Fred Bronson discusses Westlife, chart records, Greek artists, Mariah Carey and "Rich Girl" with readers.
LIVING THE WESTLIFE
I have been a U.S. fan of Irish pop group Westlife for several years and I think I have a good question to ask you about them. At the beginning of their career, they had their first seven singles reach No. 1 in the United Kingdom. I realize that their U.S. chart success was extremely limited, but can you tell me if any other act in the United States ever had its first seven singles reach No. 1 or was this feat only accomplished by Westlife?
On Billboard's Hot 100, Westlife is a one-hit wonder. The boy band from Dublin only scored one chart entry, "Swear It Again," which peaked at No. 20 in 2000. One of their U.K. No. 1 songs did reach No. 2 in America, but it was a cover version. Second season "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard sang Westlife's "Flying Without Wings" on the 2003 finale and turned it into a hit.
In the United Kingdom, Westlife's chart fortunes couldn't be more opposite than the band's U.S. success. As you said, their first seven singles were all No. 1 hits. That is the U.K. record. No one in the United States has surpassed that total, either. Mariah Carey holds the Stateside record, with her first five singles all going to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
After Westlife's first seven No. 1 hits, the single "What Makes a Man" peaked at No. 2, and then the quintet had three more chart-toppers. Two more followed, for a total of 12. The most recent Westlife song to top the U.K. chart was their remake of Barry Manilow's "Mandy" in 2003.
Here is a list of Westlife's No. 1 hits in the United Kingdom:
"Swear It Again," 1999 (two weeks)
"If I Let You Go," 1999 (one week)
"Flying Without Wings," 1999 (one week)
"I Have a Dream" / "Seasons in the Sun," 1999 (four weeks)
"Fool Again," 2000 (one week)
"Against All Odds," 2000 [Mariah Carey featuring Westlife] (two weeks)
"My Love," 2000 (one week)
"Uptown Girl," 2001 (one week)
"Queen of My Heart," 2001 (one week)
"World of Our Own," 2002 (one week)
"Unbreakable," 2002 (one week)
"Mandy," 2003 (one week)
FIVE OUT OF FIVE AIN'T BAD
On this week's Hot 100, Usher enters the top 10 with his fifth consecutive single, "Caught Up," from his album, "Confessions." Can you tell me who was the last artist to make the top 10 on the Hot 100 with five or more singles from one album?
Yes, I can. Here's an excerpt from my "Chart Beat" column that appears in the March 5 issue of Billboard:
Dean, before Janet, you'd have to go back to 1988-89 to find a male artist who was able to release an album that yielded five or more top 10 hits. George Michael had six consecutive top 10 hits from "Faith" between July 1987-December 1988. Michael Jackson had six non-consecutive top 10 hits from "Bad" between August 1987-January 1989.
GREECE IS THE WORD
It's always a pleasure to read your column. As a fellow trivia chart trivia fanatic, and mega ABBA fan, I enjoy your commentary, especially your reports on European artists and charts, and of course your Eurovision Song Contest reviews and comments. I don't have to ask if you will be attending ESC's 50th anniversary gala this fall.
As a Greek now living in New York City, I was very happy to see that over the past year, the two top Greek divas are seeing some impressive chart action on the Billboard dance charts.
First there was Despoina Vandi who topped the Dance Radio Airplay chart a year ago with her global hit "Gia." She then followed that success with "Opa Opa," which peaked at No. 3 on the same chart. She was the No. 6 Dance Radio Airplay artist on the Billboard year-end charts for 2004.
The story of Greek divas advancing on the Billboard charts continues this week. Anna Vissi, Greece's most successful female artist ever, and a woman known to her fans simply as "The Goddess," is finally getting some U.S. success. Her single "Call Me" is already in the top 25 of the Dance Airplay Chart, but most importantly, it is making some great strides on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. After entering the chart last week as the Hot Shot Debut at No. 38, she advances to No. 30 this week and is set to crack the top 10.
Anna's career goes back to the late '70s when, as a teenager, she released her first album in 1977. Since then she has had a series of multi-platinum sellers (more than any other Greek artist) and has performed live in front of billions during the closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics. She has represented both Greece and Cyprus at the Eurovision Song Contest and she is legendary for her three-hour plus concerts. Now she has set her eyes on the United States and she is certainly doing well.
This rare one-two Greek diva advance also got me thinking on other Greek artists that made the Billboard charts over the years. Unfortunately the list is not that long (I excluded artists of Greek heritage like Cat Stevens and George Michael).
Vangelis has got to be the most successful Greek artist in Billboard's history. He topped the Hot 100 and album chart back in 1981 with his classic "Chariots of Fire" and appeared on various charts on several other occasions.
Nana Mouskouri had a decent chart run on The Billboard 200 album chart during the '90s. She is another Greek artist with a series of multi-platinum albums in several European markets including the United Kingdom (where her album "Passport" spent more than 100 weeks on the chart), Germany and France.
Most recently, Mario Frangoulis had some success with his opera albums and even scored a huge dance hit with his version of "Nights in White Satin" (remixed by Junior Vasquez).
As far as I know, the only other Greek artist to make the Hot 100 is the group Bang, which reached the lower part of the main chart n 1988 (I can't recall the song's name). The group represented Greece in the 1987 Eurovision song contest and had a moderate success in the clubs here and in Europe before its lead singer went solo.
Unfortunately these are the only Greek artists I could find on Billboard charts. I am hoping your readers might have a few more to add to this list. But for now, I will be monitoring Anna's success and hope to see her become a bona-fide dance diva in this country as well.
One last comment: You might be interested to know that Greece will be represented in Eurovision 2005 by Elena Paparizou, who will perform a song to be chosen March 3 by the Greek TV viewers. Elena (another candidate for international success) was the lead singer of the duo Antique, which placed third in the 2001 ESC with the awesome "(I Would) Die for You" (I think that was a fave of yours, am I right?). Hopefully this year she will finally give Greece our first-ever ESC win (we are long overdue for that -- no other country has participated as many times, without having won at least once).
Thanks for your time and I am looking forward to read your comments on this year's contest.
Thanks for the thorough report on the success of Greek artists on the U.S. charts. You've inspired me to play Anna Vissi's "Call Me" on an upcoming edition of "The Billboard Radio Countdown." While the show is mainly a countdown of songs from the Hot 100, every week we feature a song from another Billboard chart, and "Call Me" would fill the bill with its dance chart success. We also play one song from the "Hits of the World" international charts every week, and have featured a number of songs from Greece over the last seven years.
You can also hear quite a few songs by Greek artists on my own Internet radio station, shamelessly plugged in this column last week. Antique's "(I Would) Die for You" is just one selection heard on Radio Fred Bronson at www.live365.com/stations/seeaboutme.
Along with my friend Brady L. Benton of the peermusic office in Los Angeles, I program the EuroBeat channel on United Airlines, and we have played many songs by Greek artists over the years. Earlier this evening, before writing "Chart Beat Bonus" and "Chat," Brady and I put together our May-June program, and included "Anapandites Kliseis" by Elena Paparizou & Christos Dantis.
I do plan to attend this year's Eurovision Song Contest; it will be the 11th one I've covered for Billboard, and I'd love to attend the 50th anniversary celebration in Copenhagen in October. I look forward to meeting Elena in Kiev.
You made reference to Greece's entry in the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest, "Stop" by Bang, a song I've always liked. There were two different acts named Bang that charted on the Hot 100, but as far as I can tell, neither one were the Greek act that recorded "Stop." In 1972, "Questions" by a rock trio from Florida named Bang peaked at No. 90. In 1990, a British duo called Bang went to No. 93 with "Holding My Heart."
IT'S LIKE THIS...
I'm writing to you once more, this time concerning Mariah Carey's latest single, "It's Like That." On Billboard's latest Hot Digital Songs chart the song has gone down 46-57 in its fourth week. For the first time that I can remember, Mariah's suffering from a huge amount of airplay and little sales, as opposed to her usual huge sales figures (the "Heartbreaker" single sold more than 200,000 copies in its first week by the time it was released in 1999).
Do you have any idea why Mariah is selling so little despite so much radio support? Could a song like that still make it to the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 under the chart's new rules?
It is ironic that radio is finally playing a Mariah Carey song, and her fans aren't buying it in the numbers they have in the past. I can't tell you why that is, but "It's Like That" would have a much easier time making it into the top 10 if more people were purchasing the single.
Can the song reach the top 10 anyway, based on airplay? It's possible, but it's a rougher road to travel. This week on the Hot 100, "It's Like That" backslides 19-20, but retains its bullet. That means the song's overall point total increased from last week, even though it was forced one rung down the chart.
ISN'T IT 'RICH'?
I'm writing today to ask about Gwen Stefani and "Rich Girl." Obviously, it has its roots in "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof."
However, as I'm sure you are aware, the reggae duo Louchie Lou and Michie One also released a song called "Rich Girl" in the 1990s, with a similar sound. However, to my knowledge, the song was never released because they could not clear the sample.
Did the Louchie Lou and Michie One version ever appear on any Billboard chart? And for that matter, has the duo itself had any chart hits?
Thanks very much!
Louchie Lou and Michie One have never appeared on Billboard's Hot 100. The female duo from the United Kingdom did chart on the Hot 100 Singles Sales list, however. In 2002, "10 Out of 10" went to No. 20 on the sales chart.
In January 1995, "Rich Girl," credited to Michie One and Louchie Lou, appeared on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 tally, and also had a brief run on Hot Dance Music: Maxi-Singles Sales. The recording of "Rich Girl" by Gwen Stefani featuring Eve is essentially a remake of the Michie One and Louchie Lou recording.
Louchie Lou and Michie One had six chart entries on the British singles chart between 1993 and 1996, but "Rich Girl" was not one of them. Their first hit was a reworking of the Isley Brothers' "Shout."
This week, "Rich Girl" becomes the highest-charting song to originate in a stage musical in 20 years. The Gwen Stefani song moves 10-7, surpassing the No. 8 peak of Madonna's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in 1997. "Rich Girl" is the highest-charting song from a theatrical musical since Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" from "Chess" peaked at No. 3 in 1985.