Weekly Chart Notes: Could AC Be The Next Piece in Pop Radio's Variety Puzzle?
With top 40 playing such previously unlikely pop acts as Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and Hunter Hayes, could 'popera' star Groban be next to cross over?
On Feb. 5, Josh Groban appeared on the syndicated "Elvis Duran and the Morning Show," which originates from WHTZ New York and runs on 13 additional reporters to Billboard's Nielsen BDS-based Pop Songs chart. Before playing his new single, "Brave," Groban and Duran joked that the latter could get fired for playing such a pure AC hit on pop radio.
But, is the idea of Groban gracing top 40 airwaves that outrageous?
Unlike many of Groban's previous singles – none of which have charted on Pop Songs – "Brave" has tempo and deemphasizes his trademark "popera" vocal style. And, Groban boasts the Billboard 200's No. 1 album, "All That Echoes," which arrives with 145,000 copies sold in the U.S. this week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The sum ups his count to a hefty 22 million albums sold to date.
Groban simply hasn't yet released a song that's fit at top 40 radio. Still, he's made pop culture inroads in line with the format's audience (if not often to poke fun at his adult-leaning image). His career launched, in part, due to appearances on Fox's "Ally McBeal" beginning in 2001. He later graced the network with a cameo on "Glee." He guested on Jimmy Kimmel's famous video tribute to Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon's mock bromance and last fall feted Kimmel at the Primetime Emmy Awards by covering One Direction's pop smash "What Makes You Beautiful."
Groban has also hilariously moonlighted as Kanye West's Twitter interpreter on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" "At most, his Tweets are 140 characters," Groban mused about West on the program last week. "But, the depth of his passion is ... immeasurable."
Could pop radio fit in Groban's marketing arsenal? The format is already playing banjos from Mumford & Sons, gentle folk from Ed Sheeran and a country ballad from Hunter Hayes. Is it that crazy to wonder if it could adopt a consistently top-selling AC star, as well? "It's never out of the question for top 40 to play a top artist from just about any format," says Stan Priest, PD of WIOQ Philadelphia (which runs Duran's morning show). Still, Priest points to timing being key, noting that "Brave" is just beginning its run at AC, rising 20-17 on Adult Contemporary in its fourth week this week. "Pop radio typically plays hits while they are at their peak," he says.
"The other challenge is meeting listener expectations. If a station ventures too far from the focus sound of the station as the listener would view it, you create a tune-out opportunity."
Sure, "Brave" is not an established AC hit yet. And, Groban was making rounds at radio last week. But, top 40's scope of variety is currently wide.
Pop programmers might chuckle at the possibility of playing Groban (as he and Duran already did …) But, they'd be doing so while already playing several other acts they probably never thought they'd have in rotation, too.
IT'S THE BOMB: Fall Out Boy previews its sixth studio album, "Save Rock and Roll," due May 7, as "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)" charges onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 26 and Hot Rock Songs at No. 8.
The track storms Rock Digital Songs and Alternative Digital Songs at No. 1 and Hot Digital Songs at No. 3 with 162,000 first-week downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"Songs" concurrently starts on the Alternative Songs radio airplay chart at No. 29. The song is the group's first entry on the list since 2008. It's scored three top 10s on the ranking, peaking as high as No. 2 with "Dance, Dance" in 2006.
TAYLOR GAINS, RIHANNA RISES: With debuts on the Hot 100, Taylor Swift edges closer to the mark for the most career entries among women, while Rihanna equals an icon's output.
Rihanna launches at No. 57 with "Stay," featuring Mikky Ekko, and Swift arrives two notches lower as a duet partner with Tim McGraw on "Highway Don't Care."
With Swift scoring her 58th Hot 100 hit and Rihanna registering her 41st – tying Barbra Streisand – here is an updated look at the most Hot 100 visits among women in the chart's 54-year history:
73, Aretha Franklin
58, Taylor Swift
56, Dionne Warwick
53, Connie Francis
48, Brenda Lee
44, Mariah Carey
42, Nicki Minaj
41, Barbra Streisand
40, Mary J. Blige
40, Diana Ross
Following Rihanna's performance of "Stay" at the Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) and the release of the song's video this week, the song is set to soar into the Hot 100's upper reaches next week. It's currently in the iTunes Store's top five.
Also set for a high Hot 100 entrance next week is Baauer's "Harlem Shake," which storms onto Dance/Electronic Songs this week at No. 12. Click here for more on the viral sensation.
WHEN YOU THINK TIM McGRAW ...: With the Hot 100 bow of "Highway Don’t Care," Swift has now charted both with McGraw and with a tribute to the star, as her debut single, "Tim McGraw," reached No. 40 on the Hot 100 and No. 6 on Hot Country Songs in 2007.
Swift takes further how other artists have woven artist names and collaborations with those acts into their discographies. Notably, similar examples have occurred at country, a format in which artists are renowned for their appreciation of its history. Garth Brooks, for instance, name-checked rodeo star/singer Chris LeDoux in Brooks' debut No. 8 Hot Country Songs hit "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" in 1989. He then recorded with LeDoux (although was not credited) on the latter's "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy," a No. 7-peaking Hot Country Songs hit in 1992.
An honorable mention goes to Brad Paisley’s "Old Alabama," featuring Alabama. That's a slightly different case, however, as Paisley worked the title and guest appearance into one song.
And, while he hasn't recorded it on an album, Toby Keith ribbed Willie Nelson with the live "I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again" at the latter's 70th birthday celebration in 2003. That summer, the pair made an, um, joint trip to the top of Hot Country Songs for six weeks with "Beer for My Horses."
Billboard's dance/electronic chart manager Gordon Murray, meanwhile, remembers that Junior Vasquez hit No. 2 on Dance/Club Play Songs in 1996 with "If Madonna Calls." The DJ had by then remixed several of her earlier releases.
LONG 'WAIT': Following the group's performance of the song at the Grammy Awards (Feb. 10), Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" soars 26-15 with Digital Gainer honors on the Hot 100 (104,000 downloads sold, up 116%), netting its highest rank in its 27th week.
"Wait" previously charted as high as No. 23 upon its debut (Aug. 25, 2012).
STRAIT UP: Quiz time! Who are the only two artists to appear on the Radio Songs chart each year since it expanded to include all formats monitored by Nielsen BDS in 1998? Well, George Strait is one, obviously enough, since you just read his last name at the start of this paragraph ... The other? Guess, then keep reading.
Strait enters Radio Songs at No. 68 with "Give It All We Got Tonight" (17 million, up 23%). The song lifts 87-80 on the Hot 100 and bullets at No. 25 on Hot Country Songs.
The other act to populate Radio Songs each year dating to 1998? Jay-Z. He tacked 2013 onto his streak as soon as Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie," which features the rapper, debuted four weeks ago; it rises 14-10 this week. Strait, thus, is the only artist to inhabit the list as a lead act each year in that span.