Fred Bronson discusses Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey and the Adult Contemporary chart with readers.

BREAKING AWAY

Dear Fred,

Thanks for sharing your list of favorite songs/albums for the year. I was a little surprised that Kelly Clarkson didn't make the list. She had two of the best pop songs to come out this year with "Breakaway" and "Since U Been Gone." I guess if you compiled a list of your favorite pop songs, she would make it.

Thanks again, and I can't wait for the year-end charts.

Fellow music fanatic,

Dean Smedley
Georgia

Dear Dean,

Although "Breakaway" didn't make my year-end top 10, it was a definite contender, and a song I seriously considered when making the list. It's fair to say if I had extended my picks to a top 15, "Breakaway" would have been included, perhaps as high as No. 11. The same goes for Kelly Clarkson's album, also titled "Breakaway." It's filled with great pop songs like "Since U Been Gone" and would definitely be in my top 15 albums of the year.

You'll find a plethora of year-end charts as well as commentaries about the year in music at Billboard.com by clicking here.

If you want to hear the biggest hits of 2004, check out "The Billboard Radio Countdown" at BillboardRadio.com. Host Chuck Taylor will count down the year's best-selling albums starting Monday, Dec. 28, and the entire staff (all three of us) will introduce our personal favorites of the year starting Monday, Jan. 3.



ALL HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS

Hi Fred,

As a big Mariah Carey fan, I regretted when "All I Want for Christmas Is You" wasn't commercially released in the United States in 1994. I think it was one of the first Mariah Carey songs [that wasn't eligible for] the Hot 100 without official single release.

After Billboard introduced airplay-based tracks on the Hot 100 at the end of nineties, the song appeared briefly on the chart during the Christmas season in 1999-2000, [peaking at No. 83].

I am glad to see that airplay and download sales are confirming the strong demand for this single. Seeing a 10-year-old song competing at No. 6 on the Hot Digital Tracks chart next to current hot stars like Nelly, Destiny's Child and Kelly Clarkson leads to my only question: What might have been its highest position in 1994, if it had been released as a single at that time?

Martin Caslavka
London

Dear Martin,

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" is one of my favorite Mariah Carey songs, including all of her non-holiday material. I love the Phil Spector-like production and Mariah's energetic vocals.

While I'm glad that the song is still popular after a decade, there's no way to say with any certainty what position it would have reached on the Hot 100 had it been eligible to chart in 1994. As you know, there was a single issued in the United Kingdom and it peaked at No. 2, making it one of Mariah's biggest British hits.



SALUTING THE 'FLAG'

Dear Fred,

I just noticed on the Billboard year-end Adult Contemporary chart of 2004 that "White Flag" by Dido is No. 1 for the year, even though it never hit No. 1 on the weekly AC chart (I believe it peaked at No. 2). I think the last time a non-No. 1 song was No. 1 for the year on the AC chart was "Back for Good" by Take That in 1996 (that song also peaked at No. 2).

Take That and Dido are both from the U.K. and both recorded for the Arista label. Just wanted to let you know about this. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lisa Curry
Beachwood, N.J.

Dear Lisa,

Thanks for the observation. From time to time, a song that never reached the No. 1 position on a weekly chart ends up as the No. 1 hit of the year on one of our recaps, so it's not unique but still worth noting. Speaking of No. 1 Adult Contemporary songs, this next e-mail touches on the same subject, but from a different angle.



WHAT IS AC?

Hi Fred,

I'm Brazilian, 15 years old and I love Adult Contemporary songs. I bought a book (Joel Whitburn's "Top Adult Contemporary 1961-2001"), and found out that some really good AC songs like "Sailing" by Christopher Cross and "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" went to No. 1 [on the Hot 100], but never went to No. 1 AC.

"Footloose" from Kenny Loggins never made the AC top 50, but today is almost a "classic" on AC stations. "Toy Soldiers" from Martika went to No. 1 pop and only No. 37 AC and it's a very good AC song. Sometimes I wonder why very good AC songs went to the top of the pop charts but never made the AC top 50! Can you explain?

Andre Pellizzer

Dear Andre,

You've touched on one of the oddities of the Adult Contemporary format. What might be considered an AC song today would not have been an AC song a year ago. Some artists who are core AC artists in 2004 would not have been played on the format five, 10 or 20 years ago.

If you look at the Adult Contemporary charts of the '60s, for example, the songs were much more middle-of-the-road. You might find Jerry Vale, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis among the artists at the top of the weekly lists. The definition of what is AC is constantly changing, which gives me pause when I think that 20 years from now, Eminem and Nelly might be the AC artists of 2024.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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