Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
It’s very odd that one would even have to ask this, but with “Gonorrhea” by Lil Wayne featuring Drake entering the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 17 this week, does the U.S. now have its first charting song about a sexually transmitted disease?
I’m, um, itching to hear your answer.
My favorite part about this song charting is the phone conversation I overheard in our New York office Wednesday, when an early draft of the magazine’s Hot 100 page showed the title of Lil Wayne’s song spelled incorrectly.
Chart department member to a member of the production team: “The Hot 100 shows the spelling as ‘Gonerrhea,’ but it should be ‘Gonorrhea’.”
“I only know this because we checked it on the CD, not for any other reason …”
With an assist from our computerized chart archives, the sixth edition of Joel Whitburn’s “The Billboard Albums” and Jeff Green’s invaluable “The Green Book of Songs by Subject,” Lil Wayne’s track is not technically the first charting title dedicated to this delicate subject.
In 1973, Procol Harum reached No. 21 on the Billboard 200 with the album “Grand Hotel.” The set includes the song “Souvenir of London.” Sings the band’s Gary Brooker, “Bought a souvenir in London, got to hide it from my mom / Can’t declare it at the Customs, but I’ll have to take it home. Yes, I found a bit of London, I’d like to lose it quick / Got to show it to my doctor, ’cause it isn’t going to shrink.”
The song was banned by the BBC because of its subject matter.
AC/DC covered the title ailment of Lil Wayne’s new song on its 1976 cut “The Jack”: “Said she’d never had a royal flush, but I should have known that all the cards were comin’ from the bottom of the pack / And, if I’d known what she was dealin’ out, I’d have dealt it back.” The song’s parent album, “High Voltage,” reached the Billboard 200 in 1981, peaking at No. 146.
Much more seriously than the above examples, Bruce Springsteen‘s “Streets of Philadelphia,” the theme song to the film “Philadelphia,” in which Tom Hanks honorably battles the effects (both physical and societal) of AIDS, alludes to Hanks’ character’s hardships: “My clothes don’t fit me no more / I walked a thousand miles just to slip this skin.” The song rose to No. 9 on the Hot 100 in 1994.
Mostly, however, in the Hot 100’s 52-year history, songs about afflictions have taken a light-hearted approach to the topic. Maladies set to music include:
“Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray Cyrus (No. 4, 1992)
“Bad Case of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor),” Robert Palmer (No. 14, 1979)
“Cat Scratch Fever,” Ted Nugent (No. 30, 1977)
“Disease,” matchbox twenty (No. 29, 2002)
“Fever,” Peggy Lee (No. 8, 1958)
“Heart Attack,” Olivia Newtown-John (No. 3, 1982)
“It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing,” Shania Twain (No. 71, 2004)
“My Heart Is Failing Me,” Riff (No. 25, 1991)
“Night Fever,” Bee Gees (No. 1, eight weeks, 1978)
“Pac Man Fever,” Buckner & Garcia (No. 9, 1982)
“Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu,” Johnny Rivers (No. 6, 1973)
“Seven Year Ache,” Rosanne Cash (No. 22, 1981)
“Sick of Myself,” Matthew Sweet (No. 58, 1995)
“So Sick,” Ne-Yo (No. 1, two weeks, 2006)
“Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Bob Dylan (No. 39, 1965)
“Gonorrhea” does cause a positive side effect: the song is one of four debuts that Lil Wayne notches on the Hot 100 this week, upping his count to 64 chart entries dating to his arrival in 1999. With the bows, he passes Stevie Wonder (63) and Jay-Z (61) for the eighth-highest sum in the chart’s history.
(Lil Wayne’s debuting track at No. 75 is entitled “Bill Gates.” Thus, Travie McCoy‘s song at No. 41, featuring Bruno Mars, isn’t the only “Billionaire” on the chart).
I’m a big Shakira fan. With her new album, “Sale El Sol/The Sun Comes Out,” due Oct. 19, I’m hoping you could please update us on her total U.S. album sales.
Shakira has sold 9.6 million albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. Here is a look at her five best-selling sets:
3,488,000, “Laundry Service,” 2001
1,694,000, “Oral Fixation Vol. 2,” 2005
1,001,000, “Fijacion Oral: Vol. 1,” 2005
892,000, “Donde Estan Los Ladrones?,” 1998
584,000, “Pies Descalzos,” 1996
Shakira is seeking her 18th top 10 on Latin Songs, as “Loca,” the first single from “Sale El Sol/The Sun Comes Out,” bounds 18-12 this week. In the history of the chart, which launched this week in 1986, the only women with more top 10s are Gloria Estefan (22) and Ana Gabriel (20).
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In a span of seven days last month, I attended concerts featuring two acts that seemingly couldn’t be more different: Linkin Park and Judy Collins. Despite their obvious contrasts in styles, I was most awed by the singers’ equally striking vocals.
At the Best Buy Theater in Times Square, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington acrobatically changed volume and registers, screaming melodically into the mic one minute and hushing the mesmerized crowd with a ballad the next.
A week later, Collins’ soprano that commanded the audience (a slightly different demographic than Linkin Park’s fan base) was as clear as the sparkling reflecting pool in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Spackler Wing, where the folk icon performed against the backdrop of the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur.
Both concerts reinforced the power of live music, no matter the genre.
What shows have you seen, recently or in years past, that rank among the best you’ve attended? Which artists’ vocals more than delivered live? And, what concerts are you looking forward to next?
E-mail email@example.com and we’ll publish your recollections next Friday.