally have something to write about, and with some luck, it will be published in your column.

Cristian Bertetti
C—rdoba, Argentina

Dear Sean and Cristian,

Over a dozen readers wrote in to point out Madonna's feat. Sean, you were the first person to send an e-mail on this topic, and Cristian, since you're a first-time writer I thought it only right to include your letter, too. You're both right, those five singles from the "True Blue" album all made the top 10. They also made the top 5 -- and even the top 4, to give Madonna her props.



WHAT COUNTS?

Hi Fred,

Everyone knows that a-la-carte purchases on iTunes count toward the Billboard Hot 100, but I was wondering what role unlimited pay-per-month music download services like Napster and Yahoo! Music plays on the charts. You can download or stream individual tracks which appear on the Hot 100, but you don't pay for them individually. Do these downloads count for any chart? Are they under consideration to count in the future, like on an online airplay or download chart?

Cheers,

Robert Ballantyne
Toronto

Dear Robert,

When an individual track is sold at iTunes or at another online music service, the equivalent of a UPC barcode is scanned and a sale is registered. That sale counts for the Billboard Hot 100, as you point out, as well as for the Hot Digital Songs chart.

That doesn't happen under a subscription program where a consumer pays a monthly fee and can download a specific number of songs, so those sales don't count for the Hot 100, nor is there a plan to include those sales in the future. If technology changes in the future, however, chart rules could also change.



MARY, QUEEN OF CHARTS

Hello Fred,

Much has been said about the rapid turnover of No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year, and the stark difference in turnover rates between that chart and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. But something that punctuates this even further is the fact that Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" is the only song remaining in the top 40 portion of the R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart to have ranked at No. 1 on that list. By contrast, the same Blige single is the only song in the top five portion of the Hot 100 to have never reached No. 1 on that list.

The irony of all of this is that, since the Hot 100 chart of Feb. 4 (nine weeks ago), the only songs that have come between "Be Without You" and the No. 1 position on the Hot 100 have been the last six No. 1 singles. Yet Mary's song has ranked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 airplay component list longer than any of the others (seven weeks and counting).

As a huge MJB fan, I hope she adds another week at No. 1 on the R&B singles chart and sets a new record. Her 15 weeks at the top would also place her behind Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men as the artists to have spent the most time at No. 1 on either the R&B or the Hot 100 charts with the same song (16 weeks on the Hot 100 with "One Sweet Day," 10 years ago).

Darrell Roberts
Bethesda, Md.
djrob61466@aol.com

Dear Darrell,

It is ironic that while the Hot 100 is experiencing its quickest turnover in 15 years, the R&B/Hip-Hop chart has had no turnover at all in 2006, thanks to the dominance of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You."

See this week's "Chart Beat for details of Blige's "Be Without You" equaling the record-setting 14-week reigns of "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" by Deborah Cox and "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey.

Of course, as you note, all eyes will be on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart next week to see if Blige gets that all-important 15th week at No. 1.



TRAVELING AT THE SPEED OF SOUND

Fred,

I'm writing with a question that may not have an answer, but I figured I give it a shot. Why is the Hot 100 experiencing such a high turnover rate?

As a chart fan, it's exciting to see a constant parade of new faces at the summit, but I'm not sure why it's happening. Is it the impact of digital sales? Are radio stations varying their playlists more? Finally, do you think this trend will continue or is it just a momentary diversion from the SoundScan-era
norm in which singles perch at No. 1 for weeks on end?

It's fascinating that you have to return to the pre-SoundScan charts of 1991 to find a quicker succession of No. 1s. Has the pendulum swung back to those days, or will "Bad Day" rule for 20 weeks? Again, I know those questions are hard to answer, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

Mark Blankenship
Brooklyn

Dear Mark,

The rapid turnover of No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 is a direct result of the reinvigoration of the singles market in the United States. Before the advent of paid digital downloads, the singles market in this country had all but evaporated, and the best-selling single in the nation sometimes only sold 1,000 copies in a week. Sales were so low, it was possible to be the best-selling single in the country and not even appear on the Hot 100.

That has all changed, thanks to the increasing demand for paid digital downloads. The popularity of iPods and other MP3 players and the ease of storing music on computers are factors in increasing the sales of paid digital downloads.

The sales chart changes more rapidly than the airplay chart, which explains why you're seeing the rapid turnover of No. 1 songs on the Hot 100. That's why I don't think you'll see "Bad Day" rule for 20 weeks, as much as I love the song.

Personally, the rapid changes at No. 1 have given me more to write about in "Chart Beat," so I'm grateful for that. It also means the sixth edition of "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" will have an abundance of new pages.



LIFE(HOUSE) BEGINS AT 60

Fred,

Lifehouse hits the 60-week mark on the Billboard Hot 100 with "You And Me," which holds at No. 45 this week. That (I do believe) is only the fourth song in the history of the Hot 100 to spend at least 60 weeks on the Hot 100 and the first to do so since LeAnn Rimes completed her record 69 weeks with her No. 2 pop smash "How Do I Live" in mid-1998.

Also congratulations to Daniel Powter. With "Bad Day" becoming the new No. 1 on the 100 this week, he becomes the first male soloist from Canada to top this chart since Bryan Adams did it with "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman." That single spent five weeks at No. 1 in June 1995. Overall, the last Canadian act to achieve this feat was Nickelback with "How You Remind Me" the week of Dec. 22, 2001.

John Maverick
Omaha, Neb.

Dear John,

You're right about "You and Me" by Lifehouse becoming the fourth song in the history of the Hot 100 to remain on the chart for 60 weeks or more. We'll be watching week by week to see if the song can tie or surpass LeAnn Rimes' record-setting 69-week run with "How Do I Live." Meanwhile, "You and Me" has the longest Hot 100 run of any song in the 21st century.

Here's a summary of the longest-running songs on the Hot 100, updated from a recap that ran in the "Chart Beat Chat" column posted on Feb. 17:

69 weeks: "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes (1997)
65 weeks: "Foolish Games" / "You Were Meant for Me," Jewel (1997)
60 weeks: "Macarena" (Bayside Boys Mix), Los Del Rio (1996)
60 weeks: "You and Me," Lifehouse (2006)
58 weeks: "Smooth," Santana featuring Rob Thomas (1999)
57 weeks: "Higher," Creed (2000)
56 weeks: "I Don't Want to Wait," Paula Cole (1998)
56 weeks: "The Way You Love Me," Faith Hill (2001)
55 weeks: "Barely Breathing," Duncan Sheik (1997)
55 weeks: "Missing," Everything But the Girl (1996)
55 weeks: "Amazed," Lonestar (2000)