Fred Bronson answers e-mail from readers.
FROM THE LAND OF THE CRAZY FROG
After taking my regular weekly look at the U.S. movers and shakers on the Billboard Hot 100 I decided to e-mail you to get your honest opinion of our top 40 chart over here in the United Kingdom.
This week, for a third week running, we have a 20-year old soundtrack single intercut with a mobile phone ringtone sitting on top of our chart ("Axel F," from "Beverly Hills Cop," by Crazy Frog). Over the last fortnight this track has managed to deny Coldplay (probably the U.K.'s biggest band at the moment) their first No. 1 single with "Speed of Sound" and also kept U2 it the No. 2 position with its latest release this week.
Counting its third week sales, it is already the U.K.'s second biggest selling single of 2005 -- only beaten by a charity re-release of a 30+ year old track, Tony Christie's "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo!"
Novelty singles heading the Billboard chart is unheard of (in recent years at least), and I was wondering what your view on the current state of our U.K. top 40 was -- it seems that sometimes (frequently at the moment) our chart is an embarrassment in comparison with the United States.
You might be surprised to know that many U.S. chart fans are envious of the British charts, because it looks like anything goes. You never know what's going to be No. 1. One week it could be a 34-year-old song by an artist who has since retired to the coast of Spain with no hope of ever having another hit in his homeland, and another week it's a ringtone that makes news all over the world by upsetting Coldplay's chances for a No. 1 single. Instead of seeing it as an embarrassment, we see it as fun.
Of course, you want to balance the novelty hits with other songs. It can't be Bob the Builder and the Teletubbies every week, but then, it isn't. You've had the Black Eyed Peas at No. 1 and we haven't (at least, not yet. Their new single "Don't Phunk With My Heart" is a contender, moving 5-3 this week).
It has been a long time since a novelty song has reached pole position in the United States, but we do have a history filled with "The Chipmunk Song" and "Disco Duck." Now that we're in the era of paid digital downloads, we're much more likely to have a novelty song at No. 1 again. Then we'll see who's embarrassed!
ALWAYS LOOK ON THE SONNY SIDE OF CHER
I have a question regarding why different criteria was used in calculating the chart achievements of Cher and Nancy Sinatra in the June 2 column. Only Cher's solo work is used when calculating her chart achievements. Cher's work with her then-husband and music partner, Sonny Bono, credited to "Sonny and Cher," was not [considered]. All of Nancy Sinatra's work is used when calculating her chart achievements: her work with her father, Frank Sinatra; her recent work with Audio Bullys and her work with her 1960s and 1970s music partner Lee Hazlewood.
If the same criteria was used for both artists, you would have stated: "In 1966, Cher had her sixth entry on the U.K. singles chart with 'Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),' a single that peaked at No. 3."
Interestingly, all six of those Cher entries reached the top 20, three reached the top 10 and one, "I Got You Babe," was No. 1 for two weeks.
No slight was intended to Cher, and it is worth pointing out that if you include her singles recorded with Sonny Bono, "Bang Bang" actually marked her sixth U.K. chart entry.
However, "Sonny and Cher" was an ongoing act and Cher, as a solo artist, was a separate recording act, even appearing on a different record label. Nancy Sinatra recorded one single with her father, but they did not form an ongoing recording act. "Somethin' Stupid" was a one-off coming together of two solo recording stars (who happened to be father and daughter). Nancy did record a number of singles with Lee Hazlewood, but they were never really considered a separate recording act.
Think of Sonny and Cher in the same category as Simon and Garfunkel. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel both recorded as solo artists, and their solo works are considered separate from their work together as an ongoing duo. If you look up Cher in Joel Whitburn's books, or in "British Hit Singles" published by Guinness, her solo recordings are listed separately under "Cher," while her recordings with then-husband Sonny are listed under "Sonny and Cher." If you look up Nancy Sinatra in those same books, you'll see her recordings with Frank Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood all listed under Nancy as a solo act.
'LIVE' FOR TODAY
First, I really enjoy your column and look forward to reading it every week.
I'm writing you today regarding the re-entry of Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" at No. 29 on the Hot 100 and new entry at No. 12 on the Hot Digital Songs chart. Personally, I enjoy the song very much and I am happy to see it returning to the charts; however, I'm a little puzzled as to the sudden surge of the song.
Did that many people download the song within the one-week period for it to shoot up the charts like that? If so, what caused such a strong interest in the song? After all, the song has been out for about a year now. Or was there some kind of downloading promotion to cause the rapid movement of the song?
It's such a mystery to me and I would love to find out the reasons why.
Good question, and there is a logical explanation. Curb Records just signed up with iTunes, and so it was the first week that any songs on the Curb label could be downloaded from the popular site. Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" debuted on the Hot 100 just over a year ago. The song was a new entry at No. 73 the week of June 12, 2004. In its original chart run, the song peaked at No. 30 the week of Aug. 14, so this re-entry establishes a new peak position.
"Live Like You Were Dying" isn't the only Curb track to benefit from being newly available at iTunes. Jo Dee Messina's "My Give a Damn's Busted" debuts on the Hot Digital Songs list at No. 73, and I'm told Kimberley Locke's "I Could," bulleted at No. 25 on the Adult Contemporary chart, also sold a lot of downloads during Curb's inaugural week with iTunes.
FIVE FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Would you clarify how airplay points are being compiled for R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" series. I only see one title on the Billboard charts: "Trapped in the Closet" (without any of the chapter designations).
Would this be the equivalent of having five songs in heavy rotation, but having all the points from the five songs pushing one title to the top?
I love your column.
Another good question, and since I didn't know the answer, I turned to Hot 100 chart manager Silvio Pietroluongo, who provided this explanation:
"All versions of the song are being tracked together as it meets our merge requirements (either music or lyrics must match in each version). In addition, 'Trapped' appears as one song on R. Kelly's upcoming album.
"For chart purposes, immediate back-to-back plays of two different chapters count as one play. Three or four in a row count as two plays. All five chapters played without interruption count as three plays. We are not finding many stations playing more than two chapters at a time, so most airings are counting as one play. Also, most stations move onto the current chapter as it is released and lessen the airplay of the previous chapters."
HOW LONG WILL MARIAH AND POLE POSITION BELONG TOGETHER?
How long do you expect "We Belong Together" to stay at No. 1? I read last week about the massive lead the track has over "Hollaback Girl," so I'm imagining it could sit up top for weeks to come.
Based on its airplay strength, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" could have a long run at No. 1. Or, this could be its last week, depending on how many copies of Carrie Underwood's "Inside Your Heaven" are sold. The first three seasons of "American Idol" produced No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 based either entirely or almost entirely on sales, so it's in the realm of possibility that Carrie will rule the chart next week.
Underwood is already No. 1 on the Hot Country Singles Sales chart and No. 5 on the Singles Sales list, based on street date violations (see Chart Beat).
TURNABOUT: FAIR PLAY?
I am curious how two songs can switch places on a chart, but the song that is slipping gets a bullet. I am referring to this week's Adult Contemporary chart, where "Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys moved 4-3, while "Lonely No More" by Rob Thomas slipped 3-4 with a bullet. I can't figure out how that can happen.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
At the risk of repeating myself, yet another good question. This time I relied on the manager of the Adult Contemporary chart, Patrick McGowan, for an answer.
Patrick told me that "Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys did receive more spins than Rob Thomas' "Lonely No More," which is why "Heaven" is No. 3 and "Lonely No More" is No. 4. "Lonely No More" received more spins than last week, so it receives a bullet. Songs that have been on the chart for 30 weeks or more are not eligible for bullets, so that's why "Heaven" is bullet-less even while gaining in airplay.