Discussion of soundtracks, Shakira and more with readers.
FROM THE MOVIE OF THE SAME NAME
One trend that I've noticed in recent years is the decline of soundtracks that spawn singles on the charts. Last year, Billboard reported that soundtrack sales were down 33% and there were only eight on The Billboard 200 year-end chart.
I believe that one reason for the declining sales is the lack of original songs found on soundtracks that include songs that have already charted or are well-known.
I remember when soundtracks spawned numerous singles: "Footloose," "Top Gun" and "Flashdance," just to name a few. The most recent songs from movies that made an impact on the Hot 100 were "Hero" by Nickelback, "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence and "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson.
I like soundtracks because the songs help me connect to a particular movie, and I would like to see more originality on soundtracks. Do you think that this trend will change anytime soon and will movies begin to create more singles with chart potential? I would love to hear your thoughts.
I agree with your assessment of the current state of soundtracks but I'm not sure I have a solution. We haven't had a "Saturday Night Fever" or "The Bodyguard" in a long time -- a soundtrack that spawns numerous hit singles with an album that remains No. 1 on The Billboard 200 for weeks on end.
I know there are a lot of talented music supervisors working at studios, so maybe they haven't had the right film to work on.
This year, I enjoyed the soundtrack to "The Perfect Man," but unfortunately the movie was a piffle and disappeared before anyone could discover the CD. A couple of years ago I included the soundtrack to "Mona Lisa Smile" in my year-end top 10. I loved the idea of current artists singing period-styled songs, especially Tori Amos taking on "Murder He Says." For the same reason, I liked Rufus Wainwright's "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" on "The Aviator" soundtrack. And going back a little further, I really enjoyed all of the Beatles covers on "I Am Sam."
I shouldn't forget the soundtrack to "Chicago," although that's a different animal -- a film adaptation of a Broadway musical (and we have the soundtrack of "Hairspray" to look forward to in 2006).
For me, nothing has matched the creative double-whammy of two soundtracks released in 1996: "That Thing You Do!" and "Grace of My Heart," both with plots centered around the music business.
FROM FRED B TO FRED B
Dear Fred B.,
Shakira has "shaken" up the Hot 100 recently with her "La Tortura" duet with Alejandro Sanz. I can't remember any other foreign-language song in years to ever do so well in the United States. However, I know that a number of foreign language songs were smash hits during the 1950s and 1960s: "Dominique," "Sukiyaki," "Volare" and others.
Before "La Tortura," what was the last song entirely in a language other than English to hit the top 40 of the Hot 100? And can you count down the most successful foreign language songs of the rock era?
Dear Fred B.,
Quite a few readers have sent in a similar question. Most of them have asked me not to count "Macarena," so I won't.
An actual countdown of the top foreign-language songs of the rock era would take too long to prepare for this week's column, but it's an idea for a future Billboard Radio Countdown.
In March 1984, German band Nena went to No. 2 with "99 Luftballons." I always thought it was odd that the German-language version was a hit in America, when the English-language "99 Red Balloons" was a hit in the United Kingdom, but I do prefer the original German recording.
You mentioned hits from the 1950s and 1960s. Don't forget that in 1974, Spain's Mocedades peaked at No. 9 with the Spanish-language "Eres Tu." The B-side of the single was the English-language version, "Touch the Wind," but radio played the A-side, Spain's entry in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest.
And speaking of Spain, that's where our next e-mail comes from...
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND
Hi Fred and company!
I recently read the comment about [U.K. acts that were] U.S. successes but U.K. failures. What about the Escape Club? Coming from England, they hit No. 1 with "Wild, Wild West" and No. 8 with "I'll Be There" (one of my personal favorites) in the United States without having [even] a lone chart entry back home. Paraphrasing [Robert] Heinlein, they were "foreign in a foreign land."
Carlos J. Cuadrado
Good catch -- one that completely, um, escaped me. So did the one mentioned in the next e-mail.
Regarding Mick Warwell's facts about acts that made it bigger in the United States than in their native United Kingdom: While the Fixx had nine Hot 100 hits (six of which made the top 40), the Alan Parsons Project had 17 Hot 100 hits, eight of them reaching the top 40. In the United Kingdom they only had two hits, neither of which made the top 40 (a non-U.S. hit, "Old and Wise," went to No. 74 and "Don't Answer Me," a No. 15 hit in the United States, peaked at No. 58).
Reading your online column since 1999 (and print edition since 1993)!
Bahia Blanca, Argentina
Another good catch. The Alan Parsons Project was mostly an album act in the United Kingdom, with 10 charted titles.
Thanks for being such a long-time reader!
In a recent "Chart Beat Chat" you had mentioned some American acts who were successful in the United Kingdom but not the United States. Among them was Kelly Osbourne -- however she was born in England. Just a reminder.
This is not the first time I categorized the London-born Kelly Osbourne as an American. I won't make that mistake again.
LIKE A FOXX
I found an interesting note about Jamie Foxx. Is he the only male act who hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 who also won an Academy Award for best actor?
Cher did it for best actress and she also hit No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Shortly before receiving your e-mail, I received a letter from "Chart Beat" reader Indio Kwiacarlos of Amazonas, Brazil. He pointed out that four artists with No. 1 hits on The Billboard Hot 100 have won Academy Awards for acting. You mentioned Cher; he also noted Barbra Streisand, who was named best actress for her work in "Funny Girl."
Indio also mentioned another male Oscar winner. In 1953, Frank Sinatra won best supporting actor for his performance in "From Here to Eternity." Your question only mentioned the best actor category, but Frank's accomplishment is worth mentioning.
Jamie Foxx is the only actor with a No. 1 hit to his credit who won an Oscar for playing an artist who also went to No. 1 on the Hot 100 (since Debbie Reynolds didn't win for playing the Singing Nun).