Fred Bronson discusses Usher, Madonna samples, Jessica Simpson and the state of radio with readers.

USHERING IN A RECORD?

Hi Fred!

My name is Carlos. I live in Mexicali, Baja, Mexico, and since I remember I've been a fan of music and of Billboard Music Charts. But up until now I had never written any letter or e-mail to your magazine.

And the reason for this e-mail is I've noticed that since Usher reached No. 2 with his single "Yeah!" on the way to the top, he hasn't been out of the top two since. According to me (well, I might be wrong) he's been there for about 25 weeks or so with either one of his three singles ("Yeah!", "Burn" and "Confessions Part II"). And since it looks that this could be his last consecutive week in that part of the chart, my question would be: is this an all-time record for an artist without leaving the top two of the Hot 100?

Best Regards,

José Carlos Santos
Mexicali, México

Dear Carlos,

You're not wrong. You've got the number exactly right - Usher was in the top two of The Billboard Hot 100 for 25 consecutive weeks with one or more of his three hit singles, "Yeah!", "Burn" and "Confessions Part II."You sent your e-mail before this week's charts were compiled, but as you now know, "Confessions Part II" dips to No. 3, ending Usher's long reign in the top two.

Is it a record? In 1964, when the Beatles were having their amazing streak that saw them capture the entire top five, they were in the top two for 15 consecutive weeks before Mary Wells' "My Guy" and Louis Armstrong's "Hello, Dolly!" knocked the Fab Four out of the top two.

In 1978, when the Bee Gees dominated the chart with songs from "Saturday Night Fever," they were in the top two for 14 consecutive weeks, thanks to "Night Fever" and its predecessor, "Stayin' Alive." P. Diddy also had a 14-week run in the top two in the summer of 1997, with "I'll Be Missing You" and "Mo Money Mo Problems."

When "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" were popular in 1983, Michael Jackson appeared in the top two for 12 consecutive weeks. We've only considered artists with multiple songs here. Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men were No. 1 for 16 consecutive weeks in 1995-96, so they would beat the Beatles.

Does that mean Usher set a record with his 25 weeks in the top two? Sadly for him, he missed tying the record by one week. There is one act that remained in the top two of the Hot 100 for 26 weeks in a row. The week of Aug. 20, 1994, Boyz II Men moved 31-2 with "I'll Make Love to You." The next week, the single moved to No. 1 and remained there for 14 consecutive weeks.

It was succeeded by the follow-up, "On Bended Knee." That song dipped to No. 2, returned to No. 1, and fell to No. 2 again, remaining there until the week of Feb. 11, 1995, for a total of 26 record-setting weeks.



JUSTIFY THIS SAMPLE

Fred,

I happened to hear the latest single from Mario Winans, called "Never Really Was." The song samples the violin introduction from Madonna's 1986 No. 1 hit "Papa Don't Preach." It got me thinking about other Madonna samples. But when I started to think, I couldn't think of any! Do you know of any other Madonna samples that have been used?

Nick Oswald
West Liberty, Iowa
Dr_Ozzie_99@yahoo.com

Dear Nick,

For all things Madonna, I turn to Billboard's resident expert on the material girl. Keith Caulfield of our chart department was able to come up with a list of tracks that have sampled Madonna songs. Courtesy of Keith, here's that list and his comments:

• Dannii Minogue's "Don't Wanna Lose This Groove" (samples "Into the Groove"):
The track was originally called "Don't Wanna Lose This Feeling," and then mash-ups titled "Don't Wanna Lose This Groove" started circulating. The bootleg mixed in the music of "Into the Groove" with Minogue's "Feeling" lyrics.

Ultimately, Minogue wanted to release the bootleg properly, and obtained permission from Madonna to use a sample of "Into The Groove."

"Don't Wanna Lose This Feeling" (with its airplay merged together with the remix titled "Don't Wanna Lose This Groove") peaked at No. 8 on Billboard's Hot Dance Radio Airplay chart in April.

• Avalanches' "Stay Another Season" (samples "Holiday"):
The track is from the group's album "Since I Left You," which peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart and No. 31 on the Top Heatseekers list. (Note: Madonna didn't write "Holiday.")

• Darren Hayes' "Crush on Holiday" (samples "Holiday"):
This is a remix of the single "Crush" by the former Savage Garden singer, Darren Hayes. The new mix was released in early 2003.

• Jay-Z's "Justify My Thug" (samples "Justify My Love"):
From Jay-Z's "The Black Album."

• Mase's "Stay Out of My Way" (samples "Justify My Love"):
This is from Mase's "Double Up" album. "Stay Out of My Way" went to No. 9 on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.



SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES

Fred,

Ashlee Simpson may have been the first in her family to have a No. 1 album on last week's The Billboard 200, but her more established sibling isn't too far behind. Jessica is one of the artists on this week's No. 1 album, the compilation "Now That's What I Call Music! 16." Her remake of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" is included.

And although it's only on a technicality, I believe this establishes the Simpsons as the first family act to have back-to-back No. 1 albums. Even Michael and Janet never accomplished that.

Pat Kelly
Brampton, Ont. Canada

Dear Pat,

There's a "Jeopardy" question in there, somewhere.



MORE ON THE STATE OF RADIO

Dear Fred,

I felt compelled to write "Chart Beat" in response to the letter from Karen Patton you posted last week about the state of radio. I'm a 25-year-old aspiring DJ who -- until this past June -- had been doing a college radio show for two years called "Sounds From the Lost and Found," devoted to playing all the top 40 hits from the mid-1970s through the '90s that you don't hear regularly -- if ever - on the radio anymore.

It was a mix of lesser-heard or never-heard hits by familiar-name artists (i.e. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel, etc.) and top 40 hits by artists who've been all but forgotten (i.e. Diesel, Roger Voudouris, Balance, Jude Cole, etc.) (Incidentally, I never would have been inspired to create this show, which is my biggest joy in life, were it not for Billboard, so I am eternally grateful to your magazine for instilling such a love of chart history and chart music in me!). If it cracked the top 40 and isn't being played to death on commercial radio, it was fair game for the show; as you might guess from the state of radio today, this is a surprisingly gigantic archive of records to work from.

I had re-launched the show on a new (and a very-widely-listened-to) college radio station back at the end of spring, and the reaction was beyond my wildest expectation; more requests poured in than I even had time to use, and I had a flood of listeners calling in offering to do everything from donating records to building a Web site for the show to asking for publicity jobs with the show; it was incredible! The reason I tell this story, though, is that the station pulled the plug on my show after just three episodes. Not because it wasn't successful -- actually, it had just made the local paper days before -- but because the station advisory board decided the show was "too commercial for college radio."

So, with my listeners imploring me to get the show back up somewhere, I've spent the summer looking for a new home for the show, all to no avail. Every college station I've talked to has passed, because it's -- you guessed it -- "too commercial for college radio" and they have urged me to take the show straight to commercial stations.

Every commercial station I've talked to -- the ones that have bothered to get back to me, anyway -- have all passed because, as they've all bluntly explained, no matter how commercially accessible a record is, no matter how huge a hit it was on the Billboard charts, no matter how many people request it, any record that is not already in continual -- if not excessive -- rotation on the radio at this very moment is "not commercial enough." [It] doesn't matter if it cracked the top five. Radio's not playing it regularly? It's "not commercial."

The program directors I talked to the most extensively seemed to suggest that playing one single record -- even just once -- that they're not already playing ad nauseum is somehow financially equivalent to betting the radio station at the craps table in Vegas. So, for all the readers like Karen Patton who have been writing you and asking, "Where's the selection?," my story should give a real glimpse into that question!

So, with college stations deeming my show "too commercial for college radio" and commercial stations deeming my show "not commercial enough" (in spite of its top-40-music premise and the serious market potential I saw in the show from the audience reaction I got), I really don't know that I will ever be able to get my show back up on the air anywhere, sadly.

I haven't given up entirely just yet, but finding a large college station that believes that forgotten top 40 music can still follow their missions to play "music you can't hear on regular radio" or commercial stations who genuinely believe in actual variety -- in artists and songs -- is a frustratingly agonizing task! Hopefully, I can get back to preserving the lost Billboard top 40 music of yesteryear for the older to re-discover and the younger to discover anew one of these days! I can't stand to see so many countless top-notch 45s go forgotten!

Jeff Fiedler
Washington Crossing, Pa.

Dear Jeff,

You're dealing with an issue that many others before you have had to contend with. I can offer a suggestion, along with acknowledgment for keeping these songs alive.

There are some media that might be more receptive to your show. Last week I mentioned Live 365, an Internet site where folks like you and me can have our own radio shows, with our own playlists.

But there are other media willing to go deeper into the hits of yesterday. For 19 months, I had a series on Music Choice, a digital music provider. You can hear their channels on many cable and satellite TV systems. I know that their oldies channels go much deeper into artists' catalogs than terrestrial oldies stations.

Similarly, satellite radio companies XM and Sirius have oldies channels with more extensive playlists than their terrestrial counterparts.

There might be a home for you somewhere in the new digital universe.