Kanye West, Paul McCartney Debut in Hot 100's Top 40 With 'Only One'

Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Sir Paul McCartney and Kanye West at the 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. 

The ballad bows at No. 35, bringing McCartney back to the top 40 after a 25-year break. Counting his hits with the Beatles, he extends his top 40 span to more than 50 years.

Kanye West celebrated the start of 2015 by, in the early hours of Jan. 1, releasing his new single, "Only One," featuring Paul McCartney. The unlikely pairing (on which McCartney receives billing for playing keyboards, not providing vocals) roars in as the Billboard Hot 100's top debut at No. 35.

The touching ballad, a tribute to West's late mother, Dr. Donda West, sold 125,000 downloads in the week ending Jan. 4, according to Nielsen Music, and starts at No. 10 on Digital Songs. It serves as the first single from West's upcoming studio album, and, according to Def Jam, is the first of further collaborations with McCartney.

Kanye West's 'Only One': An Ode to Happiness & Healing

"One" also collected an initial 1.4 million in radio audience from 191 plays on 75 stations monitored for the Hot 100 in the chart's tracking period. Def Jam will officially begin promoting the song to pop, adult pop, adult alternative, rhythmic and R&B/hip-hop radio Monday (Jan. 12).

Aiding the song's momentum, a rare Tweet from West announcing the single (his handle currently lists only 100 tweets) garnered 30,000 retweets on Jan. 1, according to Next Big Sound. The attention drove the song to No. 1 on the real-time Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 chart and the weekly Billboard + Twitter Top Tracks tally.

The start of "One" on the Hot 100 marks a return to familiar territory for McCartney after a protracted break: he'd last reached the top 40 more than 25 years ago, when "My Brave Face" rose to No. 25 in July 1989.

McCartney's reappearance led chart-watcher @OrionXXV to wonder: "@PaulMcCartney is in the top 40 again! Counting his work with the Beatles, does he have the longest stretch of top 40 hits?"

Let's see.

If we count McCartney's time with the Beatles, he first entered the top 40 when the Fab Four's iconic U.S. breakthrough, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," vaulted 45-3 in its second week on the Hot 100 on Jan. 25, 1964. With this week's charts dated Jan. 17, 2015, he extends his span of visits to the top 40 as an artist, in both group and solo incarnations, to an astounding 50 years, 11 months and three weeks. (Also considering his output with the Beatles, McCartney had last visited the top 40 in 1995-96, when "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" reached Nos. 6 and 11, respectively.)

To answer @OrionXXV's Tweet, McCartney does, in fact, rewrite the mark for the longest span of any artist appearing in the Hot 100's top 40, including both group and solo work. Still, another legend has logged a nearly equal stretch, all as a soloist. And Kanye West factors into his lengthy chart legacy as well. Otis Redding first entered the top 40 on June 19, 1965 with "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)." In 2011, Jay Z and West's "Otis," featuring Redding (thanks to a sample of his classic "Try a Little Tenderness"), reached No. 12, spending its last week in the top 40 (at No. 40) on the chart dated Oct. 8, 2011. The run of "Otis" gave Redding a record span of 46 years, three months and three weeks of gracing the region as a solo act. (Sadly, Redding earned the honor posthumously, having died in a plane crash on Dec. 10, 1967. He was just 26.)

Honorable longevity mention to another beloved entertainer: Paul Anka. If we count Anka's Hot 100 hits as an artist and writer, his span of placing in the chart's top 40 eclipses those of both McCartney and Redding. Anka ranked at No. 76 on the very first Hot 100 published, on Aug. 4, 1958, with his own "Midnight." Last year, Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake's "Love Never Felt So Good," which Anka wrote with Jackson in 1983, bounded to No. 9. When it logged its last week in the top 40 (at No. 36) on July 5, Anka's top 40 Hot 100 span stretched to 55 years and 11 months. (Essentially, the only terms other than "Paul Anka" to show for a longer span in the chart's history are the words "Billboard" and "Hot" and the numbers 1 through 100.)

Thanks to Kanye West, Paul McCartney Debuts on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs

Meanwhile, "One" is McCartney's second new song to reach a Billboard chart in the past month. "Hope for the Future" spent a week at No. 44 on the Hot Rock Songs chart dated Dec. 27. The song accompanies the online first-person shooter game Destiny.

Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield