CHART BEAT BONUS

Fred Bronson reports on chart activity relating to Josh Groban, Ruben Studdard, Emmylou Harris, Patti LaBelle, Ron Isley and Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz.

ON THE FAST TRACK Josh Groban sets one record and ties another, as his song from the soundtrack to "The Polar Express" makes the biggest leap to No. 1 in the history of Billboard's Adult Contemporary survey. "Believe" (Warner Sunset/Reprise) races 19-1, giving Groban his fourth AC chart-topper.

The format relies heavily on holiday music this time of the year, so Groban's song had everything going for it: it's a song from a Christmas-themed movie by one of AC's hottest core artists.

This is Groban's second holiday-oriented No. 1. He occupied AC pole position in December 2002 with "O Holy Night." There have been Christmas songs at No. 1 on the AC chart for the last five years in a row, starting in December 2000 with "The Christmas Shoes" by NewSong. That track jumped 10-1 and was the record-holder for biggest leap to the top in AC history until this issue.

By reaching the zenith in just three weeks, Groban ties the record for fastest climb to the top. The other two songs to make such a rapid ascent are "O Holy Night" and "The Christmas Shoes."

There may have been Christmas songs at No. 1 in recent Decembers, but it's been three years since a soundtrack hit topped this chart. The last movie tune to reach the AC summit was "There You'll Be," written by Diane Warren and performed by Faith Hill for the film "Pearl Harbor." "There" topped the list for 12 weeks in 2001.

"Believe" is Groban's sixth AC chart entry. He first appeared on the tally in April 2002 with "To Where You Are," which became his first chart-topper. His longest-running No. 1 so far is his version of Secret Garden's "You Raise Me Up," which spent six weeks on top in March and April.

PSALMS ON THE 23RD: The dictionary defines a "psalm" as a "sacred song," so it's fitting that Ruben Studdard's "I Need an Angel" (J), the album that debuts at No. 1 on the Top Gospel Albums tally, is the 23rd No. 1 for the "American Idol" franchise on the Billboard charts.

That total includes singles and albums by Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke, William Hung, Fantasia and Diana DeGarmo as well as Studdard and the second season finalists as a group. The run of 23 No. 1s began in October 2002 when the winner of the series' first season, Clarkson, vaulted 52-1 on Billboard's Hot 100 with "A Moment Like This."

Studdard is not the only "Idol" contestant on the gospel chart this week. George Huff, the highest-ranked male contestant on the third season of "Idol," is up to No. 11 with his five-song EP, "My Christmas" (Word-Curb/Warner Bros.).

BOLDER FROM BIRMINGHAM: Ruben Studdard is not the only singer from Birmingham, Ala., making chart news this week, because Emmylou Harris returns to Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart after a 10-year absence.

Debuting at No. 59 is "Not Me" (Moraine) by Keni Thomas featuring Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris. It's Harris' first appearance on this chart since "Thanks to You" peaked at No. 65 in 1994. "Not Me" is her highest-ranked song since "I Still Miss Someone" went to No. 51 in 1989.

IT TAKES TWO: A pair of chart veterans debut on the Hot 100 with their first duet. Patti LaBelle and Ron Isley are teamed on "Gotta Go Solo" (Def Soul Classics), a song that has been on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart for 16 weeks.

Between them, LaBelle and Isley have amassed more than 86 years on the Hot 100. Isley's debut date is clear: "Shout" by the Isley Brothers entered the chart the week of Sept. 21, 1959, giving him a chart span of 45 years, two months and three weeks.

LaBelle's debut is less defined, as there is some question about whether her group, the Bluebelles, were the actual artists on "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," which debuted the week of April 21, 1962. LaBelle may not have officially debuted until the Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles' single "Down the Aisle," which entered the chart the week of Sept. 14, 1963. That would give her a still-impressive chart span of 41 years and three months.

THE BIG HALF-DOZEN: "Lovers and Friends" (BME) surges 17-10 on Billboard's Hot 100 for Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz featuring Usher and Ludacris. It's the sixth top 10 hit for Lil Jon. He first made the top 10 with "Get Low" in October 2003, so it has only taken him one year and two months to collect his half-dozen top 10 songs.