Fred Bronson discusses African-American artists in the top-10, chart methodology, chart astrology and Santana with readers.
While it has been heavily reported in many news media outlets, including the Oct. 18 issue of Billboard, the Hot 100 chart of Oct. 11, 2003, was not the first time that the top-10 positions were all by black artists.
This month's event is definitely one to be celebrated by all who have loved and followed black (R&B/hip-hop) music for decades, but I celebrated three similar occurrences just over 10 years ago. The last time was the week ending May 29, 1993, when the Hot 100 chart was dominated by the following top-10:
1. "That's the Way Love Goes," Janet Jackson
2. "Freak Me," Silk
3. "Knockin' Da Boots," H-Town
4. "Weak," SWV
5. "Love Is," Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight
6. "Looking Through Patient Eyes," PM Dawn
7. "I'm So Into You," SWV
8. "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," Dr. Dre
9. "I Have Nothing," Whitney Houston
10. "Don't Walk Away," Jade
This dominance was interrupted when British superstar Rod Stewart moved in the following week with "Have I Told You Lately." So while the Oct. 11 chart is the first time such a feat has occurred in this decade, it is the second (and arguably the fourth) time this has happened in the history of the Hot 100.
It is arguably the fourth because, in addition to the top-10 I've listed above, there were two other weeks in 1993 in which black acts (questionably) owned the entire top-10. During the first two weeks of that year (chart week-ending dates Jan. 2 and Jan. 9), the top-10 included songs by Whitney Houston, WreckX-N-Effect, Shai, Boyz II Men, Snap!, PM Dawn, Shanice, Bobby Brown, TLC and Mary J. Blige. That dominance was broken when Madonna entered the following week with "Deeper and Deeper." To me, that was the first time such an occurrence happened, and I believe it was mentioned in the magazine then.
The only question mark in that case was the dance/studio act Snap! This act featured a black rapper and lead singer, but it is not known whether they comprised the entire act.
As for this month's accomplishment, I am equally proud of these current acts and the milestone they've created in R&B/hip-hop/pop history -- as I am a huge fan of all these types of music. And perhaps this month's feat was more noteworthy because it was the first time that such a chart resulted from an alignment of the moon and stars on the radio airplay side, with little or no influence from sales. The charts of 1993 were clearly influenced by sales of commercially available singles and the then-recent shift to Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS-based charts. So even if the current Hot 100 chart factors in airplay from a number of genres, including R&B/hip-hop stations, the recent top-10 list is still an accomplishment to be celebrated as it clearly required the recent surge of mainstream pop stations buying into this type of music for the stars to align as they did.
And a note to Billboard: While it may have been inevitable that we'd see such a top-10 with the recent presence of R&B/hip-hop music in crossover markets (and the fact that matchbox twenty's "Unwell" could only hang on for so long), and while it may seem tempting to "correct" this recent shift, it seems like Billboard's Chart Department always considers the Hot 100 chart methodology "subject to review" (Singles Minded column, Oct. 18) when something like this happens. I offer that the charts are reflective of what America is generally listening to (whether forceably or not) and that the Hot 100 is still the most accurate singles popularity chart in the industry.
Changing it now, especially in the face of the recent "black top-10," would seem arbitrary and calculated -- not to mention a bit racist. I submit that the chart should be left alone and this trend too will pass. Radio stations' and fans' moods will swing, some other type of music will come to the forefront, Arbitron ratings will change, and the chart will once again be multi-formatted near the top.
By the way, I researched to find the last time a black act was absent from the top-10 of the Hot 100 singles chart. One would have to go all the way back to Feb. 27, 1988, to find the last such chart. That was when George Michael, Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield, Patrick Swayze featuring Wendy Fraser, Rick Astley, Eric Carmen, Expose, Foreigner, Belinda Carlisle, Paul Carrack and Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine were in the top-10. Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" entered the following week, and thus began a streak that has yet to be broken in the 15-plus years since.
Darrell J. Roberts
As you now know, Billboard has corrected the original report of the Oct. 18 Hot 100 being the first time that the entire top-10 was made up of black artists.
In a follow-up letter, you suggested, "we have got to stop labeling artists in genres based on their skin colors." I agree, and have resisted writing about chart achievements based on skin color. For one thing, it takes us into uncertain territory. Do I really know the racial make-up of every artist and every member of a group, and do I need to know?
While I'm not in the chart department, I do know those people well. If chart methodology is "subject to review," it's not because there was an all African-American top-10. It has more to do with changing technologies and the changing marketplace. One of the big questions on the floor right now is, how do you handle paid downloads? Billboard has a Hot Digital Tracks chart, but at the moment, only digital downloads of songs that have a commercial single available can be counted for the Hot 100.
YOU SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY?
First of all I know you have an upcoming birthday since you have stated what was No. 1 on the day you were born. So I'd like to wish you a happy one. Do you share your birthday with any music stars?
Also I'm wondering if you or any of the ?Chart Beat Chat? readers follow Billboard chart astrology. That is taking the No. 1 song on the date you were born and seeing if it applies to your life. This of course is just for fun and hoping no one really takes it seriously.
One can look at their birth No. 1 in various ways: lyrics, titles, tempo of the song, etc. I was born on the cusp of two No. 1 songs: "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby & the Romantics and "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons. Born on a Monday, I consider "He's So Fine" as my birth No. 1. That was the new chart-topper in the issue which was on the newsstands on the day I was born. A new issue usually appears Monday dated for the following Saturday. However I find that "Our Day Will Come" does fit my optimism.
One can also look at a string of No. 1 songs for every birthday in their lifetime which could possibly tell your fortune. For instance: I will meet a "Rich Girl" named "Billie Jean" who likes to wear "Black Velvet" and "Green Berets." I will find her "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" near the "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Something inside me will say "Stop! In the Name of Love". She will "Say My Name" and I will feel "Dizzy." The "Man in the Mirror" will tell me "She Loves You." But of course I saw "The Sign" "Coming Out of the Dark." "Billie Jean" and I will be "Happy Together" and I shall own "A Horse With No Name." Of course if this doesn't happen it will be no "Tragedy" nor would it "Rapture" my life. All in all it's just "Another Brick in the Wall." In any case I will "Save the Best for Last."
Best wishes and hope the cactus doesn't hurt your toes.
Richard K. Rogers
A friend of mine who passed away recently, Sherman Cohen, had the very same theory, and believed you could tell a lot about a person based on the songs that were No. 1 on their birthday.
For those who know me, judge for yourself: "There! I've Said It Again," "I'm a Believer," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "American Pie," "You're So Vain," "The Joker," "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," "Got My Mind Set on You" and "I Will Always love You" were all No. 1 on my birthday.
The song that was No. 1 on the day I was born, "Buttons and Bows" by Dinah Shore, may have had an influence, but I think it's more telling that RCA introduced the 45rpm single on the day I was born, Jan. 10, 1949.
Other artists born Jan. 10 include Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, Donald Fagen, Frank Sinatra Jr., Jim Croce and Chris "Daddy Mack" Smith of Kris Kross.
BAND ON THE RUN
[Re: Santana's "Why Don't You & I?",] I heard the song a few months ago with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback singing lead, then just recently saw the video and heard it on radio with some guy I've never seen or heard of before singing lead. What gives ?
The version you heard features Alex Band. You may not recognize his name, but he's from the group the Calling. They had a hit last year with "Wherever Will You Go." When Santana recorded "Why Don't You & I" for their "Shaman" album, they enlisted Chad Kroeger from Nickelback as a guest artist. When Arista Records decided to release "Why Don't You & I" as a single to radio, they didn't have the contractual right to include Kroeger, so a new version was recorded.