"Chart Beat" columnist Fred Bronson discusses charts with readers. This week: "American Idol" second season finalists, artists named "Hill," Elton John & Bernie Taupin, Yoko Ono, women on Billboar
IDOLS SHATTER TWO MORE RECORDS
Here are a couple of records for you:
The top-10 song that spent the least time in the top-40 (four weeks):
"An Open Letter to My Teenage Son," Victor Lundberg
"Free As a Bird," the Beatles
The top-5 song that spent the least time in the top-40 (five weeks):
"They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!," Napoleon XIV
"Music of My Heart," 'N Sync & Gloria Estefan
Guess what "God Bless the U.S.A." by the American Idol Finalists just did by spending only two weeks in the top-40 and peaking at No. 4?
Forest Grove, Ore.
Somehow, when they make a list of their accomplishments, I don't think the American Idol Finalists will list these.
FOUR THE GOOD TIMES
Lost in the recent "Chart Beat Chat" discussion of "God Bless the U.S.A" is that the title is only the fourth to debut at No. 4 on the Hot 100. The others were "You Remind Me of Something" by R. Kelly, "Look Into My Eyes" by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and "Mo Money Mo Problems" by the Notorious B.I.G. Featuring Puff Daddy & Mase.
That puts the American Idol Finalists in fine company.
...WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC
In a recent "Chart Beat Bonus" column, you referred to a letter from David Dana-Bashian that said he had never seen two artists in the top-10 with the same last name, be it real or fictional.
A record was set the week of Nov. 14, 1998, when Lauryn Hill debuted at No. 1 with "Doo Wop (That Thing)," while holding in the top-10 were "How Deep Is Your Love" by Dru Hill featuring Redman at No. 6, and "This Kiss" by Faith Hill at No. 9. This made three artists with the surname "Hill" all of whom were in the top-10 in the same week with different songs.
Long Island, N.Y.
At the time, I wrote about it in "Chart Beat" and used the headline, "The Hills Are Alive," which was your subject header. Too bad Lauryn, Faith, and Dru never teamed up as the Hills Brothers, or Sisters, or... wait a minute, Dru Hill was a group. But you get the idea.
A BIT OF A VAMP(IRE)
By now you've probably heard that Elton John and Bernie Taupin are working on a Broadway musical based on Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat novels. The pair are apparently composing new music, but I can save them some time! All they have to do is retrofit some of their old songs and they'll have a major hit on their hands.
Here are my suggestions:
"Saturday Night's Alright for Biting"
"This Vein Don't Stop Here Anymore"
"No One Saved My Life Tonight"
"Garlic Seems To Be the Hardest Herb"
"Can You Feel the Blood Tonight"
"Funeral for a Fiend/Lunch Lies Bleeding"
"Whatever Gets Me Thru the Night"
"Don't Go Staking My Heart"
"Don't Let the Sun Come Up on Me"
I'm looking forward to the royalty checks.
I can't believe you forgot "Bennie and the Bats."
I presume the Ono that's No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music: Club Play chart is none other than Yoko Ono. She must be 70 or so -- surely this must be some kind of record in Billboard.
I'm glad to see the song on top as I think she has been much maligned over the years. I'm a proud owner of the "Onobox" set and am glad to see her achieve some kind of recognition/appreciation.
Yoko Ono celebrated her 70th birthday on Feb. 18. Her No. 1 dance hit comes 32 years and three months after her album chart debut with "Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono band." I was never a Yoko-basher, and it's remarkable that she can still have a No. 1 song.
By the way, Eartha Kitt was 73 when she charted in 2000 on the dance chart with "Where Is My Man." It didn't go to No. 1, but it's still impressive.
HE'S TRYING, THAT'S FOR SURE
I was reading "Chart Beat Chat" and you really made me laugh [when you wrote]: "I was very distressed to learn that my appearance on the show was edited out of the condensed version shown in your country. I don't know how ITV2 had handled the storm of protests, but I'm sure they received thousands of E-mails."
Very good. At least I hope you were trying to be funny.
But now for a serious question. What's up with the country singles chart these days? Why is it so difficult for female singers to get airplay? Recently, the top-20 had only two females in it -- Martina McBride and Jessica Andrews. Certainly there must be enough good product out there for at least five women to be in the top-20, if not top-10.
We haven't seen the country charts this out of balance, gender-wise, since the 1960s. And I remember you talking about how a woman hasn't hit No. 1 in over a year. Any ideas on why this might be?
I've been told I'm trying and that I'm funny, so I'm not sure what to believe.
Recent songs by Shania Twain and Faith Hill failed to perform as well as expected on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, and no one else has stepped forward to fill the gap these misfires created. I don't think there's suddenly a glass ceiling at country radio, but this is not a great time for female artists on the country chart.
THE BEATLES AND 50 CENT
I read your online and print columns with a lot of interest every week. Something worth mentioning in your chat would be the current achievements by 50 Cent. He's had two hits within the top-5 on the Hot 100 and two releases in The Billboard 200's top-5.
We have not witnessed an artist holding at least two spots within the top-5 on the album chart and at least two spots within the top-5 on the Hot 100 simultaneously since the Beatles, when they captured the No. 1 and the No. 3 spots on the Top LP's chart with "The Beatles' Second Album" and "Meet the Beatles," respectively, and the No. 3 and No. 5 spots on the Hot 100 with "Love Me Do" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret," respectively, on May 16, 1964.
Of course, more impressive for Beatles fans was the chart week of April 4, 1964, when they held every position within the top-5 on the Hot 100, in addition to the top two spots on the albums chart. This is something that will probably remain unsurpassed for quite some time, if not forever.
Also worth mentioning here would be the achievement by Simon & Garfunkel, when they held three spots within the Top LP's chart's top-5, while topping the Hot 100 with "Mrs. Robinson" in mid-1968.
By the way, today I also received the new edition of your "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" book, and in contrast to some other readers of your column I am quite happy with your methodology, since I am certainly not for weighting songs from different eras in chart history differently. Weeks back in the 1960s, I guess, lasted as long as weeks now do.
I think 50 Cent will be surprised to find out he and the Beatles are part of chart history. Thanks for noting all the chart feats, and working in this week's plug for my book.
I have heard so much talk in this column defending the radio stations by saying that sales are so small these days (compared to what they used to be) and that is why sales play such a small part in a single's chart position. So, why all of a sudden are "sales" the big reason for the success of the American Idol Finalists' "God Bless the U.S.A."?
Even if it was the top-selling single -- according to all of the previous responses defending the way singles are calculated now in Billboard -- it shouldn't do much for the chart position if it isn't blowing up in airplay.
The Hot 100 has always been compiled by combining sales and airplay data. With sales declining steeply, airplay has much more influence on the chart these days.
But there's nothing "sudden" about the impact of sales on the chart. I'll give you an example. Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" sold so many copies in a week, that it could have had no airplay at all, and still been the No. 1 single in the country. Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" sold so many copies, that it could also have topped the chart without any airplay. After the single had been on sale for a week, it rocketed 52-1 on the Hot 100.
"God Bless the U.S.A." sold over 100,000 copies in its first week of sale -- an incredible figure given the singles market in America in 2003. It was that high amount of sales that allowed the single to debut at No. 4 on the Hot 100.
As sales have declined week-to-week, and without more airplay, "God Bless the U.S.A." quickly fell 4-19-53 on the Hot 100, while remaining in pole position on the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart.
Last week, the follow-up single, "What the World Needs Now Is Love," debuted at No. 6 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales tally. But the single only sold 5,500 copies, a number far less than the first week sales of "Bless." That explains why "What the World Needs Now Is Love" didn't enter the Hot 100.
IT'S THEIR THING
With the Isley Brothers at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, I have a couple of questions:
1) Have they ever had a No. 1 pop album before?
2) If yes, which one(s)?
3) If no, does this give them the longest gap between first hitting the album chart and finally hitting No. 1 (as they've been charting records since at least the early to mid-1960's that I know of)?
Hillel M. Zelman
"Body Kiss" (DreamWorks) is the second No. 1 album for the Isley Brothers. Their first chart-topping LP was "The Heat Is On" in 1975. So, no record for longest gap between first chart appearance on The Billboard 200 and "Body Kiss" reaching pole position.
However, only two acts have had longer gaps between No. 1 albums than the 28 years between "The Heat Is On" and "Body Kiss." Elvis Presley and Santana have longer gaps between chart-topping sets. See the print version of "Chart Beat" in the May 24 issue of Billboard (and in the Premium Services section of Billboard.com) for details.