Ask Billboard: Britney Spears, Rihanna, Hits Of The World

Britney Spears 'Ends' Up Atop Dance/Club Play Songs

Britney Spears 'Ends' Up Atop Dance/Club Play Songs

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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,

This week, Rihanna notches her 10th career Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 with "S&M," whose pop remix features Britney Spears.

While we congratulate Rihanna for this feat (and for tying Janet Jackson and Stevie Wonder's No. 1 totals), I am confused as to why states that Spears also scores her fifth No. 1 with this song.

Spears surely helped the song's ascent to the top, but that version is not the single version, unlike Jennifer Lopez's "I'm Real (Remix)" (featuring Ja Rule), which was the main version that actually reached the summit (not the similarly-titled, but basically different, album version, "I'm Real").

With "I'm Real," it's understandable that Ja Rule would also enjoy a No. 1 under his name. Spears' featured status on the "S&M" remix, however, seems different.

Do you credit Da Brat with four No. 1s because she is featured on the main remixes of Destiny's Child's "Survivor" and Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby," "Honey" and "Heartbreaker"? Da Brat's versions were already present on the CD singles when they were originally released; Spears' remix was released only when "S&M" was already at No. 2.

If that's the case, then all the dance remixers should get featured credit for any Hot 100 No. 1s that they remixed. Or, artists who dream of seeing their names at No. 1 might want to persuade other artists in the top five to feature them, in hopes of receiving credit for a chart leader in coming weeks.

Thanks so much,

Richard Allan Aquino
Manila, Philippines

Hi Richard,

Before the artist listing for "S&M" inspired numerous e-mails to "Ask Billboard" and comments from readers on, the Billboard charts department similarly considered all applicable factors.

I forwarded your e-mail to Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo. Here is his response:

"In this instance, Billboard felt that crediting Britney Spears on the listing of 'S&M' atop the Hot 100 was the correct course of action due to the fact that her guest vocal version of 'S&M' outsold Rihanna's solo version two-to-one (193,000 of the song's 293,000 overall digital sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan).

"Add that radio stations across the U.S. have played the new mix heavily; both artists have promoted the mix on Twitter; and, Rihanna promoted the remix in interviews, the hoopla surrounding the song was too much to ignore (and not give Spears credit for on this week's ranking).

"The examples you mention, Richard, differ in nature from 'S&M.' The Lopez/Ja Rule remix was a wholly different song than her original solo version, and the Da Brat remixes were never the dominantly-played versions at radio.

"All aspects considered, it's a different musical landscape today and Billboard has many more tools at our disposal to break down the success and/or reach of different versions of songs.

"We may reconsider artist listings on a week-to-week basis and adjust accordingly, based on which version is a given week's top seller. A similar chart precedent even exists: for past listings of double-sided singles on the Hot 100, the first-listed titles could flip-flop based on which was the dominant selling side (based on retail reports) week-to-week.

"The case of 'S&M' isn't the last such a late-in-the-game guest artist remix that we'll see, either; a remix of Spears' 'Till the World Ends' - sporting Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj - arrives next week."

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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,

Upon reading the news of Rihanna's 10th Hot 100 No. 1, "S&M," I couldn't help but notice that the track replaces Katy Perry's "E.T.," featuring Kanye West, at the summit.

How common are No. 1 "wordless" song titles in the Hot 100's history?


Alex Mercado
New York, New York

Hi Alex,

What's also notable is that among the Hot 100's first 1,000 No. 1s, no title consisted of just two letters. The next two? "E.T." and "S&M."

Just part of the unpredictable fun of chart-watching.

As for previous No. 1s that contained only initials, not words, here is the brief list. Two of the titles belong to the concise Rihanna:

"S&M," Rihanna featuring Britney Spears, 2011
"OMG," Usher featuring, 2010
"SOS," Rihanna, 2006
"ABC," Jackson 5, 1970

(Honorable mentions: "Theme From S.W.A.T.," Rhythm Heritage, 1976, and "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)," MFSB featuring the Three Degrees, 1974).

Three of the four titles above that might cause your opponent to challenge you in Scrabble have topped the Hot 100 in the past five years, with two having reigned in just the last year.

Perhaps such a trend shouldn't be that surprising, as abbreviation-infused texting and IMs continue to become so ubiquitous.

We may even see an emoticon inhabit the Hot 100's summit; Trey Songz reached No. 51 in 2009 with "LOL 🙂," featuring Gucci Mane & Soulja Boy Tell'em.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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.


Hello there Gary,

When "Firework" reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 in December, you noted that Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" became the first album by a solo female to generate three No. 1 singles ("California Gurls," featuring Snoop Dogg, and the title cut previously led the list).

Since then, Perry has sent a fourth song from "Dream," "E.T.," to the Hot 100's pinnacle, making her the first female artist to achieve the feat since Mariah Carey, whose self-titled debut album contained four leaders.

That's quite an impressive feat on Perry's part, but it should also be noted that with the 2-1 rise this week for "S&M," Rihanna also has three No. 1s from an album. "What's My Name?," featuring Drake, "Only Girl (In the World)" and "S&M" all appear on her latest release "Loud."

Thank you so very much,

Juan Croussett
Tampa, Florida

Hi Juan,

You highlight yet another intriguing aspect of Rihanna's latest Hot 100 leader.

With the coronation of "S&M" (whose singers could similarly, and fittingly, be abbreviated as "R&B," for Rihanna and Britney ...), Rihanna joins only Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey - who duetted on the No. 15-peaking "When You Believe" in 1999 - as the only female artists to score at least three Hot 100 No. 1s from multiple albums, as Rihanna has already earned the honor once before:

Whitney Houston

"Whitney Houston," 1985-86
"Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know," "Greatest Love of All"

"Whitney," 1987-88
"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go"

Mariah Carey

"Mariah Carey," 1990-91
"Vision of Love," "Love Takes Time," "Someday," "I Don't Wanna Cry"

"Daydream," 1995-96
"Fantasy," "One Sweet Day," with Boyz II Men, "Always Be My Baby"


"Good Girl Gone Bad," 2007-08
"Umbrella," "Take a Bow," "Disturbia"

"Loud," 2010-11
"What's My Name?," featuring Drake, "Only Girl (In the World)," "S&M," featuring Britney Spears

(Rihanna is included on the list because while "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia" appeared only on the deluxe reissue of "Good Girl Gone Bad," Billboard and SoundScan classified the original and repackaged versions of the set as one product and the album maintained a single listing throughout its chart life).

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. 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!

Inspired by your column Tuesday highlighting hits of the world (sans the U.S.), I thought I'd add a few more.

In the U.S., the Scottish band Big Country hit the Hot 100 just three times, with its best-known song, "In a Big Country" (No. 17, 1983), "Fields of Fire" (No. 52, 1984) and "Wonderland" (No. 86, 1984). In the group's homeland, however, the U.K. act have tallied had 24 chart hits, 16 of which hit the top 40, and four of which reached the top 10 (although "In a Big Country" was not one of those titles; it likewise peaked at No. 17 in the U.K.)

Remaining in the U.K., from the Camden Town section of London, the band Madness, like Big Country, also hit the Hot 100 three times, with "Our House" (No. 7, 1983), "It Must Be Love" (No. 33, 1983) and "The Sun and the Rain" (No. 72, 1984). Conversely, the group has notched 29 top 40 U.K. singles between 1979 and 2008. Of those, 16 climbed to the top 10, including "House of Fun," which spent two weeks at No. 1 in 1982.

Lastly, Canada's stylistic answer to Duran Duran, Platinum Blonde, was, oddly, a success everywhere but the country's southern neighbor. The band's lone U.S. single to reach the Hot 100, "Somebody Somewhere," stopped at No. 82 in 1986. In the Great White North, the band reached the Canadian singles chart 12 times, including with "Crying Over You," a No. 2 hit from the 1985 album "Alien Shores," which went quintuple-platinum in Canada (500,000 units).

Thanks, Gary, for noting other folks who've had hits elsewhere in the world that should have done better here (or still could!)

Ron Raymond, Jr.
Music Director, WMPG-FM
Portland, Maine

Hi Ron,

Great additions to the songs spotlighted in Tuesday's column.

My earliest introduction to Billboard's "Hits of the World" charts section was via Joel Denver's sorely-missed syndicated weekly radio show, "Future Hits," as, each week, Denver would spotlight "the BBC top five."

Some of those English hits that I remember hearing snippets of in the late '80s/early '90s never made it "across the pond," as Denver would say, while others, such as, appropriately enough, Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You," became familiar long before they became U.S. smashes, thanks to their exposure on the show.

So many fun pop songs from that era, in fact, were never released as U.S. singles but did well in the U.K., such as Rick Astley's "Take Me to Your Heart," a No. 8 hit on the Official U.K. Singles chart in 1989; George Michael's "Heal the Pain" (No. 31); and, several Kylie Minogue gems.

Here are two of my especially favorite songs that charted in the U.K. but never received U.S. single releases:

"World Without You," Belinda Carlisle
(No. 34, 1988)

"June Afternoon," Roxette
(No. 52, 1995)

I also recently became an instant fan of the German pop group Wonderwall after hearing its "Just More" on GotRadio. The ballad reached No. 2 on the German singles chart in June 2002 and parent album "Witchcraft" bowed at No. 3 on the country's album tally the same month. The song, as well as the set's uptempo title cut, is well worth a listen to fans of powerpop heavy on hooks.

Have a great weekend!