Ask Billboard: Is Katy Perry's 'Prism' Better Than 'Teenage Dream'?

Katy Perry - Roar

A look at possible singles from - and the future success of - Perry's new album. Plus, women are ruling the Hot 100 at a nearly historic level

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

IS 'PRISM' BETTER THAN 'TEENAGE DREAM'?

@gthot20 is PRISM better than Teenage Dream?

?@cqr111

The above seemed to be a key question for Katycats, judging by the reaction of Chart Beat readers (and Tweeters), upon the release of Katy Perry's third Capitol album, "Prism," this week.

After a little time to soak the set in, reactions seem as positive as Perry's attitude by the end of lead single "Roar": i.e., she still definitely has the eye of the tiger when it comes to her artistry.

With that, Chart Beat posed the question of what songs should be future singles from the new set, which is expected to debut atop next week's Billboard 200 chart.

Here's a sampling of reader responses, followed by more analysis of how we might ultimately judge how "Prism" can be compared to "Teenage Dream," which in 2011 became just the second album ever to yield five Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s.

Here are your picks for "Prism" singles after the two-week Hot 100 No. 1 "Roar" and new single "Unconditionally," the latter of which could enter the Hot 100 next week.

OMG I can really say that Birthday has #1 smash written all over it!
?@SlaytyKaty

legendary lovers, this is how we do, birthday
?@Zikreacherous

3rd single DEFINITELY Birthday or This Is How We Do !!!
?@BananaOfFire

BIRTHDAY, INTERNATIONAL SMILE, THIS IS HOW WE DO!
?@aldenskii

Legendary Lovers as the 3rd single, then Birthday. Save This Is How We Do and/or Int'l Smile for next summer.
?@Wesslaayy

birthday, ghost, international smile, this moment, double rainbow, choose your battles!
@Jonawiz

#PRISM's best offering is cut 2 ("Legendary Lovers"), but the whole album is a good listen and redefines @katyperry. It is a bit darker, indeed.

@ least 5 more #1s: Cuts 2, 4 ("Walking on Air"), 5 ("Unconditionally"), 7 ("This Is How We Do") & 9 ("Ghost") are good choices. #Unconditionally is an excellent choice and a surefire no. 1 hit if properly promoted.

The 2nd half of #PRISM is a bit less interesting musically. But still delivers lyrically. #PRISM is a departure from Teenage Dream for sure. Excellent album.

?@HotSwede (over a series of impassioned Tweets)

Dear Gary,

I've been a fan of Katy Perry since the beginning. Her music is fun, colorful and engaging. She is a pop artist of the highest order.

Her first two albums were packed full of hits, but, to me, had a few pitfalls, as well. "Prism" is not that album. It's a 10 out of 10 in my book, with no throwaway or forgettable tracks. Every one could be a hit.

That being a said, I'd love to see the following songs become singles:

"Legendary Lovers." The ethnic, tribal beat adds a nice mix to this pop stunner.
"Birthday." An incredibly fun smash hit, this could be a huge No. 1.
"Walking on Air." The song is about as sleek and dancefloor-ready as they come.
"Dark Horse." Brooding, this one is a unique turn for Perry (and has already made waves as a promo single).
"This Is How We Do." Perfect summer hit!
"Double Rainbow." A gorgeous power ballad with an indie twist, this could be a surprise smash.

Honorable mentions: The experimental dance feel of "International Smile," the alternative tune "Ghost" and the haunting "By the Grace of God."

Best,

Josiah Coulter

So … by this admittedly unscientific poll, the top vote-getters are:

"This Is How We Do," 5
"Birthday," 5
"International Smile," 4
"Legendary Lovers," 3
"Ghost," 3
"Walking on Air," 2
"Double Rainbow," 2

As it's fun to play record executive, I want to give my picks, too. If it were up to me, I think I'd choose the "Prism" singles like this, following "Roar" and "Unconditionally":

3, "Walking on Air." After ballad "Unconditionally," a segue to the dancefloor. An easy, fun hook and a single that would be among Perry's most dance-leaning to date. And, like "Dark Horse," as noted above, it's already familiar as a "Prism" preview cut.

4, "Birthday." Perry's trademark uptempo pop. When I first heard the album, this song stood out to me  as having the most obvious catchy chorus. As the fourth single, it would also likely line up as a top 2014 song of the summer candidate.

5, "Dark Horse" (featuring Juicy J). A swing back to more midtempo waters. It also reminds me of "E.T." a bit (which topped the Hot 100 for five weeks). A Juicy J-less edit would possibly be needed for AC crossover play, as any Perry single choice at this point has to take into account the fact that she's become a core artist at pop and adult radio, a rare status that Capitol wants to maintain.

6, "Ghost." Seems like an obvious multi-format hit with a great hook. Perhaps the low-key "The One That Got Away" of the album.

7, "International Smile." Possibly the second-most radio-ready chorus on "Prism" after "Birthday" (but similar enough to the latter song that you'd want to space them out as singles).

As for "This Is How We Do," you and several programmers love it. I just wonder if it's adult enough for AC radio. Maybe that doesn't matter, given apparent rabid interest in it. Maybe it slides in ahead of "Birthday"?

Ultimately, there's one person who'll decide the singles from "Prism": Perry herself.

"The decision is hers. She makes the call," says Greg Thompson, Capitol Music Group EVP. "Like any smart artist, she takes input from fans [Ed. note: So you do have a say!] and advisers and looks at what she wants the message to be, from her, about her body of work.

"The album is amazing and packed with tracks that can be and will be singles," Thompson says. "She has an incredible feel for how she wants to tell the stories."

(Similarly, Billboard.com Pop Shop-keeper Jason Lipshutz reported that Lady Gaga has final say on her single choices, according to Interscope.)

As for the topic's original question, is "Prism" better than "Teenage Dream"? Well, that's a question of taste unique to each fan. Chart-wise, though, it's pertinent to ask whether "Prism" can approach or surpass the achievement of landing five Hot 100 leaders from "Teenage Dream." Given the hooks throughout the set, it certainly seems to have a chance. And, "Roar" has already fulfilled its part of the deal.

Only one prior album had to follow up a five-No. 1 collection: Michael Jackson's "Dangerous," after "Bad" generated a quintet of leaders in 1987-88.

Let's revisit how "Dangerous" singles did on the Hot 100:

No. 1 (seven weeks), "Black or White"
No. 3, "Remember the Time"
No. 6, "In the Closet"
No. 26, "Jam"
No. 27, "Heal the World"
No. 14, "Who Is It"
No. 7, "Will You Be There"

So, "Bad" produced five No. 1s, plus the No. 11 hit "Another Part of Me" and the No. 7-peaking "Smooth Criminal." "Dangerous" housed one No. 1 and four top 10s in all.

Perhaps timing wasn't on Jackson's side: in 1991, when "Dangerous" was released, mainstream pop was feeling a squeeze from surging country, grunge and harder-edged R&B/hip-hop. Jackson's pop/R&B sound may have been less in favor than in 1987-88, as well as in 1982-84, when "Thriller" reigned with its own seven smashes.

As for content, "Bad" songs like "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Man in the Mirror" are AC staples, while tracks from "Dangerous" are more generally relegated to specialty programming. Jackson added some new-jack (new Jack-son?) to his arsenal for "Dangerous," which also likely turned off fans who appreciated more his talent for melody. Still, "Will You Be There," the set's final single, returned the King of Pop to the top 10 and, subjectively speaking, sounds the most in line with current radio styles of the album's single releases.

Notably, Perry has not changed her sound between "Teenage Dream" and "Prism" as much as Jackson did between "Bad" and "Dangerous." She's added some beats, but both are still melodic pop albums throughout. Nor has the pure pop-heavy music landscape shifted as much since 2010, when "Teenage Dream" arrived, as it did between 1987-88 and the early '90s. (Also a point worth noting: the Hot 100 adopted Nielsen Music data just as "Dangerous" was released, resulting in fewer No. 1s annually from that point on. But, perhaps only "Remember the Time" might've hit No. 1 under prior chart tabulation, given that no other "Dangerous" singles reached the top five.)

Overall, it'll be awhile before we can fully compare the successes of "Prism" and "Teenage Dream"; years, even, in terms of what Perry songs may grace airwaves long into the future.

"It's a long journey," Thompson says of the ride of "Prism."

"We are just getting started."

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

LORDES OF THE CHART

Hi Gary,

I've recently noticed that "Roar" by Katy Perry, "Royals" by Lorde, and "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus have been trading spots in the top three of the Hot 100. Thus, we've seen all of the three top songs each week by credited to solo women.

So, I've been trying to remember other times when such a feat has happened. But, I could only relate it to 2005, when  "Oh" by Ciara (featuring Ludacris), "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani and "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey were top three hits simultaneously. (Ludacris was not the lead artist on "Oh," so I think that song counts).

Could you give more such examples, please? And, if possible, try to explain with a theory why this occasionally happens? We can also see that both the current and 2005 cases include rising singers: Lorde now and Ciara then. ("Oh" was her third single, but she was then at the start of her long career.)

Thankfully,

Lucca Mascarenhas
São Paulo, SP, Brazil

Hi Lucca,

Great observation. To answer the last part of your question first, I'm not sure it's anything other than timing mixed with three absolute smashes by Lorde ("Royals"), Perry ("Roar") and Cyrus ("Wrecking Ball"). Sometimes men hold such a lock, if there's, say, a long-lasting hit like "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, and sometimes groups do, such as when Black Eyed Peas reigned for 26 straight weeks with "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling" in 2009.

It's interesting, though, that after Lorde, Perry and Cyrus at Nos. 1-3 on this week's Hot 100, Lady Gaga (No. 9) and Lana Del Rey (No. 11) are the only other lead women in top 20. That the trio is bunched up in the top three speaks to the strengths of their current singles.

Lorde, Perry and Cyrus have monopolized the Hot 100's top three for six consecutive weeks, with Lorde at the summit for the past four frames. It's not, however, a record, for women locking up the top three for the most consecutive weeks.

The all-time mark? In 1998-99, lead women held the top three for a record 12 weeks in a row. And, 10 of those frames included only solo women, with no featured males. Here are the songs that contributed to the record dominance:

"Have You Ever?," Brandy
"Nobody's Supposed to Be Here," Deborah Cox
"...Baby One More Time," Britney Spears

"Angel of Mine," Monica
"Believe," Cher
"Heartbreak Hotel," Whitney Houston feat. Faith Evans & Kelly Price (as even the featured acts were women)

And, since Celine Dion is co-billed with R. Kelly on "I'm Your Angel," we can up the count from 10 to 12 weeks of women occupying the top 10 consecutively.

We could even expand the mark to an amazing 18 weeks if we consider songs featuring female vocals. The list would then include Divine's "Lately" and Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)."

Lorde, Perry and Cyrus, thus, have combined for the second-longest top-three occupation by solo women in the Hot 100's 55-year history.

Some honorable mentions: 2005, as you mention, Lucca, saw Stefani, Ciara and Carey owning the top three for four successive weeks.

2001 was a monster year for women on the Hot 100. From April through that June, Janet Jackson, Destiny's Child, Dido and the team of Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and P!nk combined for six straight weeks in the top three. That August/September, Mariah Carey, Blu Cantrell, Destiny's Child, Eve – featuring Gwen Stefani ("Let Me Blow Ya Mind) – Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez and Jackson also tripled up in the top three for six weeks in a row.

1979 was also a landmark year for women on the survey. For a whopping nine weeks, female voices held the top three, thanks to Donna Summer, Sister Sledge, Anita Ward, Chic and Barbra Streisand.

For four of those frames (June 30-July 21, 1979), solo women held sway with three songs: Ward's "Ring My Bell" and two – "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" – by the artist aptly named for that sultry season, Donna Summer.

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

'HEARTBREAK'-ING HITS

Hi Gary,

Ah, another "Heartbreaker" on the Hot 100, this one by Justin Bieber, which falls off the Hot 100 this week after reaching No. 13.

"Heartbreaker" by Mariah Carey featuring Jay Z is the only No. 1 having that title (although there has been "Un-Break My Heart" and "Break Your Heart," too.) The "Heartbreaker" list isn't as long as your "Hold On" compilation, but here is the rundown of artists to hit the Hot 100 with that title. (And, notice the variety of genres):

No. 1 (1999), Carey feat. Jay Z
No. 10 (1983), Dionne Warwick
No. 13 (2013), Justin Bieber
No. 23 (1980), Pat Benatar
No. 37 (1978), Dolly Parton
No. 72 (1970), Grand Funk Railroad

And of course, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have peaked as high as No. 3 on the Hot 100.

Just wanted to acknowledge that heartbreaker, Bieber.

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, California

Thanks for pouring your "heart" into this one and "breaking" it all down, Pablo!

On a related chart-geeky note, I thought it was interesting this week that Zac Brown Band's "Sweet Annie" debuts on the Hot 100 at No. 94. It's the first time the name Annie has appeared in the title of a Hot 100 hit since 1977. That year, Roger Daltrey's "Avenging Annie" reached No. 88.

Among the now 11 such hits, one of the most enduring is Heart's "Dreamboat Annie" (No. 42, 1977, clearly a big year for Annies).

The highest-charting such song? John Denver's "Annie's Song," a two-week No. 1 in 1974.

Special mention, too, to the "Annie" soundtrack, which rose to No. 35 on the Billboard 200, and eventually went Platinum, in 1982.

And, extra special mention to Jay Z, who factors not only into the "Heartbreaker" discussion, but this one, as well. He did, after all, hit No. 15 in 1999 with "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Life)," his rap reworking of the song originally sung by the musical little orphan herself.