Fred Bronson discusses chart flukes, Fantasia, downloads, "Venus" and more.
NOT FADE AWAY
I recently purchased Chris Feldman's "The Billboard Book of No. 2 Hits" as a companion to your "The Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits." I was very surprised to read that Roxette's "Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)" peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, even though it failed to reach the top 10 of either the
sales or airplay charts!
Was this a fluke, or does this happen often? I can't remember ever seeing something so odd.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Thanks to some help from Billboard associate publisher Michael Ellis and chart manager Keith Caulfield, I was able to come up with the answer to your question.
In November 1991, the way Billboard compiles the Hot 100 changed dramatically, with the introduction of new technology. Sales data, previously collected by calling retail stores and asking employees how records were selling, was now collected by Nielsen SoundScan by bar code scanning at the point of purchase. Airplay data, previously collected by calling radio stations and asking how often they played a song, was now collected by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems by electronically monitoring radio stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The information from SoundScan and BDS was available to Billboard before the November 1991 switchover on the Hot 100. By the time Roxette's "Fading Like a Flower" went to No. 2, the sales and airplay charts published in Billboard were based on this data, even though the Hot 100 was still being compiled the old-fashioned way.
Ellis addressed this issue in the Sept. 14, 1991, issue of Billboard, to explain why Paula Abdul's "The Promise of a New Day" was No. 1 on the Hot 100, even though it wasn't on top of either the sales or airplay chart. Here's what Ellis wrote:
"The Hot 100... does not yet use the information contained in [the sales and airplay] charts. It is compiled from radio playlists supplied by 223 top 40 radio stations and top 30 singles sales reports supplied by retailers and wholesalers. We intend to integrate the new information into the Hot 100 as soon as all 85 BDS markets are working smoothly and all testing is completed; no definite date is set, but barring any major setbacks it will happen before the end of the year."
As it turned out, the changeover took place the week of Nov. 30, 1991.
Fantasia set a new chart record, albeit dubious, on the Hot 100. "I Believe" dropped 6-18, becoming the No. 1 record with the fewest weeks, namely two, in the top 10. The old record of three weeks belonged to John Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," [which fell] from 2-16 in November 1974.
"I Believe" seems to be on track to become the No. 1 with the fewest weeks in the top 40 or the whole Hot 100. What's your take?
Garden Grove, Calif.
As long as there is such a disconnect between what consumers buy and what radio plays, this kind of chart action is very predictable. That's why I wasn't surprised when Fantasia's "I Believe" made such a dramatic drop.
She may set the record for shortest stay in the top 10 for a No. 1 single, but hopefully she'll be content with having one of the best-selling singles of 2004.
THE LOWDOWN ON DOWNLOADS
It's been more than a year since music download sites like iTunes and Rhapsody appeared, offering legal, downloadable songs. Are these singles considered releases, and do they count toward the Hot 100? My opinion is that they should. The U.K. charts will implement them in September.
One of Billboard's newest charts is the Hot Digital Tracks tally, which lists the top-selling download tracks compiled from Internet sales reports collected and provided by Nielsen SoundScan.
But that doesn't answer your question. At the moment, the only digital downloads that count for the Hot 100 are when a track that is also a commercial single is purchased for downloading. So if you purchase a download of Usher's "Confessions Part II," it doesn't count for the Hot 100 because there is no commercial single available of "Confessions."
This is a temporary situation. There are some technological issues to be resolved, and then all paid digital track downloads will be counted for the Hot 100.
E-MAILS ARE FROM VENUS...
Your column is still one of the best ways to kick off the weekend. [I] just wanted to note that one of your letters last week mentioned that if Diana DeGarmo's "Dreams" hit No. 1, it would be the second trip to the top for a song with that title, though the lyrics were different. With all due respect to Van Halen's "Jump" and Kris Kross' "Jump," I think your reader's count may have been off by at least one.
I recall that when Bananarama's remake of "Venus" hit the top, there was a lot of ink spilled over the fact that not only was it a remake of Shocking Blue's "Venus," but it also shared its title with a completely different song -- Frankie Avalon's "Venus." Does that not make the title "Venus" the most frequent visitor to the pole position?
If you add in Stars on 45's "Medley: Intro/Venus..." the count is up to four, which should make it the champ.
BEEN CHEATED...BEEN MISTREATED?
First the Dixie Chicks were banned from the radio for criticizing the war in Iraq. Then [there was] the furor over Janet Jackson's exposure. Now I learn that the Scissor Sisters album is not being sold by Wal-Mart apparently because of the lyrics.
It seems these are ultra-conservative times in America. Incidentally, the Scissor Sisters remain No. 1 on the U.K. album chart.
For readers wondering why you didn't mention Linda Ronstadt, your e-mail was written before she was booted out of a Las Vegas casino after dedicating the song "Desperado" to Michael Moore.
I think it's safe to say that the Scissor Sisters will not be doing a CD signing at a Wal-Mart. In fairness, this family-oriented chain has had a long-standing policy about not selling product with explicit lyrics, so the Scissor Sisters weren't being singled out.