CMA Awards 2018

Ask Billboard: "Idol" Worship

Robert Sebree
American Idol's Kris Allen and Adam Lambert on the cover of Billboard, November 29, 2009.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at

Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Dear Gary,

Hope you're well. I was just wondering whether Billboard was planning to chart the top songs and albums of the 2000s?

If so, how would a songs survey be compiled, considering the Billboard Hot 100's mix of airplay and sales? For instance, is "Low" by Flo Rida a bigger hit than, say, "Yeah!" by Usher, the latter of which was released before digital downloading truly took off?

In other words, in creating such a retrospective, will Billboard account for changes in consumer trends?

And, will Billboard count the points songs collected during their individual weeks on the charts, or will you simply add up the total sales and airplay they logged overall in the past decade? Similarly for albums, will you consider overall sales or only sales accumulated during their chart lives in the '00s?

Many questions, I know, but people are curious!


Amit Gurbaxani

Hi Amit,

All insightful questions. I'm happy to let you know that Billboard's decade-end - and year-end - chart extravaganza will premiere here on Friday, Dec. 11.

In addition to overall Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 song and album rankings, respectively, we'll present a multitude of specific genre recaps, including country, Latin, R&B and rock.

As for the intricacies of how the charts were compiled, we'll include explanations with each tally when they go online. We can, then, provide any needed clarifications related to chart methodology in Ask Billboard.

Check Monday (Dec. 7), when we begin teasing the Dec. 11 launch of charts 10 years in the making.


Hi Gary,

On this week's Billboard 200, eight of the top 10 chart positions are claimed by albums from solo female artists. That seems like an impressive feat, and it has me wondering: has there has ever been such female dominance, solo or otherwise, in the chart's history?


Scott Volk
San Francisco, California

Hi Scott,

This week's Billboard 200 sports the highest percentage of female artists in the top 10 in close to seven years.

On the chart dated Jan, 25, 2003, female soloists and groups also accounted for eight of the top 10:

No. 1, Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"
No. 2, Jennifer Lopez, "This Is Me...Then"
No. 3, Avril Lavigne, "Let Go"
No. 4, Dixie Chicks, "Home"
No. 5, Soundtrack, "8 Mile"
No. 6, Justin Timberlake, "Justified"
No. 7, Shania Twain, "Up!"
No. 8, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, "Under Construction"
No. 9, Aaliyah, "I Care 4 U"
No. 10, Christina Aguilera, "Stripped"

This week's chart, viewable in the chart menu, certainly looks like a who's-who of 21st century divas. The top tier features Susan Boyle (No. 1), Rihanna (No. 4), Lady Gaga (Nos. 5 and 6), Miley Cyrus (No. 7), Taylor Swift (No. 8), Carrie Underwood (No. 9) and, the only artist also in the Jan. 25, 2003, top 10, Norah Jones.

Also of note: with "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster (EP)" Lady Gaga is just the third female artist to log simultaneous top 10s on the Billboard 200 since the chart's conversion to Nielsen SoundScan data in May 1991.

Previously, Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana doubled up in the top 10 on the April 5 and Feb. 16, 2008, charts, and Leann Rimes placed two titles in the upper bracket on the March 1, 15 and 22, 1997, surveys.

(For more on Lady Gaga's top 10 two-fer, Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield provides details in his "Over the Counter" column in this week's print issue of Billboard:

"Lady Gaga's new eight-song quasi-EP "The Fame Monster (EP)" bows with sales of 174,000, while her first album, "The Fame," is close behind (151,000; up 429%).

The latter album's total combines sales of her debut set as well as a two-disc deluxe "The Fame Monster" package that contains both "The Fame" in addition to the new "Monster" disc (which is also available for purchase on its own).

There have been instances of this kind of situation in the past, but none quite as high profile as Gaga's.

Exactly a year ago this week, Capitol Records reissued Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" in a deluxe version titled "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends: Prospekt's March Edition." And, as a courtesy to consumers who had already bought "Viva" earlier in the year, the bonus content from the deluxe album was also offered in a stand-alone "Prospekt's March (EP)."

(As with Lady Gaga's sets), Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan combined the sales of the original "Viva" album with the deluxe version of the release while also separately charting and tracking the "Prospekt's" EP."CHRISTMAS IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER


I have two questions regarding Trans-Siberian Orchestra. How many copies has its single "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" sold in the U.S.? And, what is its best-selling album?

Thank you,

Hrvoje Domic
Zagreb, Croatia

Hi Hrvoje,

The band's signature holiday song has shifted 562,000 downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Its best-selling album is, not surprisingly, the one featuring the song. 1996's "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" has sold 2,992,000 copies to-date.

The progressive rock group's overall career album sales stand at 7,492,000.


An item in yesterday's Chart Beat compared the debut positions on the Billboard 200 of each "American Idol" first- and second-place finalist's introductory albums.

Based on reader feedback, let's expand the scope to include each album's first-week sales figures, according to Nielsen SoundScan:

No. 11, Kris Allen, "Kris Allen" (80,000)
No. 3, Adam Lambert, "For Your Entertainment" (198,000)

No. 3, David Cook, "David Cook" (280,000)
No. 2, David Archuleta, "David Archuleta" (183,000)

No. 10, Jordin Sparks, "Jordin Sparks" (119,000)
No. 10, Blake Lewis, "Audio Day Dream" (98,000)

No. 2, Taylor Hicks, "Taylor Hicks" (298,000)
No. 2, Katharine McPhee, "Katharine McPhee" (116,000)

No. 2, Carrie Underwood, "Some Hearts" (315,000)
No. 4, Bo Bice, "The Real Thing" (227,000)

No. 8, Fantasia, "Free Yourself" (240,000)
No. 52, Diana DeGarmo, "Blue Skies" (47,000)

No. 1, Ruben Studdard, "Soulful" (417,000)
No. 1, Clay Aiken, "Measure of a Man" (613,000)

No. 1, Kelly Clarkson, "Thankful" (297,000)
No. 20, Justin Guarini, "Justin Guarini" (57,000)

Thus, while 2009 and 2008 have marked the first years in which the "Idol" runner-up has launched at a higher spot on the Billboard 200 with a debut album than the same season's champion, 2009 and 2003 are the only years in which the opening sales sum of the runner-up's maiden release topped the victor's.

To take the comparisons further, we can also rank the above albums by sales to-date. Here are the top 10-selling debut sets by "American Idol" winners and runners-up:

6,876,000, Carrie Underwood, "Some Hearts"
2,784,000, Clay Aiken, "Measure of a Man"
2,732,000, Kelly Clarkson, "Thankful"
1,793,000, Fantasia, "Free Yourself"
1,791,000, Ruben Studdard, "Soulful"
1,257,000, David Cook, "David Cook"
1,028,000, Jordin Sparks, "Jordin Sparks"
740,000, David Archuleta, "David Archuleta"
704,000, Taylor Hicks, "Taylor Hicks"
672,000, Bo Bice, "The Real Thing"

It's additionally worth noting that, although he finished fourth on "American Idol" in 2006, Chris Daughtry's band Daughtry has sold 4,575,000 copies to-date of its self-titled debut release.

When it comes to comparing artists, it's always tricky, as different statistics can tell different stories. There are so many figures we could cite when lining up any acts side-by-side (album sales, download sales, radio success, etc.) When different statistics reveal different leaders, it can blur any definitive conclusions.

Of course, such potential ambiguity that invokes debate is what makes chart-watching, or statistical analyses of any kind, often so much fun.