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Ask Billboard: Madonna Vs. Lady Gaga

In comparing the Material Girl and the Fame Monster, who has gotten off to a better start on Billboard charts in each artist's first two years?

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.


Hey Gary,

I am a longtime reader of Chart Beat and enjoy reading these “Ask Billboard” questions.

Many people compare Lady Gaga to Madonna. I believe the two are equal in talent, as well as style. It is hard to compare the pair, though, because Lady Gaga released her first single (“Just Dance”) 27 months ago, while Madonna released her first single (“Everybody”) 333 months ago (or 322, if you consider “Holiday” Madonna’s first mainstream hit).


I was wondering if you could compare any statistics between Lady Gaga and Madonna approximately two years into each artist’s career.


Garrett Clayman
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Hi Garrett,

Since Nielsen SoundScan data was not launched until 1991, we can’t fairly compare Madonna’s sales to Lady Gaga’s. We can, however, look at their Billboard chart performances in their first 23 months after each artist’s Hot 100 debut, since that’s how long Lady Gaga has been impacting the chart. Madonna first reached the Hot 100 dated Oct. 29, 1983, and Lady Gaga, Aug. 16, 2008:

Billboard Hot 100

Madonna: 8 entries, 7 top 10s, 2 No. 1s (and 2 Gold titles, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Lady Gaga: 10 entries, 7 top 10s, 2 No. 1s (and 4 Platinum titles, according to the RIAA)

Billboard 200

Madonna: 2 entries, 2 top 10s, 1 No. 1
Lady Gaga: 2 entries, 2 top 10s

Dance/Club Play Songs (comparing each artist’s first 26 months, since Lady Gaga first charted on the list dated May 3, 2008)

Madonna: 5 entries, 5 top 10s, 3 No. 1s
Lady Gaga: 8 entries, 8 top 10s, 7 No. 1s

Adult Contemporary

Madonna: 7 entries, 2 top 10s
Lady Gaga: 5 entries

Thus, in this strict comparison of charted titles, Madonna and Lady Gaga line up extremely similarly approximately two years into each artist’s careers, especially on the Hot 100. At that checkpoint, each singer shows seven top 10s and two No. 1s.

Madonna’s Billboard 200 ledger is more impressive, having banked a No. 1 with her second set, “Like a Virgin,” as is her early Adult Contemporary crossover appeal. Conversely, on Dance/Club Play Songs, Lady Gaga’s first two years-plus clearly outshine Madonna’s, in terms of chart visits and top 10s (8-5 in each category) and No. 1s (7-3).

Only time well tell if Lady Gaga’s career can continue to evolve along that of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-enshrined Madonna, now counting 28 years since first putting her iconic stamp on pop music and culture.

Like Madonna, Lady Gaga writes her own material and possesses a unique sense of flare, so it’s certainly possible that such a successful future could be in store.

Check back around 2036 and we’ll have a better idea.


Hey Gary!

I have a question that is not specifically about the charts but certainly relates, in terms of impact on them. How can an album “leak”? And, why can’t it be stopped?


Aljosa Musikic

Hi Aljosa,

I posed your question to Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield. Here is his response:

“Most album leaks occur when an album reaches the manufacturer where CDs are produced. At that point, a larger number of people have access to the album and, thus, any of those individuals could in theory then take the album and upload it to the Internet.”

And, to clarify on how any leaked albums relate to Billboard charts, even if millions of fans listen to an album online, any such set would not be eligible to chart on a Billboard sales survey until it’s available at retail and registering enough sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, to appear on any particular chart.

Most recently, Drake‘s “Thank Me Later” made its way online two weeks before its release, as did Eminem‘s new “Recovery.” Neither free preview, however, apparently discouraged fans from purchasing the sets: they sold 447,000 and 741,000 copies, respectively, upon their Billboard 200 debuts, the latter sum the best since October 2008.

Drake even welcomed the early buzz. As he Tweeted June 2, “I gave away free music for years so we’re good over here…just allow it to be the soundtrack to your summer and ENJOY!”


Dear Gary,

I noticed that the Black Eyed Peas‘ “I Gotta Feeling,” which first reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 a year ago this week, is still on the chart in its 55th week. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first song to still rank on the Hot 100 a year after it hit No. 1.

Also, “Savior” by Rise Against remains in the top 10 of the Alternative Songs chart for the 47th of its 54 chart weeks. It has also appeared on the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under chart, ranking as high No. 2, for 36 weeks. Is that a longevity record on the Bubbling Under list?


Brian C. Cole
Tampa Bay, Florida

Hi Brian,

You are correct: the Black Eyed Peas’ track earns the honor of the first song to remain on the Hot 100 a year after first topping the chart. It already bested the staying power of the runner-up, Santana‘s “Smooth,” featuring Rob Thomas, which reached No. 1 on Oct. 23, 1999, and spent its last week on the list dated Sept. 2, 2000.

While Rise Against’s song has not logged a record run on the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under chart, its 36 weeks (it last appeared on the list last week) are the fourth-most in the history of the chart, which debuted June 1, 1959; it was not compiled from Aug. 31, 1985, through Nov. 28, 1992. Here are the titles to spend the most time on the chart but not graduate to the Hot 100:

Weeks, Title, Artist, Peak Position, Peak Year
61 weeks, “Alive,” Pearl Jam, No. 7, 1998
52 weeks, “Even Flow,” Pearl Jam, No. 8, 1997
43 weeks, “Think About You,” Luther Vandross, No. 3, 2004
36 weeks, “Savior,” Rise Against, No. 2, 2010

“Savior” also extends its record for most weeks on Alternative Songs. Even rebounding 7-6 in its 54th frame, it can remain on the chart as long as it ranks in the top 10, per the survey’s recurrent rules.

40 FOR ’40’

Dear Gary,

This weekend marks a milestone in radio. It was forty years ago, on July 4, 1970, that “American Top 40” with Casey Kasem premiered.

I listened to “AT40” during the ’80s with Kasem, and later Shadoe Stevens, counting down the hits for four hours every weekend. I even kept track of the lists during this period. Even though I no longer listen to any countdown shows (or radio, for that matter), I still keep track of my favorite music by reading Billboard and Joel Whitburn’s Billboard chart books.

Please join me in saluting “American Top 40” this weekend on its landmark 40th anniversary!

Lisa Curry
Beachwood, New Jersey

Hi Lisa,

You and I both were avidly listening to “American Top 40” when Kasem and Stevens counted down the hits in that era.

There were so many great weekend shows on pop radio then. Dick Clark relayed the top 30 adult contemporary titles each week on “Countdown America” (and, I actually phoned the local affiliate, WXLO/Worcester, Mass., to complain to the poor board operator when the show was cut to 20 positions in 1991 …)

And, “Future Hits” with Joel Denver always made for a great weekend wrap-up, spotlighting the newest songs as they got their start at top 40 radio. In an age before the Internet (and with a subscription to Billboard beyond the price range of many young listeners), following these programs provided the information that chart-watchers crave.

As for the 40th anniversary of “American Top 40,” Chart Beat will celebrate the show’s birth and enduring legacy with a special retrospective next week. Check billboard.com for the feature beginning Tuesday (July 6).

Until then, to all billboard.com readers, have a safe and happy July 4th holiday weekend!