CHART BEAT CHAT

Readers letters answered by chart expert Fred Bronson regarding adult R&B, Ashanti, "American Idol," Ace Of Base, album tracks hitting No. 1, the Dixie Chicks, lengthy artist names, and commercial

WHITHER R&B?

Hi Fred,

I am very concerned about the current state of R&B on the charts lately. Yeah, I know certain people will argue with me and say that rap/hip-hop is a vital part of R&B/soul history. I do acknowledge the growth of hip-hop and I have witnessed the saturation of the genre on the airways. With that being said, I feel that a great number of talented "soul" singers are being pushed aside for the latest "guess what old school sample I stole" hit by rap artists.

Artists like Glenn Lewis, Remy Shand, Raphael Saddiq, and Musiq (who in my opinion is the current front-runner for CD of the year) are not being represented on the radio nearly as much, which in my opinion leads to low chart positioning. Here in Atlanta, our top station, WVEE (V-103) has opted to embrace rap/hip-hop, which is fine. However I feel they have pushed their loyal R&B base fans to rivals 102.5 (classic R&B) and 104.1 (mix of classic and new R&B). Even major R&B heavyweights like Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross (whose last CD was incredible!) must hope to squeeze in a spin on top stations.

I know a lot of this may be about advertising to the demographic that is spending the most money, which is probably ages 12-25, but I wish Billboard would consider making a chart that would let us know that R&B is still being listened to, instead of charts showcasing the latest track that Ashanti is being featured on. I know that sounds harsh, but I'm just concerned about a lost art becoming extinct.

Stephen Johnson
Atlanta
Skillet87@aol.com

Dear Stephen,

Part of the problem is something you alluded to -- demographics. Artists like Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross struggle for airplay because they aren't today's newest flavor. This is a problem that affects other genres of music, too. Artists who were superstars in the 1980s and even the 1990s are not "automatic adds" at radio anymore. The Billboard charts reflect what is happening on radio and at retail, so if Ashanti is showing up a lot, it's because she is being played on the radio and is selling records at retail.

Billboard's sister publication, R&B Airplay Monitor, publishes a number of R&B charts, based on airplay at different formats of R&B. There is an R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, as well as an Adult R&B Airplay chart and a Rap Airplay chart. The artists you mention continue to do very well at Adult R&B radio. This week's chart finds names like Musiq, Joe, Luther Vandross, Donell Jones, and Maxwell in the top-10. Other artists in the current top-40 include Gerald Levert, Regina Belle, Boyz II Men, Remy Shand, Glenn Lewis, and yes, Ashanti, who has two songs on the chart.Ashanti is also the topic of our next E-mail. Read on:


AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING...

Hi Fred,

Ashanti notches her fifth top-10 hit of 2002 as "Happy" jumps 12-9. Her first four were "Always on Time," "What's Luv," "Foolish," and "Down 4 U."

Not many solo female artists have made the top-10 in one calendar year in the rock era with five different songs; among the few are Aretha Franklin in 1968 with "Chain of Fools," "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and "I Say a Little Prayer"; Donna Summer in 1979 with "Heaven Knows," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "Dim All the Lights," and "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)"; and Madonna in 1985 with "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," "Crazy for You," "Angel," and "Dress You Up".

Incredibly, Ashanti has accomplished the feat in less than eight months. That gives her over one-third of the year to try for a sixth top-10 hit -- and if she can do it, she'll be the first woman to ever do so. Her chances are good, with "Baby" climbing 60-53 this week.

Janet Jackson came really, really close in 1990. "Rhythm Nation," "Escapade," "Alright," "Come Back to Me," and "Black Cat" all made the top-10, and then in the last chart of the year, "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" was No. 11. In the first chart of 1991, "Love" jumped 11-7.

The act with the most top-10 hits in one calendar year remains the Beatles, with 11 in 1964.

Regards,

Kenton Beerman
Brooklyn, N.Y.


WHEN IS A 'HOUSE' NOT A 'HOME'?

Hi Fred,

Did Tamyra use the song [on "American Idol" that you wrote about last week]? She was amazing on Tuesday. There has been a lot of discussion on what song each singer should select and I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. If you were to select a song that would maximize the talent of the four contestants that are left what song would you choose for them?

If they do a 1980s theme I think Justin should try something from Terence Trent D'arby. Do you know if D'Arby has released any new music overseas? I know it has been a while since he released anything over here.

Thanks,

Mario A. Ortega
Huntington Beach, Calif.
marioortega2000@aol.com

Dear Mario,

For those readers who might have missed last week's "Chart Beat," we should let everyone know you're referring to how I almost spoke with "American Idol" contestant Tamyra on the phone last week, so I could play a song for her that she was considering for the Burt Bacharach-themed episode of the show (although at the time I didn't reveal the theme). Some of the contestants did change their tunes, as we saw, but the song cued up on my CD player was Dionne Warwick's version of "A House Is Not a Home." Tamyra was only familiar with Luther Vandross' remake, and wanted to hear the original.

I think she made a brilliant choice, as she has done in previous shows with songs like "A Fool in Love" and "Minnie the Moocher." I loved to be surprised with an off-the-wall pick -- so much better than obvious songs. For the Bacharach show, obvious songs would have been "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," which thankfully were saved for a medley sung by the final five on Wednesday's half-hour show.

In the U.K., the three finalists all had to sing the same song, a version of "Evergreen." Not the Barbra Streisand song, but an original recorded by Irish boyband Westlife. Ultimate winner Will Young then released "Evergreen" as his first single.

I really don't know what themes are coming up, but I would do a Number One Hits show, or an Abba show (but then, I would, wouldn't I?). For Number One hits, an off-the-wall choice for Justin would be "American Pie" (a very short version, of course). How about "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for Tamyra and "Nothing Compares 2 U" for Kelly? Or, they could all sing Paula Abdul songs.


ACE RETURNS TO BASE

Dear Mr. Bronson,

Since you are an Ace of Base fan, I thought it fitting to notify you that Ace of Base's new single "Beautiful Morning" has been released to select radio stations in Germany and Austria!

Do you have any information as to the status of Ace of Base and any possible U.S. record companies that are willing to release the new album? Arista and J Records have both told representatives of the fans that they are not interested in releasing any Ace of Base material. However, Ace of Base is still signed with BMG. BMG Canada has shown interest in releasing the new album. But what will happen in former Arista territories (USA, Mexico, South America, and Japan)? Will a BMG label/imprint take them up? Any information you can provide us would be so very much appreciated.

By the way, the new song is brilliant! It marks the return of the classic AOB-reggae-pop sound, but with an updated, "Flowers" sound to it. It reminds me very much of "The Sign" and "Life Is a Flower" combined. It also includes a gospel choir as in "Beautiful Life." I can definitely hear another European No. 1 hit, just like "Life is a Flower" was back in 1998.

Karnig Dukmajian
Los Angeles

Dear Karnig,

Since you wrote your E-mail, "Beautiful Morning" by Ace of Base has also gone to radio in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, as you know. A commercial release is scheduled for Europe in early September, so we won't see the single on any sales charts until then, but it is already doing well on airplay charts.

No information yet on a U.S. release, but I can tell U.S. fans (as well as everyone else around the world) how to hear the song. It will be played on "The Billboard Radio Countdown" for the week ending Aug. 24. The song will be the featured "Hits of the World" track during that show, which will be posted at billboardradio.com on Wednesday (Aug. 21). Visitors to Billboard.com can find a Billboard Radio button on the homepage that will link to the site where you can hear the show.


A FIRST?

Dear Mr. Bronson,

Is "Dilemma" by Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland the first album cut to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100?

Thanks,

Dean Baldry
Little Rock, Ark.

Hi Dean,

There have been many album cuts that have reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 since the rules were changed in December 1998 to allow songs to chart based solely on airplay. The first song to be No. 1 that was not a commercial single was "Try Again" by Aaliyah, although a single was released later.

"Dilemma" is a first in another way, however. It is the first album track that was not promoted to radio to reach No. 1. In other words, Nelly's label hadn't chosen "Dilemma" as a follow-up to "Hot in Herre," and never sent a promotional single to radio. Radio responded to this song and started playing it without any promotion from the label. That's very unusual these days. Because they hadn't planned to promote "Dilemma" to radio, the Universal folks hadn't produced a video for "Dilemma."


CHICKS WITH HITS

Hey Fred,

I see that the Dixie Chicks' "Long Time Gone" jumps from 30 to 13 on Billboard's Hot 100 for Aug. 24. That's an impressive leap. What has been the Chicks' highest-charting singles on the Hot 100?

Marc LeGoff
Washington, D.C.
mlegoff@aol.com

Dear Marc,

The release of a commercial single fueled this rapid rise for the Dixie Chicks' "Long Time Gone" on Billboard's Hot 100. On the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, "Long Time Gone" enters at No. 1.

While it can still move up, "Gone" is already the highest-charting single in the Chicks' career. Until now, "Goodbye Earl" held that honor, peaking at No. 19 in May 2000. "Long Time Gone" is not only No. 13 this week, it's the Chicks' 13th song to chart on the Hot 100.

Here's a chronological summary of their Hot 100 achievements:

"I Can Love You Better," No. 77 (1998)
"There's Your Trouble," No. 36 (1998)
"Wide Open Spaces," No. 41 (1998)
"You Were Mine," No. 34 (1999)
"Tonight the Heartache's on Me," No. 46 (1999)
"Ready to Run," No. 39 (1999)
"Cowboy Take Me Away," No. 27 (2000)
"Goodbye Earl," No. 19 (2000)
"Cold Day in July," No. 65 (2000)
"Without You," No. 31 (2000)
"If I Fall You're Going Down With Me," No. 38 (2001)
"Some Days You Gotta Dance," No. 55 (2002)
"Long Time Gone," No. 13 (to date) (2002)


THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

Hello Fred,

Long name alert! Not one, but two artists in the top-10 of the Hot 100 have names that are so ridiculously long, I feel for the folks at Billboard who have to fit these names into a magazine chart. Irv Gotti Presents the Inc. featuring Ja Rule, Ashanti, Charli Baltimore & Vita is only slightly longer than P. Diddy & Ginuwine Featuring Loon, Mario Winans & Tammy Ruggeri. My first question is: Why are so many songs credited to "featured" artists "presented" by another artist? Is it all about the copyrighting? Must be tough on all the radio DJs out there.

My second question: Has any charted song ever had a longer artist name than "Down 4 U"? I'm guessing the longest "non-featured" artist might be the Presidents of the United States of America. Incidentally, I've been hearing more and more about the Texas punk band known as ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Hmmm. ...And I remember when I though Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a long name.

Here's to M.

Gary Hennion
New York

Dear Gary,

I'm sure the production crew at Billboard is grateful for computers that can squeeze text to an ultra-thin size, given the lengthy credits on some current hits.

There are several reasons why some of these credits are so lengthy. It's a way to introduce new artists; now Tammy Ruggeri has a top-10 hit to her credit, and her next solo release will garner more attention than if she were a complete unknown. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs once said he considered his Bad Boy roster of artists a family, much like the Motown roster of the 1960s. Motown artists often supported each other -- you can hear the Supremes singing backing vocals on other artists' hits, for example, although in those days those supporting efforts went uncredited. For Irv Gotti, it's a way to bring his name to the forefront instead of being listed in the small print as producer and writer (and he's the head of his label, so he can do what he wants).

I haven't kept track of the longest artists' names, but maybe "Chart Beat" readers can write in with their suggestions for the all-time record.


SINGLES MINDED

Hi Fred,

I've been reading your column for two years now and I really enjoy it every single week.

Now to my question: I would like to hear your opinion if the commercial single in the U.S. is likely to survive, and could you give me your views on how to increase its popularity?

Also, since I'm living in Europe, it's still astonishing to me -- how can the biggest music market [do without] singles? What can be done to overcome this?

Thanks,

Kire Veljanovski
Skopje, Macedonia
streetbond@mt.net.mk

Dear Kire,

This has been the subject of many "Chart Beat Chat" E-mails, but I'm running yours because I know many people living outside of the U.S. find it hard to believe that the single has all but disappeared from American shelves.

Of course, the single is not completely gone. "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis Presley vs. JXL was released by RCA and sold quite well, although the totals are modest compared to sales levels of a couple years ago. Still, a release of a commercial single can have an impact on the charts. The Dixie Chicks proved that this week, as the release of "Long Time Gone" as a single available in stores sent the song flying up Billboard's Hot 100, 30-13, giving the country trio its biggest hit to date on that chart.

I think the rest of the world has it just right when it comes to singles. Release the first single before an album is available. Daniel Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Thru This" is a fine example. It's an album track in the U.S., but the album isn't available yet. I would have the single available for sale now, while the song is being played on the radio. Then when the album comes out, I would release the follow-up, with bonus material not available on the album. In the U.K., Kylie Minogue's fourth single from "Fever" is scheduled to be a double-A side with a new Kylie recording -- a song written by Madonna. That keeps singles selling and renews interest in the album.

Songs like "A Little Less Conversation" excite consumers about music and drive them into record stores, and while they're shopping, they're liable to buy other CDs. On the other hand, when people go to stores to buy singles like "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne or "No Such Thing" by John Mayer and find they're not available as singles, they're more likely to walk out discouraged, without making any purchases.