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Pop Songs: Where The Boys Are

Taio Cruz becomes the 13th male to top Billboard's 17-year-old Pop Songs chart; five have led since October. What's behind the trend?

The revolving door atop Billboard’s Pop Songs radio airplay chart ushers in another rookie male artist, as Taio Cruz rises 3-1 with his introductory track “Break Your Heart,” featuring Ludacris.

The British-born Cruz commands the list a week after B.o.B became the 12th lead solo male to reign with a first entry. While eight male rookies ruled between the chart’s inception in 1992 through 2008, Cruz is the fifth to reign since October, when Jay Sean reached the summit with “Down.” Jason DeRulo and Iyaz followed Sean to No. 1 last year.


(With 10,709 plays logged in the Pop Songs chart’s tracking week (May 10-16) on 132 stations (an average of 81 plays per station), according to Nielsen BDS, “Break Your Heart” is the most-played title in a week by a male singer in the survey’s 17-year history).

Here is a look at the 13 lead male soloists to top Pop Songs with their first charted titles:

Artist, Title, Year
Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris, “Break Your Heart,” 2010
B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars, “Nothin’ on You,” 2010
Iyaz, “Replay,” 2009
Jason DeRulo, “Whatcha Say,” 2009
Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne, “Down,” 2009
Flo Rida, “Low,” 2008
Ne-Yo, “So Sick,” 2006
Chris Brown, “Run It!,” 2005
Gavin DeGraw, “I Don’t Want to Be,” 2005
Lou Bega, “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of …),” 2000
Ricky Martin, “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” 1999
Eagle Eye Cherry, “Save Tonight,” 1998
Shawn Mullins, “Lullaby,” 1998

Is the recent upswing in new male artists ruling Pop Songs a coincidence? Or, are mainstream top 40 programmers more actively seeking a balance between male and female vocals in the upper reaches of their playlists?

WHTG (Hit 106)/Monmouth, New Jersey program director/music director Matt Knight cites an “abundance of good songs by male artists right now.”

“Pop is a cyclical format, not just by genre, but in terms of male and female artists, as well. 2009 saw Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha and the resurgence of Britney Spears. Now, there’s a great selection of male artists such as Cruz, Usher and B.o.B,” says Knight, who anoints “B.o.B Presents: the Adventures of Bobby Ray” his “favorite hip-hop album of the last five years.”

“I believe that a good song is just that, regardless of whether a male or female singer is performing it.”

Zapoleon Media Strategies president and Hitpredictor partner Guy Zapoleon likewise theorizes that Cruz’s new leader continues a longstanding pattern in which pop radio listeners will always seek one of the format’s hallmarks: variety.

“By their very nature, tastes of the public swing like a pendulum from one side to the other. People always want what they aren’t hearing,” says Zapoleon, who, among his storied radio career, is credited for reviving UB40‘s No. 34 1984 Hot 100 hit “Red Red Wine” while at KZZP/Phoenix in 1988; strong listener reaction to airplay on the station spurred A&M Records to re-release the song, resulting in it reaching No. 1 that October.

“(Listeners) want variety, and there has been such a flood of incredible music from great female artists that the pendulum was destined to swing back to some great music from male artists.

Concurring with Knight that a song’s strength is the ultimate key to programmer acceptance, Zapoleon says that Cruz’s hit easily passes the test.

“‘Break Your Heart’ is one of the best and most memorable songs of the past couple of years.”