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Ask Billboard: Hits That Have Out-Charted The Songs They Sample

Your knowledgeable responses about hit songs with samples, from Eminem to the "Macarena." Plus, John Legend has added class to the Hot 100, as he's one of highest-charting Ivy Leaguers ever. We give…

As always, submit your 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 questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


In the last “Ask Billboard,” we noted how Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” has equaled the No. 8 Billboard Hot 100 peak of the song on which it’s based, Elton John’s 1971 classic “Your Song.” From there, we were off and running in seeking other songs that have done as well as, or better, than songs from which they borrow or sample.


We included some examples, and solicited more from always knowledgeable Chart Beat readers. Here is a … sample … of your insightful responses.


Wonderful how great minds think alike! I, too, have wondered about songs that chart higher on the Hot 100 than the originals they sample!

The first one that came to mind (other than the ones you mentioned) was P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” which spent a week at No. 1 on Nov. 30, 1991. It famously samples “True” by Spandau Ballet, which reached No. 4 in the fall of 1983.

Another is M|A|R|R|S’ No. 13 hit “Pump Up the Volume.” The 1987-88 dance hit remains significant in the history of samples, as the U.S. radio edit contains at least 18 of them. Of those, Bobby Byrd’s “Hot Pants – I’m Coming, I’m Coming, I’m Coming” reached No. 85 in 1971 and Graham Central Station’s “The Jam” was a No. 63 hit in 1976.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what is probably the most-sampled laugh ever, courtesy of Alison Moyet in “Situation,” the No. 73 hit by Yaz from 1982. The biggest hit to use this sample is the Bayside Boys Mix of Los Del Rio’s massive 1996 No. 1 hit, “Macarena” (which doesn’t waste any time using the sample, just seven seconds in).

Thanks, as always, Gary! Looking forward to seeing more on this subject!

Ron Raymond, Jr.
Host/Producer, “Stuck in the 80s”
WMPG-FM and WMPG.org
Portland, Maine

Hi Gary,

Do you remember that in 1983 Michael Jackson’s No. 5 song “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” from his album “Thriller,” sampled “Soul Makossa,” a No. 35 hit in 1973 by Cameroonian artist Manu Dibango? This song was also sampled in the 2008 Rihanna smash “Don’t Stop the Music,” which reached No. 3.

Best regards,

Andy Leon
Ruskin, Florida


Don’t forget that Will Smith’s 1998 No. 1 “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” outperformed the song it sampled, Sister Sledge’s “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” which stopped at No. 9.

Dr. Dave Baskind
Saginaw, Michigan

Hi Gary,

By hitting No. 3 on the Hot 100, Madonna’s “Erotica” in 1992 out-charted one of the songs it samples, Kool & the Gang’s No. 4 hit from 1974, “Jungle Boogie.”

Thanks! Fun game!

Bill Olver

@gthot20 Interesting example: Eminem’s “Stan” sampled Dido’s “Thank You,” but I recall Dido actually charted AFTER “Stan.” Which charted higher?

Damon Shaw ?@NWAWeather

Thanks for all the great examples! To answer your question, Damon, “Stan” certainly is a quirky example. Eminem’s landmark story song of fan over-obsession, featuring Dido, reached No. 51 the week of Dec. 2, 2000 (a peak which seems surprisingly low; it wasn’t a commercial single, however, so its Hot 100 performance was solely airplay-based). At the time, it had outperformed Dido’s original, although “Thank You” had yet to become a single. (“Thank You” was actually available as far back as 1998, on the “Sliding Doors” soundtrack.) Since Eminem publicized the song, Arista Records released it after Dido had made inroads with her singles “Don’t Think of Me” and “Here With Me,” which reached Nos. 35 and 21 on Adult Pop Songs (and fell shy of the Hot 100), respectively. As its own song, “Thank You” eventually disqualified “Stan” as a hit with a sample that charted better than its original, as, aided by its exposure in “Stan,” it soared to No. 3 on the Hot 100 in April 2001 (and topped Adult Pop Songs for nine weeks).

Also interestingly, “Thank You” itself contains a sample: it includes the drum break from soul pioneer Dexter Wansel’s 1976 instrumental “Theme From the Planets.”

And, we apparently can’t have this discussion without coming back to Elton John: when Eminem performed “Stan” at the 2001 Grammy Awards, John filled in for Dido singing the “Thank You” sample (and, of course, played piano).

More Eminem: the last “Ask Billboard” covered that his No. 3 hit “Berzerk” bested the peaks of two songs it samples: Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” (No. 17, 1981) and Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” (No. 7, 1987). Eminem has also charted with revisions of hits that didn’t chart as well as the originals. While a notable track, 2003’s “Sing for the Moment” reached No. 14, eight rungs lower than Aerosmith’s No. 6 1976 iconic “Dream On” (which had stopped at No. 59 in its first go-round in 1973). And, 2005’s “Like Toy Soldiers” hit No. 34 on the Hot 100 after Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” marched to No. 1 for two weeks in 1989.

As for your P.M. Dawn flashback, Ron, the act’s third and last top 10, also samples an ’80s hit: 1993’s No. 6-peaking “Looking Through Patient Eyes” samples George Michael’s 1988 No. 1 “Father Figure.”

Per your Madonna mention, Bill, she scored another hit that samples a song that didn’t make the Hot 100: Her No. 7-peaking “Hung Up” from 2005 samples ABBA’s 1979 track “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” Although not a U.S. hit, ABBA’s song was big in multiple European countries, including the group’s native Sweden.

Since we’re in the disco era (and to add another George Michael and Will Smith reference apiece), let’s also note that Patrice Rushen’s 1982 single “Forget Me Nots” gained new life thanks to two ’90s samples. Originally a No. 23 hit, Michael’s sample of it in “Fastlove” brought it No. 8, where his last top 10 to-date peaked in 1996. The following year, Smith’s “Men in Black” also reworked “Forget Me Nots” and it crowned Radio Songs for four weeks; since it was not a commercially-available single, however, Hot 100 rules at the time made it ineligible to appear on the big chart.

One more thought on songs with samples (or songs that are reinventions) that have charted at equal or higher ranks than originals: As noted among the examples in the last “Ask Billboard” of such hits, the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” ruled the Hot 100 for eight weeks in 1983, while Puff Daddy and Faith Evans’ reinterpretation (and tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G.), “I’ll Be Missing You” (featuring 112), fared even better, reigning for 11 weeks in 1997. Thus, Sting’s composition has combined to spend 19 weeks atop the Hot 100. While the record for most weeks that a song has spent at No. 1 is 16 for Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” in 1995-96, one could make the case that “Every Breath You Take,” thanks to its original and reworking, is the No. 1-est song of all-time. If not officially, certainly in the sense that its hook has racked record time, 19 weeks, in the chart’s top spot.

(FYI, my girlfriend, Michelle, tells me that “No. 1-est” is not a word, even though I think it completely makes my point. I should probably agree with her; in a recent conversation we had, I used the word “teached.” Even worse (badder?), it still sounds sort of correct to me …

Let’s just move on to the next question, about people who are clearly more smarter …)

NEXT: A history lesson on musical Ivy Leaguers

As always, submit your 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 questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


Hey @gthot20 when’s the last time an Ivy Leaguer has gotten as high on the @Billboard Hot 100 as Penn’s John Legend has?

Raynell Cooper ?@raynell_cooper

Hi Raynell,

Smart question! Currently, Legend is at No. 2 on the Hot 100 with “All of Me,” which has held the runner-up spot for three weeks. We’ll find out tomorrow if he can dethrone Pharrell Williams, whose “Happy” has ruled for seven weeks.

First, a little background on the academically (very) accomplished Legend: he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania magna cum laude, and that’s after he fielded scholarship offers from Harvard, Georgetown and Morehouse. At Penn, he majored in English (with an emphasis on African-American literature). He’s also since been vocal in his support of education reform.

If he reigns, it looks as if Legend would be the first Ivy Leaguer to go to the head of the Hot 100’s class since … Alicia Keys, who last led in late 2009 with Jay Z on “Empire State of Mind.” Keys enrolled in New York’s Professional Performing Arts School at age 12 (majoring in choir) and graduated – as valedictorian – at age 16. When Keys signed with Columbia Records, she was also accepted into Columbia University. While she tried fitting both Columbias in her schedule, she dropped out of college after a month to pursue her musical career full-time.

(See below for more on another New Yorker’s take on choosing between Columbia Records and Columbia University.)

Keys wasn’t the first Ivy Leaguer (graduate or not) to top the Hot 100, as she joined an exclusive group (or to use perhaps a more fitting word, fraternity) of those such scholars who’ve gotten the Hot 100’s top grade. Brown University alum Lisa Loeb, for instance, led in 1994 with “Stay (I Missed You)”; she graduated with a degree in comparative literature. (FYI, the school’s radio station, WBRU, is a longtime cornerstone reporter to the Alternative Songs chart.)

Huey Lewis attended Cornell University’s School of Engineering, for six months. After he left to follow his truer calling, and he and the News scored three No. 1s: “The Power of Love” (1985), “Stuck With You” (1986) and “Jacob’s Ladder” (1987).

Other musical Ivy Leaguers? While not ever Hot 100 valedictorians, Mary Chapin Carpenter, like Loeb, also graduated from Brown, with a degree in American civilization. [Ed. note: I saw Loeb open for Carpenter at a show at Brown in spring 1992, and, given her obvious talent, I wasn’t surprised when “Stay” hit so big two years later]; Rivers Cuomo of Weezer graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard; and, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello also graduated from Harvard (’86) with a degree in social studies (despite fronting a college band called Bored of Education …)

As for the double Columbia connection, this topic has to include Billy Joel, Keys’ predecessor in considering both the record label and school. Unlike Keys, however, Joel was never a Columbia University student.

Joel attended Hicksville (N.Y.) High School until 1967 but didn’t graduate that year, as he’d been gigging at a piano bar to help his mother raise needed household income. Short on credits, he declined attending summer school to earn his diploma in order to fast-track his music career. As noted in Hank Bordowitz’s “Billy Joel: The Life and Times of an Angry Young Man,” Joel offered a fairly famous quote: “To hell with it. If I’m not going to Columbia University, I’m going to Columbia Records. You don’t need a high school diploma over there.”

Joel, of course, did sign with Columbia Records. And, 25 years after he was due to graduate high school, he submitted essays to the school board and was given his diploma at last at Hicksville High’s annual graduation ceremony in 1992 (with his post-high school job prospects brighter than most).

NEXT: You can’t hide your lion eyes

As always, submit your 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 questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20


@gthot20 With Frozen eying Lion King’s longevity record what’re TLK’s Nielsen sales?

Alan Kase ?@Alan_Kase

Hi Alan,

Just as tomorrow will bring an update of the latest Hot 100, we’ll also find out if the “Frozen” soundtrack will crown the Billboard 200 albums chart for a 10th week. If it does, it will match a vaunted record, as Keith Caulfield reported last week: If “Frozen” chills for a 10th week at No. 1, it will tie Disney’s “The Lion King” as the longest-running No. 1 animated film soundtrack. “The Lion King” roared at No. 1 for 10 nonconsecutive weeks in 1994-95.

Given their age discrepancies, “The Lion King” obviously has a large lead in sales. It’s sold 7.87 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Frozen” has sold 1.94 million.

In the robust sales days of the mid-’90s, “The Lion King” sold at least 200,000 copies in each of eight consecutive weeks. It peaked with 311,000 sold in the SoundScan tracking week ending July 17, 1994.

And … we’re back to Elton John! The soundtrack’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” reached No. 4 on the Hot 100, becoming his 26th of 27 career top 10s, and follow-up “Circle of Life” climbed to No. 18. (And, while it wasn’t released as a single, the album also includes John’s catchy album cut “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.”)