Skip to main content

Ask Billboard: Swift’s Lucky 13 Top 40 Hits

Chart Beat readers discuss changes in music distribution that have helped spur chart achievements for artists such as Taylor Swift.


Hi Gary,

Regarding the topic in last week’s “Ask Billboard,” while some people may be bored by music trivia, I find that there is absolutely nothing boring about it. After all, shows like “American Top 40” wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as they have if no one was interested in music trivia. I think that it’s fun to find and read trivia tidbits. It is not a case of people bragging, but rather a case of sharing such an interest with others.

I sympathize with those who aren’t as intrigued, but, for those many people who can dig up even the most obscure trivia, please keep them coming! I’m all ears.

Best always,


Larry Cohen
Trumbull, Connecticut


Hello Gary,

I see that as of next week the Billboard 200 album chart will include catalog titles. This is a positive step, and here’s why.

When I was a young music fan, I had to search the dial to find “American Top 40” (the beginnings of a chart watcher, yes).

As a result of radio trends at the time, I have strong associations with the music of, say, 1974 (“Band on the Run/1985,” “Rock the Boat,” “Help Me,” “Midnight at the Oasis,” “Radar Love,” “Dancing Machine,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” etc.), and a wide taste in music. This was because a song received perhaps only a month or two in the spotlight. Any exceptional chart longevity usually meant a slow rise region-by-region.

Nowadays, as songs more routinely stay on the chart for up to a year or more, a comprehensive chart is a more accurate reflection of the times.

I work at a public library, and we circulate CDs. What I observe is that people of all ages check out titles regardless of the age of the music. At the library, an older album that barely charted with no radio play, such as Pink Floyd‘s soundtrack to “More,” checks out as often as all but a handful of current discs. Hey, it’s new if you haven’t heard it yet.

As a father of teens, I can tell you that my kids like Spike Jones as much as Michael Jackson as much as Richard Thompson as much as whatever is in the movies they like. YouTube is their top 40 radio station.

(Seeing older charts at the library, or in the Joel Whitburn books I own, it’s funny how the shorter chart spans really dated the songs and events earlier in my life. Like pottery for archaeologists, or sediment layers for geologists.)


Joe Sipocz
South Bend, Indiana

Hi Joe,

Thanks for writing. Your opinion reflects the thinking that went into the decision to adjust the Billboard 200’s methodology.

It is, indeed, a new era, and slower radio rotations, as you note, contribute to a blurring of what songs are truly current, as it’s common now for a song like Kings of Leon‘s “Use Somebody” or Katy Perry‘s “Hot N Cold” to enjoy glacial chart lives as they grow from format-to-format. Unlike in the ’70s, research and a host of since-developed radio formats have added much more science to the art of programming.

Music consumption is also clearly molded by a different business model when a catalog album is as readily available at a digital retailer as a newer release. Unlike at a “brick-and-mortar” record store, it’s much more unlikely for a catalog title not to be stocked online. And, for younger music fans who have grown up in the digital era, it’s not even an issue. All titles, regardless of age, can be found in seconds when searching iTunes or amazon.com, etc.

Thus, and after extensive consultation with record labels and retailers, the new, all-encompassing Billboard 200 begins with next week’s chart, to be released on billboard.com Thursday (Nov. 26).


Hello Gary,

I read in yesterday’s Chart Beat that with the top 10 ascension of “TiK ToK,” on the Billboard Hot 100, Ke$ha becomes the second female artist of the year, following Lady Gaga, to send her first charted single to the top 10. But, didn’t she achieve that feat several months ago?

For two weeks during its run at No. 1, the song “Right Round” was attributed to Flo Rida featuring Ke$ha. Granted, Ke$ha, who sings the “Right Round” hook, had her name removed from the billing before the song left the penthouse, but don’t those weeks count towards her chart history? Is it fair to deny Ke$ha her credit for a No. 1 single, even though her name didn’t appear during the end of the song’s run?

I know that Billboard has added artists late in a song’s chart life (Drew Seeley wasn’t credited for the first few charting weeks of “Breaking Free” from the “High School Musical” soundtrack, for instance), but as I understand it, such artists are retroactively credited for a single’s entire chart life.

I can’t think of another instance where an artist has had a credit removed, so I just want to make sure I understand the policy in this unusual situation. Thanks for your insight.


Mark Blankenship
Brooklyn, New York

Hi Mark,

You are correct that Ke$ha was credited as a featured artist on “Right Round” during the song’s second and third (of six total) weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in March.

Due to conflicting information Billboard’s charts department received at the beginning of the song’s chart life, she was not listed as a credited artist for the song’s first three chart weeks, and then did show for its next two. Atlantic Records then definitively confirmed to Billboard that the song should be credited solely to Flo Rida, and Ke$ha’s name no longer appeared for the rest of the title’s Hot 100 stay.

Such instances do occur with some regularity, and the final listing as confirmed by all parties involved (Billboard, record labels, and/or artist management, for example) is the one that stands as the one of record in Billboard’s archives.

Randy Travis was added as a featured artist to Carrie Underwood‘s “I Told You So” and the song, thus, shows in Travis’ Country Songs discography, even if he was not listed at the outset of its chart life.

Of course, removing an artist credit might seem more perplexing. If I’m Ke$ha, and I’m holding a copy of Billboard that shows me at No. 1 on the Hot 100, it could be disheartening to learn that the listing has since been taken away. But, again, it can be unavoidable. Reba McEntire‘s “Every Other Weekend” was listed on Country Songs in three forms – solo, with Skip Ewing and with Kenny Chesney – before consensus dictated the song show, and be archived, as McEntire featuring Chesney.

It’s perhaps similar to sports. In hockey, the red light might shine and fist-pumps and group-hugs ensue after an apparent goal. If the play was questionable, however – was the puck kicked in? did it never cross the goal line completely? did an opposing player interfere with the goalie? – it might be reviewed and, ultimately, disallowed.

Same for football – it’s common to see a receiver speed to a touchdown and have the TV graphics reflect six newly-added points, only for the play to be overturned and those points removed after a successful coach’s challenge.

Billboard, thus, is like an umpire or referee, simply trying to make the best call (i.e., correct listing, whether for titles, artists, writers, or producers, etc.) based on the information provided. It’s not always cut-and-dried, but the charts department always seeks to make the most informed and logical decisions.

(Wait, why is this Patriots fan thinking of sports after last week’s last-minute, still-stinging loss? Back to the music …)FEARLESS’ ABOUT 13

Hi Gary,

I have long been a follower of Billboard and consider your menu of charts, by far, the world’s best. What makes Billboard so relevant after all these years is your ability to adapt chart rules to current market practices, even in a market evolving as fast as it is today.

That is why I have been very surprised by Billboard’s decision to attribute to Taylor Swift, as talented and deserving as she may be, the honor of most top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hits from a single album (13), topping seven each for albums by Michael Jackson (“Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous”), Janet Jackson (“Rhythm Nation”) and Bruce Springsteen (“Born in the U.S.A.”)

The digital sales component of the Hot 100 now makes for different times. What I found most central to this record, first set by the monster album “Thriller,” was that an album could push a seventh single into the top 40 despite having already achieved impressive sales. Consequently, the sample of potential buyers of a seventh single would be reduced.

In the case of Swift’s “Fearless,” I can accept the “trick” of her label releasing a few tracks prior to the album’s release, and Billboard surely must treat them as chart hits from the collection.

But, is it correct to accept songs from the “Platinum Edition” of “Fearless” among this record? They charted thanks to downloads, downloads sold exactly because those songs were not featured on the original album. The chart achievement is, I feel, diluted.

If tomorrow, one more edition is released, and another two new tracks reach the top 40, would the record jump to 15?

Billboard just made sensible decisions regarding changes to the Billboard 200. I’m sure you will in this case, as well.

Best regards and continue your wonderful work,

Guillaume Vieira
Paris, France

Hi Guillaume,

I understand your key point that Swift has achieved a chart record in a manner different from those who preceded her. One could add that each of the hit songs from the albums you mention by the Jackson siblings and the Boss were both cultivated radio and sales smashes, not solely one-week digital-spike wonders, thus, possibly making for a bigger stamp for those songs in music fans’ collective conscience.

When you combine those factors, it does somewhat cloud how we need to present the statistics. But, that’s our job, so we have to find the best way!

When discussing albums like “Fearless,” Rihanna‘s “Good Girl Gone bad” and Lady Gaga’s “The Fame,” all of which have been re-released with new hit songs, the Billboard charts department follows the guidelines of whether the original and re-released albums have been merged. If they have been (a decision based on if a re-release has no more than one disc, or the digital equivalent, of new material), we refer to the album as one collection on our charts and in our editorial commentary. Of course, we’re careful to point out in cases like Swift’s, Rihanna’s and Lady Gaga’s, that pertinent chart achievements from a given album stem from multiple editions.

It’s also helpful to consider that chart rules have evolved constantly since the Hot 100’s launch in 1958. As Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield wonders, who’s to say that if digital sales were an option in 1964, and if the chart rules of today were in place then, the Beatles wouldn’t have sent perhaps every song on every album available at the height of Beatlemania into the top 40? Or, that tracks from Michael Jackson wouldn’t have sold enough downloads upon the release of “Thriller,” “Bad” or “Dangerous” to produce more than seven top 40 hits from each album?

All we can do is know that at any given time in history, the Hot 100 reflects, to the best of Billboard’s ability, the 100 most popular songs in the U.S. The methodology changes, but in terms of chart records, we can only compare rankings from era-to-era, and see how the numbers shake out (and, in Chart Beat, highlight the artists who are best capturing our attention).


Hi Gary!

Two weeks ago, Jason DeRulo finally climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Whatcha Say,” which I had feared would peak at No. 2.

That got me curious: which artist has the most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history?


Ambroz Pivk
Kranj, Slovenia

Hi Ambroz,

Here are the performers with the most trips to the runner-up spot in the Hot 100’s 51-year history:

6, Madonna
5, Carpenters
5, Creedence Clearwater Revival
4, Mariah Carey
4, Janet Jackson
4, Elvis Presley

Creedence Clearwater Revival holds the dubious distinction as the act with the most No. 2-peaking hits on the Hot 100 that has never reached No. 1 with any other chart entries.


Due to next week’s holiday, Chart Beat will feature new entries Monday through Wednesday, and Ask Billboard will return in two weeks. Please keep the e-mails coming at askbb@billboard.com, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!