Chart Beat Chat

Fred discusses the 4 “Ws” in country, discrepancies in methodology, Rihanna and some of the biggest climbs yet this year.


Hi Fred,

I've always enjoyed your column and wanted to drop you a line to point out a chart oddity on the Hot Country Songs chart.

The four most recent chart toppers have begun with who, what, where and why. First we had "What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts, followed by "Who Says You Can't Go Home" by Bon Jovi featuring Jennifer Nettles, "Wherever You Are" by Jack Ingram and the current No. 1 "Why" by Jason Aldean.

Moving up from No. 8 to No. 5 is "When the Stars Go Blue" by Tim McGraw. If Tim can overtake Dierks Bentley and Leann Rimes to become the next No. 1, we would have what must be a first on any song chart.

Thanks again for entertaining me each week with your columns.

Michael Marquardt
Gettysburg, Penn.

Dear Michael,

The first thing any journalist learns is to report the who, what, when, where and why of a story. Thanks for pointing out the appearance of the 5 "Ws" on Hot Country Songs. Now it's all up to Tim McGraw to make chart news.


Hi Fred,

I read Don Helms' letter in your last column with great interest.

Like you, I agree and disagree with a lot of points. However I'd like to comment and explain some points that were mentioned in the letter.

From the debut [of "American Top 40"] in July 1970 through May of 1971, the show was one week ahead of the Hot 100 week ending date. For instance, on Sunday, April 25, 1971, instead of the week ending April 24 chart being counted down, they counted down the chart for the week ending May 1. (Thus Don would have his issue of April 24 and be hearing the May 1 chart counted down; the next day he would receive the issue with this chart in it).

The next week (Sunday, May 2) "American Top 40" counted down a special, "The Top 40 Recording Acts of the Rock Era 1955-1971."

The next week they counted down the week ending May 8, 1971, chart on Sunday, May 9. The special was to bridge the gap so they would be in sync with the week ending date. Also, they were distributing more programs, so they needed more turnaround time to record and deliver the show. The show aired this way for the rest of its run.

Regarding the weird move of Bachman Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet": Billboard announced a better way of calculating the chart in June 1973.

The Hot 100 dated June 9, 1973, does not have the "Last Week" positions listed, but there weren't really any weird moves reflected in the new methodology. However, "AT 40" counted down a wrong chart which had "Daisy a Day" by Jud Strunk and "Out of the Question" by Gilbert O'Sullivan back in the top 40, when actually "Daisy" fell off the chart and "Question" was No. 93.

I know of no change in chart methodology in November 1974 when the BTO song did its 34-8 trick. The reason this happened was that the B-side ("Free Wheelin'") began receiving a lot of airplay, which sparked sales as well, so the song rebounded.

The next week when the song was again at No. 8 the song was listed as "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"/"Free Wheelin'" Casey Kasem mentioned this on "AT 40" that week as well, and he said that they checked with Billboard to explain the weird move.

There were no other unusual moves on that Nov. 30, 1974 chart.

Thanks for letting me explain some of the issues brought up in Don's letter.


John Jayne
Des Moines, Iowa

Dear John,

Thanks for remembering! It helps to hear from people who have actually lived through these events and recall them with clarity. Part of my ability to comment on rock and roll history is having lived through most of it.


Hello Fred,

It seems to me that Rihanna's "Unfaithful" leapt on the charts out of nowhere, making a big impression while all the attention has been focused on her hit "SOS."

I'm wondering if people found "Unfaithful" on their own, or if there was a label campaign for the song that I missed. In other words, has there been any radio promotion of "Unfaithful," or is its initial impact purely the product of sales? Are we in a situation where the buying public has anointed a hit of its own accord, or is Island/Def Jam promoting multiple singles at once?


Mark Blankenship
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Mark,

I received a promo single of Rihanna's "Unfaithful" from the label, so they were definitely promoting it to radio. "SOS" had been receiving airplay for quite a while before becoming a hit, so it's possible the label thought radio was ready for the follow-up. Looks like they were right, and as a result Rihanna could have two hits in the top 10 at once.



[Regarding your item about Jewel's run of top 10 albums], if my research is correct, Johnny Mathis, Mariah Carey and Led Zeppelin are the top three artists that have the longest streaks of album releases without missing the top 10.

While Jewel missed the top 10 with her holiday collection, Johnny Mathis extended his streak with his "Merry Christmas." Also, he had two greatest hits albums that hit the top 10 before his streak ended with "I'll Buy You a Star."

Consider how difficult it is to have a streak like this, though.

Paul McCartney's run was ended by a greatest hits collection, and Madonna's bid was ended by an album of dance remixes. The Rolling Stones, Van Halen and Garth Brooks would be on this list had their debut albums not fallen short. The Beatles aren't included because Vee-Jay records and MGM released reissued material.

Elton John had a "Friends" motion picture soundtrack and a live reissue that kept him off of this list. Pearl Jam isn't listed because they released 25 official bootlegs (and then some).

Now I know why Led Zeppelin never released a Christmas album!

Thanks very much,

Pete Pait
Alpharetta, Ga.

Dear Pete,

I'll ask Led Zeppelin if they ever thought about a Christmas album when I see them Monday in Stockholm, where they are receiving this year's Polar Music Prize.


Hello Fred,

I absolutely love reading your "Chart Beat" column every week. It features a good variety of artists and their chart feats and the chart activity is lively.

I was reading the Billboard Hot 100 this week and found that many songs are making big jumps. For example, KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" jumped 56 places, from 79 to 23. In the top 20, Lil Jon, E-40 and Sean Paul of the YoungBloodZ have gone from 58 to 13 with "Snap Your Fingers."

With the Hot 100 now taking into account legal download sales, has that caused climbs like these? Are there any other factors that contribute to these big climbs?

Love your column,

Wyming Hee
Auckland, New Zealand

Dear Wyming,

I'm glad you enjoy "Chart Beat." I always enjoy hearing from readers around the world that they appreciate the column. I was a "Chart Beat" fan myself, long before I started writing it.

The jumps you refer to were definitely caused by sales of digital downloads. Sales of digital tracks are up 81% over last year. In a recent week, there were 50,000 physical singles sold, compared to 10 million digital tracks.

The KT Tunstall song made a spectacular leap because "American Idol" contestant Katharine McPhee sang it on the popular TV series. She performed the song when the contestants had to choose any song in a current Billboard top 10. "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was No. 9 on the Adult Top 40 chart that week, and when I was asked to work with the contestants helping them choose their songs, I suggested the Tunstall song to Katharine.

The Lil Jon song "Snap Your Fingers" became available for digital sales a couple of weeks ago and had enough airplay to generate immediate sales.