Chart Beat

Fred discusses Leona Lewis, American 'Idols,' Rick Ross and more!

HIGHER 'LOVE': A 21-8 leap on The Billboard Hot 100 sends newcomer Leona Lewis into the top 10 and into chart history as one of the most successful debuting U.K. solo female artists of the rock era. "Bleeding Love" (Syco/J) will no doubt rise even higher, but as of this week, Lewis is already among the top 16 solo U.K. females, ranked by peak position of their first chart entry on the Hot 100.

Here is a summary of those 16 songs, listed in order of peak position:

No. 1: Petula Clark, "Downtown" (1965)
No. 1: Sheena Easton: "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" (1981)
No. 2: Mary Hopkin, "Those Were the Days" (1968)
No. 2: Maxine Nightingale, "Right Back Where We Started From" (1976)
No. 2: Nicki French, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (1995)
No. 2: Donna Lewis, "I Love You Always Forever" (1996)
No. 3: Bonnie Tyler, "It's a Heartache" (1978)
No. 3: Lisa Stansfield, "All Around the World" (1990)
No. 3: Dido, "Thank You" (2001)
No. 4: Samantha Fox, "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" (1987)
No. 5: Des'ree, "You Gotta Be" (1995)
No. 8: Hayley Mills, "Let's Get Together" (1961)
No. 8: Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger" (1965)
No. 8: Tracey Ullman, "They Don't Know" (1984)
No. 8: Sonique, "It Feels So Good" (2000)
No. 8: Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love" (2008)

Some U.K. females you might expect to see on the above list didn't qualify because they didn't reach the top 10 with debut singles. Lulu made her first Hot 100 appearance in 1964 with her cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shout," which peaked at No. 94. Dusty Springfield went on to have top 10 hits with "Wishin' and Hopin'" and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," but her inaugural single, "I Only Want to Be With You," peaked at No. 12 in 1964. Olivia Newton-John eventually scored five No. 1 hits, but started her chart career in 1971 with "If Not for You," which reached No. 25. Kim Wilde topped the chart with a remake of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On," but initial entry "Kids in America" stopped at No. 25 in 1982.

Before "Bleeding Love," the most recent case of a U.K. female artist registering in the top 10 was the No. 9 peak of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" in 2007. Lewis' song has earned the highest peak position for a debut song by a U.K. solo female artist since Dido went to No. 3 in 2001 with "Thank You."

Should Lewis find herself checking into the Hot 100 penthouse, she will be the third U.K. solo female to have a No. 1 hit with her first single, following Petula Clark with "Downtown" in 1965 and Sheena Easton with "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" in 1981. And like Easton, who got her big break by appearing on a British television program ("The Big Time"), Lewis became famous in her native United Kingdom as the winner of Simon Cowell's series, "The X Factor."


'EMPTY' ON 'RUNNING': Add another former "American Idol" finalist to the list of contestants who have made it to the Billboard charts. Sixth season competitor Chris Sligh sails onto the Christian Adult Contemporary chart at No. 29 with "Empty Me" (Brash), the first single from his forthcoming album "Running Back to You."

Sligh is the 33rd "Idol" to chart in Billboard and the fourth from season six, which moves this recent year into a three-way tie for the season with the lowest number of charted Idols. To be fair, season six is too recent a memory to fully compete with the series' first five seasons, so we should probably grant more time to last year's finalists to earn as many chart entries as season one's five, season three's seven or season five's record-setting eight. Here is an updated recap of which Idols have charted, season by season:

Season one: (five)
Kelly Clarkson
Justin Guarini
Tamyra Gray
R.J. Helton
Jim Verraros

Season two: (four)
Ruben Studdard
Clay Aiken
Kimberley Locke
Josh Gracin

Season three: (seven)
Fantasia
Diana DeGarmo
Jasmine Trias
LaToya London
George Huff
John Stevens
Jennifer Hudson

Season four: (four)
Carrie Underwood
Bo Bice
Constantine Maroulis
Mario Vazquez

Season five: (eight)
Taylor Hicks
Katharine McPhee
Elliot Yamin
Chris Daughtry
Paris Bennett
Kellie Pickler
Bucky Covington
Mandisa

Season six: (four)
Jordin Sparks
Blake Lewis
Phil Stacey
Chris Sligh

That adds up to 32, but the total rises to 33 when you add in non-finalist William Hung, who went to No. 1 on Top Independent Albums with his debut CD.

Sligh is the fifth "Idol" to appear on the Christian AC tally. The first was Clay Aiken, whose Christmas song "Mary, Do You Know" peaked at No. 32 in January 2005. Carrie Underwood has had three singles enter this chart, starting with "Jesus, Take the Wheel," which drove to No. 3 in April 2006. Her update of the Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You" peaked at No. 29 and her single "So Small" went to No. 21 four weeks ago.

The third Idol to chart at Christian AC was fourth season fourth place contestant Chris Daughtry. His band's "Home" peaked at No. 14 in 2007. The fifth Idol to appear on this chart was fifth season finalist Mandisa. Her "Only the World" peaked at No. 6 in August 2007. "Christmas Day," on which she was featured with lead artist Michael W. Smith, spent one week in pole position in January. "Christmas Makes Me Cry," which featured Matthew West, rose to No. 2, also in January, and "God Speaking" ascended to No. 18 that same month.


ROSS IS 'THE BOSS' (AND SO IS KRISTINE): If I were writing this column in June or July of 1979, the Ross who is "The Boss" would have been Diana, whose album and single of that name charted way back then. But since it is March 2008, the Ross is Miami rapper Rick Ross, whose single "The Boss" (which features T-Pain) helped propel his album "Trilla" (Slip-N-Slide/Def Jam) to a No. 1 debut on The Billboard 200.

This is the second chart-topping CD for Rick Ross, following his 2006 release "Port of Miami."

Meanwhile, in a coincidence that chart columnists can only dream of, a remake of Diana Ross' "The Boss" advances to No. 1 on Hot Dance Club Play. The tune, written by the husband-and-wife team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, has been recorded by Kristine W. Released on the Fly Again label, "The Boss" is the 11th No. 1 for Kristine on this chart. Her first nine entries all reached the top. That amazing run was interrupted in February 2006 when "I'll Be Your Light" settled for the runner-up spot. She recovered in October 2007 when "Walk Away" strolled to No. 1. Now "The Boss" is the 11th of her 12 chart songs to go all the way.


'MAN' FOLLOWS 'GIRL': The "All-American Girl" has yielded to the "Small Town Southern Man," as Alan Jackson succeeds Arista label mate Carrie Underwood at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs.

"Man" is Jackson's 23rd song to win the gold on this survey. His run of No. 1 hits began in March 1991 with "I'd Love You All Over Again." His most tenacious chart-topper was his 2003 duet with Jimmy Buffett, "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." That collaboration dominated the tally for eight weeks.

"Small Town Southern Man" climbs to No. 1 just a little over four years after Jackson last topped the chart, with "Remember When" in February 2004. That is the longest gap between No. 1 songs for Jackson.

Previously, Jackson's longest hiatus between No. 1 hits was the 20 months that elapsed between "Right on the Money" in January 1999 and "It Must Be Love" in September 2000. Jackson had at least one chart-topping song every year from 1991-1997 and again from 1999-2004.

Just counting the years that Hot Country Songs has been compiled by airplay information from Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, George Strait has 24 No. 1s, more than any other artist. Jackson now claims second place to himself with 23; he was formerly tied with Tim McGraw, who is now in third place by himself with 22.

Jackson's takeover of the summit means that the two-week run of "All-American Girl" is Underwood's briefest stay on the top floor. Of her four previous No. 1 songs, none had shorter reigns than three weeks.


'BUBBLY' RIDES AGAIN: Last week, Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" (Universal Republic) made news with its 11-week consecutive run at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Now in its 12th frame, "Bubbly" scores again by becoming the longest-running No. 1 debut single by a female artist since the AC chart was introduced in July 1961.

"Bubbly" was in a four-way tie for first place last week, but is now the sole record-holder. Falling to second place are the three debut singles by female artists that remained in pole position for 11 weeks each:

"How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes (1997)
"I Hope You Dance," Lee Ann Womack (2001)
"Unwritten," Natasha Bedingfield (2006)