Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss country recurrents, Justin Timberlake, the years of No. 1 hits and more!


Dear Fred,

My favorite radio format is Active Rock, but I look at all format charts. I notice that country songs are going recurrent at progressively higher positions on the Billboard country chart. I remember that Radio & Records had this ridiculous rule that songs would be removed after only two weeks of airplay decrease, even if the song hadn't begun to fall. Now, it seems Billboard is moving ever closer toward this extremely and overly aggressive recurrent rule.

What happened to the top 15 being left alone? A few weeks ago, Carrie Underwood was No. 10 in impressions, but went recurrent anyway. Another week, Rascal Flatts should have been No. 7 in impressions, but still went recurrent.

I know the Hot 100 reached a compromise for chart enthusiasts where the top 50 would be left alone and [songs in] the bottom half would [be removed to the recurrent charts] after 20 weeks (I still think that should be 26 weeks). Can't there be some happy medium reached between country format programmers and music chart enthusiasts on the country chart, like leaving the top 20 alone?

Removing songs from such a high position only overly inflates the positions of songs that should be below them climbing the chart, and therefore leads to an inaccurate chart in terms of what is actually being played on that format's stations.


Brian C. Cole
Gulf Shores, AL

Dear Brian,

I forwarded your thoughtful query to the manager of our country charts, Wade Jessen. While Wade responded to you personally, I wanted to also post your e-mail and his comments here, as your topic will be of interest to many Chart Beat readers.

Before we hear from Wade, I do want to respond to one thing you mentioned. Any recurrent rule on the Hot 100 was not put into place as "a compromise for chart enthusiasts." With all respect to chart fans, the charts are compiled as tools for those people working in the music business, especially record labels, radio stations and retailers. While Billboard appreciates the interest of chart enthusiasts, the charts can't be compiled with fans in mind. It's not that we're out to displease the fans; it's just that the wishes of fans can't be considered when chart policies are made.

Now, let's hear from Wade in our Nashville office:

"The recurrent removal policy on our country charts changes from time to time due to fluctuating business conditions. At the end of 2006, we revised our policy to remove descending titles to recurrent after 20 weeks when they fall below No. 10 in either Nielsen BDS detections rankings or audience rankings. This is only a subtle change from the prior rule, which removed such descending titles after 20 weeks when they fell below No. 15.

"Since country is a consensus format, labels have only one format to work singles to. Unlike the pop music formats, country is measured by one chart. This severely limits options for labels working singles, particularly since country programmers are typically using the format's biggest hits far longer than they did even five years ago.

"In order to establish a workable flow of titles in and out of the chart, it becomes necessary to adjust the methods we employ to remove older songs. Even though your observation is correct that some titles are removed after appearing higher on the chart, the impact on the chart's biggest songs is very subtle. During research we conducted before the most recent adjustment to our recurrent policy, the higher threshold actually only removes approximately 1.5 more titles per week than the previous rule.

"Because country radio is such a heavy consensus format, allowing the format's biggest hits to hover between No. 11 and No. 15 for additional weeks provides no insight or measurement of momentum, which is the primary business reason the chart is so widely used and quoted by labels, publicists, agents, and even radio programmers.

"While the revised rule might appear to be more dismissive to casual chart observers, the industry users (including many country radio
programmers) have overwhelmingly told us that the slightly quicker removal of the format's biggest hits has served to enhance the weekly snapshot of momentum at all levels of this chart.

"It is important also to note that we continue to protect the top 10 from the recurrent policy, which allows the format's biggest hits a more natural descent than the old R&R rule which you mentioned in your note.

"Thus, our country chart remains competitively the most widely quoted and most often cited scorecard for country singles.

"We hope that this sheds some light on the reasons for the change in the rule. We are always keenly interested in our reader's opinions and observations, and appreciate your taking the time to inquire."


Greetings from Puerto Rico.

I hope you're doing well. I'm so excited about all the chart action on this week's Hot 100, especially watching Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around... Comes Around" become the third No. 1 smash from his album "Future Sex/Love Sounds."

This reminds me of the good old days of the late '80s/early '90s when superstars like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and Mariah Carey all had albums with three or more No. 1 songs. Whitney and Mariah even did it twice (and so did Milli Vanilli).

Justin becomes the fourth male solo artist to score three or more No. 1s from one album. Michael Jackson is the all-time champ with five No. 1s from "Bad." George Michael's "Faith" and Usher's "Confessions" (Special Edition) had four each.

Do you think this trend of multiple No. 1 songs from one album will continue?

Thanks always for your excellent column.

Luis A. De Jesús
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Dear Luis,

Thanks for writing from San Juan, and thanks for your hospitality when I visited Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time on the island and it was great to meet you.

A number of artists have had two No. 1 hits from the same album, but as you point out, Justin Timberlake's feat takes us back to the old days. This may well be the start of a trend -- if Nelly Furtado can secure another chart-topper from her "Loose" CD, she'll also have three No. 1 singles from the same album. Ludacris may have a second No. 1 from "Release Therapy" if "Runaway Love" can move up one notch, and if it does, he just needs one more to equal Justin's accomplishment. Predicting the future is tricky, but this is a trend that bears watching.


Dear Fred,

I agree with your contention that songs should be counted only as hits in the calendar years in which they first reached their peak position. By this rule, "Independent Women Part I" by Destiny's Child was a No. 1 hit only in 2000; we don't count the spillover into 2001 (much as we don't count the spillover into 2007 of the 10-week run at No. 1 of "Irreplaceable").

By this logic, then, the longest-running No. 1 hit of 2001 was Janet Jackson's "All For You," which had a seven-week stay at the top, making 2001 the only year without a song spending at least 10 weeks at No. 1 since the charts have been compiled with information supplied by Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. As much as I like "Irreplaceable," I was hoping 2006 would be such a year, as I prefer active charts with a lot of turnover at No. 1 and in the top 10, rather than the slow-moving charts of some years past. I hope there is enough turnovers in 2007 that we don't have any song spend as long as 10 weeks at the top spot. But, as you would say, "We'll have to see."

Andy Ray

Dear Andy,

That IS what I would say!