Ask Billboard: Happy 40th, Mariah!

Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey seen during Sean Pecas Birthday Celebration at Pink Elephant on September 23, 2009 in New York City.

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.


Hello Gary,

My question is concerning Mariah Carey. How many times has "We Belong Together" been played in the United States?


Marquis Corrales

Hi Marquis,

According to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems (BDS), which electronically monitors radio stations in more than 140 U.S. markets and provides the data that powers Billboard's radio airplay charts, "We Belong Together" has been played 743,758 times through Wednesday (March 24).

I asked BDS Director of Data Services Adam Foster how that sum stacks up against other hit songs released five years ago.

Here is what Adam found:

"We Belong Together" began a 10-week run at No. 1 on the Pop Songs chart for the week of July 2, 2005. Here are the to-date detection totals at BDS-monitored U.S. terrestrial radio stations for Carey's smash and the other songs that were in the top 10 (in order) that week:

All-Format To-Date Plays, Artist, Title
743,758, Mariah Carey, "We Belong Together"
399,636, Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl"
513,149, Kelly Clarkson, "Behind These Hazel Eyes"
226,340, the Black Eyed Peas, "Don't Phunk With My Heart"
160,319, Will Smith, "Switch"
279,099, Ciara featuring Ludacris, "Oh"
374,941, 3 Doors Down, "Let Me Go"
358,332, Papa Roach, "Scars"
244,448, 50 Cent, "Just a Lil Bit"
356,973, the Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes, "Don't Cha"

The total for "We Belong Together" is more 200,000 plays higher than its closest title ("Behind These Hazel Eyes") and twice the to-date average of the rest of that week's top 10 (323,693).

Not surprisingly, and even though it wasn't released until halfway through the decade, "We Belong Together" earned the honor of top title of the 2000s on the Billboard Hot 100 (a feat Carey proudly touted to the audience when I saw her in concert in January).

Carey's remix/duets album, "Angels Advocate," was due to be released Tuesday (March 30), but it is now not currently on Universal Music Group's schedule.

The month should still wrap with a celebration, however: Carey turns 40 years young tomorrow (March 27).


Hi Gary,

I appreciate all the good chart information you've been providing.

Marvin Sapp debuts this week on the Billboard 200 with 76,000 units sold for "Here I Am." Could you please list the top 10 weekly sales marks for gospel albums all-time in the Nielsen SoundScan era?


Joseph L. Brown
Washington, D.C.

Hi Joseph,

As previously reported, Sapp makes history this week, as his set becomes the highest-charting gospel album (No. 2) in the history of the Billboard 200.

It's not, however, the highest sales total for a gospel album ever. That honor belongs to "The Preacher's Wife," the soundtrack which sold 330,000 for the chart week of Jan. 4, 1997.

Still, "Here I Am" logs the highest weekly sales for a gospel set since Ruben Studdard's "I Need an Angel" shifted 96,000 on the Dec. 11, 2004, list.

Since "The Preacher's Wife" owns the top five weekly sales totals among gospel releases since Gospel Albums converted to Nielsen SoundScan data this week in 1995, for a wider scope of albums and artists, let's look at the 10 gospel sets with the highest sums, represented by each album's best week:

Peak Sales Week, Title, Artist, Date
330,000, "The Preacher's Wife," soundtrack, Jan. 4, 1997
119,000, "God's Property," God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation, June 14, 1997
105,000, "The Nu Nation Project," Kirk Franklin, Oct. 17, 1998
96,000, "I Need an Angel," Ruben Studdard, Dec. 11, 2004
91,000, "The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin," Kirk Franklin, March 9, 2002
76,000, "The Prince of Egypt-Inspirational," soundtrack, Jan. 9, 1999
76,000, "Here I Am," Marvin Sapp, April 3, 2010
74,000, "The Fight of My Life," Kirk Franklin, Jan. 5, 2008
67,000, "Believe," Yolanda Adams, Jan. 5, 2002
66,000, "Hero," Kirk Franklin, Oct. 22, 2005

Not only does Kirk Franklin populate half the list above, but his seven No. 1s since March 1995 are also the most among all artists on Gospel Albums in that span.A 'RUDE' QUESTION

Hi Gary,

Based on my general enthusiasm for all things Chart Beat, I was wondering how the sales have been for Rihanna's album "Rated R," compared to her previous work?

I ask because when it first appeared, "Rated R" sold well (if not spectacularly), but it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the holidays and Rihanna's personal life.

Similarly, first single "Russian Roulette," though it debuted high on the Hot 100, didn't seem to make much of a cultural impact. Then, however, "Hard" gained some serious traction (at least on radio stations where I live), and "Rude Boy" has obviously become a big enough smash to top the Hot 100.

I'm wondering if album sales for "Rated R" have remained steady, or even risen, as each new single has done better and better.


Mark Blankenship
Brooklyn, New York

Hi Mark,

According to SoundScan, sales for Rihanna's "Rated R" have been remarkably steady in recent weeks.

The set debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 4 the week of Dec. 12, with 181,000 copies sold. In its next five weeks, the album moved 59,000, 50,000, 78,000, 91,000 (reflecting Christmas-week sales) and 40,000.

Since the chart week of Jan. 23, "Rated R" has consistently tallied sums in the 20,000s each week. The album has ranked in the top 40 of the Billboard 200 in each of its 17 chart weeks to date.

There was one week recently when Rihanna registered corresponding significant jumps on the Hot 100 and Billboard 200. In the March 6 chart week, "Rude Boy" blasted 64-23 as the Hot 100's Greatest Gainer/Digital and Airplay, becoming the first song to claim double honors simultaneously in four months. The same week, "Rated R" rebounded 35-18 on the Billboard 200 with a 21% gain.

Rihanna's fourth studio album has sold 753,000 to date. "Good Girl Gone Bad" (2007) has sold 2,587,000; "A Girl Like Me" (2006) 1,327,000; and, "Music of the Sun" (2005) is now in fourth place with 591,000 sold.


Hi Gary,

I'm an avid chart-watcher who loves to get a little bit of history each week with "Ask Billboard."

Recently, I watched with interest as Orianthi's "According to You" slowly climbed all the way to No. 3 on the Pop Songs chart. This development was a total surprise for me, because despite its major success, I barely heard anything about Orianthi or the song during most of its run. Clearly, I wasn't alone, as "According to You" quietly peaked at No. 17 on the Hot 100.

This got me wondering, what are some of the lowest-peaking genre hits on the Hot 100? I'm talking about undeniable smashes in certain formats (maybe songs that had long, successful runs at No. 1 on their respective charts) without experiencing mainstream success.

I know country and rock songs often have a hard time on the Hot 100, but there have got to be some interesting cases of pop and R&B/hip-hop songs failing to cross over, as well.


Alexei Koseff
Palo Alto, California

Hi Alexei,

Much of the buzz about Orianthi Panagaris coincided with the posthumous release of Michael Jackson's "This Is It" concert documentary, as the 25-year-old Australian was set to be the King of Pop's guitarist on his planned 50-date run of shows in London. He chose her for the esteemed gig after seeing the then-unknown artist perform with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

From her official bio:

"'When I was 11, Carlos Santana came to play Adelaide and that show really affected me. I begged my dad to get me a secondhand electric guitar so I could be like Carlos, and that was it, no more acoustic.

'After that, I would buy all of Carlos' videos - on VHS! - which I kept rewinding to try and learn his solos. I totally wore out the tapes.'

Some seven years later when Carlos Santana passed through Adelaide again, Carlos' brother arranged a soundcheck meeting between the guitar god and his young disciple after hearing some of her music. A soundcheck jam evolved into an invitation to join him onstage, where Orianthi played for about 35 minutes and took a solo in front of a hometown crowd. Performances, tours and guest appearances with Steve Vai, ZZ Top and Prince have kept Orianthi busy (since)."

"According to You" has certainly helped keep her in the spotlight, and its Hot 100 ascent may not be done yet. The song bullets this week at No. 19 and reverses course 32-23 on Digital Songs. On the Billboard 200, Orianthi's debut album "Believe" bounds to a new peak (127-77) and achieves its best weekly sales total (7,000, up 45%). No surprise why: she performed on the March 17 "American Idol" results show.

Her new single, "Shut Up & Kiss Me," has just been serviced to radio.

Oh, right, you also had a question.

While "According to You" is classified as a pop, not rock, song in SoundScan's database, it is rare that a song featuring a cool guitar solo reaches the upper levels of pop radio playlists these days.

As for songs that scored success at certain formats but necessarily on the Hot 100, I'll shamelessly plug a recent Chart Beat feature entitled "Taking Peaks," which highlighted well-known songs that have gone on to become bigger pop culture hits despite not climbing to the Hot 100's highest rungs. The feature spotlights every peak position from No. 100 to 1 in the chart's 51-year history.

Included are major country hits (from Toby Keith), rock smashes (from Van Morrison) and dance classics (from New Order). And that's just looking at songs that peaked between Nos. 100 and 90.

Check out the entire "Taking Peaks" series here.


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