Fred Bronson discusses Atlanta artists, Clay Aiken, "pop" music and No. 1 singles with readers.

404 TAKES TOP-3

Dear Fred,

Don't know if you've noticed this bit of trivia, but the top-10 of the Hot 100 is dominated by acts out of Atlanta, or should I say, "Hotlanta!" Six of the tracks are by or include Atlanta-based artists -- Youngbloodz at No. 9, Jagged Edge at No. 8, Ludacris at No. 5 and No. 1 and OutKast at No. 4 and No. 2. Talk about ATL "representing!"

I'm looking forward to the year-end charts. My guess is 50 Cent will take both top album and single, though Clay Aiken's "This Is the Night" could be in there from sheer volume of sales. Somehow I feel, though that "In Da Club's" sheer volume of airplay for so long will win out, making Clay have to settle for the Hot 100 Singles Sales title only. I'm also looking for a good showing (top-5?) from matchbox twenty's "Unwell."

Paul Cadogan
Kingston, Jamaica

Dear Paul,

Since you wrote your E-mail, Atlanta's OutKast has captured the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 with "Hey Ya!" The duo also has the No. 3 song, "The Way You Move" featuring Sleepy Brown, which means they could take the top two spots on the chart as early as next week. With Ludacris slipping to No. 2, those Hotlanta artists have a lock on the top-3 positions on the chart.

As I mentioned last week, I already know the year-end results due to copy deadlines, but I can't reveal anything yet, so I won't comment on your guesses.

Billboard's year-end charts for 2003 will be posted online on Dec. 18, and will appear in the Dec. 27 issue of the magazine. The top 100 songs of the year, based on their performance on the Hot 100, will be counted down on "The Billboard Radio Countdown." The first part of a two-part year-end Countdown will be posted at billboardradio.com on Monday, Dec. 22.



IT WAS GOING TO BE A CLAY-FREE COLUMN UNTIL...

Fred,

I have a question about your column. When did it turn into "Clay Aiken Weekly?" Not a week goes by without more and more Clay updates, and entire columns have been devoted to nothing but all Clay, all the time.

Did the rest of the world stop releasing music?

Steven Barnes

Dear Steven,

The letters that appear in "Chart Beat Chat" are a microcosm of the hundreds of E-mails I receive every week. If 95% of my mail is about Clay Aiken, which it has been for many weeks, it's likely that balance will be reflected here.

The entire "American Idol" franchise has made a lot of chart news in 2003, and that impact has been felt in "Chart Beat Bonus." As long as he's making and breaking chart records, I'll continue to report Aiken's achievements. This week's column contains news of Kimberley Locke's first chart appearance under her own name.

On a personal note, my work has allowed me to meet many artists over the last 20 years, but knowing artists, songwriters, producers or label executives personally doesn't affect my news judgment.



POP GOES THE CHAT

Hi Fred,

With the domination of hip-hop and R&B on mainstream radio, real "pop" music seems to have been lost somewhere. The Hot 100, which used to be thought of as the "pop" chart, is now made up of mostly hip-hop and R&B artists/songs with a few country and rock tracks thrown in.

Since the Hot 100 is a ranking of "all genre" music and Billboard has individual charts for "rock," "hip-hop," "R&B," and "country," I was thinking that there might now be need for a new "pop" chart. What do you think? Also do you think there is a chance that "pop" music will make a comeback on radio?

Bill Morgan
Salem, Ore.

Dear Bill,

Singles and tracks charts, such as Billboard's Hot 100, Hot Country Singles & Tracks, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, Adult Contemporary, Modern Rock Tracks, Adult Top 40, Mainstream Top 40, etc., are based on airplay formats. Each of these charts reflects airplay information from stations in the appropriate format. There is no such thing as a specific "pop" format, which is why there is no specific "pop" chart.

The Mainstream Top 40 chart is based on airplay on those stations that identify themselves as playing mainstream top 40 music. Those stations give heavy rotation to hip-hop and R&B songs, which is why the Hot 100 is dominated by songs in those genres.

I have a general philosophy that all things are cyclical, and so I believe pop music will have its day again. In the response to the above E-mail I referenced the "American Idol" franchise, which is responsible for some of the major pop hits of the last 14 months and is helping reinvigorate the genre.



THE SPEED OF SOUND

Dear Fred,

My question concerns the total of No. 1 singles this year. My estimate is that "Hey Ya!" is the 11th No. 1 single of 2003. While this seems small, we must keep in mind that in 2000, where there was significantly more turnover, there were only 16 songs that reached No. 1. However, in the 1980s, singles turned over more rapidly and there could be anywhere between 25-35 No. 1 singles in a given year.

Why was this? It's hard to believe that music fans are any less fickle than they were 20 years ago. Why is it that the number of No. 1 singles annually has decreased so drastically in the last 20 years?

Rob Phillips
Minneapolis

Dear Rob,

You've got the correct number; "Hey Ya!" by OutKast is the 11th song to advance to No. 1 this calendar year [see "Chart Beat Bonus"]. That's more than the seven songs that moved into pole position in 2002, but less than the 14 in 2001 or the 17 in 2000.

Your count of No. 1 songs in the 1980s is off, though. There were 16 No. 1 songs in 1981, 15 in 1982, 16 in 1983 and 19 in 1984. That's just a slight difference from this decade. You'd have to go back to the 1970s to find years when there were 30+ No. 1 songs in some years.

There are so many differences in the marketplace between the 1970s and today, that one can't pick just one reason for the change, such as the loyalty of music fans. In the 1970s, virtually every song played on top 40 radio was available as a commercial single to buy. Who can tell how many more songs would have reached No. 1 if they had been available for sale?

One would also have to consider that new technology introduced in 1991 made the charts much more accurate. With sales data collected by Nielsen SoundScan and airplay data collected by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, the raw data used to compile the charts is much more scientific and reliable. Another factor in the turnover rate is how long radio stations keep songs on their playlists.