Fred Bronson discusses chilly song titles, radio, Madonna samples and Usher's chart records with readers.
Is it me or is it getting "cold" on Billboard's rock charts? I understand that on the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, there are three songs with "cold" in the title: "So Cold" by Breaking Benjamin, "Cold" by Crossfade and Jet's former No. 1 from both charts, "Cold Hard B*tch".
Has anyone else besides me noticed this?
I have to admit, you're the only reader who has taken the temperature of these charts and has been ice enough to write in about them.
I couldn't help but write to you after I read [last week's] letter from Jeff [Fiedler] about his trying to get his show on radio. The program directors actually said "no matter how huge a hit is, no matter how many people request it, any record that is not already in continual rotation on the radio is not commercial enough?!"
That is so ridiculous and it is going to be the death of radio sooner or later. There are more and more options these days and if they don't end up with any listeners, they won't get any advertisers, thus good-bye job!
I have requested songs and been told, 'No, listen to your CD player!' Well, you know what? That is exactly what I did: radio OFF, CD player ON! And I am not the only one. Someone should let the advertisers know how many potential clients/customers they are not reaching because of this attitude! And I have first-hand knowledge of the amount these advertisers are paying!
It truly makes all the Billboard charts, except sales, rather bogus, now doesn't it? I am relatively new to looking at the charts (a little over a year now) and the same songs are on the tops of the charts as when I first started looking!
Thanks for listening, I am going back to my CD player now.
New Milford, Conn.
I may have related this story before, but it's a great example of how what's going on in radio today is nothing new. When I was 14, I fell in love with a song called "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March (many readers know it is my all-time favorite single).
I grew up in Los Angeles, listening to KRLA. The station played the follow-up to "I Will Follow Him," but not Peggy's third single, "Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love." So I called the radio station during the summer of 1963 to request the song. I was told they wouldn't play the song because it wasn't selling. Even at 14, I could figure out that the single wasn't going to sell unless they played it.
There weren't a lot of other options in those days to hear music, outside of spinning 45s on my own record player. Today, as mentioned in this column over the last two weeks, there are digital, satellite and Internet platforms that allow us to hear the kind of music we want to hear if we search for what we like.
You know I couldn't move on to the next E-mail without reacting to your comment about the Billboard charts being bogus. Billboard charts that are based on airplay are actually very accurate. You might not like what is being played, or how radio operates, but that doesn't make the charts bogus.
Also, if you're noticing the same songs on charts as you did a year ago, you may be looking at the Adult Contemporary survey, which is noticeably slow because AC radio is very slow to add songs, and very slow to remove them. Other charts move more rapidly.
Jeff Fiedler's E-mail generated a number of responses from "Chart Beat Chat" readers. See the next letter...
Thanks for including aspiring disc jockey Jeff Fiedler's letter regarding the state of commercial radio in your Aug. 6 posting. The mere mention of his own radio show and its premise reminded me that I wanted to send you a letter a few weeks ago, but couldn't find the time.
You mentioned in your reply to Fiedler that although he couldn't find a radio station that would take him up on his top 40 retrospective idea, where he played every song that reached the top 40 between the mid-1970s and the '90s, you were right on when you mentioned that several of the satellite radio outlets have provided a home for that kind of programming.
I recently subscribed to XM Satellite radio, and on July 1, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were running a month-long program on their 'decades' channels, where they were playing "every hit from every year" in chronological order. They began in the mid-1930s and moved through each decade, handing the baton to each decade-specific channel to take over where the previous one left off. The program lasted exactly one month, just ending last week.
Of course, being the chart fanatic that I am, I had to verify that they were really playing every song and really playing them in chronological order. So I pulled out the Billboard books by yourself and Joel Whitburn and followed along.
Sure enough, they were pretty much dead-on, especially for the 1960s and '70s, where they played songs in order by the week they debuted. Every song that reached the top 40 of The Billboard Hot 100 (or its predecessors) was played, of course with a few rare exceptions that were probably hard to acquire.
Some of the decades channels dug deeper in the charts and played songs that peaked below the top 40, or that didn't make the Hot 100 at all, like some classic album cuts. Although I couldn't listen to this month-long program in its entirety (for obvious reasons -- it ran 24/7), I tried to spend every reasonable waking moment listening to it.
I won't belabor this except to punctuate your point that there is a market for this type of "non-commercial" programming. XM radio mentioned a previous version of its show, implying that there might be repeat versions down the road. Perhaps its competitor, Sirius, has a similar program on its schedules.
By the way, before I listened to that program, I had always had a decent amount of love and respect for the music of the 1960s, particularly the late-'60s. But afterward, that respect grew 10-fold! There were songs that I had never heard by one-hit wonders, and songs that I hadn't heard in decades by more classic acts, all of which were phenomenal! As a child of the '70s and '80s who was born in 1966, the stuff from the '60s was something I never really fully appreciated -- until now!
Anything that increases appreciation of songs from the '60s is OK in my book. Did they play "Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love?"
IS YOUR LIFE BETTER THAN IT WAS FIVE YEARS AGO?
In response the "Chart Beat Chat" question about songs that sample Madonna, I just wanted to shine the spotlight on "If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better" by the Tamperer featuring Maya (not the Mya of "Case of the Ex" fame). This fantastic record was a top 3 hit in Britain in 1999, but I don't know if it ever made the dance charts stateside.
Thanks for your column. I love reading it every week!
I was a big fan of that Tamperer single. I did buy it, and my life improved almost immediately.
"If You Buy This Record," which sampled "Material Girl," peaked at No. 3 on the U.K. singles chart at the end of 1998. Released on the Jive label in the U.S., it never broke through to the Hot 100, but did peak at No. 15 on Billboard's Club Play chart.
I also received e-mails on this subject from Vince Forrington of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Loc D. Tra of San Francisco and Andy Tran from San Francisco.
All three mentioned the Tamperer song, and Tra also mentioned "Music Sounds Better With You" by Stardust, a No. 2 hit in the U.K. in 1998 that sampled "Holiday." Tran added "Everybody" by Progress Presents the Boy Wunda, which he says sampled "Papa Don't Preach" (even though it shared a title with an earlier Madonna hit).
USHER TIES MARIAH
My name is Xavier Minchala, and I'm from Guayaquil, Ecuador, right [at] the center of the world.
I was reading your column today and saw the title "Ushering In A Record." You made it clear that Boyz II Men has the record for most weeks in a row in the top two of Billboard's Hot 100 with 26 weeks, but you forgot to mention that Usher just tied Mariah Carey with 25 weeks in a row in the top 2.
On Sept. 30, 1995, Mariah reached No. 1 with "Fantasy," stayed there for eight weeks, then fell down to No. 2, but the next week, Mariah once again reached No. 1 with "One Sweet Day." This single stayed at No. 1 for 16 weeks in a row then went down to No. 5 in its 17th week in the chart. That gives Mariah Carey 25 weeks in a row in the top two of the Hot 100.
It's nice to know there are chart fans in Ecuador. Although I've never been to your country, I did write a report about Ecuador when I was in the sixth grade. The reason I selected Ecuador was because I had cousins living in Quito.
But enough about me. Thanks for your e-mail. You're right, when Usher completed his 25-week run at No. 2, it tied Mariah Carey's 25-week stay at No. 1 and No. 2. She had nine weeks in the top two with "Fantasy," immediately followed by 16 weeks at No. 1 with "One Sweet Day," the song she recorded with Boyz II Men. If "One Sweet Day" hadn't fallen 1-5 at the end of its reign, Mariah could have tied Boyz II Men, who hold the all-time record with 26 weeks in the top two.