CHART BEAT CHAT

Fred Bronson answers e-mail from Billboard.com readers.

TANGIBLE

Dear Fred,

I passionately believe that illegal downloading never would have become a gigantic problem for the recording industry had it not all but eliminated the commercial singles market. I still can't figure out why they did that, unless it was a case of wanting to force casual fans into buying whole albums.

For all the reasons people in the industry have thrown out as explanations for the explosion in illegal downloading, not once have I heard any industry exec directly address the industry's gradual elimination of the physical commercial singles market and what effect it may have had on the proliferation of downloading. Yes, individual digital downloads have now essentially -- if unintentionally -- taken the place of the traditional singles market. But, personally -- and I'd love to hear from anyone who agrees me with about this -- I just don't think legal commercially available downloads is going to erase the problem.

Even as a computer-savvy 26-year-old, I'm still not a big fan of MP3 downloading, whether it's done legally or not, and I'd a hundred times more appreciate the song in physical, tangible form. I want something I can hold in my hand and a label or song credits or sleeve I can look at; I find enjoying music in MP3 form just so completely impersonal. But I don't want to have my only option of buying a song in tangible form being the $15 full-length CD if I know it's likely going to be the only good song on the disc.

Jeff Fiedler
soundsfromthelostandfound@hotmail.com

Dear Jeff,

While I enjoy downloading tracks from my own CDs onto my computer as MP3 files, I have to agree about wanting to have music in tangible form. However, there is a whole generation of music fans who are happy to have a music collection made up of MP3 files. It will certainly be easier on them when they move.



GIVE A 'LIL BIT

Hi Fred,

With the entry of 50 Cent's "Just a Lil Bit" into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, does he now hold the record of having the most simultaneous top 40 hits on the Hot 100 with five? Or did some other artist like the Beatles or Elvis Presley have more? With the trend of "featuring" artists nowadays, it's much easier to have multiple hits. And if he keeps getting featured, Ludacris might soon catch up with 50 Cent.

And speaking of "Lil," I also noticed that during the past year the most successful artist's name appendage is "Lil." Almost all of the currently active Lils have charted -- Lil Jon, Lil' Wayne, Lil' Kim, Lil' Flip, and even Bow Wow
(although he no longer uses "Lil").

As usual, I wish you the best of luck with your column, and I hope it will never happen again that you won't find any mail interesting enough to feature in "Chart Beat Chat."

Joey Toledo
Quezon City, Philippines

Dear Joey,

The Beatles had seven songs in the top 40 of the Hot 100 dated April 11, 1964. It was just one week after the Liverpudlians held down the top five positions.

As for "Lil," yes, there has been a profusion of artists using the prefix. While the abbreviated form may be new, and more prevalent than ever, you can find artists using the prefix "Little" all through the rock era, including Little Richard, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Little Eva, Little Peggy March and Little Stevie Wonder.

Like Bow Wow, Peggy and Stevie eventually dropped the "Little" as they moved into their late teen years.



WHAT DO GUY AND WILLIE HAVE IN COMMON?

Hello Fred,

I'm an avid chart watcher and I check out the charts online every Thursday. I noticed this week (chart for April 30, which is my birthday!) for the first time that I can remember since the new chart methodology, that there is not a single country song in the top 50 [of the Billboard Hot 100].

Am I just not paying close enough attention?

Thanks,

Guy Allen
guyserallen@gmail.com

Dear Guy,

First of all, happy birthday. And speaking of country music, April 30 is also the birthday of Willie Nelson, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Tyler Wilkinson of the Wilkinsons.

Of course, none of those artists are in the top 50 of the Hot 100 this week. Since chart rules were changed in February to fully integrate paid digital downloads, there has been more competition from pop and rock songs. You'll notice pop and rock titles ranking higher than before, thus depressing many country titles.

For the chart dated April 30, the highest-ranked country track is Kenny Chesney's "Anything But Mine" at No. 52, followed immediately by Montgomery Gentry's "Gone" at No. 53.



'TELL' OVERTURES

Dear Fred,

Now that I know you have a working knowledge of comic book history (from your fine response to Jacob Cremer's recent letter) it will be harder than ever to limit myself to one topic. But here I go.

I was pleased that the song chosen for the "American Idol" charity single was "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" because it had all 12 finalists on it. I really like Mikalah Gordon; maybe not the best voice but oy, such a personality! On the April 13 episode, however, it was revealed that it had been re-recorded with only the then-remaining eight contestants.

I could see how bringing back Lindsey, Mikalah, Jessica and Nikko would be a bit awkward or confusing for viewers not following closely. (Are they back? What happened?) But I was hoping the version, or at least a version, with all 12 would be on the release.

Do you know more about this? And are there any plans for Mikalah in the future? Does she get to tour with the other finalists? Oh, wait, too many subjects. Anyway, thanks for reading this.

Sincerely,

Jeff Pearlman
Lakeland, Fla.
Jeffison45@aol.com

P.S.: Regarding other "Idol" finalists, I noticed a CD single from John Stephens in my local fye/Spec's last week. It announced an upcoming full-length CD on the back cover.


Dear Jeff,

I've been a fan of "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" ever since Diana Ross recorded the song and took it to No. 2 in the United Kingdom, so I was happy when it was chosen as the charity single for the fourth season "American Idol" finalists. The track had a premature debut on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart this week at No. 22, and should make a hefty move next week.

I checked with RCA, and all 12 finalists are on the recording. You might have thought only the top eight were singing on the record because it was only the top eight finalists performing the song on "Idol" last week. I'm sure you're correct when you suggest that it would be confusing to viewers to bring back four eliminated contestants on a show featuring the top eight.

There have been reports of Mikalah Gordon joining a Coca-Cola sponsored mall tour of "American Idol" finalists that includes George Huff and LaToya London from season three. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to check with Mikalah or her mother by deadline to see if this is true.

A solo recording from Mikalah will be included on the fourth season compilation CD by the top 12 singers. Whether she will be on the summer tour hasn't been announced. Traditionally, it's just been the top 10. Sometimes someone isn't available to tour, as in the second season when Josh Gracin was still serving as a Marine, so if someone isn't available to tour this year, it's possible Mikalah could join the other nine finalists on the road.



HAPPY TALK

Hi Fred!

I enjoyed seeing you on TV in that "American Idol" episode! You looked so happy to be there!

So what's up with no more "Chart Beat" in the print edition? Does it have to do with the revamp of the magazine? I really enjoy reading the print edition every week now that I've been a full Billboard.biz subscriber for over a year.

Donna Feliciano

Dear Donna,

I'm happy to be anywhere!

I figured it was better to look happy than nervous, though I actually didn't feel nervous when I did the segment. I was aware that I was on camera with people who have spent a lot more time on camera than I have, including a professional broadcaster like "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest who makes it all look so easy. I just wanted to hold my own with Ryan and the contestants, but when the cameras were on I was in the moment rather than thinking about how I was doing.

Glad you are enjoying your subscription to the print edition of Billboard and access to Billboard.biz. An explanation of the "Chart Beat" move from the magazine to an exclusive home at Billboard.com ran recently ran among the site's news stories. In case you missed it, here it is:

Beginning today (April 21), Billboard's "Chart Beat" will be found exclusively online at Billboard.com. The column will be posted every Thursday afternoon -- a full day earlier than it was previously available.

Each week, chart expert Fred Bronson reports on the performance of artists, labels and titles on Billboard's various sales, airplay and combined tallies in "Chart Beat," putting their feats in historical context and pointing out interesting trivia. Bronson has been authoring the column since 1993.

"'Chart Beat' has long been one of the most popular features in Billboard. By moving the full column online, it will become more influential than ever and more music fans around the globe will be able to enjoy Fred Bronson's unique and entertaining insights," says Ken Schlager, co-executive editor of Billboard.

Bronson will continue to discuss all matters relating to the charts in his weekly online forum "Chart Beat Chat," which will still be posted every Friday on Billboard.com. Items that formerly appeared in the online-only "Chart Beat Bonus" feature will now be included as part of the main "Chart Beat" column.

This week will also bring a new Billboard to readers, with the launch of a completely redesigned magazine. In addition to increased coverage of topics such as brand marketing, digital music, mobile technology, legal and management, the magazine will boast bold covers, redesigned charts and new graphical elements as part of a new design sensibility.

The first "new look" issue will be dated April 30 and will be available on U.S. newsstands tomorrow (April 22).



RHAPSODIC

Hi Fred!

In your first "new" column, you talk about the digital downloads of "Bohemian Rhapsody" being enough to land [the track] on the Hot Digital Songs tally. That got me thinking. Let's suppose that there was an incredible number of downloads after it was heard on "American Idol." Would it be eligible to chart on the Hot 100 also? Or do the new rules have some sort of requirement that would prevent this?

I see that last week the U.K. charts started including downloads, but to chart the song must have a physical single release also.

On another note, I heard clips of a recommended CD at a local retailer by the Swedish alt/pop/rock group Komeda. I liked what I heard -- can you recommend them?

Best wishes,

Eric Schulz
Racine, Wis.

Dear Eric,

It's not so much about chart rules as examining what the Hot 100 is. It's meant to be a chart that keeps track of current songs. Sometimes an old song does return to the chart, like "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King or "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. Both were featured in new soundtracks and were being promoted to radio.

More recently, Prince's "1999" was reactivated by Warner Bros. in 1999, and "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison was reissued by Capitol after his passing. Both songs charted, with good reason.

Since Hollywood Records isn't actively promoting "Bohemian Rhapsody," and there is no other reason to consider it a current hit, the song wouldn't reappear on the Hot 100.



WHEN IS AN ABBA ALBUM NOT AN ABBA ALBUM?

Dear Fred,

Did the late Pope John Paul II ever "grace" a Billboard chart, either during his reign or within the past few weeks? I know he recorded and released several albums, both spoken word and/or with music. I have a vivid memory of stepping into a record store (remember them?) in 1979 or 1980 and seeing John Paul's album up there in the new release section along with the Cars, the Police, Michael Jackson, etc. I was taken aback...

Sincerely,

Tom Gill
El Paso, Texas

Dear Tom,

Pope John Paul II is not the first Pope to appear on a Billboard chart, but more about his predecessor in a moment.

Your memory is correct. In 1979, the year after he was named Pope, John Paul II debuted on The Billboard 200 with "Pope John Paul II Sings at the Festival of Sacrosong." The LP spent four weeks on the chart and peaked at No. 126.

Coincidentally, the only other Pope to appear on the Billboard album chart also peaked at No. 126. That was the highest position achieved by the eponymously titled "Pope John XXIII" in August 1963. That album debuted on the chart exactly two months after Pope John XXIII's death.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II's "The Rosary With the Pope" went to No. 6 on the Heatseekers chart and No. 47 on the Top Latin Albums list, but didn't register on The Billboard 200.

Four years later, the Pope's "Abba Pater" also went to No. 6 on the Heatseekers chart and reached No. 2 on the Top Classical Crossover list. "Abba Pater" did sell enough copies to enter The Billboard 200, peaking at No. 175.

So the clear challenge for Pope Benedict XVI is to record an album that will peak higher than No. 126.