Following baseball has become much more complicated in recent years thanks to an explosion of “sabermetrics,” a seemingly unlimited set of advanced measurements, cited even now when the winter “hot stove” season heats up with daily player transactions.
Standard baseball statistics as batting average, home runs, runs batted in (RBI) and earned run average (ERA) now share an analytical limelight with such cutting-edge terms as defensive runs saved (DFS), value over replacement player (VORP) and (deep breath …) player empirical comparison and optimization test algorithm (PECOTA).
(“I’ve made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes!,” sabermetrics founding father Bill James self-deprecatingly proclaimed in an episode of Fox’s “The Simpsons.” “It’s a triumph of number-crunching over the human spirit. And, it’s about time!,” added the series’ Vin Scully-sounding play-by-play announcer.)
Since following Billboard charts can involve as many figures as studying baseball box scores, how about we make chart-watching also as fun as doing your taxes? As much as sports traditionalists scoff at over-analysis – a major appeal of baseball, and all sports, after all, is that it’s unscripted – new perspectives can help teams maximize strategies.
Perhaps, then, viewing Billboard rankings in new ways can likewise help illustrate the extents of artists’ chart success in more revealing metrics than mere total No. 1s, top 10s or top 40 hits.
So as not to get parodied on “The Simpsons,” let’s start with just one innovative measurement. Its name? WIN average. What does it stand for? An act’s average w eeks i n the N o. 1 position. Its formula? Simply, total weeks at No. 1 divided by total No. 1s.
Its goal? Also simply, to quantify which acts tally the most time atop a given Billboard chart with their No. 1 hits.
Such a stat stems from Rihanna currently spending a third week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Diamonds.” With her latest frame in charge, Rihanna logs a 47th cumulative week at No. 1, a sum compiled among 12 leading titles. Thus, another way to consider Rihanna’s Hot 100 success is that she spends almost four weeks on top once sending a single to No. 1.
I.e., “She has a 3.9 WIN average on the Hot 100.”
(It’s as catchy as one of her hits, right?)
The takeaway is that when Rihanna tops the Hot 100, chances are she’s not ceding the top spot quickly; eight of her 12 No. 1s have spent multiple weeks at the summit.
With 47 weeks at No. 1, Rihanna ties Usher for the fourth-highest total in the Hot 100’s history. Only Mariah Carey (79 weeks), the Beatles (59) and Boyz II Men (50) have spent more time atop the survey. Below Rihanna and Usher, Michael Jackson has racked 37 weeks at No. 1, followed by Beyonce (36), Elton John (34), Janet Jackson (33) and Madonna (32).
Of those 10 artists to spend the most weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, which have averaged the longest stays on top? The first-ever WIN average ranking among those acts stands as follows:
WIN average, artist (weeks at No. 1/total No. 1s)
10, Boyz II Men (50/5)
7.2, Beyonce (36/5)
5.2, Usher (47/9)
4.4, Mariah Carey (79/18)
3.9, Rihanna (47/12)
3.8, Elton John (34/9)
3.3, Janet Jackson (33/10)
2.95, the Beatles (59/20)
2.85, Michael Jackson (37/13)
2.7, Madonna (32/12)
The top of the list above succinctly spells out what chart fans have surely noticed: that Boyz II Men’s No. 1 stays have been uncommonly lengthy. Of their five leaders, three spent 13 or more weeks in charge: “End of the Road” (13, 1992), “I’ll Make Love to You” (14, 1994) and “One Sweet Day,” with Carey (a Hot 100-record 16, 1995-96).
Beyonce, too, has made the most of her visits to No. 1, spending no fewer than four weeks in control with each of her five leaders. (Rihanna places fifth on the ranking.)
Conversely, and perhaps surprisingly, the King and Queen of Pop claim the bottom two spots on the above tally. While Michael Jackson and Madonna have earned 13 and 12 Hot 100 coronations, respectively, each has averaged fewer than three weeks at the apex with each No. 1.
Jackson and Madonna are, however, products of their peak hit eras; in the ’80s, when the Hot 100 blended sales and airplay data provided by retailers and radio programmers, respectively, songs on average spent fewer weeks at No. 1 than after late 1991, when the chart adopted more accurate electronically-monitored Nielsen Music data, which has resulted in longer average reigns. (The era comparison suggests that retail and radio seemingly reported faster turnover before the change in tabulation than existed, a practice that record labels no doubt endorsed, as more songs could claim vaunted No. 1 status).
Similarly, the act with the most Hot 100 No. 1s, the Beatles, are third-to-last on the ranking above, their 20 toppers also translating to just under three weeks at No. 1 apiece. As in the ’80s, the ’60s, too, featured high turnover atop the chart.
A high “WIN average” among the 10 acts above, then, spotlights artists who have not only made repeat trips to the top of the Hot 100 but have logged impressive penthouse residences once there. It also points out the longer average commands that songs have registered since electronically-tracked Nielsen data has fueled the chart.
Helpful? Hopefully, in that such thinking can help expand the scope of chart analysis and the measurement of artists’ achievements.
Interesting? Perhaps it depends on how geeky a proud chart geek wants to be.
(Just as long as perusing Billboard charts remains more fun than doing your taxes.)