Chart Beat Chat

Fred discusses "Petit Papa Noël," non-debut BB200 No. 1s, duets and more!


Hello Fred!

It's a nice surprise to learn that "Noel" ("Christmas" in French) by Josh Groban is No. 1 this week. As a French [citizen] I'm very proud that one of the 13 titles of this album is "Petit Papa Noël" (Petit Papa Noel is the name of Santa Claus in France).

This song was written by Raymond Vincy and Henri Martinet in 1946. It was recorded the same year by Tino Rossi for the movie "Destins." Since the '40s, Tino Rossi sold more than 30 million singles all around the world. At the end of each year, this song returns to the French charts. This week, "Petit Papa Noël" is No. 14 on the French charts -- and No. 1 in the United States for the first time!

Alexandre Pecking
Paris, France

Dear Alexandre,

Thank you for the history of "Petit Papa Noël." I've heard other recordings of this song but was never aware of the tune's origin.

Josh Groban's "Noel" was the topic of several e-mails I received this week, like the next letter from a frequent Chart Beat Chat contributor in Georgia.


Hi Fred,

This week, Josh Groban's album climbed to the No. 1 spot on The Billboard 200. What was the last album to climb to No. 1 without debuting at the top? Back in the '70s, it was extremely rare for an album to debut at No. 1. Elton John and Stevie Wonder were the only two artists to achieve that feat. Now it seems as if all the No. 1 albums debut at the summit. I can't remember the last time it didn't happen, so I would like your help please!

Thanks for your column,

Pete Pait
Alpharetta, Georgia

Dear Pete,

The first album to debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 was Elton John's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy." It happened the week of June 7, 1975. The next album to open in pole position was Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life," the week of Oct. 16, 1976. Even after those two LPs started their chart lives at the top, it was rare for an album to debut at No. 1.

Things changed once Nielsen SoundScan sales data was first used to compile the charts in May 1991. Since then, it's been common for albums to bow in first place, just as new movies tend to open at No. 1 on the box office charts.

Josh Groban's "Noel" is the first album to climb to No. 1 since Michael Buble's "Call Me Irresponsible." That CD was a new entry at No. 2 the week of May 19 this year and advanced to No. 1 the following week.

"Noel" is the fifth album to move into the penthouse in 2007. Aside from 'Call Me Irresponsible," the others albums that have done this are "Now 24," "Daughtry" and the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack.


Hi Fred,

Did Billboard have the rule about removing singles from the Hot 100 after dropping below No. 50 back in 1997 when LeAnn Rimes set her record [of remaining on the chart with "How Do I Live" for] 69 weeks? If not, it doesn't seem fair that Carrie Underwood has to compete under different rules than the record holder.

I know that in the 1970s, acts like Soft Cell and Paul Davis set records for number of weeks on the Hot 100 with "Tainted Love" and "I Go Crazy." They each logged about 40 weeks if memory serves, but they were not removed from the chart until they dropped below No. 100.

Thanks! I have always said you had my dream job, but my knowledge of the charts, which my friends think is amazing, pales in comparison to yours!

Still a very loyal reader.

David Brosius
Brookville, Penn.

Dear David,

I do feel lucky to be able to do this work. As I've said a few times, I had no idea while growing up as a chart fan that this obsession would become my work one day.

To answer your question, Billboard's chart policy of removing songs from the Hot 100 when they fall below No. 50 after being on the tally for 20 weeks or more was in effect when LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live" was on the chart. But I'll explain in a moment why that doesn't matter when it comes to Chart Beat.

"How Do I Live" was No. 45 in its 69th chart week, on the Hot 100 dated Oct. 10, 1998. And for the record, Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" did fall off the chart this week, after a 64-week run.

I understand why you suggest it wouldn't be fair to compare records if the chart rules were different then, but the truth is chart rules have been revised many, many times over the years, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. If I had to consider what the chart rules were in any given week during the 49-and-a-half year existence of the Hot 100, I would never be able to compare anything and no one would ever set or break a record. There would always be a reason that it would be unfair, such as a song charting during a time when airplay figures dominated the chart as opposed to sales data, or during a time when two-sided hits charted in the same position as opposed to separately or during a time when songs couldn't fall off the chart if they were bulleted the previous week.

So I equalize everything, meaning songs charted under whatever rules were in effect at the time they charted and I can't take the myriad changes over half a century into consideration when writing about chart feats and accomplishments.


Hi Fred,

Why is Amy Winehouse's debut album "Frank" allowed to chart on The Billboard 200? Is it not considered a catalog title because it was never previously released in the United States?

Just wondering,

Eric Hiller
Boston, Mass.

Dear Eric,

Your suspicion is correct. Amy Winehouse's "Frank" is not considered a catalog item, even though it predates her "Back to Black" CD. "Frank" was originally released in the United Kingdom in October 2003, but just arrived in the U.S. 10 days ago. That makes it a new release domestically and qualifies it for The Billboard 200.


Hello Fred,

I'm sure I'm not the only chart fan who's been thinking about Fergie's recent accomplishment of placing five singles from one album in the top 10 of the Hot 100.

At first, I was going to ask if you could list all the albums that have managed to have five or more top 10 singles, but then I figured you've got too much to do to figure that out. Guessing you would encourage readers to write in with their own findings, I went ahead and did the research myself.

So now I've compiled my own list, often guided by information you've provided in your books and columns. For instance, since I read that Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" was the first album to produce even four top 10 hits, I knew I didn't have to consider any album released before 1978, and since you once wrote in Chart Beat that no album pulled five top 10 hits between Janet Jackson's "janet." and Usher's "Confessions," I knew I could avoid 1995-2005.

As it stands, I've only found 15 albums that have produced five or more top 10 singles, and five of them are by Jackson siblings. In other words, Fergie is possibly only the 12th artist ever to have so many hits at once. That makes her chart fortunes even more impressive.

Here's my list:

Janet Jackson, "Rhythm Nation" - 7
Michael Jackson, "Thriller" - 7
Bruce Springsteen, "Born in the U.S.A." - 7

Janet Jackson, "janet." - 6
Michael Jackson, "Bad" - 6
George Michael, "Faith" - 6

Paula Abdul, "Forever Your Girl" - 5
Fergie, "The Dutchess" - 5
Whitney Houston, "Whitney" - 5
Janet Jackson, "Control" - 5
Huey Lewis and the News, "Fore!" - 5
Madonna, "True Blue" - 5
Milli Vanilli, "Girl You Know It's True" - 5
Lionel Richie, "Can't Slow Down" - 5
Usher, "Confessions" - 5


Mark Blankenship
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Mark,

Thanks for all of the research you did to come up with your list, and for saving me the time -- or at least, saving me from suggesting that readers come up with their own list. Let's see if anyone writes in with added information.

And since we're acknowledging Fergie, I'd like to thank her for taking the time this week to be interviewed about all of her No. 1 songs for the next edition of "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" (which means, contrary to what I reported last week, work has begun on the sixth edition).


Hi Fred,

With all this talk about the Eagles and the arguments for and against their reaching No. 1 with their new album, an amazing accomplishment was not even mentioned.

The Eagles are the first group in history to top the album chart in four straight decades:

"One Of These Nights," five weeks (1975)
"Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975," five weeks (1976)
"Hotel California," eight weeks (1977)
"The Long Run," nine weeks (1980) [Ed. note: see Fred's reply, below]
"Hell Freezes Over," two weeks (1994)
"Long Road Out of Eden," one week (2007)

True, it may have been for only four days, but "The Long Run" was the first No. 1 album of the '80s until Donna Summer's "On the Radio-Greatest Hits - Volumes I and II" became the new No. 1 album on Jan. 5, 1980.

At this point in time, the only group that could match this four-decades feat would be Fleetwood Mac. However, this group only has a little over two years left to pull this off before its streak stops at three.

I should also note that Barbra Streisand is the only individual performer to accomplish the same feat as the Eagles, hitting the No. 1 spot in the '60s through the '90s. Her streak may stop at four straight decades since she has not hit No. 1 in the '00s. Only two years left for her, too!

Hitting No. 1 in four consecutive decades speaks volumes on the enduring popularity and impact of the Eagles and the group's music.

Steve Golisch
New Windsor, N.Y.

Dear Steve,

I had a dilemma when I decided to include your letter in the column this week, and I made a choice I hope you won't mind. I had already included your e-mail and was preparing my reply when I discovered a discrepancy in your chart stats.

I decided to run your letter anyway, to acknowledge the Eagles for having No. 1 albums over a span of four decades and for, as you wrote, their enduring popularity and impact (all true). But notice what I just wrote -- the group had its four No. 1 albums over a span of four decades, as opposed to in four consecutive decades.

"The Long Run" debuted on the Billboard album chart the week of Oct. 20, 1979, and advanced to No. 1 two weeks later. The album did indeed have a nine-week reign, as you point out, but that means its final chart week at No. 1 was on the chart for the week ending Dec. 29, 1979.

Donna Summer's "On the Radio" took the lead position on the chart dated Jan. 5, 1980, as you cite, but that is the week ending Jan. 5, meaning "On the Radio" was No. 1 starting Dec. 30, 1979.

So it's a mere two days that keeps the Eagles from having No. 1 albums in four consecutive decades. That doesn't diminish the group's chart achievements in my book (even though I haven't actually written an album book) and thanks for reminding us that the Eagles are really in it for "The Long Run."


Hey Fred.

Regarding T-Pain scoring four top 10 hits as a featured artist, why wouldn't they be considered duets? He has four different duets in the top 10, featured with Chris Brown, Flo Rida, Kanye West and Baby Bash. Are they counted on the chart as duets or not?

Mark Bondi

Dear Mark,

The issue of what is a duet and what isn't weighed heavily on my mind when I was writing the fourth edition of "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits." The first three editions all had a section on the top 100 duets of the rock era, but to me the lines had become so blurred that I dropped this section from the latest edition.

There's no official Billboard policy on the matter, because it's not something we qualify. But I'll give you my take on the issue. Pairing up two artists will always give you a duo, but not necessarily a duet. I formed that opinion before looking up "duet" in the dictionary and found that the first definition was "an instrumental or vocal composition written for two performers of equal importance."

There are many songs by a lead artist and a featured artist where the latter is not of equal importance in terms of the recording (we're not talking about fame here). The featured artist may not have as much time on the track, or may only offer support on the choruses or contribute less than the lead artist in some other way.

Beyond the dictionary definition, I can only know what a duet is when I hear one. "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb, "You're the One That I Want" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams are duets. In this week's top 10 on the Hot 100, "Hate That I Love You" by Rihanna featuring Ne-Yo is clearly a duet, as much as any song by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. So having a featured artist billed in the credits doesn't mean a song isn't a duet. I think we have to consider every song separately and judge it as a duet or not on its merits.