MAKING THE GRRADE
I was wondering if RCA is planning to release a retail single for Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty.” I know they’ve released a vinyl for it, but I’m hoping for a CD release.
She’s had such great success with her past singles (“Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” “Come On Over Baby” [were] all No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, all having retail singles available) and based on the current airplay of “Dirrty,” I’m afraid that not releasing it in stores may prevent her from reaching the top-10, let alone No. 1.
What are your thoughts and/or predictions on the success of “Dirrty”?
I don’t think “Dirrty” will be dancing up the Hot 100. In fact, I think it’s all over for the misguided first release from Christina Aguilera’s new album. Radio certainly hasn’t responded, and having heard “Dirrty,” I can understand why. In its fifth chart week, the song declines 48-50, having peaked at No. 48 two weeks ago. That’s a good indication of what radio thinks of it.
If I were an RCA executive, I wouldn’t consider a retail single at this point. Why bother? I’d move on to what surely must be a better track from the album.
Keep in mind I liked Aguilera’s first album and the singles that came from it. Every artist releases a clinker here and there; this one was Aguilera’s.
RELEASE ME (AND LET ME CHART AGAIN)
I know you have beaten the singles issues to death in your column but there’s one question that I don’t think has come up yet and it is this: does the artist have any say into whether he/she/they want their latest song released as a single or not?
Take Michael Jackson, for instance. There were claims made by him that Sony did not properly promote the “Invincible” album. But I am convinced that had “You Rock My World” been released as a single it would have hit the top-5, maybe even No. 1. So couldn’t Michael have told Sony [executives] that he wanted that song released as a single?
I seem to remember in your “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits” book where some artist wanted some song released as a single and had control over it. Don’t artists have control over this anymore?
If artists could control the release of singles, we’d probably have a lot more commercial singles in the marketplace. On the other hand, we’re not privy to what discussions went on between Michael Jackson and Sony folks. They could have convinced him that he’d earn more money if people could only buy “You Rock My World” on the CD.
The fact is, we can’t presume what Michael wanted, because we don’t know. Same goes for other artists — it’s very possible some have bought the record company line that they will reap more financial rewards by not having a commercial single in the marketplace.
Ultimately, yes, it’s the record labels that have the last word in the decision. The more clout an artist has, the more a label might listen to their wishes. And when contracts come due, artists unhappy with decisions their labels made can leave — or labels can drop artists who have not sold enough units.
ON THE COVER
I love reading your column every Friday. You give interesting and amazing chart stats, and your views on music are highly regarded. My question is regarding cover songs. In the U.K. and outside America, cover songs are great hits. However in America, cover songs are usually ignored by radio.
The Irish boy band Westlife had 10 No. 1 hits in U.K. in a span of three years, including cover songs like “Against All Odds,” “Uptown Girl,” and “Seasons in the Sun.” The girl band Atomic Kitten had a recent No. 1 of their cover of Blondie’s “The Tide Is High.” Will Young and Gareth Gates recently hit No. 1 with John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road.” Robbie Williams had a hit duet of his version of “Somethin’ Stupid,” featuring Nicole Kidman. Obviously, most Americans have not heard these cover songs, since these artists have not broken through yet in the U.S.
Madonna’s cover of Don McLean’s “American Pie” hit No. 1 in the U.K., but did not reach the U.S. top-20. I think Cher’s “The Shoop Shoop Song” also hit No. 1 in the U.K. for a number of weeks, but only peaked at No. 33 on the Hot 100.
Once in a while, a few cover songs do top the U.S. charts. Examples are Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Mariah Carey’s version of Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There.”
Why is it that cover songs are not promoted to radio in the U.S., unlike in the rest of the world? Does the U.S. music industry look down on cover songs?
I don’t think radio stations are particularly inhospitable to cover versions. Many of the artists you cite, like Westlife, Atomic Kitten, Robbie Williams, and Will Young, have either not done well in the U.S. so far, or have not had anything released here.
It’s true that the U.K. singles market is very different from the almost non-existent U.S. singles market, and that we haven’t had a lot of hit cover versions of late, but I think a great cover version will shine through. Right now, Faith Hill is struggling a bit with her cover of Angie Aparo’s “Cry” (stuck at No. 33 on the Hot 100), but the Dixie Chicks are bulleted at No. 47 with their take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” And just a few weeks ago, DJ Sammy & Yanou featuring Do ascended to No. 8 with a cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.”
The upcoming third edition of “Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits” will include a list of the top 100 remakes of the rock era. The only cover version to be a hit in the 21st century in the top 100 is “Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink. Destiny’s Child version of Samantha Sang’s “Emotion” from 2001 missed making the top 100.
Meanwhile, anyone who would like to hear Atomic Kitten’s cover of “The Tide Is High” (originally recorded by the reggae act the Paragons before Blondie cut it) can tune in to “The Billboard Radio Countdown” that will be posted at billboardradio.com on Wednesday (Oct. 16).
CHART BEAT CHAT
"Chart Beat" columnist Fred Bronson answers readers' questions about Christina Aguilera, commercially-released singles, and the popularity of cover songs in the U.K. vs. the U.S.
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MAKING THE GRRADE
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