LOVE FOR CHRISTMAS: While having dinner the night before Christmas at the Daily Grill in Los Angeles, I heard songs from Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You,” and wondered if back in 1963, when the LP was first released, anyone involved with the project could have imagined the album would still be a popular Christmas staple 44 years later.
There are many reasons this wall-of-sound holiday recording has become a perennial, not the least being the immense talent of Darlene Love. It always begins to sound a lot like Christmas when I first hear her “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the radio.
Even though Darlene Love has been getting airplay since 1962 — when she was the lead singer on the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and a member of Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans (“Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah”) — she has never appeared on a Billboard album chart until now. Well, technically, last week, when she debuted at No. 38 on the Top Heatseekers chart with an original Christmas album, “It’s Christmas, of Course” (Shout! Factory). This week, the album climbs to No. 29.
This is Love’s first appearance on any Billboard chart since January 1993, when her song from the “Home Alone 2” soundtrack, “All Alone on Christmas,” peaked at No. 83 on the Hot 100. The single debuted exactly 15 years ago this week, which gave me something to write about in my very first Chart Beat column. For those doing the math, this means the column you’re reading right now begins my 16th year of filling this space.
BUBBLING OVER: Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly” (Universal Republic) reigns over the Adult Top 40 chart for the 10th consecutive week, thus becoming the 29th song in this tally’s history to remain on top for 10 weeks or more. Only three songs by solo female artists have ruled this list for more than 10 weeks:
16 weeks: “Complicated,” Avril Lavigne (2002)
14 weeks: “Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia (1998)
12 weeks: “Because You Loved Me,” Celine Dion (1996)
Two songs by solo female artists are tied with “Bubbly” at the 10-week mark: “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne in 2003 and “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall in 2006.
“Bubbly” has a long way to go to tie or surpass the longest-running chart-topper in the life of the Adult Top 40 chart. Here are the top 10 No. 1 songs on this survey, in order of how long they remained in pole position (because of a tie, there are 11 songs in the top 10):
25 weeks: “Smooth,” Santana featuring Rob Thomas (1999)
23 weeks: “Wherever You Will Go,” the Calling (2001)
18 weeks: “Unwell,” matchbox twenty (2003)
18 weeks: “Photograph,” Nickelback (2005)
17 weeks: “Iris,” Goo Goo Dolls (1998)
16 weeks: “Complicated,” Avril Lavigne (2002)
15 weeks: “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt (1996)
15 weeks: “How to Save a Life,” the Fray (2006)
14 weeks: “Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia (1998)
14 weeks: “Everything You Want,” Vertical Horizon (2000)
14 weeks: “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” Train (2001)
“Bubbly” is the seventh song to advance to No. 1 on the Adult Top 40 chart in 2007. As of this week it is tied for the longest-running No. 1 of the year. Here are those seven chart-toppers:
10 weeks: “Home,” Daughtry
10 weeks: “Bubbly,” Colby Caillat
9 weeks: “It’s Not Over,” Daughtry
7 weeks: “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Fergie
6 weeks: “If Everyone Cared,” Nickelback
2 weeks: “Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol
2 weeks: “Hey There Delilah,” Plain White T’s
PAIR OF KEYS: Alicia Keys made chart news last week when she became the first solo artist to occupy the top two positions on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
This week she makes more chart news by becoming the first solo artist to succeed herself at No. 1, as “No One” (MBK/J) gives way after 10 weeks to its follow-up, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.” There have been three instances, all in this century, where artists followed themselves at No. 1, but in all three cases, the artist either had support from a featured artist on at least one of the two songs, or was the featured artist. Here are the vocalists who have had back-to-back chart-toppers:
“Hot in Herre,” Nelly (2002)
“Dilemma,” Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland (2002)
“Crazy in Love,” Beyonce featuring Jay-Z (2003)
“Frontin’,” Pharrell featuring Jay-Z (2003)
“Candy Shop,” 50 Cent featuring Olivia (2005)
“Hate It or Love It,” The Game featuring 50 Cent (2005)
If you go back far enough, you can find an act that succeeded itself at No. 1 on the R&B chart. In October 1949, pioneer recording stars Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five were No. 1 for one week with “Beans and Cornbread,” which was followed by that same group’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry (Parts I & II)” for eight weeks.
Keys will have to quickly release two more singles to match Jordan and the Tympany Five’s amazing quartet of No. 1 songs in 1946-47, when “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman (They’ll Do It Every Time),” “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens” and “Texas and Pacific” were No. 1 from August ’46 to May ’47.
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC: Michael McDonald makes his first appearance on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in almost 16 years, with a No. 63 debut for “You Belong to Me” (Burgundy) by Chaka Khan featuring Michael McDonald.
McDonald was last on this chart in the first half of 1992, partnered with another legendary female artist. “Everchanging Times” by Aretha Franklin featuring Michael McDonald peaked at No. 19 in March 1992.
McDonald also appeared on the R&B tally in 1986 as a duet partner with Patti LaBelle on the No. 1 hit “On My Own,” and later that year with his own “Sweet Freedom,” which peaked at No. 17. In 1991, he stalled at No. 88 with “All We Got.” McDonald has long been considered a blue-eyed soul singer, back to his days with the Doobie Brothers. From 1976 to 1980, four Doobie Brothers singles charted R&B:
“Takin’ It to the Streets,” No. 57 (1976)
“What a Fool Believes,” No. 72 (1979)
“Minute by Minute,” No. 74 (1979)
“Real Love,” No. 40 (1980)
McDonald recorded two albums of Motown cover songs, and his next CD, due in 2008, features remakes of well-known songs like “Walk on By,” a hit for Dionne Warwick, and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” popularized by Jackie Wilson.
ATTEND THIS TALE: I agree with the majority of film critics who love Tim Burton’s screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” So I’m happy the soundtrack has entered The Billboard 200 at No. 56. That beats the No. 78 peak of the original Broadway cast album in 1979.
The release of the motion picture has helped spike sales of that first Broadway recording, as well as the newer 2006 Broadway cast album. Both of those CDs are on this week’s Top Cast Albums chart; the older disc debuting at No. 11 and the recent set re-entering at No. 14. The latter made its bow at No. 3 the week of Feb. 18, 2006.
The CD featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter performing songs from the film is the highest new entry on Top Soundtracks at No. 8.
‘LOW’ RIDA: The first chart of 2008 brings a new No. 1 to The Billboard Hot 100. After five weeks on top, Alicia Keys’ “No One” is deposed by Flo Rida and T-Pain’s “Low” (Poe Boy), which rises 2-1. “Low” is Flo Rida’s first song on the Hot 100; it is the third No. 1 for T-Pain (see list of the No. 1 songs of 2007 below).
“Low” goes into the record books as one of seven No. 1 hits in the rock era to share the crown for shortest title. The seven songs cover a span of 48 years, and they are, in chronological order:
“Why,” Frankie Avalon (Dec. 28, 1959)
“ABC,” The Jackson 5 (April 25, 1970)
“War,” Edwin Starr (Aug. 29, 1970)
“Ben,” Michael Jackson (Oct. 14, 1972)
“Bad,” Michael Jackson (Oct. 24, 1987)
“SOS,” Rihanna (May 13, 2006)
“Low,” Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (Jan. 5, 2008)
Since chart dates in 1959 reflected the beginning of the week instead of the week ending date, “Low” claims first place exactly 48 years to the week since Frankie Avalon’s “Why” advanced to No. 1.
With the books closed on 2007, it’s an appropriate time to look back and review the No. 1 hits of the year. Here is a list of songs that achieved pole position in 2007, in order of how long they remained on top:
7 weeks: “Umbrella,” Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
7 weeks: “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” Soulja Boy Tell’em
5 weeks: “No One,” Alicia Keys
4 weeks: “Beautiful Girls,” Sean Kingston
3 weeks: “Makes Me Wonder,” Maroon 5
3 weeks: “Kiss Kiss,” Chris Brown featuring T-Pain
2 weeks: “This Is Why I’m Hot,” Mims
2 weeks: “Glamorous,” Fergie featuring Ludacris
2 weeks: “Don’t Matter,” Akon
2 weeks: “Give It to Me,” Timbaland featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake
2 weeks: “Hey There Delilah,” Plain White T’s
1 week: “Say It Right,” Nelly Furtado
1 week: “What Goes AroundŠComes Around,” Justin Timberlake
1 week: “Girlfriend,” Avril Lavigne
1 week: “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” T-Pain featuring Yung Joc
1 week: “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Fergie
1 week: “Stronger,” Kanye West
While 17 No. 1 songs is a high number, it doesn’t beat the 18 songs that moved into the lead position last year. But this year had more songs that were No. 1 for only one week since the pre-Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS year of 1991 (when 13 songs had one-week reigns).
TWO SETS OF FIVE: Josh Groban sets two chart records this week, and they both revolve around the number five.
First, his album “Noel” (143/Reprise) is No. 1 on The Billboard 200 for the fifth week in a row. That makes “Noel” the longest-running No. 1 Christmas album of all time. Here are the holiday albums that have gone to the head of the class in the rock era, in order of how long they remained on top:
5 weeks: “Noel,” Josh Groban (2007)
4 weeks: “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” Elvis Presley (1957)
3 weeks: “Miracles The Holiday Album,” Kenny G (1994)
2 weeks: “Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch,” Mitch Miller & the Gang (1958)
1 week: “Merry Christmas,” Bing Crosby (1957)
1 week: “Holiday Sing-Along With Mitch,” Mitch Miller & the Gang (1962)
“Noel” advanced to No. 1 the week of Dec. 8, the earliest any of the six chart-topping holiday sets became No. 1.
Groban also sets a record on the Adult Contemporary chart, where he has five songs in the top 30, more than any other artist has ever had in the same week. That quintet of holiday songs is from his “Noel” album, including the song that is No. 1 for the third week, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
‘MUNKS’ TAIL: Admit it, you missed them. After a gap of 45 years, the Chipmunks are back on the Hot 100 at No. 70. Alvin, Simon and Theodore return with “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) (2007),” a newly recorded version of their No. 1 hit from 1958. Back then it was simply called “The Chipmunk Song” and was credited to David Seville and the Chipmunks. David Seville was the nom de plum of Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian.
It’s not surprising that the Chipmunks are on the Hot 100 again, considering the box office success of the film “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” That also explains why the song is credited to Alvin and the Chipmunks (do you think Simon and Theodore are feeling like Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, when the Supremes became Diana Ross and the Supremes?).
The Chipmunks were last on the Hot 100 45 years and one week ago, when their version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was ranked No. 77.
While “The Chipmunk Song” made it back to the Hot 100, it is joined on the Pop 100 by three other Chipmunks tracks: “Witch Doctor (2007),” “Bad Day” and “Funkytown.”
THE REAL THING: “Fake It” (Wind-up) by Seether is the new No. 1 song on Modern Rock Tracks, giving the South African band its first chart-topper.
“Fake It” is the eighth chart entry for Seether; its previous best was “Broken,” No. 4 in 2004. “Broken” remains the group’s biggest hit on the Hot 100, where it peaked at No. 20.
It’s worth noting that “Fake It” is the song that finally ended the Foo Fighters’ tenacious hold on first place with “The Pretender,” the song that ruled for 18 weeks, the longest-running No. 1 in this chart’s history.
SINGLED OUT: When I was 14, I started keeping track of my favorite singles and albums of the year, a rite I looked forward to every December. Back then I was the only person reading my top 10 lists. Since I’ve been writing for Billboard (and you know how long that is if you started reading this column at the top), I’ve been able to share my top 10 lists with the world.
My top 10 albums of 2007 appear in a special section of Billboard.com, The Year in Music and Touring 2007. If you want to see my top 10, go here.
You’ll also be able to see the top 10 picks of other Billboard staffers, as well as some of your favorite recording artists.
In addition to naming my favorite albums of the year, I have traditionally posted my annual top 10 singles in the final Chart Beat of every year. Since the definition of what is a single has changed over time, I now consider this list to be my top 10 favorite songs of the year, and here are my choices for 2007:
1. Shayne Ward, “No U Hang Up” (RCA, U.K.)
2. Robyn with Kleerup, “With Every Heartbeat” (Konichiwa, Sweden)
3. Feist, “1234” (Cherrytree)
4. Carrie Underwood, “Ever Ever After” (Walt Disney)
5. Lily Allen, “Nan You’re a Window Shopper” (Capitol)
6. Marija Serifovic, “Molitva” (CMC, Serbia)
7. Sanna Nielsen, “Vagar Du, Vagar Jag” (Lionheart, Sweden)
8. The Ark, “The Worrying Kind” (Roxy Recordings, Sweden)
9. Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse, “Valerie” (RCA)
10. John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer, “Let’s Duet” (Columbia)