Fred Bronson reports on the latest chart feats of Elton John, Catherine Britt, Carly Simon, Tim McGraw, Kelly Clarkson and John Barry.COUNTRY COMFORT: It was just a couple of weeks ago that Elton John generated chart news by scoring two simultaneous top five hits on the U.K. singles chart. When an artist is in the 35th year of a career, you might only expect that performer to delve into uncharted chart waters once a year, but this week Elton adds another first-time accomplishment to his long list of chart achievements by making his initial appearance on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It's a case of a Brit helping a Britt.
On one of his tours of Australia, Elton heard a recording by a teenaged singer from Newcastle, Catherine Britt, and invited her to one of his shows in Sydney. Backstage after the show, he asked if she was interested in signing with an American record label. Britt told Elton she didn't have any contacts in the United States and didn't know where to start. The next day, thanks to Elton, she had three label offers and within a week she was in Nashville, signing with RCA.
Britt made her debut on the Hot Country Songs list with "The Upside of Being Down," which opened at No. 57 the week of Aug. 14, 2004, and peaked at No. 36 the week of Nov. 13. Now 20, she sees her second chart entry, a duet with Elton on "Where We Both Say Goodbye," opening at No. 49 this week.
While this marks Elton's first appearance on the country chart as an artist, he has previously been listed on the survey as a songwriter. Coincidentally, Tim McGraw's version of "Tiny Dancer" peaked at No. 49, the week of Feb. 15, 2003.
ORDER, PLEASE: Tim McGraw generates chart news of his own, with the 12-8 move of "Do You Want Fries With That" (Curb) on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. "Fries' is McGraw's 35th top 10 on this tally, good enough for fourth place among artists with the most top 10 country songs in the last 15 years, the time the chart has been compiled from airplay data collected by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.
The top four are: George Strait (46), Alan Jackson (45), Brooks and Dunn (36) and McGraw. Just counting top 10 hits in this decade, "Fries" moves McGraw out in front with 17, surpassing Toby Keith (16).
STRONGER 'TOGETHER': It turns out that "We Belong Together" (Island) isn't just a "comeback" for Mariah Carey, it's the second longest-running No. 1 of her career on the Billboard Hot 100. The title is runner-up only to "One Sweet Day," the single she recorded with Boyz II Men that set a rock-era record by remaining in pole position for 16 weeks.
Hitting the nine-week mark, "We Belong Together" surpasses the eight-week reigns of "Dreamlover" in 1993 and "Fantasy" in 1995. Thanks to "Together," Carey has now accumulated 70 weeks at No. 1, the second-highest total in the rock era.
Once comfortably ahead, Elvis Presley's total of 79 weeks seems vulnerable to a challenge from Carey next time she earns a No. 1 hit.
SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES: Carly Simon rewrites her own chart history with the debut of her new album on The Billboard 200. "Moonlight Serenade" (Columbia) bows at No. 7 and is instantly the highest-debuting album of Simon's career, as well as her third highest-charting title behind "No Secrets" (No. 1 in 1973) and "Hotcakes" (No. 3 in 1974). "Moonlight Serenade" is Simon's first top 10 album since "Boys in the Trees" peaked at No. 10 in 1978.
A collection of standards, "Moonlight Serenade" marks Simon's debut on the Columbia imprint. Most of her albums were recorded for the Elektra, Warner Brothers and Arista labels, but Simon did have one release on Columbia's sister label, Epic. "Spoiled Girl" peaked at No. 88 exactly 20 years ago this week.
Simon made her debut on the album chart the week of April 24, 1971, with a self-titled LP. With the entrance of "Moonlight Serenade," Simon's chart span is extended to 34 years, three months and two weeks.
TURNING 21: As speculated last week, this week Kelly Clarkson reasserts her dominance on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. After a one-week gap in which Michael Buble's "Home" (143/Reprise) moved to the head of the class, "Breakaway" (Walt Disney/Hollywood) is back on top, for a 21st week at No. 1.
That ties Clarkson's "Breakaway" with Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come" as the longest-running AC chart-topper by a female artist. "Breakaway" and "A New Day Has Come" are also tied as the second-longest AC No. 1s of all time, behind the 28-week run of "Drift Away" by Uncle Kracker featuring Dobie Gray.
THEY REALLY ARE FOREVER: It was exactly a year-and-a-half ago that I last wrote about British composer John Barry, most famous for scoring many James Bond movies and writing the secret agent's main theme. The week of Feb. 7, 2004, Barry was back on the Billboard Hot 100 as a songwriter courtesy of the Jennifer Lopez song "Baby I Love U," which interpreted Barry's "Midnight Cowboy."
Now Barry is having one of his biggest hits in years, thanks to Kanye West. His "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam), which races 69-43, samples Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever," another of Barry's Bond title songs. Bassey's single peaked at No. 57 in 1972, which means West's "Sierra Leone" is already a higher-charting hit.
The lyricist on "Diamonds Are Forever" is also credited on the West single. If "Sierra Leone" can reach the top, it would be the third No. 1 hit for songwriter Don Black, following Lulu's "To Sir With Love" in 1967 and Michael Jackson's "Ben" in 1972.