DIFFERENT CHART, DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES
As you know, a Nielsen SoundScan error caused by delayed data from one retailer forced Billboard to recompile most of its charts for the issue dated Oct. 7. Though Billboard has posted the revised charts on its website, it is the original, “erroneous” charts that were published in the magazine.
Though the impact of this particular error is limited (most singles charts including the Hot 100 were not affected; though The Billboard 200 was affected, the top six were unchanged), it does raise some intriguing questions.
Which set of charts is the official Billboard charts for Oct. 7: the “erroneous” charts in the magazine, or the revised charts later posted on the Web site? And if (as the Web site article suggests) the Web site charts are considered official, why is this error being treated differently from the error in 2005 that caused Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” to top the Hot 100 one week early?
Maybe I’m being a bit “old-school” here (or perhaps it’s because I received one of the free iTunes downloads that put Carey over the top), but I think the “We Belong Together” precedent should control here: If it’s published in Billboard (the magazine, not the website), it’s official–even if it’s later found to be in error. This is also backed by Billboard continuing to use magazine issue dates as its chart dates (in this case, Oct. 7), even though in the SoundScan era everyone knows the underlying sales week, and the charts are now published online well before the magazine hits the stands (roughly a week before issue date).
Little Rock, Ark.
You raise an interesting question, although the logic of the issue date having any bearing on the revised charts escapes me. I don’t think anyone reading the current issue of Billboard dated Oct. 14 thinks the charts are based on sales for the week of Oct. 14. The Oct. 14 issue is available on newsstands as early as Oct. 6, so obviously the charts had to be compiled before that date.
Since we now live in an age of instantaneous information, the charts are posted online a day before the earliest newsstand date, which is one day after most of them are compiled.
But let’s get to the real issue that you raised. I thought your letter deserved a reply directly from Billboard’s chart department, so I showed your e-mail to Geoff Mayfield, our director of charts and senior analyst, and here’s what he had to say:
“The Billboard Hot 100 is a hybrid chart mixing three pools of data. Were it a sales-only chart, we might have followed the same route that we did for the recent week in question.
“This is not the first time that Billboard replaced its sales charts when better data became available after deadline. A little more than 10 years ago, it did not come to light until after our chart pages closed that one of the mass merchants had errantly transmitted year-old data, an oddity that had cause several older titles, including “The Bodyguard” soundtrack and Tom Petty’s “Greatest Hits” to bounce.
“Then, as we did last week, we posted the corrected charts on our Web sites, and retained the revised ranks as that particular week’s official standings.
“Remember that feeding Billboard’s charts is only one function of Nielsen SoundScan’s vast data. Record companies pay good money to track the sales of their products and also spend to provide advertising or value-added editions to significant chains. Were you in a label’s shoes, rather than those of a chart fan, your priority would be for the data to be correct.
“So long as our data sources are able to provide us with the most accurate possible numbers, that will always be Billboard’s preference. Imagine the uproar we would have heard if we stuck by the original charts, only to learn that inclusion of the missing data had put Clay Aiken at No. 1 on SoundScan’s revised charts. Had that been the case, there is no question his loyal fans would have wanted us to stand by the correct ranks from the best data possible, rather than be tied to what had been available on the magazine’s deadline day.
“In an age where information flows non-stop, Billboard needs to remain flexible in the case of the unusual circumstances like the ones we faced last week.”
NO GLORY FOR GAINERS
I notice that the string of dramatic leaps continue on the Hot 100. This week Akon and Eminem jump 88 spots to land at No. 7. How is it possible to make such a large move without achieving either the designation of airplay gainer or sales gainer? The songs receiving those designations made much more modest moves this week.
The 95-7 move of “Smack That” by Akon featuring Eminem is just one of many items covered in a very news-oriented chart week in the latest Chart Beat.
To answer your question, on the Hot 100 the “greatest gainer” designations are awarded to songs that make the greatest gains in sales as well as airplay. Making a gain presumes that you had some sales and/or airplay the week before, and this week you made the greatest percentage increase in one or both areas. If a song had no sales or airplay points the week before –- in other words, it had no points -– there can’t be a percentage increase from zero, so a song receiving sales and/or airplay points for the first time cannot be a “greatest gainer.”
The history-making leap of “Smack That” was due to sales, not airplay. The single debuted at No. 6 on the Hot Digital Songs chart this week, so it was the first week of sales. That’s why the track was not eligible for “greatest gainer” honors.
THE EAT GOES ON
“Weird Al” Yankovic finally earned his first top 10 album with “Straight Outta Lynwood” this week and he may repeat the feat on the singles chart, if iTunes is any indicator: “White and Nerdy” has been a top five download since its release. I doubt even Dr. Demento could have predicted such longevity, but 20 years after “Eat It” reached No. 12, Yankovic must feel like a Chamillionaire.
Straight Outta San Diego,
This week’s mailbag is filled with letters about items appearing in Chart Beat, and you can read more about “Weird Al” Yankovic’s debut on The Billboard 200 and the Hot 100 in the latest column. “White and Nerdy” enters the Hot 100 at No. 28, making it Yankovic’s second highest-ranked single in his 23-year chart career.
On the current Hot 100, there is a song by Tim McGraw and another (by Taylor Swift) with McGraw’s name in the title (he is also mentioned in the song’s lyrics). I can think of only two other times when this has happened on that chart (not including medley records that included an artist’s or group’s name in their titles):
The week of March 24, 1979, “I Need Your Help Barry Manilow” by Ray Stevens debuted as Manilow’s recording of “Somewhere in the Night” spent the last of its 15 weeks on the chart. And in March/early April of 1964, the Beatles, who had about a dozen single sides sprinkled throughout the chart, were the subject of two Hot 100 records that name-checked them in their titles: “We Love You Beatles” by the Carefrees and “A Letter to the Beatles” by the Four Preps.
Two years prior to the advent of the Hot 100, singer Audrey addressed
Elvis Presley in her “Dear Elvis (Pages 1 & 2),” which spent a week on the Top 100 in September 1956 at the same time Elvis was riding high with “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog”.
Can you think of any other instance where someone was both an artist and title subject on the same week’s Hot 100?
New York City
Good question. The first two examples that came to my mind were the ones you cited about Barry Manilow and the Beatles. Let’s see if any Chart Beat Chat readers can come up with other examples.
PULLING THEM BACK TO NO. 1
In the Billboard issue dated Sept. 30, Chingy’s latest record, “Pullin’ Me Back,” became the first song in two-and-a-half years to reclaim the No. 1 spot on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart after being dislodged from the top. In the Oct. 7 issue, the song that replaced it two weeks prior at No. 1 replaced it again. Janet Jackson’s “Call On Me” moved right back to No. 1 again, making this the first time in over 24 years that a song had replaced the same song at No. 1 twice.
The last time it happened on this chart was back in June 1982 when the Dazz Band and the Gap Band battled it out for chart supremacy. First, the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” reached No. 1 for four straight weeks before being knocked out by Gap Band’s “Early in the Morning” for a week. Then, the Dazz Band rebounded and dislodged the Gap Band from the top. A week later, the Gap Band returned the favor (again) and kicked “Let It Whip” to the curb for a final time before “Early” spent its final two weeks at the top.
Before this intense Gap Band v. Dazz Band No. 1 battle, you’d have to go all the way back to 1962 to find the previous time this kind of zig-zagging occurred in the No. 1 position on the R&B chart. Prior to that time, particularly during the 1950s, it happened much more often. But the fact that Janet Jackson and Chingy pull off this rare up-down-and-up-and-down-again action is truly a noteworthy and rare R&B chart occurrence.
Chingy’s record fell to No. 3 in the Oct. 7 issue, behind Janet and the latest song by Ludacris (at No. 2), thus it appears unlikely that Chingy will make a third move back up to the top spot, which would have been a first in modern R&B chart history, and a feat that has only happened once in Hot 100 history (Chic’s “Le Freak” in 1979).
Sometimes I think, if I could just harness the research power of Chart Beat readers, I could… well, I’m not sure what I could do, but it would be interesting to find out! Thanks for taking the time to research all of this.
TV OR NOT TV
Hey there Fred,
In last week’s Chart Beat Chat, a reader noted that two former group members — Justin Timberlake and Fergie — had succeeded each other with solo No. 1 hits on the Hot 100.
Interestingly, those same two artists are involved in another chart oddity. On The Billboard 200 dated Oct. 7, the top three albums all come from artists who first gained notoriety on television series. Timberlake started on “The New Mickey Mouse Club,” Clay Aiken debuted on “American Idol” and Fergie was originally seen on “Kids Incorporated.”
If these album can stay strong, and Janet Jackson — who was an actress on “Good Times” and “Diff’rent Strokes” before she was a recording artist — debuts in the top 10, we could see four former TV stars in the top 10.
And that doesn’t even take into account the recent chart appearance of TV On The Radio.
By now you’ve seen the latest edition of The Billboard 200, so you know that Janet, Justin, Clay and Fergie are indeed all in the top 10. Thanks for noticing the TV connection between these four artists.
TOP TWO CONUNDRUM
I noticed [something about] the top two positions on this week’s The Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Ludracis’ “Release Therapy” and Janet Jackson’s “20 Y.O.” hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots respectively on The Billboard 200. But on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, Janet is No. 1 and Ludacris is No. 2. How is that possible? Wouldn’t [the same album] be No. 1 on both charts?
Longtime Chart Beat Chat readers will know the answer to this one, but for you and the many readers who have not seen this question in the column before, I thought it would be a good idea to include your e-mail this week.
Genre charts have their own specialized retail panels, so the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart is not compiled from the same exact sources as The Billboard 200 and is not a simple distillation of the big chart.
That means for charts like Top Reggae Albums, Top Christian Albums, Top Jazz Albums, Top Blues Albums, etc., there would be a sub-set panel that would include outlets specializing in those genres.
In a case where there is a tight battle, such as the one between Ludacris and Janet Jackson, it’s possible that one artist will prevail on The Billboard 200 and another on a genre chart.