Despite how Walt Disney Records' "Frozen" soundtrack has been atop the Billboard 200 chart for two weeks -- and the movie is a blockbuster hit at the box office -- radio has essentially ignored the film's music. Its songs are no where to be found on Billboard's airplay charts, which monitor the most-played tunes on radio stations across the U.S.
That's partly owed to how none of the album's songs were promoted to radio outlets until two weeks ago, when Idina Menzel's version of the film's "Let It Go" -- the album's best-selling song with 606,000 downloads sold according to Nielsen SoundScan -- was officially serviced to adult contemporary radio stations by Disney.
In the week ending Jan. 19, just six radio stations had played the song according to Nielsen BDS. (Those six stations combined for a total of just 21 plays.) Demi Lovato's version of the song, which plays over "Frozen's" end credits, garnered play at three outlets.
(Radio Disney -- not included in the previous station counts -- of course is supporting the album. In the week ending Jan. 19, Lovato's "Let It Go" was the network's ninth-most played song, with 53 spins.)
Menzel's "Let It Go" is bubbling under the threshold of the Adult Contemporary airplay chart this week, with 28 plays from four reporting stations. It's about 60 spins away from debuting on the list. It's worth noting that adult contemporary stations are generally slow to play new songs -- even for singles by the format's biggest acts.
While the songs of "Frozen" aren't garnering much airplay, they are still significant hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, thanks to strong sales and streaming numbers. (The Hot 100 blends airplay, sales and streams to tally the most popular songs of the week.) Last week, four of the soundtrack's songs were on the Hot 100 -- led by Menzel's "Let It Go" -- at Nos. 25, 52, 60 and 65.
In addition, on our Streaming Songs chart last week -- which monitors play from outlets like YouTube -- Lovato and Menzel were at Nos. 31 and 32 with their respective versions of "Let It Go."
"Frozen" isn't the first album to hit No. 1 without the support of a radio airplay chart hit of course. Last year, of the 43 albums that hit No. 1 for the first time, six of them did so without previously charting a song on an airplay chart. Those were Beyonce's surprise-release self-titled set, Garth Brooks' "Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades of Influences," Kanye West's "Yeezus," Luke Bryan's "Spring Break… Here to Party," Justin Bieber's "Believe Acoustic" and the "Les Miserables" soundtrack.
All of those albums were either specialty releases or titles with a unique promotional rollout that hindered their fortunes at radio. Of them, only two never charted a later airplay hit: Bieber and "Les Mis."
Beyonce's album, of course, arrived to market without any fanfare or a lead single -- so there was no opportunity for anything to chart before the album debuted. (It has since charted hits like "XO" and "Drunk In Love.") Brooks' effort was an independently-released, Walmart-exclusive, six-CD box set of mostly covers (so already, it's a super-unusual release). It did chart one entry on the Hot Country Airplay chart: "The Call," with Trisha Yearwood, which debuted on Dec. 28 (a week after the box hit No. 1).
"Yeezus" came to market without an official radio single or music video while Bryan's "Spring" album was essentially a compilation of previously-released songs. Both "Yeezus" and "Spring Break" eventually charted very minor airplay chart entries. Finally, Bieber's set was alternate takes of songs from his "Believe" album, like "As Long As You Love Me" and "Beauty and a Beat." The latter, in its original form, was a then-current hit on the Mainstream Top 40 chart when the "Believe: Acoustic" album hit No. 1.
Finally, the "Les Miserables" soundtrack, like "Frozen," headed to No. 1 off the strength of the musical film's popularity -- not from any hit singles on the radio.