Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss Melinda Dolittle, Bjork, "Girlfriend" and more!



Almost as soon as Melinda Dolittle started singing "Trouble Is a Woman" on "American Idol" this week, I asked myself "Did Fred Bronson recommend this song to her?" If so, a fabulous choice -- considering how KT Tunstall took off after you recommended "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" for Katharine McPhee last year, a life-changing moment for Julie Reeves. The eight-year-old album that "Trouble Is a Woman" was taken from has jumped into the Amazon top 300.

Patrick Kelly
Brampton, Ont., Canada

Dear Patrick,

I wish I could take credit for Melinda Dolittle's brilliant selection of "Trouble Is a Woman" but I had nothing to do with it. Melinda apparently needs no help from me because she has consistently chosen songs that are perfect for her (or maybe it's just she could pick ANY song and it would be perfect?).

I hope to be able to ask her one day how she chose "Trouble Is a Woman," a song that only climbed to No. 39 on Hot Country Songs in 1999. Julie Reeves has had three chart entries and all three debuted that same year.

The only opportunity I had to suggest a song to Melinda was the week the contestants were singing Diana Ross songs, but Melinda didn't need any advice from me as she had already chosen her song. Playing by the rules, she wouldn't tell me which song she had chosen, so I simply whispered in her ear the song I thought she should sing. All I said was, "Home." She looked at me, poker-faced, and said, "You mean that song from 'The Wiz'?" as if she had never considered it. I had to wait until the following Tuesday to hear which song she had chosen, and I thought she did a great job with "Home."

Just to be clear, I'm not involved with song selection for "Idol" on a regular basis. Last season I was asked to work with the kids the week they were singing songs from any current Billboard top 10, and that's when I suggested KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" to Katharine McPhee. It was first on my list of five songs for her, but the second she heard it, she said that was the one she wanted to sing so there was no need to consider the other four. At the time, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was mostly an unknown song, but it was No. 9 on our Adult Top 40 chart.


Hi Fred,

I was thrilled to see Icelandic singer Bjork return to the Hot 100 this week after a 14-year absence and I was hoping you'd give her some ink in your Chart Beat or Chart Beat Chat columns. Bjork has 20 top 40 hits in the United Kingdom and three No. 1 songs on the U.S. dance chart, but by debuting at No. 84 this week with the Timbaland collaboration "Earth Intruders," she automatically has her biggest American pop hit.

Her only other Hot 100 entry – 1993's "Big Time Sensuality" -- peaked at No. 88. I think it's pretty amazing that she has just earned her highest U.S. hit in 2007, considering that her recording career began in 1976 when she was 11 years old.

Eric Hiller
Boston, Mass.

Hi Fred,

I've been reading your column for years and years and usually you find all the best chart stories for Chart Beat. But this week you skipped over the most interesting story! That would be Bjork's triumphant return to the Hot 100, officially allowing this long-respected artist to be more than just a one-hit-wonder, despite having a very successful 20-year career.

"Earth Intruders" enters the chart at No. 84 thanks to digital sales. It's her first Hot 100 entry since "Big Time Sensuality" peaked at No. 88 in 1993. "Human Behaviour" (1993) and "It's Oh So Quiet" (1995) both peaked at No. 9 on the Bubbling Under chart. Otherwise, Bjork's success has been confined to the disparate worlds of Club Play and Modern Rock.

This makes "Earth Intruders" the biggest hit of her career. It will be interesting to see if her new album "Volta" will continue her trend of debuting and peaking higher with each successive studio album, and could possibly become her first top 10 (perhaps even her first No. 1?) album upon its release. Given the weaker album sales climate this year, I think this is more than likely!

Thanks Fred, I just want to make sure that Bjork gets her due!

Michael Histen
Somerville, Mass.

Dear Eric and Michael,

Is there a Massachusetts branch of the Bjork fan club? If not, you might want to consider meeting up and starting one.

You're both right, Bjork should have been in Chart Beat this week, for all of the reasons you cite. But thanks to both of you, she's here in Chart Beat Chat.

The fact that the debut of "Earth Invaders" ends the Icelandic star's one-hit wonder status on the Hot 100 after 14 years is the most newsworthy feature of Bjork's return to the singles chart. Like Michael says, we'll be keeping our eyes and ears open for the debut of the "Volta" album on The Billboard 200, and reporting the results in Chart Beat (promise!).


Dear Fred,

I noticed there are five songs this week that appear in both the U.S. and U.K. top 10: "Give It to Me" by Timbaland, "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne, "Beautiful Liar" by Beyonce and Shakira, "The Sweet Escape" by Gwen Stefani faturing Akon and "Glamorous" by Fergie featuring Ludacris. I don't ever recall seeing this many similarities in the top 10s of both countries. Do you think this is a result of digital downloading that makes record companies release titles globally to prevent piracy? Or is it that the U.K. and the U.S. have the same taste in music now?


Jorge Escobar
New York, N.Y.

Dear Jorge,

Over the years, there have been periods of time when it seemed like the U.S. and U.K. music scenes were taking place in separate universes, let alone on different continents. Then there have been times when the two countries are very much in sync. Mind you, there are many songs on the U.K. chart that we've never heard of in the United States and never will, but the fact that there are five songs appearing in the top 10s of both countries is worth noting.

I keep a widget on my dashboard that tells me the top 10 best-selling songs on iTunes. By clicking on a flag icon, I can call up the top 10 in a number of different countries, and I have noticed a similarity running through all top 10s, with some local differences, of course. But it does point out that a digital world is a world brought closer together.



You stated in last week's Chart Beat that Carrie Underwood would have to get one more No. 1 to tie Brooks and Dunn's record of four No. 1s from a debut album. Didn't Clint Black also have four No. 1 country singles from his debut album, "Killin' Time?" If I remember correctly, he went to No. 1 with "Better Man," "Killin' Time," "Nobody's Home" and "Walkin' Away."


Brian Jackson

Dear Brian,

Brooks and Dunn were the most recent example of a country act pulling four No. 1 singles out of a debut album, but not the only example. If you go back in time, Clint Black did indeed have four No. 1 songs on our country tally from his debut album, "Killin' Time."

The album spent 31 weeks in pole position and was on the chart for 195 weeks. The four singles you cite spent a total of seven weeks on top in 1989-90.


Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is the third different hit with that title to reach the top five on the Hot 100, following hits by Pebbles (1988) and 'N Sync featuring Nelly (2002 -- five years ago this week). Only two song titles have more top five appearances, with four each, "Angel" (Madonna, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan and Shaggy) and "My Love" (Petula Clark, Wings, Lionel Richie and Justin Timberlake). Other titles with three top five appearances include "Cherish" (The Association, Kool & the Gang and Madonna), "Fire" (Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Ohio Players and the Pointer Sisters) and "Hero" (Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias and Chad Kroeger).

Also, speaking of Sarah McLachlan, you inadvertently left off her name as the artist who performed "I Will Remember You (Live)." I'd like to think you really did remember her.

Jeff Lerner
Long Island, N.Y.

Dear Jeff,

And only one "Purple People Eater." Go figure.

Leaving off Sarah McLachlan's name was inadvertent and I've asked my editor to correct this –- thanks for pointing it out, and for your observation about the multiple hits for "Girlfriend."