After last year brought a marked shift to an acceptance of unlikely alternative hits at pop radio from the likes of Gotye, fun., Alex Clare and more, early 2013 finds the format welcoming even softer guitar-based fare among top 40’s still-dominant dance/pop center.
The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” rises 3-2 on Pop Songs (while spending a third week atop Adult Pop Songs), Phillip Phillips’ “Home” rebounds from No. 9 to its No. 8 peak and Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team” pushes 12-11 in its 19th week. Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait,” meanwhile, looks likely to debut on the chart next week, with parent album “Babel” having sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, since its October release.
With such sensitive singer-songwriter stylings in heavy rotation simultaneously, are pop programmers concerned that listeners might tune in and think that the local hit music station has flipped to a niched folk format?
“What’s awesome about our format is that we aren’t tied to a certain genre of music. We play all the hits, whatever is most popular at any moment. It has and will always have cycles,” WFLZ Tampa, Fla., program director Tommy Chuck says. The station leads all Pop Songs reporters with 1,537 plays for “Team” through Jan. 6, according to Nielsen BDS. “Plus, there are great songs out now from Ke$ha, Flo Rida, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Swedish House Mafia and others that provide plenty of balance.”
“You just definitely have to watch separation,” KDWB Minneapolis PD Rich Davis says, citing the importance by spacing out the select folk hits at the format from each other and surrounding them by signature pop tracks when scheduling music logs. Otherwise, Davis says, folk fits at the format. “I grew up with top 40 stations that played Def Leppard next to Michael Jackson next to the Pet Shop Boys. That’s what top 40 is and should be, in my opinion.”
Market conditions also matter. In Seattle, a city known for its rock pedigree, KBKS’s 10 most-played songs in the Dec. 31-Jan. 6 tracking week include “Hey,” “Home” and “Team.” Such a folk explosion doesn’t surprise PD Eric Powers. “The coffeehouse sound works perfectly for this city,” he notes.
Ultimately, Powers concurs that pop radio’s hallmark remains its assortment of sounds. “You don’t want the audience to get bored from a lack of variety and look for another station.
“The right amount of these folk-leaning hits helps add balance and variety.”
‘WHEEL’ ROLLS: One of modern folk music’s icons, meanwhile, enters the Country Airplay chart as a writer, as Darius Rucker’s recording of “Wagon Wheel” debuts at No. 51. Bob Dylan wrote the song’s chorus, with Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor finishing it. The bluegrass/folk band’s version of the track spent a week on Country Digital Songs at No. 43 the week of Oct. 13.
With Rucker’s start, Dylan logs his first Country Airplay appearance as a writer since 1998, when Garth Brooks’ cover of Dylan’s 1997 song “To Make You Feel My Love” reigned for a frame. Billy Joel, Kris Allen and Adele have also recorded the ballad.
In September, Dylan’s latest album “Tempest” began at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, marking his 20th top 10 set on the survey. He first reached the region with the No. 6-peaking “Bringing It All Back Home” in 1965.
MUSE INSPIRES ALTERNATIVE: With a 14th week atop the Alternative Songs airplay chart, Muse’s “Madness” becomes one of the 10 longest-commanding hits in the ranking’s 24-year history. Even more impressive, off those 10, two belong to the British trio: the band spent 17 weeks at No. 1 with “Uprising” in 2009-10.
Here’s a look at the longest-leading Alternative Songs No. 1s:
Weeks at No. 1, Title, Artist, Year Reached No. 1
18, “The Pretender,” Foo Fighters, 2007
17, “Uprising,” Muse, Warner Bros., 2009
16, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Green Day, 2004
16, “It’s Been Awhile,” Staind, 2001
16, “Scar Tissue,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1999
15, “What I’ve Done,” Linkin Park, 2007
15, “Sex and Candy,” Marcy Playground, 1997
14, “Madness,” Muse, Warner Bros., 2012
14, “Dani California,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006
14, “By the Way,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2002
Notably, of the 10 tracks to log the longest Alternative Songs reigns, eight belong to the Warner Bros. label family. (On the list above, only RCA’s Foo Fighters and then-Capitol act Marcy Playground break up the Warner Bros. stranglehold.)
“Many factors have contributed to our success at alternative radio,” Warner Bros. VP of alternative promotion Rob Goldklang says, citing the hit-packed histories of acts including Linkin Park and Red Hot Chili Peppers, in addition to Muse. “We believe in artist vision and have an unwavering commitment to artist development.”
MAROON 3: As “Daylight” rises 42-34 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Overexposed” becomes Maroon 5’s first album to produce at least three top 40 Hot 100 hits since “Songs About Jane” yielded four in 2003-05. The song follows the No. 2-peaking “Payphone,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, and the nine-week No. 1 “One More Night.”
“Jane” generated “Harder to Breathe,” which reached No. 18, the No. 5 hits “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved” and “Sunday Morning” (No. 31).
TRES BIEN!: A venerable composition from the new No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 enters the Hot 100, as Samantha Barks’ “On My Own” debuts at No. 97. The song appears on “Les Miserables: Highlights From the Motion Picture Soundtrack,” which jumps 2-1 on the Billboard 200.
Although “Les Miserables” has been a hit stage musical worldwide since the ’80s, Barks, who plays Eponine in the new film adaptation, brings the ballad to the Hot 100 for the first time.
QUICK ‘PITCH’: After debuting on the Hot 100 last week at No. 93, Anna Kendricks’ “Cups,” from the movie “Pitch Perfect,” whose soundtrack pushes 10-7 on the Billboard 200, rises to No. 81.
“Cups” also claims a quirky spot in Hot 100 history. At just 1 minute, 14 seconds long, the song is the second-shortest in the Hot 100’s 54-year archives, Joel Whitburn’s Record Research confirms. Only the Womenfolk’s “Little Boxes,” which reached No. 83 in 1964, is briefer, clocking in at just 1:02.
THESE DAYS: Fueled by hourly plays at several Clear Channel Media + Entertainment-owned adult contemporary and adult pop stations on the track’s first day of availability (Jan. 7), “Because We Can” debuts on Rock Songs at No. 40. (The adult airplay impacts the rock survey, as the airplay/sales/streaming hybrid chart’s airplay component encompasses all formats in order to reflect the overall reach of each week’s most popular rock songs; the new country, R&B/hip-hop and Latin hybrid charts likewise incorporate all-format airplay).
“Because” previews Bon Jovi’s 12th studio album, “What About Now,” due March 26. Industry sources project the song to sell 30,000-35,000 downloads by the end of the SoundScan tracking week (Jan. 13). Such a sum should spur a jump for the track on Rock Songs, although airplay may drop following Clear Channel’s opening-day spotlight. Because of that play, however, “Because” is on track to bow on Adult Contemporary and Adult Pop Songs when the charts are compiled on Monday (Jan. 14).