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Ask Billboard: Can Kanye, Rihanna & Paul Hit No. 1 on the Hot 100?

Will "FourFiveSeconds" clock in atop the Hot 100? Plus, another new McCartney achievement & more everlasting, if not high-charting, hits.

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


@gthot20, hey. Do you think #FourFiveSeconds by @Rihanna will be No. 1 on the #Hot100?

Casey ?@caseytbh

Hi Casey,

Let’s take a break from those Super party plans and look at some projections.


First, let’s recap what the song did this week: it debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 54, powered by its start at No. 19 on the Digital Songs chart with 53,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music … in just its first two days. Airplay also pushed the collab close to the Radio Songs chart, tallying 24 million in initial airplay (helped by hourly plays on participating iHeartMedia-owned stations in its first full day of release, Jan. 25).

So … can “FourFiveSeconds” surge to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in its second week?

According to industry sources, the song could sell 120,000-140,000 downloads in the week ending today (Feb. 1), its first seven-day period of availability. As for airplay, “FourFiveSeconds” will likely climb aboard Radio Songs, passing the audience sum that factored into its Hot 100 debut. Since no official video exists for the song … so far, streaming, the Hot 100’s other metric, likely won’t yet contribute to the single’s chart rank on any significant level.

But, adding projected sales and airplay, “FourFiveSeconds” should rise to … perhaps the Hot 100’s top 25. Not anywhere near No. 1 – that looks like another battle between Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” with the former likely notching a fifth week at the summit – but still incredibly impressive considering that the general public found out about the song’s existence slightly more than a week ago today.

Also impressive: Rihanna’s returned with a radically different sound on the lead track from her forthcoming next studio album than her usual synth-driven fare, including both “Diamonds,” the first single from her last set, 2012’s Unapologetic (her first Billboard 200 No. 1), and the Calvin Harris -written and -produced “We Found Love,” which led off 2011’s Talk That Talk. To blast back with a folky – and still very catchy – single that highlights West’s singing, along with what sounds like playful off-the-cuff studio ad-libs, signifies her admirably following her artistic muse, whatever commercial fortunes may follow. It’s also reminiscent, at least in terms of taking an unexpected sonic route, of Rihanna’s brooding No. 9 hit “Russian Roulette,” the first single from 2009’s Rated R; the more obvious pop hit “Rude Boy” eventually ruled the Hot 100 for five weeks in 2010.

Meanwhile, West is proud of the new release, as well, having premiered it first for industry insiders at the iHeartMedia Music Summit held Jan. 20-23 in Burbank, Calif. “He was so charismatic,” said Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, among many others. “The passion he has for music … he was breaking out into song multiple times. You could feel that energy. He was honest. It was refreshing, and it was fun.”

As for that other member of the “FourFiveSeconds” trio … McCartney is in his 51st year of scaling the Hot 100. In fact, today, Feb. 1, marks exactly 51 years since Beatles’ culture-redefining “I Want to Hold Your Hand” lifted 3-1 on the Hot 100, becoming the first of the Fab Four’s record 20 No. 1s. (Reminder to self: trademark Rihanna, West and McCartney as “the Fab Three” …)

To find out the official second-week Hot 100 rank of “FourFiveSeconds,” check Billboard.com on Thursday (Feb. 5), when all charts will update, as they do each week.

Speaking of McCartney …


@gthot20 Is Paul McCartney the oldest act to chart on Pop Songs?


He is! Fifty-one years after first topping the Hot 100 with the Beatles, McCartney continues to rack historic new chart achievements. “FourFiveSeconds” debuted at No. 37 on Pop Songs this week; in its second week on the ranking (which measures total plays on more than 160 mainstream top 40 stations), the song is primed to, as on the Hot 100, rise toward the top 25, and with the airplay chart’s greatest gain.

Upon the single’s start on Pop Songs, McCartney (who adds backing vocals and guitars to the cut), makes history at 72 years young. He was born June 18, 1942.

(While “FourFiveSeconds” marks McCartney’s first Pop Songs hit as a soloist, he did spend five weeks on the chart in 1995-96 with the Beatles on “Free as a Bird,” which reached No. 36.)

And, in another way to look at his legendary longevity, since arriving with John, George and Ringo, and later fronting Wings, McCartney has charted on the Hot 100 with a succession of partners that reads like a timeline through some of the Hot 100’s top acts of the past half-century: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, U2 (on a No. 48-peaking Live 8 version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 2005) and, now in 2015, West and Rihanna.

Who does McCartney pass for the seniority record on Pop Songs? A 63-year-old also currently on the chart and who scored his own impressive feat this past week: James Newton Howard, who reached the top 10 (11-10) with “The Hanging Tree,” featuring Jennifer Lawrence. (With the track having debuted on the chart dated Dec. 27, he held the honor for only slightly more than a month.)

Howard, born June 9, 1951, is also enjoying his first Pop Songs visit, although he boasts an incredibly accomplished resume, having scored blockbusters including Pretty Woman, The Prince of Tides and, more recently, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Maleficent and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the latter of which yielded his unlikely hit single.

Howard might not even be the more surprising artist credited on “Tree,” since it marks Hunger Games star Lawrence’s debut hit … and given her admitted dread of singing. As Keith Caulfield wrote on Friday, she told David Letterman last year that singing in front of people is her biggest fear (and that she cried on set the day that the scene was filmed).

“I thought [Lawrence] did a great job,” says Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers, who wrote the music for “Tree” with bandmate Jeremiah Fraites. (The hit single version is the song’s uptempo dance-leaning Rebel Remix by Jared Piccone, aka Spacebrother.) “If she’s not sure of herself, that doesn’t really come through in the performance. I think it sounds really natural and vulnerable, and I really like that.

“She has this rawness quality to her voice that I love about a lot of singers that I identify with.”


@gthot20 Hey Gary, nice job on that epic peak chart post. I can’t imagine how long that must’ve taken to cobble together.

Bobby Olivier ?@BobbyOlivier

Thanks Bobby. I researched the biggest bulk of the four-part series back in 2010, when I first posted it. It was always one of my favorite features, so I thought five years later was a good time to update it.

The Biggest Hits to Peak at Nos. 100-76 / 75-51 / 50-26 / 25-1

Again, the premise: classic songs have peaked at every position on the Hot 100 over the chart’s 56-year history. Sometimes, songs hit their stride later, as an artist’s career builds and early low-peaking hits gain belated acclaim. Other times, commercials, TV shows or movies can revive a modest chart hit and give it a second, more prosperous commercial life.

Glad you liked it, Bobby. In fact, does everyone share your sentiment? I have a good feeling about this! Let’s hear from another reader:


I am very disappointed that you did not include “Waiting for a Girl Like You” by Foreigner as a No. 2 hit that chart-watchers might’ve thought was even bigger, as it spent 10 weeks there, held back for nine weeks by Olivia Newton-John’s monster “Physical” and, just when it might have finally reached No. 1, Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” which leapfrogged “Girl” 4-1, preventing the latter from sliding into home.

Missy Elliott’s “Work It” also peaked at No. 2 for 10 weeks and is likewise worthy of a mention (with “Girl” and “Work” tied for spending the most weeks peaking at the runner-up rank).

Thanks (and I do enjoy reading, every week, all items related to the charts!)

Frank Pierce

Oops. But, thanks Frank. Essentially, this feature spotlighted about 500 songs … out of approximately 25,000 to reach the Hot 100 all-time. So, I, subjectively, celebrated about 2 percent of the total amount of Hot 100 hits ever, leaving so many everlasting classics out of the mix. The two you mention certainly each made their mark.

Here are a few more that still hold special places in my music library, all of which peaked between Nos. 90 and 100 on the Hot 100. In fact, I’ll rank my top 10 favorites (because you can make a chart for any occasion!)

Counting down from No. 10 to No. 1:

10: a three-way tie from the star of this week’s “Ask Billboard,” Paul McCartney: “This One” (No. 94, 1989), “Figure of Eight” (No. 92, 1990) and “Freedom” (No. 97, 2001)
9, “Sooner or Later,” Michelle Branch (No. 93, 2009)
8, “Solitude Standing,” Suzanne Vega (No. 94, 1987)
7, “Into the Great Wide Open,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (No. 92, 1991)
6, “Fall on Me,” R.E.M. (No. 94, 1986)
5, “That’s Just What You Are,” Aimee Mann (No. 93, 1995)
4, “Bizarre Love Triangle,” New Order (No. 98, 1995)
3, “Almost Unreal,” Roxette (No. 94, 1993)
2, “The Life of Riley,” the Lightning Seeds (No. 98, 1992)

… and:

1, “(Believed You Were) Lucky,” ’til tuesday (No. 95, 1989)

Like many hits that dented the Hot 100’s lower ranks, “Lucky” charted higher on genre-specific charts, including Alternative Songs (No. 30) and Adult Contemporary (No. 32). It marked the last chart hit for ’til tuesday – who arrived 30 years ago this spring with the No. 8 classic “Voices Carry” – but the growth of parent album Everything’s Different Now (my favorite album of all-time) foreshadowed the more mature work that Aimee Mann would begin offering as a soloist in 1993. Fun fact: ’til tuesday drummer Michael Hausman is Mann’s longtime manager. (I also still remember hearing “Lucky” on former AC WVBF in Boston, with an amused DJ once praising the song as possibly the only hit poetic enough to include the lyric “acquiesce.”)