CHART BEAT

Fred Bronson reports on the latest chart feats of Carole King, Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson, Zucchero, Willie Nelson, Mariah Carey, the Del McCoury Band, Paul Hardcastle, Elvis Costello and more.

WE STILL LOVE HER TOMORROW: In the lyrics of her very first hit, Carole King asked, "Will you love me tomorrow?" That Shirelles' single went to No. 1 some 44 years ago, and the proof that we still love Carole after many tomorrows is the No. 17 debut of her latest album\, "The Living Room Tour," on The Billboard 200.

The Rockingale/Hear/Concord title is King's highest-charting album since 1977, when her "Simple Things" peaked in the same position. To find a King album that went higher on the album chart, one would have to go back one more year to 1976, when "Thoroughbred" reached No. 3.

"Living Room," released to coincide with the latest leg of King's current tour, is her first album to chart in almost four years. In November 2001, "Love Makes the World" peaked at No. 158. "Living Room" is King's ninth album to climb into the top 20 portion of The Billboard 200. With the debut of "Living Room," King's chart span on the album tally expands to 34 years, three months and three weeks, dating back to the April 10, 1971, debut of "Tapestry."

That classic LP remains her most successful to date, with 15 weeks logged at No. 1 and 302 weeks on the album chart before appearing on the Top Catalog Albums chart. "Tapestry" has the sixth-longest run in the album chart's history.

King's singles career predates her first appearance on the album chart by almost nine years. While writing hit songs for artists like Little Eva, Bobby Vee, the Cookies and Bobby Rydell, King was persuaded to become an artist herself. Her demo of "It Might As Well Rain Until September," written for Vee, was released on the Dimension label. The single debuted the week of Aug. 25, 1962, and peaked at No. 22. That gives King a career chart span as an artist of 42 years and 11 months.

Finally, "The Living Room Tour" debuts at No. 5 on the Top Internet Albums chart, making it King's highest-charting release on this survey. "Tapestry" made an appearance at No. 13 in September 2000 and "Love Makes the World" went to No. 16 in November 2001.

BUBLE BURSTS KELLY'S BUBBLE: If you were expecting to read that Kelly Clarkson tied Celine Dion's record for having the longest-running No. 1 song by a female artist in the history of Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, sorry to disappoint you. But think how Clarkson must feel -- her "Breakaway" (Walt Disney/Hollywood) only needed one more week in pole position to tie Dion's 21-week reign with "A New Day Has Come."

Instead, Michael Buble earns his first No. 1 on this survey, as "Home" (143/Reprise) finally moves up after nine (non-consecutive) weeks at No. 2. "Home" is Buble's fifth AC chart entry and only his second song to reach the top 10. Before "Home," his highest-charting title was a version of "The Christmas Song," No. 6 in December 2003.

Despite the advance of "Home," don't give up on "Breakaway." It's very likely the Clarkson song could return to No. 1 as early as next week, giving the song its 21st week on top and the possibility of breaking Dion's record.

If "Breakaway" doesn't reclaim the lead position, it will still be the third-longest AC No. 1 of all time, behind the 28-week run of "Drift Away" by Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray and the 21-week run of Dion's "A New Day Has Come."

ALONG COMES JASMINE: It seems like only yesterday I was reporting that red-headed John Stevens was the 16th "American Idol" contestant to appear on a Billboard chart. Wait, it was almost yesterday -- or at least, last week. At the time I mentioned that LaToya London was primed to be the 17th charting "Idol," with the release to radio of her first single, "Appreciate" (Peak).

Instead, third season finalist Jasmine Trias beats London to the punch and becomes the 17th "Idol" to chart. The Hawaiian-born singer debuts at No. 11 on the Top Heatseekers tally with her self-titled CD on the Clockwork imprint. "Jasmine Trias" also bows on the Top Independent Albums chart at No. 20.

That revises last week's list of seasonal statistics. The new standings of how many "Idol" finalists have charted from each season of the TV series is as follows:

Season one: Five
Kelly Clarkson
Justin Guarini
Tamyra Gray
R.J. Helton
Jim
Verraros

Season two: Four
Ruben Studdard
Clay Aiken
Kimberley Locke
Josh
Gracin

Season three: Five
Fantasia
Diana DeGarmo
Jasmine Trias
George
Huff
John Stevens

Season four: Two
Carrie Underwood
Bo Bice

A debut for London would push season three out in front, with six charted finalists out of that year's top 12.

The 17th "Idol" singer to chart is non-finalist William Hung from season three, who was so bad that he wasn't even sent to Hollywood by judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.

ITALIAN IMPORT: One of Italy's most successful singers is Zucchero, who has had hit singles and albums in many different countries. In the United States, the man born Adelmo Fornaciari has been a literal one-hit wonder. His only Billboard chart appearance was with the song "Senza una Donna," recorded as a duet with Paul Young. That pairing went to No. 23 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart in November 1991.

This week, Zucchero (Italian for "Sugar") makes his second Billboard chart appearance, as his CD "Zucchero & Co." (Universal Italia/Hear/Concord), featuring collaborations with artists like Sheryl Crow, Sting and B.B. King, charges onto the Top World Albums list at No. 1. The album also includes that 1991 recording of "Senza una Donna."

ANOTHER COUNTRY: Country and soul are often considered musical cousins, with similar roots, but country and reggae? Nashville and Kingston may not be sister cities, but legendary artist Willie Nelson has recorded a reggae album with producers Don Was and Richard Feldman. "Countryman" (Lost Highway) opens at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Reggae Albums chart, No. 46 on The Billboard 200 and No. 6 on the Top Country Albums tally. On that last list, "Countryman" is Nelson's highest-charting set since "Live and Kickin'" went to No. 4 in July 2003.

SENSE OF BELONGING: While Mariah Carey continues at No. 1 for an eighth week on the Billboard Hot 100, she also moves up to No. 1 on the Adult R&B chart with "We Belong Together" (Island). It's Carey's first chart-topper on this list. Carey also leads on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, Rhythmic Top 40, the Pop 100, Pop 100 Airplay and the Mainstream Top 40 chart, the first song in history to lead all eight charts concurrently.

'BRAVE' CHART: After six weeks on top of the Christian Adult Contemporary chart, "Hide" (Reunion) by Joy Williams is replaced by "Brave" (Sparrow/EMI) by Nichole Nordeman. It is the first time since this chart was introduced the week of June 21, 2003, that solo female artists have had back-to-back No. 1 hits.

DOING GOOD 'WORK': After a record-setting eight-week run at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Gospel Songs chart, "Heaven" by Mary Mary is succeeded by "Work It Out" (Icee), recorded by Dr. Charles G. Hayes & the Warriors featuring Dianne Williams. In the short four-month history of this chart, "Work It Out" is the first No. 1 recorded by a group.

The four previous chart-toppers were all by individuals or duos. J Moss, Smokie Norful and Donnie McClurkin all spent time in pole position before the duo Mary Mary.

IN WALKS 'COMPANY': The Del McCoury Band debuts at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Bluegrass Albums chart with "The Company We Keep" (McCoury/Sugar Hill). This is the group's highest-charting release to date. "Del and the Boys" went to No. 11 in August 2002 and "It's Just the Night" peaked at No. 4 in August 2003.

THE NUMBERS ADD UP: In the realm of pop singles, London-born jazz keyboardist Paul Hardcastle is best known for his 1985 hit "19," the song his manager, Simon Fuller, later took for the name of his production company. That pop hit aside, Hardcastle has a 12-year chart history on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums tally. This week, he earns his first No. 1 album, as "Hardcastle 4" (Trippin 'N' Rhythm/V2) debuts in the top spot. That surpasses the No. 2 peak of "Hardcastle" in May 1994.

Don't let the title "Hardcastle 4" fool you. This is the artist's eighth album to appear on this chart.

THINK ABOUT ELVIS: Over on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart, Elvis Costello makes his third appearance. "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast" (Concord) by McPartland and Costello is a new entry at No. 16.

Costello made his debut on this jazz survey in October 1999 with "The Sweetest Punch-The New Songs of Costello & Bacharach," recorded with Burt Bacharach. That CD peaked at No. 5. In October 2003, "North" started a five-week run at No. 1.