Chart-based stories on Cher, Ja Rule, Jimmy Buffett, and more.

ONLY THE 'LONELY': Cher expands her chart span on Billboard's Hot 100 to 36 years and nine months, thanks to the debut of "Song for the Lonely" (Warner Bros.), the lead U.S. single from her new "Living Proof" album. "Lonely" enters at No. 85 and is Cher's 51st chart entry.

She made her first appearance on the Hot 100 the week of July 3, 1965, when her cover of Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do" debuted. One week later, "I Got You Babe" became the first Sonny & Cher single to appear on the Hot 100.

Cher thus joins Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison among artists who have charted on the Hot 100 during the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and '00s, although Cher is the only one who can make the list solely on her solo credits. And one act has them all beat, having also charted in the '50s: the Isley Brothers.

On Billboard's Hot Dance Music: Club Play chart, "Song for the Lonely" advances 2-1, while on the Adult Contemporary tally, the song dips 14-16.

'FUNNY' BUSINESS: There's no change at the top of the Hot 100, so Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule lead the list for the fifth consecutive week with "Ain't It Funny" (Epic). "Funny" succeeded Ja Rule and Ashanti's "Always on Time" (Murder Inc./Def Jam) after that song reigned for two weeks. That means Ja Rule has occupied pole position for seven weeks in a row, the longest stay at No. 1 for an artist since Janet Jackson's "All for You" ruled for seven weeks in 2001.

Ja Rule is the first male artist to have a consecutive No. 1 run of seven weeks or longer since Santana and the Product G&B's "Maria Maria" dominated the survey for 10 weeks in a row, a run that began two years ago this week.

AIN'TED LOVE: "Chart Beat" reader Larry Cohen of Trumbull, Conn., points out that "Ain't It Funny" by Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule is only the second No. 1 song title in the rock era to begin with "Ain't."

Despite a long history of songs beginning with this slang word ("Ain't That a Shame," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "Ain't Nobody," "Ain't She Sweet," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Ain't That Peculiar," "Ain't Even Done With the Night," "Ain't Understanding Mellow," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," among many others), the only other "Ain't" song to top the Hot 100 was Diana Ross' remake of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

'WORLD' CLASS: Jimmy Buffett scores his first top-5 album on The Billlboard 200 in almost five years, with the No. 5 debut of "Far Side of the World" on his own Mailboat imprint. It's Buffett's highest-charting album since "Banana Wind" sailed to No. 4 in the summer of 1996.

The artist, long associated with Key West in Florida, first appeared on the Billboard album chart the week of March 2, 1974, with "Living and Dying in 3/4 Time," which peaked at No. 176. Despite the success of songs like "Margaritaville" and "Come Monday," Buffett didn't collect his first top-10 album until the summer of 1994, when "Fruitcakes" went to No. 5.

"Far Side of the World" is tied with "Fruitcakes" as Buffett's second-highest charting album, bested only by "Banana Wind."

Meanwhile, the Buffett album that preceded "World," the Mailboat release "Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays," re-enters the Top Pop Catalog chart at No. 45.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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