The three weeks in charge for "Never" represent the longest Hot 100 reign for a country title since Kenny Rogers' "Lady" Led for six weeks, beginning Nov. 15, 1980. The smoldering ballad had already worked its way into chart headlines this year: the song was written by Lionel Richie, who led the Country Albums chart for four weeks beginning in April with "Tuskegee," a duets album of covers of his classic R&B hits featuring country acts. The set includes an update of "Lady," featuring Rogers. In addition to topping the Hot 100 for six frames, the original "Lady" led Country Songs for one week (Nov. 22, 1980).
Not only does "Never" boast the longest Hot 100 domination for any country song since "Lady," but it also scores the longest such lead by a woman since Debby Boone arrived with her 10-week Hot 100 No. 1 "You Light Up My Life," which also rose to No. 4 on Country Songs, in 1977.
Between "Lady" and "Never," just five country songs led the Hot 100: Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" (two weeks at No. 1, 1981); Eddie Rabbitt's "I Love a Rainy Night" (two, 1981); Rogers' "Islands in the Stream," with Parton (two, 1983); Lonestar's "Amazed" (two, 2000); and, Carrie Underwood's "Inside Your Heaven" (one, 2005).
"Never," which Swift performed Thursday (Sept. 6) on the MTV Video Music Awards, returns to the Hot 100's apex courtesy of a fourth consecutive week atop Digital Songs (284,000 downloads sold, up 12%, according to Nielsen SoundScan) and a 10-7 rise on Radio Songs (77 million audience impressions, up 8%, according to Nielsen BDS). Among its surges on radio genre charts," Never" lifts 14-11 on Pop Songs and bullets at No. 19 on Country Songs with a 4% gain.
Taylor Swift Performs 'Never Ever' at 2012 MTV VMAs
"Never" returns to the Hot 100 summit without the benefit of subscription streaming points. The track has not yet been made available to on-demand streaming services that also contribute to the Hot 100's data pool (and, thus, has not yet appeared on the On-Demand Songs chart).
As she revisits the top of the Hot 100, Swift additionally tallies the chart's top debut, as "Ronan" bows at No. 16. The touching charity single enters Digital Songs at No. 2 (211,000). Swift wrote the track in honor of a three-year-old named Ronan who passed away from cancer; its proceeds will go toward the Taylor Swift Charitable Fund. As previously reported, as Swift places "Never" and "Ronan" at Nos. 1 and 2 on Digital Songs, she's the first artist to monopolize the top two spots since Ke$ha in 2010. In the Digital Songs chart's history, only three other artists had ranked at Nos. 1 and 2 simultaneously: the Black Eyed Peas (for two weeks in 2009), Beyonce (Dec. 6, 2008) and Mariah Carey (Dec. 31, 2005).
In another score for country music this week, "Never" and "Ronan" make for the first time that two country songs have each sold more than 200,000 downloads in the same week.
While "Never" serves as the lead single from Swift's fourth studio album, "Red," due Oct. 22, "Ronan" is not scheduled to be included on the set, according to her label, Big Machine.
Below "Never," Maroon 5's "One More Night" lifts 3-2 on the Hot 100 with the chart's top Airplay Gainer award for the second straight week. It pushes 13-11 on Radio Songs (72 million, up 18%) and 11-8 on On-Demand Songs (608,000 on-demand streams, up 18%), while slipping 2-3 on Digital Songs, although with a 2% increase to 196,000.
After returning to the top of the Hot 100 last week for a second frame on top, Flo Rida's "Whistle" falls to No. 3. The track climbs 3-2 on Radio Songs (94 million, up 5%), while sliding 2-3 on On-Demand Songs (732,000, down 3%) and 4-5 on Digital Songs (151,000, down 7%).
Fun.'s "Some Nights" (5-4) flip-flops with Ellie Goulding's "Lights" (4-5) on the Hot 100. The former cut rebounds 2-1 on the Alternative Songs airplay chart for a third total frame at No. 1, besting the group's two-week reign on the radio ranking earlier this year with introductory hit "We Are Young," featuring Janelle Monae. On the Hot 100, No. 4 marks a new peak for "Nights"; "Young" led the Hot 100 for six weeks beginning in March.
After four weeks just below the Hot 100's top 10, P!nk's "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" returns to the region at a new peak (11-6), led by a 37% gain in digital sales to 114,000. With its latest sales week, the song, which P!nk sang on the VMAs, passes a million in downloads sold to date. P!nk's sixth studio album, "The Truth About Love," arrives Tuesday (Sept. 18).
Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me," featuring Big Sean, rises 9-7 on the Hot 100, followed by Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks" (6-8) and Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Good Time" (8-9).
Alex Clare nabs the Hot 100's lone first-time top 10 entry, as "Too Close" jumps 15-10, flying 11-6 on Digital Songs (127,000, up 50%) after its usage in Fox TV's "So You Think You Can Dance" last week. The U.K. singer's debut hit spent four weeks atop Alternative Songs.
Check Billboard.com tomorrow (Sept. 13), when all rankings, including the Hot 100 and On-Demand Songs in their entirety and Digital Songs and Radio Songs, will be refreshed, as they are each Thursday.