Manchester Attack

CHART BEAT CHAT

Fred Bronson discusses Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Maze, Beyoncé, Lonestar and chart methodology with readers.

'FLYING' HIGH

Dear Fred,

Several months ago, Larry Dhooghe asked us to "consider the phenomenon of a song spending its entire top-10 life in its peak position" and mentioned that the top such examples are "God Bless the U.S.A." by the American Idol Finalists and "She's a Woman" by the Beatles. Both records spent their entire top-10 lives at No. 4. Unless Ruben Studdard has a dramatic turnaround, his "Flying Without Wings" will secure the top example, since it has spent its entire top-10 life in its peak position at No. 2.

Also, "God Bless the U.S.A." has another dubious distinction. As I noted several months ago, the American Idol Finalists' version is the highest-ranked song to spend only one week in the top 10. Curiously, Lee Greenwood's original version made chart history in 2001 as the highest-ranked song to spend only one week in the top 40 -- at No. 16!

David Dana-Bashian
Garden Grove, Calif.

Dear David,

Ruben Studdard made a lot of chart news with the debut at No. 2 of his "Flying Without Wings," but this is one chart "achievement" I'm sure he could have done without.



A CLAY FAN SPEAKS UP

Hi Fred,

Been reading Billboard again because of Clay Aiken and I'll tell you I have been around since Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." I enjoy all the discussion and the press that you have given to Clay.

As far as his fans go, and I am one of them, I have seen similar fanaticism with Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and a few others. The fans can't hurt Clay as there are too many of us and we are growing. As Clay tours the country, his popularity, even in the media is growing as well. The Chicago Tribune had a not-so-nice review of the concert but mentioned Clay as the true star of it all.

Something is happening here that hasn't happened for a long time and it is crossing generations. I'm 52 and I haven't felt this way about anyone since 1964 and that anyone was Paul McCartney. What is happening here with Clay Aiken is a true phenomenon. We are watching the birth of a major star.

Thanks for keeping him in your column.

Rosalie Barsky

Dear Rosalie,

One "side effect" of Clay's popularity is the return of many music fans who have felt disenfranchised from the current pop scene. It will be interesting to see if Clay's fans grow in number as he releases his first album and subsequent singles, and makes personal and media appearances.

I do have one theory about the popularity of Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken and the success of TV series such as "American Idol," "American Juniors" and "American Dreams." A whole new generation of music fans is being exposed to music from 30-40 years ago. They now know who Neil Sedaka is, for example, and Lamont Dozier. They're hearing songs like "Hey There Lonely Girl," "Every Little Bit Hurts," "Love Will Keep Us Together" and other hits of the 1960s and '70s on a weekly basis. How is this going to affect the kind of music they like and want to buy? I think we may in for another sea change in pop music culture, though it may take a while before we see the full effect.



A-MAZE-D

Hi Fred,

In part, so you can discuss anything but Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard...

A recent USA Today article on the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans mentioned that R&B group Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has never had a top-40 hit. It's hard to imagine. The group was one of the festival's headliners at the Superdome and it remains a major draw more than 20 years after the first release.

Was USA Today correct about the group's lack of chart success on the pop charts? If so, what do you think accounts for it?

Sam Baker
Dallas
samrbaker@comcast.net

Dear Sam,

As for keeping Clay and Ruben out of "Chart Beat Chat," too late! But the e-mails are tapering off -- for now.

Maze is one of those R&B groups that never managed to cross over to pop. Only four of the group's singles appeared on Billboard's Hot 100, and none higher than No. 69. Those four titles are:

"While I'm Alone," No. 89 (1977)
"Feel That You're Feelin'," No. 67 (1979)
"Love Is the Key," No. 80 (1983)
"Back in Stride," No. 88 (1985)

I say "only" four, because Maze had 29 singles chart on Billboard's R&B survey, starting with "While I'm Alone," which peaked at No. 21. Two of those singles, "Back in Stride" and "Can't Get Over You," spent two weeks each at No. 1. The former was on Capitol and reached pole position in April 1985; the latter was the group's first single on Warner Brothers and went to No. 1 in September 1989.

Frankie Beverly was born and raised in Philadelphia and was in a number of groups from the time he was 17. He was signed to RCA in 1972 as part of a group called Raw Soul. That group left Philly and relocated to San Francisco, partly because of the success of Sly & the Family Stone and Santana.

Marvin Gaye heard about the group and invited Beverly to meet with him in Los Angeles. Gaye brought Raw Soul to the attention of Larkin Arnold at Capitol Records. Gaye also suggested that Raw Soul change its name, and Maze was one of five choices.



NOT SINCE MICHAEL

Fred,

For the week ending July 12, Beyoncé Knowles occupied No. 1 positions on The Billboard 200 with "Dangerously in Love" and the Hot 100 with "Crazy in Love," while debuting at the top of the U.K. singles chart and holding at the top of the U.K. albums list. This was the first time since the week of Dec. 2, 2000, that the same song and the same album have topped the U.S. and U.K. charts simultaneously.

Back then, the Beatles were topping both albums charts with "1," while Destiny`s Child had the U.K. singles chart and Hot 100 covered with "Independent Women Part I."

Knowles became the first artist to simultaneously top all four charts since Michael Jackson turned the trick over 20 years ago!

The week of March 5, 1983, had Jackson at the summit of the Hot 100 and U.K. singles charts with "Billie Jean," while occupying the top slots on The Billboard 200 and U.K. albums chart with "Thriller."

All the best,

Steve Young
Hull, England

Dear Steve,

Thanks for this. Who needs an in-house database when I have informed "Chart Beat" readers like you?!



PATIENCE PAYS OFF

Dear Fred,

I was just on Lonestar's official Web site, and I found out that the group's current hit, "My Front Porch Looking In," is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for the week ending July 26, after spending the last six weeks at No. 2. I would like to know if that's a record for a song that spent the most weeks at No. 2 on the country chart before hitting No. 1.

Thank you very much.

Lisa Curry
Beachwood, N.J.

Dear Lisa,

Lonestar's patience paid off. It is the longest wait at No. 2 before ascending to No. 1 in the country chart's history, according to Billboard's chart department. In 2000, the Dixie Chicks spent five weeks at No. 2 with "Without You" before that song moved into the pole position.



SALES AND AIRPLAY

Dear Fred,

I became a hardcore fan of music and the Billboard charts at the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000. I still don't know why Billboard changed the rules for most of its single charts. Why does a single's airplay count so much more than its sales? There are so many artists that are frankly not radio-friendly (at least with the popular stations) -- like Celine Dion, Phil Collins and Mariah Carey (almost all of her No. 1 singles have hit that peak because of extremely strong single sales) -- and they have such a huge fanbase who buy the singles. Does this mean that in the near future, the Hot 100 will be solely based on airplay, or is it that Billboard is waiting for single sales to increase after sharing/downloading issues are taken care of?

Thanks,

Horacio Segura
Florida

Dear Horacio,

It's interesting that you question the changing of the chart rules, because the last major change took place in December 1998, before you became a hardcore fan of the charts.

Longtime readers of this column have heard me explain this before, but I'm including your e-mail this week because a lot of newer readers have been asking the same question.

First, a bit of history. The Hot 100 was introduced on Aug. 4, 1958, as a chart that combined sales and airplay information. Prior to that time, Billboard published separate charts for sales and airplay.

The formula of how sales and airplay data is combined has changed over the years, according to current market conditions.

While there have been many changes in chart policies, a major one occurred the week of Nov. 30, 1991, when new technology was first applied to the Hot 100. Starting with that chart week, sales information came from a company we know today as Nielsen SoundScan. SoundScan tracks actual sales of records by scanning bar codes. Also starting that week, airplay information came from a company we know today as Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, which electronically measures actual airplay on a number of monitored radio stations in specific formats.

The next major change in chart policy was implemented the week of Dec. 5, 1998, when airplay-only tracks were allowed to appear on the Hot 100. Prior to that week, a song had to be available as a commercial single in order to chart.

This change happened because with an increasing number of songs not being released as commercially available singles, the Hot 100 could no longer measure the popularity of many current hits. Songs like Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn," the Cardigans' "Lovefool," and No Doubt's "Don't Speak" were denied their rightful chart positions because you couldn't buy them as singles.

As record companies have chosen to release fewer singles, and as retail has reacted by shrinking the space allowed for singles or removing them completely, the number of singles sold in the U.S. has continued to decline.

Billboard still publishes separate sales and airplay charts, and sales and airplay still count for the Hot 100. Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard were able to have No. 1 and No. 2 hits, respectively, based mostly on their sales, as their airplay did not make them competitive with other songs currently listed on the Hot 100.

You cite Celine Dion, but not all of her songs have been released as singles. "A New Day Has Come," for example, wouldn't have charted on the Hot 100 if the new rules were not in effect, because this was an airplay-only track.

Billboard continues to adjust how the popularity of songs is measured. While we have been including paid downloads of specific singles, this week an official Hot Digital Tracks chart is introduced in the print edition of Billboard, compiled from Internet sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan [see Chart Beat Bonus]. Those digital tracks that are available as commercial singles will have their sales data included when we compile the Hot 100.

Billboard's chart department is constantly examining current market conditions, and as those conditions change, how the charts are compiled may also change. As long as singles are being sold, either in tangible fashion or as paid downloads, I'm sure that information will be included in the Hot 100. If sales of singles increase because of people purchasing downloads, you'll see sales having a bigger impact on the charts.