Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss Mariah Carey, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney and more!


Hey, Fred.

It's exciting to witness chart history [being made by] Mariah Carey and Madonna this week; Mariah's 18th No. 1 single ("Touch My Body") surpasses Elvis Presley's 17, and Madonna's 37th top 10 single breaks Elvis' [record of] 36. (Too bad that Madonna's hugely popular "Into the Groove" didn't get a chance to chart because it wasn't released as a physical single).

While searching online, I was also impressed by the number of songs by these two megastars that peaked at No. 2. Oh so close! I may be wrong (and please correct me if so), but I counted that Madonna has garnered six No. 2 songs and Mariah four.

Madonna's No. 2s are: "Material Girl," "Causing a Commotion," "Express Yourself," "Cherish," "I'll Remember" and "Frozen."

Mariah's are: "Can't Let Go," "Endless Love," "Loverboy" and "Shake It Off."

I couldn't find a definitive count for how many No. 2 songs Elvis and the Beatles racked up in addition to their 17 and 20 No. 1s, respectively. Considering that the Fab Four and The King were often competing against their own hits in the top five, especially in the early years, I wonder if they might have scored more chart-toppers if their handlers had spread out the releases.

Is it possible for you to research how many No. 2 singles that the Beatles and Elvis had on The Billboard Hot 100 (or Best Sellers in Stores) charts.

Looking forward to seeing you on "American Idol" again.


Marc LeGoff
Washington, DC

Dear Marc,

Thanks, but I think the only way you'll see me again on "Idol" this season is if the camera happens to catch me in the audience. Being on once every season or two (or three) is already generous of them and I was happy to be asked back.

More important, let's count up the No. 2 hits by Elvis Presley and the Beatles, starting with the King:

"Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" (1958)
"(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I" (1959)
"Can't Help Falling in Love" (1962)
"Return to Sender" (1962)
"Burning Love" (1972)

and the Mop Tops:

"Twist and Shout" (1964)
"Do You Want to Know a Secret" (1964)
"Yellow Submarine" (1966)

"Twist and Shout" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" were competing with other Beatles songs, but it wasn't a case of the label issuing too many singles at once.

Once the Beatles became overnight sensations in 1964 with their Capitol singles, labels that had the rights to earlier Beatles material re-released those older songs.


Hi Fred,

First, thanks for the hard work you put in - the column is always an excellent read.

I have a question for you regarding Mariah Carey and her latest No. 1,"Touch My Body." It's widely quoted that this is her 18th number 1, and as such she becomes the individual artist with the most No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 in the rock era. However, three of her No. 1s were co-credited collaborations - "One Sweet Day" (with Boyz II Men), "Heartbreaker" (featuring Jay-Z) and "Thank God I Found You" (featuring Joe and 98 Degrees).

Shouldn't her figure as a solo artist stand at 15? And if it remains at 18, can Paul McCartney cheekily claim 29 No. 1s as a solo artist with his "collaborations" with the Beatles, Wings, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson?


Steve Davies
Leicester, United Kingdom

Dear Steve,

Really glad you like the column - thanks for your kind words. Hope you continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

Your question is one I receive so often that I should probably add it to the FAQ. But I understand that Mariah Carey capturing her 18th No. 1 on the Hot 100 prompted you (and other readers) to ask what we mean when we refer to someone as an individual (or solo) artist.

What we're really talking about is the difference between being a member of a group or a solo performer. Mariah Carey has been a solo or individual artist for her entire chart career, and collaborating with other artists such as Boyz II Men, Jay-Z, Joe and 98 Degrees doesn't change that. In other words, Mariah Carey and Jay-Z were never an act, they were two individual artists collaborating on one recording. That's different than duos like Simon and Garfunkel or Daryl Hall and John Oates, but the same as Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer or John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Your example of Paul McCartney isn't a good one, because Paul was clearly not one of four individual artists coming together as the Beatles; the Beatles were a group. The same holds true for the ever-changing line-up of Wings, but when Paul recorded with Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder, he was a solo performer working with another solo performer.
McCartney does have a career total of 29 No. 1 hits, including 20 with the Beatles and nine away from the Fab Four. If we add group chart-toppers and solo No. 1s together, Diana Ross would have a career total of 18; 12 with the Supremes and six post-Supremes, including a duet with Lionel Richie.

Hope that answers your question!


Dear Fred:

In this overwhelming week of breaking records, you said that Mariah Carey will tie Elvis Presley with 79 cumulative weeks if she can remain on top of the Hot 100 for one more week, but Carey's web site says that Presley has 80 weeks at No. 1. You explained this situation long ago but to be honest with you, I cannot remember. Would you please refresh my memory?

Thank you for your always amazing column.

Fued Gibran Nechar Martin
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Dear Fued,

First, an apology. The last time I posted one of your e-mails in Chart Beat Chat, I replied to your letter by writing, "Dear Fred." I know your name is Fued; I guess there's just something about the name Fred I find fascinating.

Glad to clear up the confusion about the number of weeks Elvis Presley spent at No. 1.

The discrepancy occurs if you count all of the Billboard charts that existed before the Hot 100 was introduced.

On the official singles chart of the day (Best Sellers in Stores), "All Shook Up" was No. 1 for eight weeks, but on Most Played in Jukeboxes, "All Shook Up" was No. 1 for nine weeks. Using the Jukebox total gives you 80 total weeks at No. 1, while using the Best Sellers in Stores chart gives you 79.

We're not trying to cheat Elvis out of a week at No. 1; the Best Sellers in Stores chart is the only pre-Hot 100 chart that counts as the official chart for all artists.


Dear Fred,

I don't get it - all the hubbub about Mariah [Carey] and Madonna breaking Elvis Presley's records. If we're going to count pre-Hot 100 hits, which we must where Elvis is concerned, why stop with him? Using the Best Sellers in Stores chart, and combining double-sided hits into one position, Bing Crosby had 49 top 10 singles and Perry Como had 38. Both their chart histories span the rock era. They are the record holders, not Elvis.

Madonna has beaten Elvis in top 10 singles, but she has not even tied Perry Como and has a long way to go before she comes close to Bing Crosby's record.

Why do all music writers seem to think music began with Elvis?


Brian Weber
North Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Brian,

No, music didn't begin with Elvis Presley. It began with Bill Haley.

OK, that's just a joke. Actually, what we often refer to as the "rock era" began on July 9, 1955, the day "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets advanced to No. 1 on the Best Sellers in Stores chart.

While the dividing line between the "rock era" and everything that came before is arbitrary, the "rock era" is a defined chunk of time agreed upon by music historians long before I started writing for Billboard. I have often described my job as putting each week's charts in context of the entire rock era and most of the time, that makes sense.

Sometimes I do refer to chart feats that took place before July 9, 1955, and readers often point our pre-rock era achievements in Chart Beat Chat, as you have. But otherwise, accomplishments reported in Chart Beat should be considered to have taken place in the rock era.


Dear Fred,

I'm sure many Elvis fans are shocked that two of his long-standing chart accomplishments have been outdone this week.

But he still holds the records for most charted singles and albums during the rock era. Perhaps those records will never be broken.


Richard K. Rogers
Astoria, N.Y.

Dear Richard,

You may be correct, although if they even are broken, it will be long after my tenure as your friendly Chart Beat columnist.


Hi Fred,

Every Tuesday, three (or so) songs are available as free downloads from the iTunes store. It's been a great way for some of us to get out of our "comfort zone." I'll usually download just about any song unless the 30-second sample turns me off.

So when Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" hit No. 1, I kept wondering where I had heard the song. Turned out it was iTunes' single of the week March 25! Since I have no idea when iTunes decides to choose their free downloads, you have to admit it's a bit startling to see one of the songs top the chart so quickly (Am I correct that the free downloads do not add into download sales?).


Chris Companik
Atlanta, Ga.

Dear Chris,

First, are you sure you don't want to ask a question about Mariah Carey, Madonna or Elvis Presley?

Just had to check. Sounds like anyone who downloaded Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" for free got a real bargain. I have a feeling your e-mail will send readers to the iTunes site to see what's available for free this week.

You're correct that free downloads do not count for the charts, as no sale is registered.


Good afternoon Fred!

First, Trace Adkins may have missed out on [winning] "Celebrity Apprentice," but he sure didn't miss out on scoring the third No. 1 hit of his 13-year chart career as "You're Gonna Miss This" moves 2-1 this week on Hot Country Songs.

Congratulations, Trace!

Now, for the third time in his past four attempts, "King" George Strait has reached at least No. 2 on the country chart. He does it this week with "I Saw God Today" making a 4-2 jump. If he can take "God" to No. 1, not only will it be the first song with "God" in its title to top the Hot Country Songs list since Sawyer Brown's "Thank God for You" in 1993 and give the King of Country his record-leading 43rd No. 1, but just one week would put him in a three-way tie with late greats Hank Williams, Sr. and Buck Owens with an accumulated total of 83 weeks on top of the country chart.

Best wishes, King George!

John Maverick
Burt County, Nebraska

Dear John,

We'll be keeping an eye on George Strait's chart progress.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Trace Adkins has the biggest Hot 100 hit of his 11-year plus chart career, as "You're Gonna Miss This" zooms 40-12, thanks to digital sales following his second-place finish on "The Celebrity Apprentice."