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Chart Beat Tuesday: Neil Diamond, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks

Ho-ho-how many of his previous song titles can Neil Diamond incorporate in his new holiday hit? The legend bows on Adult Contemporary.

HAVE YOURSELF A CHERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS: Neil Diamond enjoys his highest Adult Contemporary chart position in more than 17 years, as “Cherry Cherry Christmas” debuts at No. 26. Diamond last placed higher when “Don’t Turn Around” – which went on to become a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for Ace of Base in 1994 – ranked at No. 22 on the chart dated March 7, 1992.

“Cherry Cherry Christmas” is Diamond’s second holiday hit to reach the Adult Contemporary chart: “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” climbed to No. 28 in 1985. The latter song is one of the few Diamond titles seemingly not receiving a mention in the new carol’s playful, self-referencing lyrics. Diamond’s new chart entry name-drops eight of his previous hit recordings:

“Cherry Cherry”
“Holly Holy”
“Song Sung Blue”
“Pretty Amazing Grace”
“If You Know What I Mean”
“I’m a Believer”
“Red, Red Wine”
“Sweet Caroline” (including the song’s crowd-favorite “so good, so good, so good!” exultation)

With this issue’s bow, Diamond ups his count to 58 career Adult Contemporary chart entries. In the tally’s 48-year history, only Elton John (68) and Barbra Streisand (64) have made more appearances.

CLARKSON CLIMBS TO NO. 1: Kelly Clarkson collects her second No. 1 on Adult Pop Songs, as “Already Gone” ascends 2-1. Clarkson spent five weeks at the summit with “Behind These Hazel Eyes” in 2005.

The song’s coronation marks the third consecutive leader on the survey for the RCA Music Group record label. Daughtry led for two weeks with “No Surprise” in September, and Kings of Leon followed with an 11-week reign with “Use Somebody.” The only prior label to link a trio of toppers in the chart’s 13-year history was Arista (now an imprint distributed by the RCA Music Group), which monopolized the top spot for 39 straight weeks with Avril Lavigne‘s “Complicated,” Santana‘s “The Game of Love,” featuring Michelle Branch, and Lavigne’s “I’m With You” in 2002-03.

“Already Gone” marks the third Adult Top 40 No. 1 for the song’s co-writer, Ryan Tedder, who co-authored Timbaland‘s “Apologize,” featuring his band OneRepublic, and Leona Lewis‘ “Bleeding Love.”

DON’T STOP THE ‘MUSIC’: 26 years ago this week, Shannon’s classic jam “Let the Music Play” spent its sixth and final week at No. 1 on the Dance/Club Play Songs chart. This week, Jordin Sparks‘ interpolation of the track, “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play),” rises 2-1 on the survey. Sparks’ sole prior entry on the chart, “No Air,” peaked at No. 41.

Sparks’ new leader is the first cut to return a smash title to the summit of Dance/Club Play Songs this year after three such songs reigned in 2008. Last year, Clarkson and Sparks’ fellow “American Idol” finalist Kimberley Locke led with a cover of Fred Payne’s 1970 evergreen “Band of Gold,” Erin Hamilton burned a path to No. 1 updating Cheap Trick‘s 1988 Hot 100 topper “The Flame” and Yoko Ono revived her late husband’s “Give Peace a Chance,” originally credited to John Lennon‘s Plastic Ono Band in 1969.

COMPLETE BEAT: Check Chart Beat Thursday for more chart achievements, including action on the Billboard 200, which, as of this week, segues from a current-exclusive survey to an all-encompassing list, now housing titles of all eras, regardless of release date.

We’ll also rundown the first Folk Albums tally, which becomes the newest member of Billboard’s chart menu.