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Ask Billboard: ‘Glee’-ful About Madonna

Billboard readers check in on the artists whose music tops the Billboard 200 and Hot 100, respectively: Madonna, thanks to "Glee," and B.o.B.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

With “Glee: the Music, the Power of Madonna” at No. 1 on this week’s Billboard 200 and her own “Celebration” album receiving a boost, re-entering at No. 86, it’s gotten me thinking about Madonna’s best-selling digital songs.

Could you please provide totals for her five best-selling tracks since 2005 (when digital sales began contributing to the Billboard Hot 100) and her 10 best-selling hits before then? That way, no newer tracks (i.e., “4 Minutes” or “Hung Up”) that fans had the chance to purchase from the time of their release “unfairly” rank above older songs.

Also, what are Madonna’s overall digital songs sales?

Thank you and keep up the good work,

Jim Radenhausen
Reeders, Pennsylvania

Hi Jim,

The spotlight on Madonna has certainly benefitted both “Glee” and the Queen of Pop. Make sure to check our Billboard cover story on the show, as well.

I, like millions of other viewers, thought that the “Glee” cast did a great job covering Madonna’s catalog. Two personal favorite highlights from the April 20 episode: Lea Michele and Cory Monteith’s walk-and-sing mash-up of “Borderline” and “Open Your Heart” – complete with Madonna look-alikes of various eras in the background – and Amber Riley’s powerful solo on “Like a Prayer.”

As requested, here is a look at the digital sales to-date, according to Nielsen SoundScan through the week ending April 25, of Sue Sylvester’s musical hero:

Top-Selling Madonna Titles Released Since 2005:
2,751,000, “4 Minutes”
1,200,000, “Hung Up”
358,000, “Sorry”
316,000, “Give It 2 Me”
192,000, “Celebration”

Top-Selling Madonna Titles Released Before 2005:
443,000, “Like a Prayer”
322,000, “Material Girl”
311,000, “Vogue”
293,000, “Ray of Light”
260,000, “Holiday”
240,000, “Like a Virgin”
217,000, “Music”
211,000, “Crazy for You”
189,000, “Santa Baby”
184,000, “Die Another Day”

Madonna has sold 11.6 million digital songs to date.

Two other Madonna-related items of note. Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield points out that “Glee” contributes to a first in the chart’s 54-year history. With “Glee: the Music, the Power of Madonna” entering at No. 1 and the AC/DC-infused soundtrack “Iron Man 2” starting at No. 4, this week marks the first time that two soundtracks have debuted simultaneously in the top five.

And, Sia, whose “Breathe Me” accompanied the touching closing montage on the last episode of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” in 2005, covers Madonna’s “Oh Father” on her new album, “We Are Born.” The set is due June 8.


Hi Gary,

After the updated “We Are the World” had a short chart run (five weeks on the Hot 100), I was wondering if you could list how many copies it has sold.

Also, how do its sales compare to other big charity singles, such as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” “Voices That Care,” and the original “We Are the World”?


Chris Feldman
Dubuque, Iowa

Hi Chris,

Artists for Haiti’s “We Are the World 25: For Haiti” has sold 668,000 copies. The original has shifted 331,000 downloads, but, since it was released two decades before the advent of digital sales, it’s more pertinent to note that the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) has certified the physical single with sales of 4 million.

The RIAA has certified Band-Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with sales of 2 million.

1991’s “Voices That Care,” recorded by the all-star group of the same name (its chorus included Chevy Chase, Wayne Gretzky and Alyssa Milano, among others) has sold 884,000 physical copies, according to SoundScan.

And, don’t forget charity efforts “Just Stand Up!” by Artists Stand Up to Cancer in 2008 (343,000 downloads sold) and “Send It On” by Disney’s Friends for Change last year (472,000).

(Oddly enough, the “We Are the World” remake is one of two covers of an ’80s Hot 100 No. 1 that has returned this year as the chart’s Hot Shot Debut after entering as the top new entry originally. USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” launched at No. 21 in 1985; Artists for Haiti’s version debuted at No. 2 in February. Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” arrived at No. 38 in 1989; the “Glee” cover opens at No. 27 this week).


Hi Gary,

Thanks always for the fun, informative columns.

In reading about his Hot 100-topping success, I learned that Atlanta artist B.o.B took his name from the 1999 OutKast song “B.O.B.” (which is an abbreviation for “bombs over Baghdad”). That hip-hop duo, also from “Hotlanta,” has reigned on the Hot 100, R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Rap Songs and the Billboard 200.

I recently listened to the mid-’80s tune “Crush on You” by the Jets. I recall Casey Kasem (whose birthday was this Tuesday, April 27) mentioning that the Jets chose their name because they loved “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John, a Hot 100 No. 1 in 1974. The Jets themselves earned a Billboard No. 1 on Dance/Club Play Songs with “Sendin’ All My Love” in 1988.

Where am I going with this? With B.o.B having secured the top spot on the Hot 100 and Rap Songs, I’m wondering if you can tell us of other cases where a reigning artist has gotten its name from another artist that’s reached No. 1 on a Billboard survey. Maybe the Pretenders, who took their name from the Platters’ song “The Great Pretender”?

More specifically, B.o.B is connected to an act – OutKast – that also topped the Hot 100. I can think of another such relation: Lady Gaga‘s recording name is an ode to “Radio Ga Ga” by Queen, and both artists have enjoyed No. 1s on the Hot 100.

This train of thought was actually inspired by your column last week in which you reported that the late Muddy Waters topped the Blues Albums chart; another perennial chart-topping act – the Rolling Stones – chose their name from Muddy Waters’ song “Rollin’ Stone.”

Chart-watching as always,

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, California

Hi Pablo,

Thanks for yet another e-mail that looks at Billboard charts so creatively!

The Pretenders would qualify as an act that’s ruled a Billboard chart and taken their name from a song by an act that’s done the same. The Chrissie Hynde-led band topped the Mainstream Rock chart with “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (1986) and “My Baby” (1987). The Platters’ “The Great Pretender” led multiple Hot 100-predecessor charts in 1956, two years before the Hot 100’s launch. Their “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” spent three weeks atop the Hot 100 in 1959.

What other artists share such a chart-topping link? One act quickly comes to mind: the Dixie Chicks‘ name was hatched from the group’s affinity for the Little Feat song “Dixie Chicken.” The Dixie Chicks have commanded several charts, including the Billboard 200, Country Songs and Country Albums. Little Feat has collected two No. 1s on Mainstream Rock.

This Wikipedia page lists numerous acts named after songs, and subsequent searching through Billboard’s chart archives confirms more No. 1 connections.

Aqualung, aka British musician Matthew Hale, rose to No. 1 on Heatseekers Albums with “Strange and Beautiful” in 2006. The inspiration for his act’s name was the song “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, the band that notched two No. 1s on the Billboard 200 in 1972 and 1973.

Godsmack‘s name was taken from the Alice in Chains song “God Smack,” and Radiohead is named after the Talking Heads track “Radio Head.” All four acts have reached No. 1 on various Billboard rock charts.

Jet led a host of rock airplay charts with “Cold Hard Bitch” in 2004. The band is named after the No. 7 Hot 100 hit “Jet” by Paul McCartney and Wings, which tallied six No. 1s from 1973 to 1980.

Paul McCartney plays into another No. 1 association. Hellogoodbye, which has topped the Top Independent Albums and Top Internet Albums charts, is named after the Beatles‘ “Hello Goodbye.”

The Fab Four’s historic No. 1 totals? 20 leaders on the Hot 100 and 19 on the Billboard 200, the most in the history of each chart.