Ask Billboard: Why Is There No R&B/Hip-Hop in the Hot 100's Top 10?

Charles Sykes/Bravo
Nicki Minaj on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live hosted by Andy Cohen on Dec. 17, 2014.

The genre's been absent from the top 10 for a month ... why? Plus, Nicki Minaj's sales, Meghan Trainor's chart feat and Luke Bryan's big 'Party.'

As always, submit 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 @gthot20

WHY IS THERE NO R&B/HIP-HOP IN THE HOT 100'S TOP 10?

Hi Gary,

I wanted to ask you about the top 10 on Billboard Hot 100. I realized that the region is currently full of pop and rock hits … but no R&B or hip-hop at all. It's actually been this way for all of December, totaling four weeks now.

What's behind this lockout of the genre from the top 10?

Regards,

Victoria Orellana
Guatemala City, Guatemala


Hi Victoria,

Great observation: R&B/hip-hop has stopped just shy of the Hot 100's top 10 the past month, ever since Bobby Shmurda's "Hot Boy" departed the bracket after reaching No. 6.

Since then, three genre hits have just missed the top 10: Big Sean's "I Don't F**k With You" (featuring E-40) peaked at No. 11; I LOVE MAKONNEN's "Tuesday" (featuring Drake) reached No. 12; and Beyonce's "7/11" rose to No. 13.

Meanwhile, on the latest Hot 100 (dated Dec. 27), Nicki Minaj soars 32-12 with "Only" (featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown), following the Dec. 12 premiere of its video. Could "Only" be the song that returns the genre to the top 10?

In looking at any notable chart finding, whether it's by genre, or, as most famously covered in recent months, women keeping men out of the Hot 100's top five for a record seven straight weeks, it's key to analyze whether it's a true trend or simply a statistical aberration. If, say, in any of those weeks, Sam Smith or Maroon 5 had snuck in a week in the top five, we wouldn't have viewed women's chart dominance in such historic terms. Similarly, if Big Sean hit No. 10 instead of No. 11, we might not be having this discussion about the lack of R&B/hip-hop.

Still, it's unquestionable that pop is controlling the Hot 100's top 10 right now (with Hozier's "Take Me to Church" responsible for flying the rock/singer-songwriter flag). And, while Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk!" (featuring Bruno Mars) is clearly R&B-influenced, it's not on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and is, for now, at least, a priority at pop radio for parent label RCA. (While it rises 14-12 on the Pop Songs airplay chart, it wasn't even among the 175 most-played titles at mainstream R&B/hip-hop radio in the week ending Dec. 21, according to Nielsen Music.)

So, why the lack of R&B/hip-hop among so many pop hits right now? Not to cop out, but … it seems to be both an anomaly and an example of a larger, long-term shift away from the genre infusing pop the way it historically has.

First, the argument for a chart abnormality: three of the top four Hot 100 songs of 2014 were also Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1s: Pharrell Williams' "Happy" (No. 1); John Legend's "All of Me" (No. 3); and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" (featuring Charli XCX) (No. 4). And, it wasn't so long ago that R&B/hip-hop inhabited the Hot 100's top 10 with more recent hits like Minaj's "Anaconda," Azalea's "Black Widow" (featuring Rita Ora) and more.

The genre is certainly providing hits … just not Hot 100 top 10s for the past month.

Billboard recently surveyed some of the top executives in radio and at record labels for an upcoming print feature and this topic came up in detail. Essentially, they say (without giving away what you'll soon read in Billboard magazine ...), we're in the middle of a strong cycle for pop, but the next R&B/hip-hop hit – or one in any genre – is never far away. "To me, it goes back to the song," said one exec. "It's not, 'What genre is going to be next?' 'Where is the pendulum going to go?' I mean, who would've thought that Mumford & Sons would've had a pop hit?"

"Great songs," said another, "are what drive us all."

Still … it's hard to pin R&B/hip-hop's recent exclusion from the Hot 100's top 10 completely on chart chance. Edison Research VP/music and programming (and Billboard contributor) Sean Ross has long theorized that pure R&B/hip-hop has been usurped by what he's  dubbed "turbo-pop" (uptempo, R&B/hip-hop-leaning pop) as top 40 radio's go-to sound for rhythm.

"Top 40 long stopped looking to mainstream R&B/hip-hop stations for titles," Ross wrote early this year, as "Happy" began its run to No. 1. "A few years ago, 'turbo-pop' allowed Rihanna, Usher and Chris Brown to have a separate body of [top 40] hits [concurrent with singles released specifically for R&B/hip-hop radio]."

Meanwhile, "Drake scored one hip-hop hit after another, but was welcome at top 40 only with his occasional ventures into R&B like 'Take Care' and 'Hold On, We're Going Home.' "

Essentially, per Ross' thinking, R&B/hip-hop hits still happen at pop radio, but often with a mainstream vibe; i.e., Jeremih's recent "Don't Tell Em" (featuring YG), which samples a familiar pop/rhythmic classic, Snap!'s "Rhythm Is a Dancer." It hit No. 2 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, No. 5 on Pop Songs and No. 6 on the Hot 100. (Another early contender for similar success: Natalie La Rose's "Somebody," which features Jeremih; it similarly reworks Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).")

Like those polled for Billboard's upcoming print feature, Ross ultimately feels that, despite any overall inclinations toward pop right now, an R&B/hip-hop hit will find its way into the Hot 100's top 10 sooner rather than later. "It's sometimes hard to say what other songs ought to be making the transition [from R&B to pop]."

Still, "It's nice to know that at this point the door might be open again for whatever else emerges."

Speaking of Minaj …

NICKI MINAJ'S TOP-SELLING ALBUMS & SONGS

Hi Gary,

Just past Nicki Minaj's birthday (Dec. 8), and with The Pinkprint due on this week's Billboard 200, I thought I would ask for her career album and song sales stats, as you've done with Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, Demi Lovato and so many other artists.

Thanks!

Matthew B.
Richmond, Virginia


Hi Matthew,

In honor of Minaj's return, sure, let's look at her best-selling releases.

First, her debut album Pink Friday has sold 1.9 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. Her second set, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, has sold 902,000. Both albums topped the Billboard 200. Where will The Pinkprint debut this week? Highlights of the top 10 will post tomorrow on Billboard.com ...

And, Minaj's most-downloaded tracks, 17 of which have sold 1 million or more each: "Super Bass," 5 million; "Starships," 4.5 million; "Bottoms Up" (Trey Songz feat. Minaj), 3.4 million; "Dance (A$$)" (Big Sean feat. Minaj), 2.7 million; "Turn Me On" (David Guetta feat. Minaj), 2.6 million.

"Bang Bang" (Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Minaj), 2.3 million; "Moment 4 Life" (Minaj feat. Drake), 2 million; "My Chick Bad" (Ludacris feat. Minaj), 1.8 million; "Where Them Girls At" (David Guetta feat. Flo Rida & Minaj), 1.6 million; "Fly" (Minaj feat. Rihanna), 1.5 million.

"Make Me Proud" (Drake feat. Minaj), 1.4 million; "Pound the Alarm," 1.3 million; "Anaconda," 1.3 million; "Your Love," 1.2 million; "Letting Go (Dutty Love)" (Sean Kingston feat. Minaj), 1.1 million.

"Va Va Voom," 1.1 million; "Beez in the Trap" (feat. 2 Chainz), 1 million.

Ahead of The Pinkprint putting its stamp on the Billboard 200, Minaj has already made history with the set: the aforementioned "Only" became Minaj's fourth No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, setting record for the most leaders among female rappers.

ALL ABOUT THE TOP TWO

@gthot20 Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" spent 15 weeks in the top 2 of the Hot 100! Isn't that a rare feat?

Swornim Kansakar


Hi Swornim,

Hmm … while "Bass" spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 – an incredible achievement in its own right – you're observant to point out its seven weeks at No. 2 (two before its reign and five in-a-row after). That, indeed, makes it 15 weeks as either the most- or second-most-popular song in the U.S. (It's currently at No. 7.)

I looked back throughout the 2010s to see if that's the most time a title has lodged itself in the top two spots. As it turns out … it is! It bests four songs that occupied the gold and silver medal platforms for 14 weeks each in that span: "Happy," by Pharrell Williams (10 weeks at No. 1/4 at No. 2); "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke feat. T.I. + Pharrell (12/2); "Thrift Shop," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz (6/8); and "We Found Love," Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris (10/4).

(Among hits from 2014, Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" takes the bronze, after "Bass" and "Happy." "Shake" spent 12 weeks at Nos. 1 and 2 … four at No. 1 and eight at No. 2 – all behind "Bass.")

So, "Bass" has spent the most time in the Hot 100's top two this decade.

Has any song locked up the region longer? And, if so, when?

To find out, we need to go back to the '00s … and, not too much further back, actually, as we quickly find the last song to cement itself in the Hot 100's top two for more than 15 weeks: In 2009, the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" logged 16 such frames (14 at No. 1 after two at No. 2, where it debuted).

Is that the all-time record-holder for most weeks at a combined Nos. 1 and 2 in the Hot 100's 56-year history?

It's … tied for the record. Here are the elite songs to tally the most weeks at Nos. 1 and 2 combined overall since the Hot 100 premiered in 1958 (with weeks at Nos. 1/2 in parentheses):

16, "I Gotta Feeling," the Black Eyed Peas, 2009 (14/2)
16, "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey, 2005 (14/2)
16, "One Sweet Day," Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men, 1995 (16/0)
15, "All About That Bass," Meghan Trainor, 2014 (8/7)
15, "I'll Make Love to You," Boyz II Men, 1994 (14/1)
15, "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston, 1992 (14/1)

So, the main point of this question and research: "All About That Bass" is one of just six songs in the Hot 100's entire history to rank at Nos. 1 and 2 combined for 15 weeks or more. It's also the first debut hit by any artist ever to earn the honor.

We knew "Bass" had reached pop culture ubiquity, but the positive body-image hit's place in Hot 100 history further reinforces the incredible scope of its reach.

It also helped Trainor score another valued prize: her first magazine cover! She's one of four acts featured on the covers of the four souvenir editions of Billboard's 2014 year-end issue. (In that link, look for the dropdown to select the artist cover you'd like: Iggy Azalea, Jason Derulo, Sam Smith or, as Megatronz need no help finding, Trainor.)

Who else is all about that bass? Read on …

THE MORE, THE MERRIER

@gthot20 hey check out and share our parody of @Meghan_Trainor's "All About That Bass" ... it's a Christmas version!

Alexandra Hobbs ‏@Alexhobbs93


Ha, nice work! That's true, Mrs. Claus has long felt that her husband is perfect, from the bottom to the top. (Despite "all the milk and cookies, in all the fireplaces," he still manages to make it down every chimney.)

Trainor, by the way, gave her approval, on Twitter, to another recent parody of "Bass": "Haha this is incredible @NASA!! Don't you know I'm #AllAboutThatSpace"

 

(After Thanksgiving ["All About That Baste"] and Christmas versions, we could be less than two months away from a new Valentine's Day hit. As you figure out where to put those flowers … what else? … "All About That Vase"!)

'PARTY' OF SIX

Hello Gary,

With Luke Bryan bounding 19-10 on the Dec. 20 Hot Country Songs chart with "I See You," he's accomplished something he never did before: "You" is the sixth top 10 hit on the chart from his Crash My Party album, marking the first time he's tallied that many top 10s from one release.

It's also the first album to produce at least six top 10s on Hot Country Songs since 2005, when "Keg in the Closet" became the sixth from Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down.

Only one album has produced more than six Hot Country Songs top 10s: Shania Twain's 1997 release Come on Over, which generated an incredible eight.

Thanks. And, I would like to wish you and everybody else at Billboard a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Best wishes for an even greater 2015.

John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska


Thanks all-around, John – happy holidays to you, as well.

It's another impressive honor for Bryan, Billboard's top country artist of 2014. Crash My Party also reigns as the year's top country album and he's featured on the No. 1 title on Hot Country Songs for the year, Florida Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll." That makes Bryan the first artist ever to see his name in all three coveted categories in the same year.

(He's also not the only Luke scoring chart success. Luke Duke is, too!)

As for wrapping up 2014, we've got one more "Ask Billboard" ahead next week. And, it's all up to you: it's our annual readers' favorites edition of the year, where you list your favorite music of the past 12 months. Please email askbb@billboard.com your top 10 songs and/or albums (or any other categories you want to include) of 2014 and we'll run your lists in the next mailbag.

In the meantime, Chesney debuts on Country Airplay this week with a new holiday song, "Christmas in Blue Chair Bay." As with all Chesney holiday imagery, the only ice this time of year is in his glass.

 

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