Fred Bronson discusses with readers Kelly Osbourne, singles charts, foreign language/English language versions of songs and remixes on the charts, worldwide charts, platinum albums, and the chart acco
KELLY AND (UNION) JACK
Great to read your online columns. I just wanted to take issue with something in your "Chart Beat Bonus" column last week, in which you said there were two Americans called Kelly in the U.K. charts. While Texan Ms. Rowland, currently atop the U.K. album charts, is American through and through, surely Ms. Osbourne, daughter of Brits Ozzy and Sharon, is one of ours, having been born and educated here and spent the first 14 years of her life in the U.K.
She may be holed up in Los Angeles and have a slight transatlantic twang, but I think we still like to see Kelly, along with the rest of the fabulous family Osbourne, as one of our own still.
Even though she seems so Mailbu and Beverly Hills, Kelly Osbourne is indeed British, and I shouldn't try to rob her of her national origin -- especially in an era when British artists haven't been doing that well on Billboard's Hot 100.
I worked with Kelly when I wrote the American Music Awards, and that accent is just British enough that I should have remembered.
IS IT NUMBER ONE?
"All I Have" by Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J? How is it possible that this song is No. 1? It's not No. 1 in airplay, according to Radio & Records, it's currently at No. 4 (up from No. 5 last week), and yet it has been No. 1 for two weeks already [on Billboard's Hot 100]. It has no commercial single. Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera have dominated the airplay scene for the past 4-5 weeks, so what's wrong here?
Something else to be added to this would be that Mariah's "Through the Rain" rose into the 20s on the [Hot 100] Airplay [chart], with no commercial single, for several weeks, yet she can only get to No. 81 and was only on the chart for less than five weeks? What kind of system is run here? It seems like it's whatever record company can pay you the most. I'm not dissing Billboard's ways, I'm just confused how it can happen that the rightful No. 1 owner never achieves it. because it simply isn't making any sense.
It's difficult to seriously consider a letter that includes a sentence like "It seems like it's whatever record company can pay you the most." Record companies do not pay for chart positions, nor does Billboard accept money for chart positions. Further, there is a firewall between the editorial and chart departments and the advertising department, so advertising in the magazine cannot affect editorial content or charts. Period.
This is done for ethical reasons. But think about what you suggest for a moment. If a magazine like Billboard favored one of the five major record companies over the other four, how long do you think it would exist? Not long. And certainly not 109 years, which is how long Billboard has been in existence.
It always puzzles me when someone suggests we favor one label or another, or one artist over another. To what end?
As to your specific question about how "All I Have" can be No. 1, having a commercial single is no longer much of a factor in determining what is No. 1 on the Hot 100, because so few singles are released, and the number of singles sold is so small. We've had many No. 1 songs that have not been released as retail singles.
Radio & Records does not have a chart that is the equivalent of the Hot 100. Their "CHR" chart measures airplay on top 40 stations. On the equivalent chart in Billboard, Top 40 Tracks, "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne is No. 1, and "All I Have" ranks No. 3.
However, on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart, which includes airplay from multiple radio formats, "All I Have" continues at No. 1. To determine chart positions on the Hot 100, airplay and sales points are added together. Since "All I Have" has no sales points, you can infer that it has so much airplay, it was able to reach the top purely on airplay points.
"Through the Rain" by Mariah Carey did not reach the top-30 of Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart. On the Adult Contemporary chart, the song peaked at No. 17. If "Through the Rain" had received more airplay, it would have achieved a higher chart position than No. 81. This week, with a commercial single available, "Through the Rain" had enough sales points to re-enter the Hot 100 at No. 84.
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
With the current focus on the Russian group t.A.T.u. and the single "All the Things She Said," I wanted to pose a "Chart Beat" question regarding foreign language versions of the same song.
On the European releases and import releases of the t.A.T.u. album "200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane," there are Russian language versions of two songs ("Ya Shosia S Uma" for "All the Things She Said" and "Nas Ne Dagonyat" for "Not Gonna Get Us").
If the Russian-language and English-language versions both charted, would they be counted toward the same chart run, given that they are essentially the same song? The only other occurrence I can think about (although I bet there are many more) is Nena's "99 Luftballons" ("99 Red Balloons") which peaked at No. 2 in 1984. Although the official charts have the song listed as "99 Luftballoons," I remember hearing both versions on the radio during 1983/1984.
Please help me out!
St. Louis, Mo.
Radio stations would have to give the Russian version of "All the Things She Said" enough airplay to allow it to chart, and that doesn't seem likely in the U.S. However, to answer your question, airplay for the two versions would be combined for one chart position. The music and melody are the same, so it wouldn't count as two different songs.
For another question on the topic, see the next E-mail.
IGNITIONS I AND II
I recently heard a version of R. Kelly's current hit single, "Ignition," in which the original recording of the song segues into a 20- or 30-second snippet of the remixed version, with R. Kelly introducing the remixed version at the end of the original. The transition between the two versions is a seamless one, but it got me thinking about the song's late rise on Billboard's Hot 100, and the recent change in Billboard's policy regarding how different versions of songs are tracked on its main singles charts.
In late 2001, when Billboard announced it would no longer count the airplay points for two radically different versions of the same title toward one chart entry, it meant that songs like "I'm Real" by Jennifer Lopez would no longer benefit from having one version's chart points supplemented by the airplay of another (in that case, the hugely popular remixed version featuring Ja Rule). It's arguable that had this policy been in effect a half-year earlier, the "I'm Real" collaboration would not have had enough points to reach the top of the Hot 100. The policy change made sense, considering that the radically different version was not technically a "remix," but a totally different song with a different beat, melody, and lyrics (not to mention artist billing).
But hearing R. Kelly's latest hit, where the original and the remixed version (also in my opinion a radically different song with altered lyrics, melody, etc.) were segued into one track (obviously by the record label, not the local station), made me wonder if Broadcast Data Systems [BDS] is able to discern between the two versions if one is adjoining the other. Would the lone-charted title get airplay credit both when the original tune (with the remix snippet) is played as well as when the remixed version is played separately? After all, the song's "fingerprints" would be so similar between the two, that it would be hard for BDS not to track them together, right? Wouldn't this explain why Kelly's "Ignition," which was struggling on the chart after initially peaking due to singles sales, experienced a sudden increase in airplay which propelled it to No. 2 on the R&B list, and No. 13 on the Hot 100?
It seems to me that Kelly's camp is using some sort of a marketing ploy that circumvents the new chart policy and allows the song to rise higher on the chart than it otherwise would have (or higher than either version tracked separately would have). This becomes even more evident when the remixed snippet is heard for only 30 seconds, just long enough for BDS to track its airplay and count it towards the total for the one chart entry.
Clever marketing strategies such as releasing drastically-discounted commercial singles (as Mariah Carey's various labels have always done), or attaching radically "remixed" versions of airplay hits to one another to circumvent the recent change in Billboard's chart policy, may be effective in boosting chart performance, but they usually mean that the artist has lost popularity or has had difficulty in charting a song on its own merits. I hope this isn't the beginning of a trend in which artists and labels routinely end a song with a snippet of some far-fetched remix -- just so Billboard can credit all the song's airplay (for remixes, snippets, and original) to one chart hit.
It isn't really an issue of record companies "fooling" BDS with remixes. BDS is aware of different mixes of songs and makes decisions about which remixes can be combined together for airplay points and which cannot. In the case of "Ignition," it's been determined that the versions are similar enough to warrant being counted as one song for airplay data.
TODAY THE HOT 100, TOMORROW THE WORLD
I know there is a "Hits of the World" chart listing top songs and albums in individual countries. But has Billboard ever considered doing a "Worldwide 100" chart combining (possibly per capita) all countries?
Realistically I suppose it would have to be on a monthly basis. As a combined chart it might give programmers and retailers internationally a better idea of new material to add while increasing the horizons of Billboard's charts. All languages available would be listed for each title. Considering world tension and a possible war the chart may also prove effective in sending a message of world unity through music.
Peace to all.
Richard K. Rogers
About 20 years ago, while doing some work for a music research company in London, I suggested a world chart. It never came to pass, but it's still a viable idea. At this moment, it's not something Billboard is considering.
Billboard's sister publication, Music & Media, publishes the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles survey, which combines data from the U.K., Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Music & Media also publishes the European Top 100 Albums chart.
WHAT'S UP WITH 'UP!'?
How come Shania Twain's CD "Up!" doesn't even show 1 million in sales on the weekly chart? I thought it sold close to 1 million the first week alone. It's been out for a few months now and looks like sales are less than a million copies. Can you explain this?
Yours is just one of many E-mails asking this question. Is there a Shania Twain list where everyone's been asked to write me about this? If so, thanks to all the Shania fans who wrote. You can stop now.
Billboard doesn't publish sales data with charts. For informational purposes, the magazine does publish the symbols indicating gold and platinum certifications issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade organization. For platinum albums, Billboard prints the superscript number indicating how many times platinum an album is.
RIAA certifications are not based on over-the-counter sales, but are based on units shipped to retailers. So a triangle with a seven indicates seven million copies shipped, not seven million copies sold.
Also, certifications are not issued automatically. Record companies must request and pay for them. There are albums that have sold in the millions that have not received gold or platinum certifications. It doesn't mean they aren't multi-million sellers.
As soon as "Up!" receives any certifications from the RIAA, you'll see the appropriate symbols on our charts. But don't assume that because you don't see a gold or platinum symbol, an album hasn't sold in the millions. It just means a certification hasn't been issued.
THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS
Not to say I didn't believe you, but I pulled up Jay-Z's chart history, as I was astounded that he'd had an average of five charting songs in the last seven years. I know with multiple credits, that becomes more feasible, but I was still shocked.
So, I did some research, and I found out Jay-Z is in great company. I came up with the following (incomplete) list of most successful initial seven-year runs of the rock era, in case you're interested. Many of these have a significant number of double-sided hits, perhaps to counter-balance the multiple chart credits.
Here is the list of artists and their appearances on the Hot 100 in first 7 years of charting:
Elvis Presley: 64
Fats Domino: 58
Pat Boone: 53
Connie Francis: 46
Rick Nelson: 46
Nat King Cole: 44
Brook Benton: 40
Ray Charles: 40
Four Seasons: 38
Perry Como: 37
Sam Cooke: 36
Jackie Wilson: 36
Paul Anka: 34
Beach Boys: 34
Note: James Brown and Aretha Franklin had over 40 in their best seven-year periods, and note that none of these started charting even as late as the '70s.
And a few notables since then:
Puff Daddy / P Diddy: 25
Elton John: 23
Madonna: 22 (notably with NO shared credits)
Paul McCartney/Wings: 21
Mary J. Blige, Mariah, Whitney, Notorious B.I.G : 17
Boyz II Men: 16
Celine Dion: 14
Janet Jackson: 10
Thanks for doing all that homework, and providing a fitting conclusion to this week's installment of "Chart Beat Chat."