Fred Bronson discusses Metallica, Clay Aiken, Erykah Badu, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley.
METALLICA'S METAL (AND CLAY AIKEN, TOO)
Dear Mr. Bronson,
My husband and I have a debate going. He says that Metallica's "black" album went double-platinum in 12 days and I am trying to verify this. My mother and I are very big Clay Aiken fans and are hoping that he breaks the record.
If Metallica is not the record-holder, who is and what was the record? How do you verify that a record has gone platinum? My mother says this is based on how many CDs are shipped, but I know that Clay's new album has shipped over two million. So how exactly does this work? Thanks for your help.
Has your mother been reading Billboard? She is correct. The RIAA certifies albums based on units shipped to stores, not sold to consumers. Once a month the RIAA announces the latest gold and platinum certifications.
Metallica's self-titled 1991 release is often referred to as "The Black Album" because of its all-black cover, just as the Beatles' eponymously-titled 1968 album is often called "The White Album." The album was issued in August 1991 and was certified gold, platinum and three-times-platinum in October 1991. By the end of 1992, the album had been certified six-times-platinum. Over the next 10 years, the album continued to sell and be certified multi-platinum. The most recent certification was for 13-times-platinum in June of this year.
It's difficult to set a record for platinum certification, because any album that shipped more than one million units is considered to have "shipped platinum."
RCA Records prefers not to release shipping figures in advance of the actual shipping date, but we will know on Oct. 23 how many copies of Clay Aiken's "Measure of a Man" were sold to consumers in the first seven days of release. We will also eventually learn how many were shipped, and whether "Measure" shipped platinum or not.
By the way, I would dispute the figure of two million copies being shipped. The record label may eventually ship that many, but not in the first week of release.
For those who want to know Clay's thoughts about the songs on his first album, keep an eye on Billboard.com over the next few days. I interviewed him on Monday (Sept. 29), and after he played the album for me, he commented on all of the songs, track-by-track. That interview will be posted here soon.
E FOR EXTENDED (AND ERYKAH, TOO)
I have a question about something I've been curious about for a long time. What is the difference between an EP and an album? For instance, Erykah Badu's "World Wide Underground" is considered an EP, however it has 10 tracks and is comparable in running time to some albums with twice that many tracks, thanks to a few songs that edge towards the 10-minute mark.
It just makes me wonder, though, if this is not an album, does that mean that Badu is still in the studio recording a full-length CD? And is "World Wide Underground" considered the "follow-up" to "Mama's Gun," or is it simply something to tide listeners over until a real album comes?
First, for those who are too young to know, EP stands for Extended Play, as opposed to a Long Player, or LP. In the 1950s and 1960s, EPs were issued on a regular basis, usually with four tracks, making them an adjunct to two-track 45 RPM singles.
Today, an EP can be anything from a four-track CD to a mini-album, and if anything, Erykah Badu's "World Wide Underground" falls into the latter category. An artist or label is free to call a release an EP, by the way, and we are free to agree or disagree with that designation. When Rashaun Hall reviewed the CD for Billboard, he wrote. "Best-described as a mini-album, the stark, beat-driven set is more groove than lyric....'World Wide Underground' is a departure for Badu, and it is one trip well worth taking."
I've read interviews that Badu has done in connection with the new release, and haven't seen any comments on when she might record another album. Given that it's been two years since "Mama's Gun," and that "Mama's Gun" came out three years after her debut set and a subsequent live album, I wouldn't expect new material from Badu anytime soon.
I HEAR A 'SYMPATHY'
Great columns. You have my dream job. For now I will stick to being a cook, though. My question concerns the debut of "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones on the Hot 100. The chart ranking leads me to believe it is based on sales alone. I was wondering if the many spins the song receives on classic rock radio count now that the single has debuted commercially. Anyway, it is nice that the song is officially a "hit" on the charts, even if it did have to wait a third of a century to do so. Thanks once again, Fred.
If "Sympathy for the Devil" did have any airplay, it was negligible. The Rolling Stones' remix single reached the Hot 100 primarily on sales, as you guessed. Nielsen BDS does monitor rock stations and there are multiple rock formats, including Mainstream Rock, Modern Rock, Active Rock and Heritage Rock. I checked the airplay stats for all four formats in the latest issue of Billboard's sister publication, Airplay Monitor, and "Sympathy for the Devil" didn't show up anywhere. KLOS in Los Angeles, considered a Heritage Rock station, played the Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" six times last week, but "Sympathy for the Devil" wasn't among their top 20 most-played tracks.
It seems this year it's been either feast or famine for singles sales.
This week, the remix of Elvis Presley's "Rubberneckin'" rebounds to No. 1 on Hot 100 Singles Sales, but drops off the Hot 100. This marks the second time this year (and I believe in the entire history of the Hot 100) that the week's best-selling single in the U.S. has been absent from the main chart. The first time was in the June 21 issue, ironically the week before Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard crashed onto both charts in the top two positions; that week, the American Idol Finalists' version of "God Bless the U.S.A." dropped off the Hot 100 while spending its last week at No. 1 on the sales chart.
I know you know this, but there are a lot of readers who write to me to complain about this situation. The sad fact is, sales of singles have declined to such an extent in the U.S. that even being the best-selling single in the country is not enough to earn a berth on the Hot 100.
The first singles by Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard actually debuted lower down the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart because of street-date violations, and then jumped 19-1 ("This Is the Night" / "Bridge Over Troubled Water") and 22-2 ("Flying Without Wings" / "Superstar"). But the point is, in its first week at No. 1, "This Is the Night" sold almost 393,000 copies. In its 11th week on top, "This Is the Night" sold fewer than 10,000 copies. That's a very dramatic difference, and accounts for the position Aiken's single occupied on the main Hot 100 during those two different weeks.
The raw numbers for Elvis Presley's "Rubberneckin'" in its second week at No. 1 weren't high enough to keep the song on the Hot 100.