Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 Debuts, a Guide
3. Whitney Houston
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"
Chart Debut Date: November 25, 1995

Plus, Richard Marx stops by to discuss a song of his that might've been a huge hit ... if only it had been released as a single.

Ask Billboard is updated every week. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

Thanks for including my previous choices of album cuts that should've been singles among readers' responses. I second your suggestion that Dolly Parton's "Cologne" should've been a single in 2008. I also agree that Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Middle Ground" deserved its own release, but only in addition to the stellar "Going Out Tonight." That was the song that introduced me to Carpenter (more so than the heralded "Down at the Twist and Shout"), so I'm glad it got its chance at radio, especially since it's much more indicative of her sound than her Cajun-influenced "Twist."

The notion of b-sides/bonus tracks that warrant a-side treatment is another fantastic topic for discussion! Here are my suggestions:

Prince and the Revolution, "17 Days," the b-side to "When Doves Cry." Prince has many b-sides with radio-ready choruses but their risque lyrics would make airplay out of the question; this selection features an immediately memorable chorus, radio-friendly lyrics, and a performance from the group at its "Purple Rain" peak.

Sting, "Everybody Laughed But You" / "January Stars," from the "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" US CD single. The instrumental tracks and melody on both these songs are the same but the lyrics differ, so take your pick on which should've gone to radio because they both showcase Sting's inescapable hooks, upbeat production, and top-notch vocals.

And, of course...

Madonna, "Supernatural," the b-side to "Cherish." Madonna hides a killer chorus and some quirky subject matter (uh, she's dating a ghost) on the back of her No. 2 Hot 100 hit; had it been released as its own single, it surely would have found radio support.

Best regards,

DeWayne Ray
Cincinnati, Ohio

Hi DeWayne,

Thanks for more on-point suggestions.

Another of my favorite songs that should've been a single and was a b-side was Richard Marx's "Lonely Heart." The song appears on his self-titled 1987 debut album and served as the b-side to his first No. 1, 1988's "Hold On to the Nights." (We'll count U.S. releases only, as it turns out the song got an a-side spotlight in France).

And, whataya know? Richard Marx visited our New York Billboard offices Friday to tape a Chart Beat video segment. I'll post the full piece on soon, but, in the meantime, here's a fitting preview.

Marx revealed that "Heart" did receive consideration as the fifth U.S. single from his first album but ultimately never got its radio due.

It might've even been a hit for one of Marx's contemporaries ... if only that artist hadn't "totally hated" it.

Here's the story in Marx's own words.