Fred Bronson answers e-mail from Billboard.com readers.
WHAT 'DREAM' MAY COME
I'm confused. The song that got Nadia Turner kicked off "American Idol" this week was Crystal Gayle's "When I Dream," which Nadia said was from 1977, the year she was born. But my Billboard research books indicate it was released by Gayle in 1975 and again in 1979, not in '77. Any clarification?
It's true, Nadia Turner identified "When I Dream" as a Crystal Gayle song, and as you indicate, Gayle did record it originally in 1975. She re-recorded it for single release in 1979, and the single peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's country chart and No. 84 on the Hot 100.
However, sharp-eyed observers might have noticed that when the song title was chyroned on the screen, the artist's name underneath was Mac Davis. You'll find Davis' version of "When I Dream" on his album "Thunder in the Afternoon." That LP was released in 1976, but peaked on Billboard's chart in 1977.
DO WE LOVE 'ROLLERCOASTER'?
Since you seem to be as big an "American Idol" fan as me, and you seem to have your finger on the pulse of everything "Idol," maybe you can help me out. I was surfing through an online CD shopping site and came across the forthcoming release of first season finalist Jim Verarros' debut album. I was stunned and he looked quite different. He was one of the first to be eliminated way back in 2002 and I assumed his recording career wasn't going anywhere.
Can you tell me why some former finalists actually get records made, while some are always saying, "I'm doing an album" and we never hear from them again? Is it just that long of a process for some lesser known contestants, or is it that record labels just don't want to waste their time? Do you know of any other ex-Idols that are on the verge of getting product to the public?
And have you heard a preview of Jim Verraros' album "Rollercoaster" yet?
Jim Verarros has been working on his career ever since the first season of "American Idol." I think his recording career has been helped by the fact that he has completed a film, "Eating Out," and has been getting good notices for his acting. That helps to build a story for him and generates interest in his singing.
There are other "Idol" finalists from previous seasons who could have new product out soon. Season two finalist Rickey Smith has had recent talks with a manager about a specific idea for a debut album and I think they have a great concept in mind. Another season two finalist, Carmen Rasmusen, recently released a four-track EP with one song that she wrote, two covers of Beatle tunes and a remake of a song from Sweden that I had passed along to her. I really like all four tracks and am looking forward to her album debut.
Kimberly Caldwell, another second season competitor, has been working with Randy Jackson and Diane Warren on her first album. Season three finalist Jon Peter Lewis recently gave me three new songs that he co-wrote, and I was impressed with his writing talent. There's one song in that batch that could be a hit single.
Fellow third season contestant George Huff has already released a Christmas EP and is working on a full-length album, while La Toya London has a disc due this summer on Peak Records.
There may be other "Idols" working on their first albums, but those are the ones I know about.
THOSE '70s SHOWS
While Billboard's Boxscore Concert Grosses chart isn't often discussed in "Chart Beat," I thought this week's chart deserved special mention. If someone showed you the current week's tally of top 10 concert grosses, you would think we'd time-traveled back to 1975. Neil Diamond's recent concerts occupy the top four and No. 7, while the Eagles are in positions 6, 8 and 10.
Also in the top 10 are the Allman Brothers Band at No. 5 and finally, Rod Stewart with the ninth highest-grossing concert reported the week ending April 23. What a great week for 1970s artists!
Sometimes The Billboard 200 seems like it's from some other era, too, especially when a number of '60s or '70s artists all debut at the same time.
It's been a while since I've visited Billboard.com and it saddened me to see you had nothing to put in your column a couple of weeks ago, especially since much to my delight, something amazing has happened with the state of singles.
I sent my first e-mail to this column when I was 15, and it was an immature rant about how Jewel's "You Were Meant for Me" had charted as a double A-Side with "Foolish Games," which I disapproved of because the version of "Foolish Games" on the single was the album version, whereas the popular one from the radio was only available on the "Batman" soundtrack at that time. I love that album ("Pieces of You"), but to this day I think it is so notoriously deceptive that two of the three hits on that album were re-recorded to be singles, and people were undoubtedly disappointed when they bought the album.
I'm a bit older now. I turn 23 on Monday. I do have to say that during all this time, watching singles on the chart has been somewhat disappointing.
I looked at the chart this week and the top 10 has two gold singles, four platinum singles, and one double-platinum single. Wow.
Like you, I love physical records, but to my surprise, I am quite satisfied with purchasing downloadable music, and still feel a sense of physical ownership of the tracks that I download unlike tracks that I have downloaded illegally in the past and deleted out of guilt. My friend and I go to Tower Records every week, and now that I actually make money, I've purchased more physical singles so far this year than any other year in my life -- around 20. They were mostly imports and I'm guessing they don't count towards U.S. charts, but I love them.
Add the 150 tracks I've purchased on iTunes since January (all individual tracks except for Beck's "Hell Yes" EP). I would say this is some sort of golden age for singles. Many tracks I would not own if it were not for the impulsiveness of online shopping or tracks where I had no interest in buying the entire album.
I'm totally OK with comparing No. 1 hits and chart histories of today with statistics from other times. I consider it American history, and I consider it valid and relevant. A lot of that is the chart fan in me, but I'm sure there are plenty of new young chart enthusiasts out there to carry on the tradition. Has the chart formula been altered recently to better incorporate internet download data?
Thanks, Fred. You have one of the coolest jobs in the world.
I've been waiting to hear back from you ever since your e-mail about Jewel. Hope you won't wait until 2013 to write again, and hope you had a happy birthday.
The growing popularity of paid digital downloads has revitalized the singles market, so your point about this being a golden age is well taken. I might call it a "silver age," compared to the "golden age" of the 1950s and '60s, just as comic books had a golden age in the '40s, followed by a silver age in the '60s that saw the re-introduction of characters like the Flash and Green Lantern.
You asked if there was a recent change in the chart formula. The Billboard Hot 100 underwent a major change two-and-a-half months ago, as paid digital downloads were fully integrated into the chart and sales were given greater import. That's why you're seeing higher debuts and bigger chart moves, such as the 36-10 leap of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" this week, and the No. 25 debut of Weezer's "Beverly Hills" last week.