Ask Billboard: With Nico & Vinz, Norway Continues U.S. Chart Invasion
The duo's 'Am I Wrong' continues an unprecedented run of U.S. success for Norwegian musical exports. Plus, an Imagine Dragons feat, Linkin Park sales and remembering Casey Kasem
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NORWAY? YES, WAY!
Hope this mail finds you well. I believe that when "Do It Again," Röyksopp's mini-album with Robyn, debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 (June 14), it marked the highest album chart position ever for a Norwegian artist. A-ha's best peak position was No. 15.
Norway has actually been staging quite the invasion on Billboard charts of late. Last year, comedy duo Ylvis reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "The Fox." Nico & Vinz have reached the same rank with current smash "Am I Wrong" and, as Billboard dance chart manager Gordon Murray points out, producer Axident, who worked on Jason Derulo's "Wiggle" (currently No. 5 on the Hot 100), is Norwegian.
As for Röyksopp's place in U.S. chart history and more, I reached out to Thomas Talseth, music reporter and critic for Norway's daily newspaper VG (or, Verdens Gang, which translates to "the way of the world"). Here's Thomas' take on Röyksopp (the dance duo of Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland), Nico & Vinz and other hit Norwegian acts, and just how much success in the U.S. means to Norwegian music fans.
For a country with a population of 5 million people, it is always a big deal when one of our acts breaks through internationally, and no other country spells s-u-c-c-e-s-s a-b-r-o-a-d like the U.S.A.
When a-ha got to No. 1 on the Hot 100 with "Take On Me" in 1985, it was almost unbelievable, partly because, at that time, success outside of Norway for a Norwegian band had barely occurred at all.
These days, we are a bit more used to it; around the year 2000, there were several Norwegian acts doing well outside our shores: M2M, Lene Marlin (with the great "Sitting Down Here") and Röyksopp, in particular.
In later times, we've enjoyed seeing several of our black metal acts making their mark abroad; in 2010, Dimmu Borgir reached No. 42 on the Billboard 200. More recently, electro producer Kygo topped Billboard's Uncharted list. He's already created popular remixes for Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, so there's no telling how far that kid will go.
We've also written quite a few stories about the songwriting and production team Stargate, two Norwegians (Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen) who have notched a solid 10 No. 1 Hot 100 hits. They remain Rihanna's go-to guys, which is amazing.
Our artists doing well in the upper regions of the Hot 100 has been another matter entirely. When Ylvis rose to No. 6 with "The Fox" last autumn, the pair became only the second Norwegian act ever to reach the U.S. top 20. A-ha did so with the No. 1 "Take on Me" and No. 20 follow-up "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." (Interestingly, a-ha was signed to Warner Bros., as is Nico & Vinz.)
So, for Nico & Vinz to become the third such act is indeed a point of pride, not least because it's an all-Norwegian creation through-and-through; the boys are Norwegian, their manager and producers are Norwegian and they were signed in Norway. (A-ha was signed in the U.K. first.)
Another cool angle about "Am I Wrong" is that it is a success based on a great song and little else. "Take on Me" is a pop classic for sure, but its popularity was heavily video-driven; "The Fox" even more so, a novelty hit. "Am I Wrong" is pure pop magic with no side story attached.
Is there a common theme to these acts? While they're all pop-based, I don't think there is a particular Norwegian sound to speak of. I believe the Swedes have more of a trademark, from ABBA to Roxette, Ace of Base and Avicii. They've forged a professional pop industry, starting with ABBA. In the '90s, producers Denniz Pop and his apprentice Max Martin took that to an admirable next level.
But, I do think that parts of the Norwegian music industry are getting a better idea of what works abroad musically, and also more knowledge of how and where to promote different types of artists, as evidenced by our recent impressive positions on multiple U.S. Billboard charts.
And, yes, Norway did score its best Billboard 200 chart placement ever, when the collaboration "Do It Again" by Röyksopp and Swedish singer Robyn debuted at No. 14. A-ha hit No. 15 with its debut album "Hunting High and Low" in 1985. That set featured "Take" and "T.V."
DRAGONS STILL ON FIRE
@Imaginedragons is the first act to have 2 songs that spend at least 60 weeks on the Hot 100.
Nice catch. As Imagine Dragons' "Demons" spends a 60th week on the latest Hot 100, dated June 28, it joins the group's "Radioactive," which holds the mark for the most weeks ever spent on the chart: 87. Thus, with back-to-back singles, Imagine Dragons have spent a combined 147 weeks, or almost three years, on the Hot 100.
Here's an updated look at the 13 singles – of the nearly 26,000 songs that have hit the Hot 100, dating to the chart's Aug. 4, 1958, launch – to tally 60 or more weeks:
Weeks, Title, Artist, Peak, Pos./Year
87, "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons, No. 3, 2013
79, "Sail," AWOLNATION, No. 17, 2013
76, "I'm Yours," Jason Mraz, No. 6, 2008
69, "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes, No. 2, 1997
68, "Party Rock Anthem," LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock, No. 1, 2011
65, "Rolling in the Deep," Adele, No. 1, 2011
65, "You Were Meant for Me"/"Foolish Games," Jewel, No. 2, 1997
64, "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood, No. 8, 2007
62, "Ho Hey," the Lumineers, No. 3, 2012
62, "You and Me," Lifehouse, No. 5, 2005
60, "Demons," Imagine Dragons, No. 6, 2013
60, "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum, No. 2, 2010
60, "Macarena," Los Del Rio, No. 1, 1996
As for other honors Imagine Dragons have captured this month, the Songwriters Hall of Fame recognized frontman Dan Reynolds, among others at a gala in New York on June 12. Before the event, Reynolds told Billboard how the longest-charting song in Hot 100 history came to be. "I was writing in the studio with Alex [da Kid, producer]. We knew we wanted something that was heavy. I've always loved songs that present a beautiful and sensitive subject in a heavy way. So we came up with this heavy beat and instrumental that just felt like an awakening. It expressed a feeling that was happening with me, so I started to write the lyrics and the melody.
"In truth, the song is about becoming self-empowered and saying, I'm happy with who I am, happy with the choices I'm making. It's about sweating off all the dust and grime of self-doubt and judgment, and embracing who you are.
"I was just writing for myself at the time, I had no idea it would resonate like it has," Reynolds continued. "The most amazing thing is, I don't think you could ever realize how much your music could have an impact on people when you're playing at that lower level. To be at this point where we are getting letters and emails from someone who was at their lowest, saying our music inspired them and gave them hope, it's incredible to think about. You can affect people all over the world."
@gthot20 Can we get a list of the sales for albums/singles for @linkinpark since #TheHuntingParty dropped last week! :D
Good timing. Here's a look at Linkin Park's career U.S. full-length album sales and the band's top-selling digital songs, according to Nielsen SoundScan:
10.2 million, "[Hybrid Theory]," 200
6.1 million, "Meteora," 2004
3.3 million, "Minutes to Midnight," 2007
2 million, "MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups Presents: Collision Course," 2004
1.9 million, "[Reanimation]," 2002
1.1 million, "Live in Texas," 2003
906,000, "A Thousand Suns," 2010
681,000, "Living Things," 2012
230,000, "Road to Revolution: Live at Milton Keynes," 2008
111,000, "Recharged," 2013
3,588,000, "What I've Done"
2,634,000, "New Divide"
2,555,000, "In the End"
1,977,000, "Shadow of the Day"
1,920,000, "Bleed It Out"
1,297,000, "Burn It Down"
1,058,000, "Waiting for the End"
How much might "The Hunting Party" sell in its debut week? Let's check in with Billboard 200 manager Keith Caulfield, who previewed the set's arrival last week.
"Linkin Park is aiming to sell around 110,000 to 110,000 of its latest album, 'The Hunting Party.' The band's last studio effort, 2012's 'Living Things,' debuted at No. 1 with 223,000. All four of its studio releases since 2003, along with its mash-ups collaborations effort with Jay Z, have hit No. 1."
We'll get the exact answer on Billboard.com tomorrow morning (June 25), when highlights of the new Billboard 200, including Linkin Park's debut rank, will be revealed.
@gthot20 Q: what was the last live track to hit #1 on the hot 100? I say Billy Vera.
Billy Vera & the Beaters' "At This Moment" was first recorded in 1981 over their series of performances at the Roxy in West Hollywood. It reached No. 79 on the Hot 100 that year (credited to Billy and the Beaters). Thanks to its inclusion in NBC's "Family Ties," it topped the Hot 100 for two weeks beginning Jan. 24, 1987. ("[My wife] Tracy [Pollan] and I couldn't get on the dance floor anywhere in the world for like 10 years without them playing 'What would you think...'," Michael J. Fox joked in interview with Rachel Ray in 2007, referencing the ballad's opening lyrics.)
UPDATED: Two more songs since, however, have led the Hot 100 available only as live versions: the week of Feb. 1, 1992, George Michael and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" reigned. ("I love the part where George introduces Elton by saying, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Elton John!'" muses reader Dave Baskind of Saginaw, Mich.)
And, 22 years ago today, Mariah Carey's "I'll Be There" was amid a two-week command. The song, a No. 1 for the Jackson 5 in 1970, was recorded for Carey's "MTV Unplugged" album (and features uncredited guest vocalist Trey Lorenz).
Meanwhile, some live songs have become hits on various charts in the time since Vera crowned the Hot 100. Here's a sampling:
John's "Candle in the Wind," from his album "Live in Australia With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra," rose to No. 6 on the Hot 100 in 1987.
Rod Stewart scored three top 40 Hot 100 entries from his "Unplugged...And Seated" release in 1993-94: "Have I Told You Lately" (No. 4), "Reason to Believe" (No. 19) and "Having a Party" (No. 36).
A superstar quintet reached No. 26 on Mainstream Rock Songs in 1993: Bob Dylan's live "My Back Pages," originally a No. 30 Hot 100 hit for the Byrds in 1967, includes vocals by the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, plus Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Tom Petty.
With tomorrow marking exactly six months until Christmas, how about a (live) song for all those nice little Jewish kids who don't get to hear any Chanukah songs? Adam Sandler hit Radio Songs in the mid-'90s with both "The Chanukah Song" and "The Thanksgiving Song."
Josh Groban added his own live holiday hit: "I'll Be Home for Christmas" reached No. 4 on Adult Contemporary in the 2006-07 holiday season. (A year later, his studio version spent three weeks at No. 1.)
Barenaked Ladies hit No. 37 on Adult Pop Songs in 2000 with "If I Had $1000000," the live Fruit Roll-Up-infused version of which was a favorite of programmers (and does what only a great live version can do: make the crowd an integral part of the song).
And, in 2001, Jeffrey Gaines climbed to No. 22 on Adult Pop Songs with his live cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes."
The master of the live radio song, though, might be Garth Brooks. He hit No. 9 on Hot Country Songs in 1998 with his touching live "It's Your Song" (dedicated to his mother), from his "Double Live" album. Still, it's his live version of his 1990 No. 1 studio cut "Friends in Low Places" that gave it new life during Brooks' hit-making heyday, thanks to a lyric change that added some fun swagger.
"Hey, I didn't mean / to cause a big scene / just wait till I finish this glass …
"And sweet little lady / I'll head back to the bar / and you can …"
Well, you can … hear the live version here.
At age 12 in 1979, it was a difficult year for me personally until I discovered Casey Kasem and his "American Top 40." Not only did I truly fall in love with music that year, Casey inspired me to pursue radio broadcasting, which nearly 30 years later, I have no desire to relinquish.
(During all those years listening to "AT40," I also often wondered if Casey had a personal top 40 of favorites. It turns out I heard in an old interview that he actually didn't listen to music much outside of "AT40.")
R.I.P., Casey, and many, many thanks. I'll keep reaching for the stars because of you.
Ron Raymond, Jr.
Host/Producer, "Stuck in the '80s"
Nicely said. The world, of course, lost a legend on June 15, and those who've worked in radio, especially, feel an even closer kinship to Kasem. I, too, worked in radio, for more than 13 years before joining Billboard in 2006, and many of my Facebook friends still work in radio. Several have shared their thoughts on how much Casey meant to them.
Here are three:
"When walking my paper route in the early 1980s, I used to bring a radio with me on Sunday mornings … just so I could listen to 'American Top 40' on WNBC."
"My first paying job in radio was running the board for 'AT40.' I have been obsessed with the pop charts since I was old enough to write, keeping track of all 40 songs every week. My childhood, and, eventually, career, would not have been the same without this show and that voice."
"We have run his show at many of the stations I have managed. I only met the man once and that was standing next to him at a urinal in the men's room in Los Angeles during a function he was emceeing. Very cordial and pleasant, a true professional. (But we didn't shake hands!)"
One other Facebook friend, and former co-worker at Billboard, also offered his unique vantage point of Kasem: "It was one of my childhood dreams to hear Casey Kasem introduce my song on 'American Top 40.' Over the few short years I was on the charts, he did many intros to my songs, including a very heartfelt 'long-distance dedication.' Somewhere in a box in my attic are all the cassette tapes with these soundbites.
"Casey, no one will ever give me the chills the way your radio voice did!" –Tommy Page
I, too, grew up listening to Kasem, although when I discovered "American Top 40" in spring 1988, he was soon replaced by Shadoe Stevens, whose voice took me through that magical musical summer that got me hooked on pop music and, a few months later, Billboard charts.
Still, Kasem returned in early 1989 as host of "Casey's Top 40" and joined my busy weekend radio lineup. Joel Denver will probably always remain my favorite syndicated host, thanks to his upbeat delivery, rich tones and the fact that his great show, "Future Hits," was, in a pre-Internet era, an invaluable source of "tomorrow's hits today." Also in the mix then: Stevens' "AT40," Dick Clark's AC-based "Countdown America" (which, when it was shortened from 30 to 20 positions in 1991, led to me venting on the phone to a very understanding, or scared, or both, board op on WXLO Worcester, Mass.) and Bob Kingsley's "American Country Countdown," which was created by the same team, including Kasem, that launched "AT40" in 1970.
Kasem, however, remained the barometer by which all other countdowns were to be judged.
His warm voice was, and still is, just synonymous with how a radio countdown should sound.
I was lucky enough to meet Kasem once. As a 21-year-old intern at WBMX Boston in 1995, I made my way into the production studio when he visited the station to promote his then-new show, the adult pop-centered "Casey's Hot 20." (And how chart-geekily thrilled was I that the name nearly mirrored that of my show, the "GT Hot 20" countdown, on Boston University's WTBU.) I summoned the courage to ask him for an ID to run on my show. He graciously told me he couldn't, since he couldn't mention call letters for a station with which he wasn't affiliated. I really wasn't disappointed, because at least he was so nice about it.
He read some liners for WBMX, as I watched reverently. When he was done, he turned to me, and it seemed he'd been thinking of what he was going to say the whole time that he'd been recording the liners he was supposed to be recording.
"You know, I can't say WTBU," he explained again. "But … I could do this …"
"Hi, this is Casey Kasem of 'Casey's Hot 20' and you're listening to … Gary Trust!"
I ran that ID as part of my show's intro until I graduated.
Music, and chart, fans, of course, said goodbye to a legend with Kasem's passing. I'm fortunate to have found out firsthand that we also lost a truly generous person who took a few moments to help out an intern and find a clever solution to my request that, 19 years later, remains a treasured memory.
What a heartwarming feeling to know that Kasem was genuinely as friendly in person as he was all those years we spent with him each weekend on the radio.