Ask Billboard: Hot 100 'Peak' Performances

Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 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.


Hi Gary,

Happy 2010 (or Y2K10, if you prefer)!

As always, it's great reading your articles. I am digging the first edition of your "Taking Peaks" feature on the Billboard Hot 100, as you analyze the chart peak position-by-peak position over the years. You know, as much as I hear Van Morrison's "Moondance" on the radio, I am still shocked to see it reached only No. 92!

Along with that classic, I wanted to add a few more "honorable mentions" in response to your already great list:

- Modern English's "I Melt With You" may have been the smash that folks remember, but the group actually did have another chart hit in 1984: "Hands Across the Sea," another great song from the band, reached No. 93.

- You mention Boney M, a Frank Farian creation, at No. 85, but another noteworthy Farian inclusion would be "Stairway to Heaven" by the Far Corporation (including members of Toto), which hit No. 89 in 1985. It is the only charted version of the song here in the U.S. It also made No. 8 in the U.K.

- A song that hit No. 88 in 1980 which was actually parodied by the artist/actor in the 1980 film "Smokey & the Bandit 2": Burt Reynolds' "Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial."

- And, Canada's answer to Duran Duran in the '80s, Platinum Blonde, at one time Canada's biggest musical export, except in the U.S. The act reached No. 82 with "Somebody, Somewhere."

Thanks again, Gary. Once again, you have outdone yourself for the benefit of chart geeks like myself!

Ron Raymond, Jr.
Music Director, WMPG-FM
Portland, Maine

Hi Ron,

Thanks very much. And happy two-thousand-ten/twenty-ten/Y2K10 to you!

For those who haven't yet read the first installment, "Taking Peaks" is a Chart Beat special feature, being unveiled in four parts each Tuesday this month. The idea is that well-loved songs didn't peak only at No. 1, or in the top 10, on the Hot 100. The chart's history shows that well-known titles peaked at every position, all the way to No. 100. This week, we started with Nos. 100 through 76. We'll continue with Nos. 75-51 Tuesday (Jan. 12).

Your additional trivia is invaluable, especially the note that the only version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," arguably the most famous album track never to chart on the Hot 100, has reached only the list's lower ranks, and by an act a few degrees of separation away from Milli Vanilli.

I also received a detailed e-mail from Chart Beat reader Christopher Brisson, and the only reason I didn't publish it here is that it's filled with great suggestions for songs that peaked between Nos. 75 and 1, and more than one of those will likely make the cut going forward! So, instead of giving away any future titles, I'll save them for the next editions of the "Taking Peaks" feature.

Again, this is by no means an official or definitive Billboard chart ranking, but a somewhat subjective - and, hopefully, fun - look at the Hot 100, based on (objective) peak positions. It's designed to invite debate, so please offer your opinions in the comments below this column or each "Taking Peaks" posting.


Hi Gary!

We all know that Taylor Swift continues to make headlines in the music industry these days, and this week is no exception.

With her former No. 1 Country Songs hit, "You Belong With Me," at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for a 12th week, she is enjoying the longest reign for a hit by a core country act on the list since Faith Hill's "There You'll Be" spent 12 weeks at the summit in 2001. If Swift is able to spend another week on top, and it looks likely that she will, as the song is the survey's Greatest Gainer this week, then "Belong" will mark a core country artist's longest reign on AC since Hill tallied a record 17-week run with "Breathe" in 2000.


John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska

Hi John,

Thanks, as always, for your insights on country music and our country charts.

I'm glad you included the word "core" when describing country acts, as, prior to Swift's reign on Adult Contemporary, Miley Cyrus led for 15 weeks with "The Climb," which reached No. 25 on Country Songs. While Swift and Hill are primarily country acts, Cyrus has recorded pop music almost exclusively and would not be considered a core country act.

Country crossovers, in fact, show throughout this week's Adult Contemporary chart. "The Climb" remains in the top five (No. 5), Keith Urban's "Kiss a Girl" bullets at No. 12 and Brad Paisley re-enters at No. 19 with "Then."

Click here for Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield's analysis of Swift's "Fearless" claiming the honor of 2009's top-selling album.


Hi Gary,

With recent chart outings for each artist, which "American Idol" champion - Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson - has sold more albums? I assume that Carrie Underwood, despite winning "Idol" three years after Clarkson, is in the lead.


Robert Becker
Knoxville, Tennessee

Hi Robert,

In advance of the new season of "American Idol" Tuesday night, the top-selling champion, in terms of album sales, is ...

... as you guessed, Carrie Underwood. She has sold 11,149,000 albums in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Kelly Clarkson follows with U.S. album sales of 10,494,000.

How did each artist fare with their latest albums? Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted," released in February, has sold 815,000 copies. Underwood's "Play On," released in early November, has sold 1,183,000 copies.

For more on the latest "American Idol" developments, read Ann Donahue's Billboard Q&A interview with "Idol" judge/songwriter/producer/publisher/A&R executive - and former Billboard administrative assistant - Kara DioGuardi here.