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Ask Billboard: Belinda’s Back, JT Too, Mariah Carey’s Album Sales & More

Belinda Carlisle releases her first single since the '90s, Justin Timberlake posts back-to-back No. 1 albums seven years apart and a look at Carey's album sales.

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

Gary, i miss ask Billboard, i have so many questions to send !!! XD


Yup, it’s been a few weeks since the last “Ask Billboard.” I figured if a lengthy break worked for Justin Timberlake …

Actually, just a combination of taping some artist visits, including our fun recreation of Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” video in our offices, as well as some others to be featured on soon, writing more for the print magazine and interacting with chart fans more often on Twitter as kind of an on-the-fly version of “Ask Billboard.” If you haven’t already, please follow me – @gthot20 – for chart news and chat any time.

OK, no more delays. Like a seven-minute JT song on “The 20/20 Experience,” let’s settle in for a nice, long reader Q&A featuring your great questions.

Speaking of Timberlake …


Hey Gary,

It’s been nearly seven years since Justin Timberlake released his last album, “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” Now, I’m sure we all predicted that he’d debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but who would have guessed “The 20/20 Experience” would sell 968,000 copies? First off, seven years without a new album is like an eternity in the music world. Most artists, I’d think, tend to see reasonable but underwhelming sales with their newest efforts after a long break, but that wasn’t the case at all this week. Timberlake has his best-selling week.

So, how rare is it for an artist to have their best-selling sales week after such a hiatus?


Garrett Godbey
Tampa, Florida

Hi Garrett,

We were actually discussing this topic in a recent charts department meeting, as brought up by Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield. Essentially, in era of Twitter and Facebook where we’ve become accustomed to receiving daily (or much more frequent) updates on artists’ lives, could the opposite perhaps work better than ever? Does mystique carry greater weight in a time when it’s at more of a premium? I.e., does absence really make fans’ hearts grow fonder?

Timberlake isn’t the only artist to return to a new level of success. A week earlier, David Bowie scored a career-best Billboard 200 rank and Nielsen SoundScan sales week with his first album in 10 years. As Keith wrote on March 19, “Bowie arrives at a career-high No. 2 with ‘The Next Day,’ selling 85,000. The rock legend’s new album – his first studio set since 2003 – earns him his largest sales week for an album since SoundScan started tracking data in 1991. Bowie’s previous best SoundScan-era sales frame came when 2002’s ‘Heathen’ started with 55,000 at No. 14.”

The idea of an act returning to greater acclaim after a lengthy hiatus is also key to “The History of the Eagles,” the new Showtime documentary about the band (which I’ve been watching a bit obsessively). After notching five Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s in the ’70s, the Eagles disbanded (if not, officially, as Glenn Frey claims) in 1980. When they reformed in 1994, their mostly-live retrospective album “Hell Freezes Over” roared onto the Billboard 200 at No. 1 with 267,000 copies sold. They appear to be the masters of maximizing long recording droughts; 13 years later, when they released “Long Road Out of Eden,” their first album of all-new material in 28 years, it also debuted at No. 1 – with a whopping 711,000. (Check out an exclusive Chart Beat countdown, by the way, of the Eagles’ group and solo members’ 25 biggest Hot 100 hits here.)

In a Twitter chat between Keith (@keith_caulfield) and @MagnumArtero12, it was noted that Timberlake doesn’t set the record for the longest gap between No. 1 studio albums in the SoundScan era. Maxwell reigned six weeks shy of eight years apart with 2001’s “Now” and 2009’s “BLACKsummers’night.” The all-time longest gap between No. 1 studio albums? Again, the Eagles. Prior to “Eden,” “The Long Run,” their last studio set prior to their early ’80s hiatus, began a nine-week reign on Nov. 3, 1979 – 28 years and two weeks before “Eden” launched on top (Nov. 17, 2007).

So, clearly, certain acts, including Timberlake, who surely aided sales thanks to his high profile leading up to his new release, definitely benefit from pop culture hibernation.

Keith also talked to the New York Daily News recently about the idea of artists’ staying away only to return to warm welcomes. Key is that not every artist can have such a trick in their marketing arsenals. One has to have built a fanbase long-term, he noted. An excerpt: “‘You have to have a legacy to go a long time between projects. Otherwise, when you come back, there won’t be anyone left to care.’ A perfect example: Justin Bieber. ‘Can you imagine if he waited three years to release his next CD? His fans would have grown and moved on’.”

“Younger artists in general can’t risk limiting their exposure,” author Jim Farber added. “Their audience is too fickle and they’re still establishing themselves. Older artists, like Maxwell, Enya, and even U2 can go between five years to a decade between albums and still sell millions. Sade has pulled this off several times, disappearing for long stretches only to come back strong.”

Read the entire insightful piece here.

NEXT: ‘Thrift Shop’ sales

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


Hello Gary,

I hope that you are doing well. Last week I predicted that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” featuring Wanz, would return to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. I was correct!

Now, if it wasn’t for Billboard changing chart methodologies in mid-year to include YouTube data, the song would be enjoying a 10th week at No. 1, instead of “only” a fifth week after the reign of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” …
Take care,
Tom Gazdayka
Mountain View, California

Hi Tom,

As noted in the current weekly Hot 100 recap story, the five-week gap between topping the chart for “Thrift Shop” is the longest for a No. 1 except for Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which reigned in 1960 and again in 1962. “The Twist” first led due, in part, to exposure on “American Bandstand.” Eventually, older audiences warmed to the song – and its dance – spurring a return to the summit.

Sound similar to the song and dance craze of “Harlem Shake”? More than half a century after “The Twist,” music fans again showed that a song that has a good beat that you can dance to can prove irresistible. In the ’60s, it was “Bandstand.” In 2013, it’s YouTube. Thus, the two longest breaks between No. 1s topping the Hot 100 revolve around frenetic dances (one, “The Twist,” returning to the top and the other, “Shake,” interrupting the command of another, “Shop”). What’s notable is that, despite some skepticism about the addition of U.S. You Tube data to the Hot 100’s weekly formula, as memes contributed to the rule of “Shake,” chart history will reflect the popularity of Baauer’s hit just as it does with “The Twist.” The chart will serve as a record that “Shake” reigned thanks largely to 103 million in streaming at its peak – and that it fell when the fad faltered. (It’s at a still impressive but much less 20 million this week.)

As “Thrift Shop” returns to the Hot 100’s apex for a fifth nonconsecutive week, it adds another honor: it becomes just the ninth rap title to pass 5 million in digital sales, according to SoundScan. Here’s a rundown of the list (which includes, unsurprisingly, mostly songs that lean toward dance and melody, making them more palatable to wider, non-core rap fans):

Downloads to date, Title, Artist:
7,605,000, “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
6,666,000, “Low,” Flo Rida feat. T-Pain
6,055,000, “Sexy and I Know It,” LMFAO
5,813,000, “Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem feat. Rihanna
5,399,000, “Right Round, Flo Rida
5,347,000, “Lose Yourself,” Eminem
5,144,000, “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z + Alicia Keys
5,014,000, “Stronger,” Kanye West
5,013,000, “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz

NEXT: Mariah Carey: ‘Idol,’ albums

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


Mariah Carey Soundscan album sales please? 😉


After she joined the judges panel on Fox’s “American Idol” this season, Carey’s “Greatest Hits” last month reappeared on the Billboard 200 for the first time in 11 years. And, her current single, “Almost Home,” which I really like, enters Adult Contemporary this week at No. 25, marking her first non-holiday title to make the tally in three years. (Unfortunately, the song’s placement deep into the end credits of “Oz the Great and Powerful” may not be helping its profile too much; when I saw the film, almost everyone had left the theater by the time the song rolled.)

Quick Carey tangent: As not only a fan of hers but a regular “Idol” viewer, too, I wish that she’d interact more with the rest of the panel. Has she chatted up Keith Urban or Nicki Minaj at all in recent weeks? Is the reported rift between her and Minaj (onetime songmates) true and deep? I hate to say it, but I’m not sure it would be in the best interests of Carey or “Idol” for her to return next season. The panel seems disjointed. It was evident recently when Minaj was late for an episode; Carey clearly seemed more outgoing and comfortable. When Minaj took her seat, Carey appeared to recede. Minaj is fun – and insightful. Perhaps a panel of Urban (also well-spoken as a judge), Minaj and Jackson would be enough. (Or, as my girlfriend, Michelle, put it, regarding what Fox is paying for Carey’s services, “Bye, $18 million!”) Hopefully, the cast will gel, making for a more traditional spirited “Idol” presentation after all. Conversely, new judges Usher and Shakira already seem ensconced on NBC’s “The Voice” after their first week. Maybe that helped “The Voice” handily beat “Idol” in this week’s ratings for the first time ever.

Oh right … your question. Carey’s day job! Here’s a look at the U.S. album sales, according to SoundScan for Carey, the solo artist with the most Hot 100 No. 1s (18) in the chart’s history:

7,605,000, “Daydream” (1995)
7,271,000, “Music Box” (1993)
5,980,000, “The Emancipation of Mimi” (2005)
5,298,000, “Merry Christmas” (1994)
4,878,000, “Mariah Carey” (1990)

3,807,000, “Butterfly” (1997)
3,798,000, “#1’s” (1998)
3,595,000, ‘Emotions” (1991)
2,968,000, “Rainbow” (1999)
2,774,000, “MTV Unplugged” (EP) (1992)
1,289,000, “E=MC2” (2008)
1,167,000, “Greatest Hits” (2001)
1,166,000, “Charmbracelet” (2002)
652,000, “Glitter” (soundtrack) (2001)
545,000, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” (2009)
523,000, “Merry Christmas II You” (2010)
280,000, “The Remixes” (2003)
160,000, “The Ballads” (2009)

At 54 million, Carey is the third-best-selling artist since the advent of SoundScan (a year after she arrived with her self-titled first album and first No. 1 single, “Vision of Love”). Garth Brooks leads with 68.6 million, followed by the Beatles (64.3 million). Below Carey, Metallica (53.7 million) and Celine Dion (51.8 million) round out a very diversified top five.

NEXT: Twice is nice

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


Hi Gary,

I saw the recent “Chart Beat” item regarding Hot 100 hits with doubled-up words in both the title and artist fields, a la Phillip Phillips’ new “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

I found some more:

“She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked),” Carl Carlton (No. 22, 1981)

“I Want You, I Need You,” Chris Christian (No. 37, 1981)

“Bang Bang,” Danger Danger (No. 49, 1990)

“Willyam, Willyam,” Dee Dee Sharp (No. 97, 1964)

“I Want to Be Happy Cha Cha,” Enoch Light & the Light Brigade (No. 48, 1958)

“Dream a Little Dream of Me,” Mama Cass with the Mamas & The Papas (No. 12, 1968)

“Something Old, Something New,” Paul and Paula (No. 77, 1963; in the peak position, even the “7”s repeated …)

“She Didn’t Know (She Kept on Talking),” Dee Dee Warwick (No. 70, 1970; even the “70” repeated …)

May these examples leave you doubled-over with enjoyment 🙂

Tom Smith

NEXT: Still got the beat

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


Join the “Support Sun” campaign and help get Belinda’s new single onto Billboard’s Hot 100!!

Belinda Carlisle’s new single, “Sun,” as posted on SoundCloud by her son, James Duke Mason

OK, not quite a question to “Ask Billboard,” but I’ll happily take the opportunity to spotlight that Belinda Carlisle has released her first U.S. pop single since the late ’90s! “Sun” radiates the same warmth as her great late ’80s/early ’90s solo hits, with a hook as strong as her best songs like “Mad About You,” “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” “I Get Weak,” “Circle in the Sand,” “Leave a Light On” and so many other great album cuts.

A special touch: she co-wrote “Sun” with fellow Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, who also sings backup on the song. “What would I do without the gorgeous and talented Ms. Wiedlin?” Carlisle posed on Facebook.

“Sun” isn’t on the Hot 100 yet, but it is available on iTunes and is receiving early airplay on Sirius XM. It accompanies her new best-of album “Icon,” released on UMe.

Check out the fun, and at times quite personal, 25-minute video of Carlisle discussing her new song, and much more, above.