Ask Billboard: Rating Rihanna

Cyrus Wins, Perry Gets Slimed at Kids' Choice Awards

Rihanna performs onstage at Nickelodeon's 23rd Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on March 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California

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,

Thank you for all your insights every week!

My question is regarding Rihanna. Even though she has scored seven No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, she hasn't yet reached the summit of the Billboard 200 with any of her albums. Has any artist scored as many Hot 100 No. 1s without topping the Billboard 200?

Thank you,

Juan Croussett
Tampa, Florida

Hi Juan,

Thanks! To answer your question about Rihanna, who reaches the Hot 100 pinnacle this week, let's look at all 18 artists who've collected at least seven Hot 100 No. 1 songs and how many No. 1 albums they've also tallied on the Billboard 200:

Hot 100 No. 1s, Artist, Billboard 200 No. 1s
20, the Beatles, 19
18, Mariah Carey, 6
13, Michael Jackson, 6
12, Madonna, 7
12, the Supremes, 3
11, Whitney Houston, 4
10, Janet Jackson, 6
10, Stevie Wonder, 3
9, Bee Gees, 2 (not including the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack)
9, Elton John, 7
9, Paul McCartney, 7
9, Usher, 3
8, George Michael, 1
8, the Rolling Stones, 9
7, Phil Collins, 2
7, Elvis Presley (*career predates the Hot 100's Aug. 4, 1958, launch), 10
7, Rihanna, 0
7, Frankie Valli, 0

Thus, Rihanna joins Frankie Valli as the only artists with at least seven Hot 100 No. 1s but no toppers on the Billboard 200. In eight visits as a solo artist, Valli peaked as high as No. 34 with his first Billboard 200 entry, "Frankie Valli-Solo," in 1967. As lead singer of the 4 Seasons, Valli and the group twice reached a highpoint of No. 6 on the Billboard 200.

As for her album discography, here is a recap of Rihanna's Billboard 200 chart history and sales totals, according to Nielsen SoundScan:

Billboard 200 Peak Position, Title, Sales To-Date, Release Year
No. 10, "Music of the Sun," 593,000, 2005
No. 5, "A Girl Like Me," 1,330,000, 2006
No. 2, "Good Girl Gone Bad," 2,616,000, 2007
No. 106, "Good Girl Gone Bad: the Remixes," 49,000, 2009
No. 4, "Rated R," 943,000, 2009
No. 158, "Rated R: Remixed," 13,000, 2010

All albums combined, Rihanna has sold 5,563,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan.


Hi Gary,

In 1989, I was six years old and enthralled with Paula Abdul (like millions of others).

The generation behind me mainly only knows her as a television personality, which is a shame, what with her innovative videos and choreography, not to mention some classic pop songs. I'm familiar with her own individual chart stats, but I was wondering where she fits in statistically when compared to other female pop artists.


Ryan Crowe
Los Angeles, California

Hi Ryan,

Coincidentally, with her seventh Hot 100 No. 1 this week, Rihanna passes Abdul and Diana Ross, each with six Hot 100 leaders. As reported yesterday in Chart Beat, Rihanna owns the fifth-most No. 1s among women, with Abdul and Ross now tied for sixth place.

In her career before her run as judge on "American Idol" from 2002 through 2009, Abdul made several headlines on Billboard charts.

She spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with her debut album, "Forever Your Girl." The set reached No. 1 for the first time the week of Oct. 7, 1989, in its 64th frame on the list. That week, then-Chart Beat author Paul Grein wrote that the album became the "slowest climbing No. 1 of the past 25 years, surpassing 'Fleetwood Mac,' which topped the chart in its 58th week in September 1976."

Four singles from "Forever Your Girl" ruled the Hot 100: "Straight Up," the title cut, "Cold Hearted" and "Opposites Attract," making the album the first debut set by a solo female to generate four No. 1s. Only Mariah Carey has since repeated the feat.

Abdul returned in 1991 with her second Billboard 200 No. 1, "Spellbound." The album produced two more Hot 100 champions: "Rush Rush" and "The Promise of a New Day." She placed 13 titles on the Hot 100 from 1988 through 1995. In 2008, she reached No. 62 with "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow," with former fellow "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson. Last year, her "I'm Just Here for the Music" peaked at No. 87.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has certified Abdul's career album sales at 11.5 million, a sum that ties her on the RIAA's list with artists including 50 Cent and Coldplay.

Among women, just above Abdul with sales of 12 million, according to the RIAA, are Anita Baker and Bette Midler. Female artists below Abdul each with 11 million units certified are Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Underwood.AS YEARS GO BY

Hey Gary,

I loved your recent story on Casey Kasem and the 40th anniversary of "American Top 40." I still miss his weekly countdown.

Every now and then, I end up in a conversation about artists who define decades, based on not only success, but pop culture impact. Of course, many artists span multiple decades, and perhaps this is subjective. But, to me, Frank Sinatra "is" the '40s, Elvis Presley the '50s, the Beatles the '60s, the Bee Gees the '70s and Michael Jackson the '80s.

So, who "is" the '90s? I'm not sure I can put the face on the decade. Nirvana maybe? Kurt Cobain and company perhaps best define the grunge genre that so took hold that decade, and Cobain's early death put a mysterious stamp on the era. And the '00s? Perhaps Eminem?

What are your thoughts?

Pat Thomas
Sparks, Nevada

Hi Pat,

These are some great questions, and what perhaps makes them so fun is that there's no definitive answer.

Joel Whitburn's most recent version of "Top Pop Singles," which chronicles the first 50 years of the Hot 100 (1958-2008), names the following artists as the top performers of each decade:

'60s: the Beatles
'70s: Elton John
'80s: Michael Jackson
'90s: Mariah Carey
'00s: Nelly

Whitburn's "The Billboard Albums" similarly logs the chart performances of every title to grace the Billboard 200 since its launch as a weekly list in March 1956. Here are the volume's top album artists by decade. You'll likely be surprised at who's tops for the '80s and '00s:

1956-59: Frank Sinatra
'60s: the Beatles
'70s: Elton John
'80s: Willie Nelson
'90s: Garth Brooks
2000-05: Bill & Gloria Gaither

In Billboard's 1999 year-end issue, the combined song and album decade placement for the '90s shows as follows:

1, Mariah Carey
2, Janet Jackson
3, Garth Brooks
4, Boyz II Men
5, Celine Dion

This past December, Billboard published a similar retrospective of the '00s, in which R&B/hip-hop artists blanketed the top five:

1, Eminem
2, Usher
3, Nelly
4, Beyonce
5, Alicia Keys

While digesting all these rankings, since you asked, here are the artists that come to my mind when I think of each decade's top performers. '50s: Presley. '60s: the Beatles. '70s: John. '80s: Madonna. '90s: Carey. '00s: Eminem.

I choose Carey for the '90s based on her 14 Hot 100 No. 1s during the decade, a run that includes time spent at the top spot in every year in that span. While grunge, and alternative in general, arguably reached a pop culture zenith in the '90s, the genre's biggest hits often did not make the impacts on the Hot 100 that one might expect. (Nirvana's biggest Hot 100 entry, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," peaked at No. 6).

As for artist of the '10s: Lady Gaga? Taylor Swift? The Black Eyed Peas? An act yet unknown? It will be fun to find out.

Most importantly, readers, what are your opinions on the topic? Please post your thoughts in the comments section below, or feel free to e-mail me at