Fred Bronson discusses with readers Barry White, Ashanti and No. 1 album debuts, Buddy Jewell, Eurovision, Madonna, Clay Aiken and obsessive fans.
WORDS AND MUSIC
With the unfortunate passing of Barry White over the July 4 holiday weekend, I would like to point out that he is one of only three artists that I am aware of to have performed on two separate No. 1 pop hits, one vocal and one instrumental. He's the only one of the three on my list to pull it off in one calendar year (1974). His first No. 1, with his group Love Unlimited, was the instrumental "Love's Theme." One of the other members of Love Unlimited, by the way, was Barry's wife Glodean. His other No. 1 hit was the solo vocal hit later in 1974, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe."
The second artist to pull this off, and the only one to record both songs under his own name, is trumpeter and A&M Records co-founder, Herb Alpert. In 1968, Herb had his first No. 1 pop hit with the vocal song, "This Guy's in Love With You." Eleven years later, in 1979, his instrumental "Rise" hit No. 1. "Rise" was also given a new lease at No. 1 when it was sampled on the No. 1 vocal song "Hypnotize" by Notorious B.I.G.
The last person to have done this is arguably the most obscure. Rick Derringer (aka Zerringer) was the front man for the Dayton, Ohio-based group the McCoys, who had a No. 1 with "Hang on Sloopy." I am proud to acknowledge that this was the No. 1 song in America the week I was born in 1965, and later, an act of our Ohio Legislature made it the official state rock song of Ohio! During the 1970s, Rick was a member of the Edgar Winter Group -- I believe the guitarist. Their No. 1 song was the instrumental "Frankenstein" in 1973.
Honorary mention in this category: Billy Preston, who has performance credits on three No. 1 songs, including keyboards for the Beatles' "Get Back" in 1969. Unfortunately, Billy's best showing for one of his instrumental songs so far was his No. 2 hit "Outa-Space" in 1972.
Hillel M. Zelman
You've said it all, so the only thing left for me to add is a thank you for acknowledging the passing of Barry White, and coming up with a great "Chart Beat" item.
If I'm not mistaken, Ashanti's "Chapter II" is the ninth album to debut on top of The Billboard 200 in as many weeks, following sets by the Isley Brothers, Marilyn Manson, Staind, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Luther Vandross, Monica and Beyonce. Is this a record? If not, what's the longest span of consecutive weeks in which albums debuted at number one?
You're sharp, Mark. This is indeed the ninth week in a row that an album has debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, and that is an all-time record. It doesn't look like there is any new album capable of entering the chart in pole position next week, so the streak is likely to end with Ashanti's "Chapter II."
JEWELL TAKES THE CROWN
With all the hoopla surrounding the American Idols, I hope you'll mention something about Buddy Jewell, the winner of "Nashville Star," as his eponymous debut tops the country album chart and enters the The Billboard 200 at No. 13.
I doubt this is the best debut by a new country artist, but considering the fact that he doesn't have a hit single in the country top-20, it's a pretty impressive feat for Jewell nonetheless, and a good indicator of how well these television shows can market a new artist.
Buddy Jewell earns a mention in the print version of "Chart Beat" that appears in the current issue of Billboard, cover dated July 19. He's acknowledged as the first new artist to have a No. 1 title on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart since LeAnn Rimes accomplished this seven years ago with "Blue."
"Nashville Star" wasn't as big a hit as "American Idol," but it has done something many other shows have failed to do -- produce a record that goes to No. 1.
TRANSLATING EUROVISION FOR AMERICA
On the Dutch Yahoo Eurovsion Group site there is a debate on which Eurovision songs scored in the U.S. charts. Can you list them?
On the subject of Eurovision: What do you think are the chances of Sertab? It would be worthwhile for Sony to give it a try. It can't be that difficult to release a single. And the Turkish population could easily push it in the sales chart!
Wim van Laerhoven
Given that the number of songs that have been Eurovision Song Contest entries from 1956-2003 is just over 1,000, a surprisingly small number have been hits in the U.S. Those that have made it on to the Hot 100 haven't done so because of any Eurovision cachet, as the contest remains virtually unknown in America.
The most successful Eurovision song to chart by the same artist who performed the song in the competition is "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" by Domenico Modugno, a No. 1 hit from 1958. Surprisingly, the Italian song finished third in Eurovision.
Paul Mauriat's instrumental cover of Vicki Leandros' "Love Is Blue" was No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1968. Other Eurovision songs to do well in the U.S. include "Waterloo" by Abba (No. 6 in 1974), "Eres Tu (Touch the Wind)" by Spain's Mocedades (No. 9 in 1974) and "Ooh Aah...Just a Little Bit" by Gina G (No. 12 in 1997).
While I won't pretend to list every Eurovision song that has charted in the U.S., here are a few:
"Save Your Kisses for Me," Brotherhood of Man (No. 27, 1976)
"Beg, Steal or Borrow," New Seekers (No. 81, 1972)
"Say Wonderful Things," Ronnie Carroll (No. 91, 1963)
"Knock Knock Who's There," Mary Hopkin (No. 92, 1972)
"Piove," Domenico Modugno (No. 97, 1959)
"Congratulations," Cliff Richard (No. 99, 1968)
Norway's Secret Garden won Eurovision in 1995 with "Nocturne." The Norwegian/Irish duo is not really a singles act, but their albums have done very well on The Billboard 200 and the magazine's Top New Age Albums chart.
Many other Eurovision artists have charted in the U.S., but not with their Eurovision entries. That list would include Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion, Matt Monro, Julio Iglesias, Silver Convention, Nicki French, Lulu and Katrina & the Waves.
As for this year's winner, Sertab from Turkey, I agree with you that her single "Everyway That I Can" would be a big American hit. I'm not the only one who is impressed with her - I know that songwriter Diane Warren thinks Sertab is terrific. The week after the contest, I called Sony Music folks in New York and urged them to release Sertab's winning song in America. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
'HOLLYWOOD' SWINGING OR MISSING?
If Madonna's "Hollywood" does not appear on the Hot 100, will it be her first single release to fail to chart? I cannot remember any Madonna single not charting, except for maybe her very first release "Everybody," which I believe was a 12" single only which wasn't eligible to chart back then.
I am also curious about whether "Impressive Instant" is considered a single that failed to chart. It hit No. 1 on the dance chart but only as a promo. Since this is now the era when a song can chart based only on airplay, what is Billboard's position on that particular Madonna single?
Also, while I'm mentioning promo singles, could you explain to me just exactly what are the record labels "promoting" when they release phenomenal remixes of songs like "Impressive Instant," Eurythmics' "17 Again," Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" and others when there is absolutely no place to go buy them?
I have vowed to not download free songs or file share to support artists' creativity -- but what is one to do when they hear a song and there is no place to buy it? In my opinion, the record companies are vastly to blame for the current slump in the music industry.
George G. Kitchens III
Yes, if "Hollywood" fails to reach the Hot 100, it will be the first Madonna single not to chart since "Everybody." If the single doesn't appear on the Hot 100 next week, it doesn't look good.
As I recall, "Impressive Instant" was released only to clubs, but not to radio. I don't know of anyone who would consider it a single that missed the chart.
I am as mystified as you why record companies produce remixes that no one can buy. I thought the whole idea was to have people buy records. Why anyone would think that a consumer would be satisfied to buy a record and not find the version they heard on the radio on the album or single is beyond me.
THERE ARE NO SILLY QUESTIONS
You recently mentioned in "Chart Beat Chat" that since Lauryn Hill was a member of the Fugees, her debut at No. 1 isn't considered her first hit as a debut artist. Would you say the same thing about Clay and Ruben since they both sang on the "God Bless the U.S.A." single that reached No. 4? It seems that Clay's No. 1 also would deserve an asterisk since he was a member of American Idol Finalists. What do you think?
Thanks again Fred for giving us chart junkies a place to ask these silly questions.
Nothing's too silly for "Chart Beat Chat." Wait, that didn't come out right...
Anyway, you're absolutely correct, as are the other readers who wrote in about this. If we're going to let the Fugees charting prevent Lauryn Hill from being the first artist to have her first single under her own name debut at No. 1, it's only fair to let the charting of the American Idol Finalists keep this same honor away from Clay.
Or, we could acknowledge Hill as the first artist to do so, and let Clay be the first male artist to do so.
FAN, SHORT FOR...
I was wondering if you thought all of the "organized" hits to radio stations and multiple purchases of his single might hurt Clay Aiken's chances of being taken seriously as an artist.
I am in my mid-30s and surprised myself by getting caught up in the "American Idol" show. I enjoyed Clay's voice and personality and voted for him. I purchased both Clay's and Ruben's singles because I was curious to see how they would sound recorded. I hadn't heard the song locally so I recently called our local station that plays adult contemporary to make a request, but they wouldn't play him because they said "he hadn't proven himself yet and just had an obsessed Internet fan base."
This caught my interest so I took a peek at a few of the [fan] sites and they made me a bit uncomfortable. I purchased early copies of recent breakout artists Josh Groban and Norah Jones' CDs and I was wondering if all of this frenzied attention could hurt artists' chances (especially Clay) to be taken as seriously.
Prairie Village, Kan.
You bring up a good point. Having a devoted (even obsessive) fan base can cut two ways. These fans are responsible for buying a lot of CDs, but you can't sell more than 600,000 singles just to fans, even if they are buying multiple copies. A lot of people who wouldn't go near a fan Website also bought Clay's single (and Ruben's).
It's easy for radio to dismiss the hardcore fans, but in doing so they are mistakenly also dismissing a lot of other people who are interested in listening to Clay and buying his records. Because of my association with "American Idol," a lot of people talk to me about the show, and a lot of these people who would not consider themselves part of a core fan base are interested in Ruben and Clay. That's not surprising given the ratings and buzz factor of "American Idol."
Clay and Ruben have energized a lot of people who have felt disenfranchised from pop music to go into stores and buy records, to go online and make purchases, and to listen to radio stations in hopes of hearing their favorite artists. While doing so, these people are also likely to buy records by other artists and continue listening to radio stations they like, so anyone who dismisses them does so at their own peril.