Chart Beat Chat: Madonna, Worldwide Divas, ABBA

Fred and his readers discuss Madonna's hits, divas' sales worldwith, ABBA and more!


Hey Fred!

Chart Beat is the greatest! Thanks for all of the work you put into it each week!

I have one question about the string of Madonna songs to top the Hot Dance Club Play chart, which you mentioned last week.

I love Madonna and would never want to rain on her hit parade, but did the release of "Hanky Panky" between "Vogue" and "Justify My Love" not manage to interrupt that first streak of seven No. 1s? Or did it not make any impact on the chart at all? The remixes were a little awkward for dance clubs and that song always seemed to fall in the shadow of its predecessor, "Vogue."

Here's hoping that Madonna will see a new string of seven or even eight No. 1s with additional "Hard Candy" releases!


Rob Sanders
West Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Rob,

Your hunch is correct: "Hanky Panky" never appeared on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. After "Vogue," the next Madonna song to show up on this chart was "Justify My Love."

Chart Beat will keep watch over Madonna's subsequent "Hard Candy" singles to see if she can match her previous strings of seven consecutive chart-toppers, or break her own record with an eighth No. 1 in a row.


Hi there Fred,

I have a question regarding who is the best-selling female artist of all time in the world. There is a big debate, depending on whose fan site you visit, regarding this title. I have seen the figures for sales in the United States with Barbra Streisand at No. 1 and Mariah Carey at No. 2, etc. But worldwide, the debate is almost a fierce one.

So who is the biggest worldwide seller? Mariah, Madonna, Celine Dion or Whitney Houston? Or is that a debate that will never be solved?


Norman Mellett
Cape Town, South Africa

Dear Norman,

It’s not a debate that can be solved with any accuracy, which is why I haven’t printed dozens of e-mails asking the same question. But since I receive this query so often, I am posting your e-mail here for the benefit of those who may be about to ask.

It’s not possible to report accurate sales figures prior to 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan started using bar code technology to keep track of sales at the point-of-purchase. For sales figures prior to the introduction of Nielsen SoundScan, you would have to rely on record company figures (if you can obtain them) or RIAA certifications, which are not based on sales, but units shipped to stores. Since certification is not automatic and some labels routinely did not seek gold and platinum certification (including Motown), there would be gaps in this information as well, even if you had access to all of it.

Furthermore, Billboard keeps track of domestic sales, not worldwide sales. So whatever sales figures you could receive from Nielsen SoundScan, they would only be for sales within the United States, and other countries where SoundScan keeps track of sales, such as Canada and Japan.

I’m sure the debate will continue to rage and some people will make their own claims, but we will probably never be able to resolve the debate with any accuracy.


I wanted to point out a coincidence that came to me while watching the movie "Mamma Mia!" last week: the movie opened 32 years almost to the week after the ABBA song "Mamma Mia" peaked at No. 32 on the Hot 100. I remember thinking back then that the song should have done much better because it had a strong hook and was catchier than many of the songs that charted higher that summer.

Bob E. Ruane

Dear Bob,

I could point out that your e-mail about this coincidence is the 32nd letter of the summer to appear in Chart Beat Chat, but I'd be making that up (or would I?).

Now, whatever you do, don't count the number of words in the first paragraph of my reply.

Good thing the song didn't peak at No. 34, or we'd have to wait two more years for the film to open.

I think a lot of ABBA fans think that all of their songs should have charted higher in the United States than they did, except for "Dancing Queen," which couldn't have charted higher but could have held on to pole position longer than it did.


It does appear that last week was the first time three Oscar winners debuted on the Hot 100 in the same week. This breaks the record of the most Academy Award winners to debut in the same week, which had been two, and which was accomplished three times:

Dec. 18, 1961:
Burl Ives, "A Little Bitty Tear"
Frank Sinatra, "Pocketful of Miracles"

April 7,1962:
Burl Ives, "Funny Way of Laughin'"
Frank Sinatra, "Ev'rybody's Twistin'"

June 26,1965:
Patty Duke, "Don't Just Stand There"
Frank Sinatra, "Forget Domani"

Jeff Lerner
Long Island, N.Y.

Dear Jeff,

We should explain to readers who might have missed the original Chart Beat item that we're talking about songs by Oscar winning actors Meryl Streep, Jennifer Hudson and Jamie Foxx all debuting on the Hot 100 in the same week.

Any doubt that this was a record has been erased by your research, so thank you for that. Now what would happen if Will Smith ever wins an Oscar?