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Ask Billboard: The “Fascinating” Lady Gaga

Barbara Walters named Lady Gaga the second-most "fascinating" person of 2009. Billboard's year-end charts certainly back up the rank.

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


Hi Gary,

Two questions:

1, How can the Black Eyed Peas‘ “I Gotta Feeling” rank higher than “Boom Boom Pow” on the entire decade’s Billboard Hot 100 chart and yet lower on the 2009 year-end Hot 100 chart?

2, How can the decade-end Hot 100 pan out such that a song like Madonna‘s “Music,” which spent four weeks at No. 1, is omitted?

Just curious.


David Fritz
Reseda, California

Hi David,

Keen of you to notice that, yes, the Peas’ two 2009 smashes appear in reverse order on our year-end and decade-end tallies. The oddity is due to different methodologies being used in the compilation of each list.

Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo explains some of the rationale that went into the creation of our extensive recap of 2009 and the entire past decade, which premiered on today.

The second and third Q&As below apply specifically to your question about the Black Eyed Peas:

“Q: How were the decade-end charts compiled?

A: Most of our decade-end music charts represent aggregated sales or radio airplay (audience impressions or total plays) for each artist and title from the weekly charts on which they appeared from the start of the 2000 chart year (Dec. 4, 1999) though the end of the 2009 chart year (Nov. 28, 2009).

In other words, if a weekly chart is based on unit sales, audience impressions, or total radio plays, those numbers are added up for each week a title or an artist appeared on that chart during the decade. The Billboard 200 rankings, for example, are based on total sales for each title or artist, while they were on the chart.

Sales totals are based on weekly data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan, with radio airplay measured by Nielsen BDS.

Q: Does that methodology apply to all the decade-end charts?

A: No. Some charts that changed methodology during the decade (such as Country Songs, which segued from weekly plays to weekly audience impressions) employ an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at the chart’s lower end earning the least.

The Hot 100, which is ranked on a weekly basis incorporating airplay, sales and streaming data, also employs this inverse point system for its decade-end lists, since the chart’s formula was altered various times during the 2000s.

Q: So, the Hot 100 formula is different for the decade-end charts than it is for the 2009 rankings?

A: That is correct. Since the Hot 100 formula was stable for 2009, we simply aggregated weekly points for each title and artist. This explains why some songs on the decade-end Hot 100 tally might be ranked in a different order than they appear on their corresponding year-end rankings.

Q: How were the top artists of the decade categories compiled (for overall, country, R&B and Latin genres)?

A: The overall top artists of the decade category is based on a formula blending aggregated sales totals for each artist’s title in the weeks it appeared on the Billboard 200 chart with the inverse points system used for the Hot 100 recaps for all of the artist’s titles that appeared on that list.

The top artists categories for country, R&B and Latin were determined by employing the inverse point system based on an artist’s weekly ranking on each format’s respective albums and songs charts.”

As for your question about Madonna’s “Music” not making the decade-end cut, consider that 129 songs rose to No. 1 in the 2000s, so there was simply no way that every Hot 100 topper this decade was going to make the top 100 recap. When a pop culture monster like “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” which, like “Music,” reigned for four weeks, ranks at No. 99 for the decade, it’s clear that competition was, pardon the Beyonce pun, fierce.

And, in some ways, that’s a good thing. With such major hits not making our list, it’s a sign that the 2000s gave us a deep reservoir of pop music that has made a lasting impression on fans and consumers.


Dear Gary,

How well is Mariah Carey‘s beautiful album “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” doing sales-wise in the U.S.?

Thank you,

Zwan Chandon Didier
Kaduna, Nigeria

Hi Zwan,

Carey’s 12th studio release has sold 344,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 upon its debut in October and became her fifth No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

On the decade-end Hot 100, Carey boasts the No. 1 title, 2005’s “We Belong Together.”

Carey has also just announced that her eight-week, 19-city “Angels Advocate” tour will begin New Year’s Eve and run through Feb. 27 in Las Vegas.


Hi Gary,

On Wednesday (Dec. 9), I watched the Barbara Walters special, “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009,” and am once again confused by a statistic quoted during Lady Gaga‘s introduction.

Walters stated that Lady Gaga is the “first artist ever to have four No. 1 hits off a debut album,” which I have heard several times in the past few months. As a huge fan of Mariah Carey, I know that Lady Gaga wasn’t the first artist to accomplish this feat, as Mariah saw her first four singles go to No. 1 in 1990 and 1991.

Maybe I’m missing something, but can you please provide any insight and/or clarification?

I love Lady Gaga. But, I love Mariah more!


Travis Parker Lee
Arlington, Virginia

Hi Travis,

Both divas dominated with four career-opening No. 1 songs – but on different charts.

Mariah Carey topped the Hot 100 with “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday” and “I Don’t Wanna Cry” in 1990-91.

Lady Gaga has led the mainstream top 40-based Pop Songs radio airplay chart with “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame” and “Paparazzi,” a record run from the start of an artist’s career on the 17-year-old tally. She could add a fifth, as “Bad Romance” darts 13-11. And at No. 36, she bows this week with her sixth entry on Pop Songs, “Telephone,” featuring Beyonce.

Gaga is Walters’ second-most “fascinating” person of the year, trailing only Michelle Obama. One other musician made the list – Adam Lambert – while Michael Jackson‘s three children, Paris Michael Katherine, Prince Michael Jr., and Prince Michael II (“Blanket”), share the No. 10 ranking.

On Billboard’s 2009 year-end chart festivities, Lady Gaga is a standout. She earns the coveted honors of the year’s top new artist, top Hot 100 artist, top female Hot 100 artist, top Hot Digital Songs artist, top Pop Songs artist, top Hot Dance Airplay artist, top Dance/Electronic Albums artist and has the top Dance/Electronic Album (“The Fame”).