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Ask Billboard: Indies, No. 2 Hits & Teddy Pendergrass

Readers discuss "Contra," songs that have peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, including (so far) "Bad Romance" and an R&B legend.

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



Hi again, and, again, thank you for this remarkable “Taking Peaks” series of lasting Billboard Hot 100 hits that peaked at every number between 100 and 1. I’m truly loving it.

Some of the honorable mentions I would have added to your already great list of the feature’s third installment, highlighting songs that peaked between Nos. 50 and 26:


– “Cannonball” by the Breeders (No. 44, 1994), a No. 2 hit on Alternative Songs.

– Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Two Tribes” (No. 43, 1984), the song which gave new life to the band’s “Relax” (the prior and follow-up single to “Two Tribes”).

– The brilliant “Bedtime Story” by Madonna (No. 42, 1995), written by Bjork.

“The Super Bowl Shuffle” by the Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew (No. 41, 1986), which received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and whose proceeds were given to charity.

– And, Jim Steinman’s original “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (No. 32, 1981), 13 years before Meat Loaf‘s version rose to No. 13.

I also appreciated your tribute to songs that stopped short at No. 41. I’m sure you’ll do the same for those titles that faded at No. 11.

Thank you again. I look forward to the top 25!

Ron Raymond, Jr.
Music Director, WMPG-FM
Portland, Maine

Hi Ron,

Thanks again for supplementing the feature with several more memorable songs that enjoyed modest chart lives in their original runs.

That’s what’s been so fun about writing this position-by-position journey through the Hot 100’s archives. There are simply too many great songs to mention over the past 50-plus years, and that’s a good problem to have. It’s also what makes all Billboard tallies more than just dry lists of songs and titles. Every song has a story: someone, somewhere was inspired to write it, artists brought it to life with passionate performances, and radio stations and consumers heard something in it that made them relate and want to hear it again and again.

Music charts are ultimately diaries. We look back at a chart from 10, 20, 30 years ago and see not just what songs were the most popular, but what they meant to us personally. Where we heard them, what we were doing, of whom they remind us. And, how we’ve changed since.

Thanks to those who’ve e-mailed with thoughts on the feature or any readers who’ve simply enjoyed brushing up on Hot 100 history. The “Taking Peaks” series concludes Tuesday (Jan. 26) with classic songs that peaked between Nos. 25 and 1.


Hi Gary,

I have a question regarding Wednesday’s billboard.com article announcing Vampire Weekend‘s No. 1 ranking on the Billboard 200. The story notes that “Contra” is only the 12th “indie album” to reach No. 1 since Nielsen SoundScan data was introduced on the chart. My question is, what are the other 11 such No. 1 albums?


Jason Brown
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Hi Jason,

Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield expands on the topic in this week’s print issue of Billboard (Jan. 30). Here is an excerpt that answers your question and provides further background on Billboard’s policy regarding the chart eligibility of independent albums:

Vampire Weekend’s “Contra,” distributed by Alternative Distribution Alliance, marks the 12th indie set to top the tally since Nielsen SoundScan began powering the chart in 1991 and the first since Pearl Jam‘s self-released “Backspacer” debuted at No. 1 on the chart dated Oct. 10, 2009.

For Billboard charting purposes, defining an independent album is done on a title level and based on its distribution. If an album is sold by an indie distributor (or, one of the major label’s indie distribution arms), it is classified as an independent title and can chart on our Top Independent Albums tally. Classification is not based on a label’s ownership, or if an act is signed to an independent label.

Before “Backspacer,” the last indie set to reign at No. 1 was Radiohead‘s RED-distributed “In Rainbows” (TBD/ATO), which climbed to the pole position on the Jan. 19, 2008, chart. A couple months earlier, Eagles‘ self-released Wal-Mart-exclusive “Long Road Out of Eden” topped the tally in late 2007.

Before that, we had an incredible dry spell, where no indie album hit No. 1 between the tail end of 1997 until the Eagles’ achievement.

From the start of the SoundScan era in May 1991 through the end of 1997, eight indie albums topped the list. Six were courtesy of then-indie Priority, while two came from formerly-indie Walt Disney Records.

N.W.A.‘s “EFIL4ZAGGIN” (Ruthless/Priority) was the first indie set to hit No. 1 in the SoundScan era on June 22, 1991. After that, Priority scored No. 1s with Ice Cube‘s “The Predator” (1992), the “Friday” soundtrack (1995), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony‘s “E. 1999 Eternal” (1995) and “The Art of War” (1997) and Tha Dogg Pound‘s Death Row/Interscope set “Dogg Food” (1995).

Finally, Walt Disney Records scored two No. 1 soundtracks before it joined the Universal Music Group Distribution fold, with “The Lion King” (1994) and “Pocahontas” (1995).


Hello Gary,

I’m about to lose my mind. I’ve been hearing a great new song that I think is called “Come Back,” with the following lyrics sung by a female vocalist: “Go away, go away, come again another day.” An excellent song in a minor key.

I’ve been hearing it on pop/dance stations like WPTY (Party 101.5/105.3)/Nassau, New York.

Would you know who the artist is?

Thank you very much,

Irusia Kocka

Hi Irusia,

The song is, indeed, called “Come Back,” and the artist is Sophia May. The cut roars into the top 10 (16-8) this week on Billboard’s Hot Dance Airplay chart, viewable at billboard.biz.

The track is her third top 10 on the chart in less than two years. “I Can’t Help Myself” rose all the way to No. 1 for three weeks in April 2008, and “Another Day” reached No. 4 last July.

“Come Back” has received its strongest radio support on Sirius XM’s BPM channel (300 plays to date) and WPTY (267 plays), according to Nielsen BDS.

Beyond the airplay statistics, who is Sophia May? The singer is signed to Nervous Records and has performed in concert with such dance luminaries as Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper.

According to her bio, “When not working on music, (May) spends her time being a mom to her young daughter, working with youth at risk, and, she loves sports and plays Netball in her hometown of Bristol, England.”TWO IS (MAYBE NOT) BETTER THAN ONE

Howdy Gary!

I have a question about songs that peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, specifically those that have been passed by the most No. 1s while they remained at No. 2.

I hope my question is not too confusing. I can elaborate:

For example, as of the current chart week (Jan. 30), “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga has peaked at No. 2. Both “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and “TiK ToK” by Ke$ha have held the No. 1 position during the six weeks that “Bad Romance” has ranked at No. 2.

If “Bad Romance” never makes it to No. 1, and no other songs pass it while it’s at No. 2, then two No. 1 songs will have blocked its path to the top.

I’m guessing that in the history of the Hot 100, some songs have peaked at No. 2 for at least three weeks while three No. 1s passed them. Has a song ever held at No. 2 while four or more songs reached No. 1?

Take care,

Simon Lau
Toronto, Ontario

Hi Simon,

An interesting question, as Lady Gaga fans wait patiently to see if “Bad Romance” can still ascend to the Hot 100’s summit.

While it might seem logical, as it did to me when I began researching the answer, that any song that spends a lengthy amount of time peaking at No. 2 would invite the opportunity for several other titles to leapfrog it, the opposite is true. Let’s take the four entries to spend the most time peaking in the runner-up spot.

Foreigner‘s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” peaked at No. 2 for 10 weeks in 1981-82. A 10-week reign for Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (which began a week before Foreigner’s ballad climbed to No. 2) and a one-week rule for Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” kept Foreigner from the pinnacle.

In 2002-03, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott also peaked at No. 2 for 10 weeks, and that track was blocked by only one song: Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Next in line, two songs have peaked at No. 2 for nine weeks each. In 1996, Donna Lewis‘ “I Love You Always Forever” couldn’t overcome the juggernaut that was Los Del Rio’s “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix).” In May 1998, Shania Twain spent one week at No. 2 with “You’re Still the One,” behind Next’s “Too Close.” Twain’s song returned for eight additional weeks as a bridesmaid amidst Brandy and Monica’s 13-week command with “The Boy Is Mine.”

If it’s any consolation to fans and the artists who remained stuck at No. 2 for so long, these chart patterns suggest that long-running runners-up were certainly huge hits – two months as one of the two most popular songs in the U.S. is no small feat – but that timing simply wasn’t on their side. (Fans of the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills, who lost four consecutive Super Bowls, might empathize).

In the Hot 100’s history, dating to Aug. 4, 1958, 24 songs, including “Bad Romance,” have spent six or more weeks peaking at No. 2. Each of those titles has been passed by only one or two No. 1s. Destiny’s Child‘s “Survivor,” for instance, moved into the No. 2 spot the same week that Janet Jackson‘s “All for You” reached No. 1. The two titles remained in that order for seven weeks.

Another 14 songs have peaked at No. 2 for exactly five weeks each, and only one of those was passed by as many as three No. 1s. In 2006, “Smack That” by Akon, featuring Eminem, settled for second place, but one of the No. 1s that rose past it was at least by Akon himself: “I Wanna Love You,” featuring Snoop Dogg, which followed Ludacris‘ “Money Maker” and Justin Timberlake‘s “My Love” to the top.

An additional 31 songs have peaked at No. 2 for exactly four weeks, and none of those have been passed by more than two No. 1s each.

Thus, to fully answer your question, no No. 2 hits have been passed by four, or more, No. 1s. “Smack That” is the only title among 69 songs that have peaked at No. 2 for at least four weeks that has been passed by as many as three No. 1s while it remained in the chart’s penultimate spot on the countdown.


Hi Gary,

Regarding Teddy Pendergrass‘ passing, it seems as though we have lost too many great R&B/soul musicians in recent years.

In no particular order, here are some who come to mind (and soul): Michael Jackson, Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, LeRoi Moore from Dave Matthews Band, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, Luther Vandross, Barry White, Rick James, Billy Preston, James Brown, and Ray Charles.

(And, by “great,” I mean high-quality and famous, for there are, of course, many, many unknown greats).

I was standing in a long line at the post office the other morning, two days before Pendergrass’ death, and the folks in charge of the music there happened to be playing a greatest hits compilation by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

The extended version of “Wake Up Everybody (Part 1)” was playing when I arrived at the counter. I commented to the postal worker that I thought that that was their best song, and he agreed. Of course, it’s hard to choose their best song, especially when “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” is in the ranks. Although I already possess the group’s greatest hits, I definitely need to add some more of the powerful solo work by Pendergrass to my collection.

I know that the Grammy Awards organizers will be staging a tribute to Michael Jackson Jan. 31 as they honor those in the recording industry who have recently passed. I can only hope that they allow for an extra segment on Pendergrass, perhaps featuring one of the finest newer R&B male artists, Jaheim (who reached No. 4 on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in 2004 with “My Place,” with Nelly. The song samples, in part, Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me”). Sadly, the soulful Pendergrass never received a Grammy Award.

Simply, there’s simply no taking Teddy’s place.


Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, California

Hi Pablo,

Well said about a true music legend.

At the time of this posting, no official word has circulated from the Recording Academy as to how Pendergrass may be featured in this year’s presentation. I can’t imagine, however, that the organizers won’t find a way to give him his due in some fashion.

After Pendergrass’ passing at age 59 from complications of colon cancer, several R&B artists provided instant tributes via Twitter. “Celebrate our legends while they’re still with us,” wrote Tyrese. “I spent many weeks with him. Teddy I HONOR you and Thank You for making R&B Raspy Sexy!!”