Fred Bronson answers questions on airplay-only singles, Celine Dion, new chart policies, and A Flock Of Seagulls.
I'd like to comment on a letter in your column concerning Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" and the change of chart policy of The Billboard Hot 100. For one thing, I think the change (which took place in December 1998) was appropriate, as many of the most popular songs at the time were not issued as commercial singles. Due to chart policies at the time these songs did not even enter the Hot 100 in spite of getting enormous radio airplay.
Below is a list of such songs and the year in which they were most popular:
"When I Come Around," Green Day (1995)
"I'll Be There for You," Rembrandts (1995)
"Killing Me Softly," Fugees (1996)
"Don't Speak," No Doubt (1997)
"Lovefool," Cardigans (1997)
"Fly," Sugar Ray (1997)
"As Long As You Love Me," Backstreet Boys (1998)
"3am," matchbox 20 (1998)
"Iris," Goo Goo Dolls (1998)
"Torn," Natalie Imbruglia (1998)
Natalie Imbruglia did manage to chart for a few weeks because her song was still getting some airplay in December 1998, though the song's popularity was highest in the summer. It was actually the No. 1 song of 1998 according to Mainstream Top 40 Airplay chart and also the No. 1 song of the 1990s! However, as was mentioned in your column, it only peaked at No. 42 on the Hot 100. All the songs mentioned above would have definitely reached the top-5 of the Hot 100 ("Iris," "Killing Me Softly," "Don't Speak," and "Torn" would have reached No. 1, I'm sure) had the present chart methodology been in effect the previous decade.
If one looks at the biggest Mainstream Top 40 Airplay chart songs of, say, 1997 and 1998, the list is very different from the Hot 100 list of the same year, for the same reason. For 2002, however, the list is quite similar. And the biggest song of 2003 so far -- Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J's "All I Have" -- was No. 1 on the Hot 100 for four weeks and is still in the top-10 in spite of being an album track. Had the old policies been in effect, it wouldn't even be on the Hot 100!
I know we cannot change chart history, but is there any way a chart of old data can be compiled based on the new airplay rules, so that an album track's true popularity at the time can be measured? After all, the purpose of looking through old chart info is to see which songs were the most popular at that time, and to compare an artist's chart success through time. Taking the example of No Doubt again, "Don't Speak" was a much bigger hit in the U.S. then "Hella Good," but the Hot 100 history doesn't quite show that.
Hope to hear your views on the subject, Fred, and others' also. Thanks again.
Thanks for your comments on the topic. As you acknowledge, there's definitely nothing we can do to change history; Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" was a massive airplay hit, but not a hit on the main Hot 100, for the reasons you cite.
I could come up with all kinds of rationales of why we should or shouldn't re-figure some of the old charts under the new rules, but the bottom line is, there wouldn't be any purpose in doing so.
I say that because Billboard is a business publication, and the charts are designed as a tool for the music industry. While it's great that people like you -- and me -- keep track of chart statistics and trivia, the charts aren't produced for trivia fans.
The time and energy it would take to go back and re-compile charts based on old data just wouldn't be worth it.
I think we'll have to settle for the fact that there were a number of titles that could have been hits had the rules been different, but they weren't.
I'm also afraid there wouldn't be an end to the refiguring. Why not re-compile the charts where two-sided hits charted together and separate them again? There was once a rule that if you had a bullet one week, you couldn't fall the next week -- you had to lose your bullet first, and then slide down the chart. So we'd have to go back and make adjustments for that.
The Hot 100 is an ever-evolving chart, designed to reflect current market conditions with the best technology available at the time. No doubt, and no pun intended, it will change again and again in the future, giving tomorrow's chart fans reasons to want to reconfigure their charts to match our present-day rules.
I have been an avid chart observer since I was a pre-teen and really enjoy your column and your books ("The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" in particular).
I agree with your comments that the music we hear at the age of 14 is the music we feel will be the best of all time. For me it was 1979 and the music was "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" from Queen, "My Sharona" by the Knack, "Bad Case Of Loving You" by Robert Palmer, "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, "Tragedy" by the Bee Gees, and "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills.
As you can see, it was an eclectic mix of musical genres. A variety of musical styles (rock, disco, R&B, pop) could be heard on just one radio station and my radio was on from the time I got up until I went to bed. I think to this day that is why I enjoy a wide variety of music and I long for the day when one radio station could satisfy my musical appetite.
Enough reminiscing for now. I do have a question concerning the song "I Drove All Night." The current version by Celine Dion is the third version that I can recall. Most people I talk to can't even remember there being other versions of the song. I remember the Roy Orbison version in the 1980s and I believe Cyndi Lauper re-did the song in the 1990s. I really enjoy the song and each version appeals to me and I personally feel the song deserves a better chart fate than it has received in the past. Can you tell me if there have been other versions recorded and which version has had the best chart success? Also can you tell me who wrote the song?
Many thanks from a big fan. Your hard work and time is much appreciated by this music lover.
"I Drove All Night" was recorded by Roy Orbison in 1988. He died in December of that year, and a single charted posthumously in 1992. Although Orbison's version never made the Billboard Hot 100, it did reach No. 74 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart. Meanwhile, Cyndi Lauper's recording of "Drove" was released as a single in 1989. It peaked at No. 6 and is Cyndi's most recent top-10 hit.
"I Drove All Night" was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly and is their 10th biggest hit, according to the third edition of "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits." Steinberg and Kelly have also written hits like Madonna's "Like a Virgin," the Bangles' "Eternal Flame," Heart's "Alone," Divinyls' "I Touch Myself," Linda Ronstadt's "How Do I Make You," and Lauper's "True Colors."
Celine Dion's "I Drove All Night" is the fourth version of the song that I've heard (and by the way, her recording dips 51-53 on the new Hot 100). The third version appeared on our country chart. It was recorded by Pinmonkey, a quartet made up of lead singer Michael Reynolds, drummer Rick Schell, Dobro guitarist Chad Jeffers, and his brother, bassist Michael Jeffers. The band originally got together in Nashville just to have fun, and ended up signed to BNA Records.
The group didn't know what to call itself under a club owner told Reynolds she needed a name to advertise his band playing at her club. Reynolds was watching an episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer yearns to work in a bowling alley setting up pins, and thus Pinmonkey was born.
E-MAILS FROM TONY OR JOEY
I have to tell you with my hectic schedule, I always look forward to checking out your column every week for insight into the week's chart happenings. Following the charts is a favorite hobby of mine and your column takes me away from my work and allows me to enjoy the music world.
My question has to deal with something I have not seen before on The Billboard Hot 100. There are two songs that feature an artist and "or" another artist. Those songs include "Picture" by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow or Allison Moorer as well as "Come Close to Me" by Common featuring Mary J. Blige or Erykah Badu, Pharrell & Q-Tip. Is this because both versions are being played on radio or because two different versions are on a single and points cannot be determined to which the sales belong to? If the two different versions are being played on radio, does it count as the same song even though there are different singers singing the same song?
I remember a chart policy changing due to Jennifer Lopez' multiple remixes with the same title but with very different tunes. Does this policy include these two songs that I mentioned? By the way I have never heard the "or" versions of either of these songs on radio or TV.
Thanks for clearing up the confusion!
A loyal fan,
First, there was "featuring." Now there's the "or." I see two songs in Billboard's Hot 100 with the peculiar "or" in the credits: "Picture" by Kid Rock featuring Sheryl Crow or Allison Moorer, and "Come Close to Me" by Common featuring Mary J. Blige or Erykah Badu, Pharrell & Q-Tip.
What I'm wondering about is how come it was only reflected this week in the Hot 100. And I'm still confused as to when it would be listed as "or" vs. being charted as totally different songs. Does that have something to do with length of time in the same musical arrangement? I guess music companies have found another marketing tool to build up airplay in different markets, similar to the "remix."
On a different note, like your other reader I was also bothered with A Flock Of Seagulls being considered as a one-hit wonder. Isn't "Wishing" their most successful song, aside from those mentioned in your column? Can I ask for a list of their hit songs and peak positions on the Hot 100? Sorry, but I only started monitoring the Billboard charts in June 1984, so I only got to see the chart life of "The More You Live, The More You Love."
As always, thanks.
Quezon City, Philippines
Dear Tony or Joey,
The "or" issue is covered in this week's "Chart Beat Bonus", so check out that column for a full explanation.
Whether two versions of a song have their airplay combined depends on how similar they are. Parts one and two of "I Need a Girl" by P. Diddy were substantially different from each other, and so had separate entries on the Hot 100. The two versions of Kid Rock's "Picture" are the same recording, with Sheryl Crow's vocals on the pop version and Allison Moorer's voice on the country version. That's why there is such an unusual listing on the chart, with both female artists listed, separated by the conjunction "or."
As for Joey's question about A Flock Of Seagulls, these Liverpudlians worked their way into our hearts with their first chart entry, "I Ran (So Far Away)" in 1982. That single remains the band's biggest hit, having peaked at No. 9. Next came "Space Age Love Song," which reached No. 30. The third single was "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)," which became the group's second biggest hit when it went to No. 26. Their final chart entry was the single "The More You Live, The More You Love," which stopped at No. 56.