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Ask Billboard: Home Charts Edition

What are readers' favorite charts other than Billboard's? Read on. Plus, Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block prepare their new album.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


Hi Gary,

In last week’s “Ask Billboard” column, you encouraged chart fanatics to write in about their “personal charts.”

From 1981 to ’85, I kept a local radio chart as a teen. I tracked several local radio stations to compile my weekly list. I used various criteria for how to rank songs, starting with an inverse point system for the previous week’s No. 1 down through No. 40, eventually expanding to 100.

In 1984, I started tracking my own music use and charting it. At first, I included singles and albums all on one chart. By 1992, I had dropped singles and compiled just albums (by then, CDs).

I just compiled “GGK III Chart No. 1345,” dated April 30, 2011. Here is the 30-position chart’s top 10:

Position, Artist, Title, Total Weeks
1, Chris Brown, “F.A.M.E,” four
2, Bob Marley, “Africa Unite,” 15
3, Cut/Copy, “Zonoscope,” 10
4, Aimee Mann, “Smilers,” 39
5, DJ Tiesto, “Parade of the Athletes,” 70
6, DJ Tiesto, “Club Life in Las Vegas Volume 1,” four
7, Mariah Carey, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” 61
8, Earth, Wind & Fire, “Spirit,” six
9, Enya, “Watermark,” 191
10, Lightning Seeds, “Sense,” 189

Albums come and go on my chart, with some disappearing for years, such as Marley’s, above, at No. 2.

Others seem to never go away; Sinead O’Connor‘s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” (No. 21) is at 450 weeks since 1990 (and is my No. 1 album of all-time).

By basing the list on what albums I listen to, I obviously influence my own chart. I play whatever I feel like hearing, however, so it’s not really rigged.

So far this year, Rihanna‘s “Loud” is my top album, having spent eight weeks at No. 1.

I love charts, I love Billboard and I thank you for giving me the chance to share one of my passions with you!

George G. Kitchens III
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


Hi Gary,

Since Aug. 1, 1981 (the date that MTV also launched), I have been documenting my musical tastes on my personal pop chart.

I used to collect WLS radio charts from record stores in the Chicago area. The week that Billy Squier‘s “The Stroke” pushed Kim Carnes‘ “Bette Davis Eyes” out of No. 1 I was so p***ed because I felt that “Eyes” should have led for at least one more week. It was then that I got the idea that I should be compiling my own charts.

So I did, starting with a top 12, expanding to 20 a few years later, 40 after that and, currently, 100. (I am missing a few years’ worth of charts from 1992-’93, ’98-2004; not sure what happened to them …)

I post my chart on my website. Here is the current top 10:

This Week-Last Week, Title, Artist
1-13, “Don’t Turn Out the Lights,” NKOTBSB
2-9, “The Silence (New Single Mix),” Alexandra Burke
3-7, “Changes,” Dirty Vegas
4-6, “I’ll Try,” Jesse McCartney
5-8, “A Different Corner (Live),” George Michael
6-10, “3 Words,” Elliott Yamin
7-11, “I Got Love If You Want It,” Steve Miller Band
8-16, “Judas,” Lady Gaga
9-12, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain (“American Idol” Performance),” Casey Abrams
10-14, “Can I Trust You With My Heart (“American Idol” Performance),” Scotty McCreery

My personal charts have been my diary. I look through them and actually remember where I was at the time, how my life was going.

And, while it’s too bad that personal charts don’t figure into Billboard’s, at least mine show what I think the pop music scene should look like!

Thanks, and always set your life to music!

David Geib

Thanks David, and George,

You said it best in describing personal charts as a diary. Music is so associated with one’s memories that it makes perfect sense that a scan over past charts would bring back perhaps long-forgotten emotions.

Of course, looking at old Billboard charts – or, say, watching old TV shows – could do that, too. So, what is it about personal charts that make dedicated chart fans create them?

David, you noted a major reason. Part of the fun of following Billboard’s tallies is feeling frustration when a favorite song peaks lower than you would have liked it to. By creating your own list, you can eliminate such potential disappointment.

For you, it was “Bette Davis Eyes.” For me, it was liking Thirty-Eight Special‘s “Second Chance” so much and thinking it deserved to be a Hot 100 No. 1 that, for the week ending March 18, 1989, the “GT Hot 20,” an ode in name to the Hot 100, was born. (With nine weeks at No. 1, “Chance” held the mark for most time at the top until I Nine’s “Seven Days of Lonely” spent 12 weeks at No. 1 in 2007).

I began writing down my chart week-by-week in notebooks handed out in (and intended for) my ninth-grade French class. They were perfectly suited for the job, since they ran 21 lines deep – one for a dateline and 20 for each song. (Mrs. Driscoll must have thought I was quite studious when I asked for extras).

I, too, enjoy the memories that stir when looking at past personal charts (moreso than listening to, and cringing just a bit at, old airchecks from when, for four years, I counted them down on WTBU, Boston University’s student-run radio station, and home of Howard Stern’s first on-air job).

Showing just how much time has gone by, remakes of past “Hot 20” hits have become fairly common in recent years. Richard Marx even notched the chart’s first No. 1 debut with “Hold on to the Nights 2007,” a remake of his own chart leader from 19 years earlier.

I thought it was interesting that on both of the top 10s posted above, veteran acts are plentiful. Perhaps that’s to be expected; if you’re dedicated enough to create weekly charts over decades, you’re likely faithful in your musical tastes, as well.

And, I’m wondering if such a hobby is geared heavily to pop fans, as opposed to other genres. As on your charts, Aimee Mann, Lightning Seeds, George Michael, Mariah Carey and “American Idol” acts have long been staples on mine (with Carey having scored the most “Hot 20” No. 1s, 26).

Before receiving your e-mails, I knew of some chart fans who’ve authored their own rankings, including a former Billboard co-worker (a pure pop fan, as well).

I even became friends with current WKBU (Bayou 95.7)/New Orleans DJ Harmon Dash when we worked at WBMX/Boston once we realized a shared passion for following Billboard charts and revealed, to our great surprise, that the other each compiled his own survey.

(When walking to the station one night, Harmon’s bag was snatched. “The worst thing, Gary,” he rued, “is that they got my chart!” We found humor, at least, in the image of some very perplexed thieves wondering what they were looking at. And, whether they agreed that Jon Secada’s “Mental Picture” should have charted as high as it did).

Nowadays, it’s perhaps less surprising that someone might maintain such a hobby as charting one’s favorite songs. Twitter and Facebook have revealed every user’s quirky interests, while websites like these allow music fans to make public their weekly rankings.

The internet/social media age has shed light on – and furthered the growth of – such similar pastimes as participating in fantasy sports leagues or writing fan fiction. Crafting homemade charts is simply the music-centric version of personalizing a treasured passion.

If any readers would like to pass along their weekly lists to, I’ll be happy to publish samples, as time and space permit, in “Ask Billboard.”

As you say, David, fans’ charts don’t contribute to Billboard’s, but perhaps including them in this space on would make for an acceptable compromise.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


Hi Gary,

I would like to know the U.S. sales of each Backstreet Boys album. Also, when is their album with New Kids on the Block coming out?


Neil Gowtham
Coimbatore, India

Hi Neil,

Here is a look at the U.S. sales of Backstreet Boys’ seven albums to-date, according to Nielsen SoundScan:

, “Millennium,” 1999
10,113,000, “Backstreet Boys,” 1997
5,422,000, “Black & Blue,” 2000
1,834,000, “The Hits – Chapter One,” 2001
759,000, “Never Gone,” 2005
199,000, “Unbreakable,” 2007
98,000, “This Is Us,” 2009

How impressive is the group’s legacy? Of the 17 albums that have passed the 10-million mark since SoundScan began tracking U.S. sales in 1991, BSB is the only act to have recorded two such sets. “Millennium” ranks at No. 4 in that span and “Backstreet Boys,” No. 17.

With 30.9 million albums sold, Backstreet Boys are the 19th-best-selling album artists in SoundScan history. Among groups, only the Beatles, Metallica, Pink Floyd, U2, AC/DC and Pearl Jam – all rock acts – rank higher.

New Kids on the Block’s heyday predates the advent of SoundScan, but the group has garnered three multi-Platinum RIAA certifications: “New Kids on the Block” and “Step by Step” (three-times each) and “Hangin’ Tough” (eight-times).

With 11 Billboard 200 top 10s between them, the boy bands team up for “NKOTBSB,” due May 24. The set will sport five hits from each group and two new joint recordings, “All in My Head” and first single “Don’t Turn Out the Lights,” which reached No. 14 on the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under chart last month.

The groups’ collaborative North American tour kicks off two days later in Rosemont, Ill., and wraps Aug. 7 in London, Ont. Included in the trek is a June 11 concert at Fenway Park in the New Kids’ hometown of Boston.

Boy band fever seems alive and well, at least per the audience response at last night’s staging of “Wonderland,” which I attended, at New York’s Marquis Theatre. Some of the evening’s loudest applause followed the song “One Knight” (at 3:29 in, above), a playful send-up of boy bands’ trademark harmonies (and gyrations).

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


While Jacob Lusk exited “American Idol” last night, my original pick to win the series’ 10th season, Lauren Alaina, appeared even more shaken to be in the bottom two.

Josh and Jen of the fun “Idle Review” podcast keenly summed up Alaina’s trajectory last week in noting that viewers feel like an extra set of her parents, pulling for the endearing 16-year-old to realize the potential of her beautiful voice.

Jimmy Iovine (unlike Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, who inexplicably, and somewhat unfeelingly, claimed “there’s nothing to judge,” in place of offering constructive assistance) accurately critiqued on last night’s (May 5) episode that Alaina held back on hitting the expected soaring notes in her performance Wednesday of “Unchained Melody.”

By comparison, a fellow rising teen country singer took the song to greater vocal heights – and to No. 3 on Country Songs – in 1997:

Still, Alaina has provided one of the season’s highlights in her cover of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.”

Next week, the burgeoning omelet cook and the rest of the remaining top four finalists take on the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. While the songwriters are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends who penned such iconic compositions as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” such a theme choice furthers the trend of “Idol” pairing a cast of young contestants with songs from decades earlier.

(As MTV’s Jim Cantiello Tweeted, “Leiber & Stoller? [blows dust] At this rate, the Top 3 theme will be English Renaissance Songs!”

Probably not. Perhaps, however, “Caveman Grunt Songs … Your favorites take on some of the first sounds ever uttered by humans. This … is ‘American Idol’!”)

Have a great weekend, and, as always, follow’s complete coverage of the 10th season of “American Idol” and please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below or by e-mailing