In a format known for its rapid-fire turnover and constant search for the big thing, Britney Spears' sustained success at mainstream top 40 radio has reached new heights.
Spears claims the mark for the longest span of No. 1s on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart, as "I Wanna Go" rises 2-1 on the Nielsen BDS-based pop radio airplay tally.
Spears scored the first of her six No. 1s on the chart the week of Feb. 20, 1999, with "...Baby One More Time." With this week's listing dated Sept. 24, she extends her span at the top of the list to a record 12 years, seven months and four days.
Because the Mainstream Top 40 chart launched the week of Oct. 3, 1992, it post-dates the arrivals of such stars as Madonna and Mariah Carey. Had the survey existed from the inception of those luminaries' careers, it's likely that they, too, would have led the list over comparable decade-plus spans.
Madonna first materialized at pop radio in 1983 and last led Mainstream Top 40 in 1995. Carey released her debut smash "Vision of Love" in 1990 and most recently reached the chart's summit in 2005.
"Over the last 10 or more years, Britney Spears has had her ups and downs," said MoJoe Roberts, program director of Mainstream Top 40 panelist KHOP (@95-1)/Modesto, Calif., earlier this year. "But, every time she drops new music, it is an event for the format."
True enough, Spears tallied her first two Mainstream Top 40 toppers in 1999-2000. Then, she reigned just once more until 2009.
Up, down and up again.
Here is a recap of Spears' six Mainstream Top 40 No. 1s:
Title, Date reached No. 1, Weeks at No. 1
...Baby One More Time," Feb. 20, 1999, five
"Oops!...I Did It Again," June 10, 2000, three
"Toxic," March 20, 2004, four
"Womanizer," Jan. 3, 2009, two
"Circus," March 7, 2009, one
"I Wanna Go," Sept. 24, 2011, one (to date)
In the chart's history, Spears is now tied with Carey and Beyonce for the third-highest No. 1 sum. Rihanna rules with eight leaders, followed by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and P!nk, each with seven.
"Go" marks Spears' first Mainstream Top 40 No. 1 from her seventh studio album, "Femme Fatale," after two close calls: lead single "Hold It Against Me" reached No. 3 and follow-up "Till the World Ends" peaked at No. 4.
Britney Spears Earns Third Top 20 Single From 'Femme Fatale'
On the Billboard Hot 100 (which, unlike the more narrowly-focused Mainstream Top 40 chart, incorporates airplay on approximately 1,200 stations of various formats, as well as digital sales figures and streaming data), "Go" peaked at No. 7 last month. As "Hold" peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and "Till," No. 3, "Femme" marks Spears' first album to generate three Hot 100 top 10s.
"Go" has shifted 1.1 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Femme" debuted atop the Billboard 200 the week of April 16 and has sold 666,000 copies.
Spears isn't even the only evergreen diva in the current Mainstream Top 40 top five. Fellow former Disney Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera rises 6-3 as guest vocalist on Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" (which topped the Hot 100 two weeks ago).
Should "Jagger" strut to the Mainstream Top 40 summit, Aguilera would likewise boast a No. 1 span of more than 12 years; she first inhabited the chart's penthouse with "Genie in a Bottle" the week of Sept. 11, 1999.
All charts, including Mainstream Top 40, the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200, will be refreshed Thursday (Sept. 15) on Billboard.biz.