Coldplay Cries “Viva,” Rules iTunes’ World

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Ed. note: Chris “dennisobell” Molanphy, our resident chart guru, looks at the upward, downward, and lack of movement on this week’s Billboard charts:

If only Chris Martin were holding an iPhone 3G: then his band would be atop the charts.

As it stands, Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” fueled by Apple’s latest saturation-play TV commercial for iTunes, makes a bid for the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100 and lands at No. 3. They storm Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” fortress armed with blockbuster digital sales and sparse radio airplay. If Steve Jobs’ minions keep that sleek ad on the air a couple more weeks, Coldplay could yet see the summit.

And even if I were among the Coldplay-haters out there, I’d be rooting hard for Martin & co., because the next U.S. No. 1 single is either going to be theirs or Idolator’s early pick for worst single of 2008.

By leaping into the top three, Coldplay score their biggest-ever U.S. hit, three years after “Speed of Sound” debuted and peaked at No. 8. Billboard chart columnist Fred Bronson notes that, as of last week, when “Viva” rose into the winners’ circle, Coldplay became the first all-male U.K. band to score two Top 10 U.S. hits since Jesus Jones in 1991.

(Bonus points to the first commenter who can name the second Jesus Jones hit! Extra-double bonus if you can name the British girl group that scored multiple Top 10s more recently.)

Until the Viva la Vida album officially goes on sale, iTunes has an exclusive on legal downloads of “Viva la Vida” the single–unsurprisingly, given the Apple ad campaign. The song moves almost 220,000 buck-a-song downloads at iTunes, making it the week’s top seller by a long shot (some 25,000 downloads over Lil Wayne). The band continues to work two singles simultaneously, but as with so many things in life, availability is trumped by publicity: the rock single release, “Violet Hill,” is available at both iTunes and Amazon, but without the benefit of a heavily-played TV commercial, “Violet” moves 37,000 downloads, or about one-sixth the total of “Viva.”

“Viva” is going to need to maintain that killer sales total, because its airplay as yet is anemic. It’s nowhere to be found on the Hot 100 Airplay list. Top 40 stations haven’t been enticed to play it yet, and even modern-rock stations, which do contribute points to the Hot 100, aren’t playing it much, having already committed to the Top 10 Modern Rock hit “Violet Hill.”

At this point, Weezy’s “Lollipop” is clinging to the top rung, its fourth week there, thanks to inertia. His sales are impressively consistent week to week–as of late May, he’s getting a boost from the release of the Kanye West remix–and he’s had the most-played song at radio for five weeks now. As we say here all the time, you generally need both sales and airplay to top the Hot 100 and stay there.

Which is what makes Katy Perry’s ghastly “I Kissed a Girl” such a formidable contender. It vaults 16 notches into the top five, and the boost comes from both your computer and your radio. On the digital side, sales more than doubled, ranking it third among buck-a-songs for the week. And on the airwaves, while it’s still ranked below the 50 most-played songs at radio overall, “Kissed” is exploding at strictly Top 40 stations: up more than 1,100 spins in the last week alone, the biggest gainer at Z-Schlock broadcasters nationwide.

Double-barreled growth like that makes Perry the clear favorite to top the chart… eventually. But in the next couple of weeks, my money’s on either Weezy holding tight (“Lollipop” has settled into that Flo Rida/”Low” phase–viral among kids, lazily overplayed by programmers) or Coldplay going the last mile. Unless she’s got a TV appearance planned, Perry has no one-week catalyst boosting her in the next few weeks–just her blandly titillating TRL-bait video. Meanwhile, Coldplay is going to have at least one more catalyst, namely their June 17 album release. And Apple probably won’t hold back on the iTunes ad in the meantime; if anything hurts that strategy now, it’s the end of TV sweeps and the start of the low-rated summer season.

Maybe now’s the time for Chris Martin to call in that Kanye favor?

Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:

• Before we leave off discussing Lil Wayne, it should be said that he had a great week on the charts all around. After recording “Lollipop” as a virtual homage to the T-Pain sound without T-Pain, Wayne released an actual duet with the autotuning Floridian, “Got Money,” and scores an instant No. 13 position for his trouble. The stellar debut by Wayne-n-Pain is thanks to first-week sales of more than 93,000 downloads. Looks like the setup for Tha Carter III is as primed as it’s gonna get–no backing out now!

Billboard points out that, with this debut, Weezy now has four listings in the Top 40, three of which (this is the impressive part) are as a lead artist. “That’s the most for a lead [rapper] since 50 Cent had three [on] May 7, 2005,” Billboard notes. The other two hits are his own “A Milli,” which reenters the Top 40 at No. 34; and his supporting credit on the Beyonce remix of Usher’s “Love in This Club,” which rises to No. 25.

Oh yeah, and “Lollipop” still rules the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart; it probably doesn’t hurt that airplay for the Kanye remix counts toward the song’s overall chart points.

• It’s hard to tell just by glancing at the Top 10 below, but the Modern Rock list is hotly competitive this week. Idolator rock-radio guru Al Shipley and I have occasionally discussed which times of year are biggest for rock airplay, and this week I think we have further evidence that summer is one of the biggest.

Every song in the Top 10 earns a bullet (Billboard‘s indicator of outsized points growth), but three songs move backwards even while bulleting–which means the songs that pushed them back are growing even faster. The backward movers are as follows. Seether’s “Rise Above This” drops to No. 3, outgunned by the Offspring’s “Hammerhead” at No. 2; the former rises 27% in airplay, but the aging SoCal punks beat them by posting a more than 140% airplay boost. (Yikes!) Also exploding in airplay by nearly as large a percentage is Foo Fighters’ “Let It Die” at No. 5, which sends Linkin Park’s “Given Up” back one to No. 6 despite nearly 60% airplay growth. Finally, the Raconteurs’ three-month-old “Salute Your Solution” drops two spots to No. 10, despite growing nearly 40% in spins, because airplay for Death Cab at No. 8 and Coldplay at No. 9 each nearly double from the previous week.

• Live by iTunes, die by iTunes: one week after setting a slew of chart records, American Idol ’08 winner David Cook sees three-fourths of his 11 chart hits instantly vaporized. The culprit isn’t America’s short attention span; it’s that iTunes complied with the instructions of 19 Productions and pulled everything from the Store except Cook’s winning song, “The Time of My Life.” If anything, where that song’s concerned, Cook looks pretty good this week–“Time” hangs onto the Top 10 (down six to No. 9), as his sales fall by 31%, an impressively small drop.

I can’t explain why Cook’s “Dream Big” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” are still on the chart–the former plummeting from No. 15 to No. 81, the latter from No. 22 to No. 85. They were pulled from iTunes last week along with everything else. One possibility, based on arcane digital-sales stuff I’ve read in Billboard: like many e-retailers, Apple might book and report some of its song sales late, after folks’ credit cards are charged, in which case a few thousand sales might have fallen into the start of the next tracking week. But that’s just a theory. In any case, by next week, Cook will be a one-hit pony.

• The most interesting development on this week’s Hot Country chart is also the most depressing: the tyranny of Jessica Simpson’s voice continues. Her first Nashville single, “Come on Over,” debuts at an unimpeachable No. 41. According to Billboard, that’s the biggest start for any new artist on the Country chart since it began using actual radio counts 18 years ago. I mean, is it a hot-young-blonde thing? I blame Carrie Underwood.

Top 10s Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses (Digital Songs chart includes total downloads/percentage change in parentheses):

Hot 100 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 2. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 2, 16 weeks) 3. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 10, 4 weeks) 4. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 4, 8 weeks) 5. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 21, 4 weeks) 6. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 6, 16 weeks) 7. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 5, 22 weeks) 8. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 7, 18 weeks) 9. David Cook, “The Time of My Life” (LW No. 3, 2 weeks) 10. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 8, 11 weeks)

Hot Digital Songs 1. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 4, 219,000 downloads, +58%) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 2, 192,000 downloads, +18%) 3. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 13, 172,000 downloads, +111%) 4. David Cook, “The Time of My Life” (LW No. 1, 163,000 downloads, -31%) 5. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 3, 124,000 downloads, -14%) 6. Lil Wayne feat. T-Pain, “Got Money” (CHART DEBUT, 114,000 downloads) 7. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 5, 108,000 downloads, -12%) 8. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 6, 110,000 downloads, -4%) 9. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 8, 94,000 downloads, -4%) 10. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 12, 77,000 downloads, -9%)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 2. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks) 3. Keyshia Cole, “Heaven Sent” (LW No. 3, 10 weeks) 4. Chris Brown, “Take You Down” (LW No. 4, 10 weeks) 5. The-Dream, “I Luv Your Girl” (LW No. 7, 14 weeks) 6. Ashanti, “The Way That I Love You” (LW No. 6, 16 weeks) 7. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 5, 17 weeks) 8. Alicia Keys, “Teenage Love Affair” (LW No. 15, 16 weeks) 9. Usher feat. Beyonce and Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club, Part II” (LW No. 10, 6 weeks) 10. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 8, 13 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 1, 15 weeks) 2. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 4, 15 weeks) 3. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” (LW No. 5, 35 weeks) 4. Phil Vassar, “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” (LW No. 2, 301 weeks) 5. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 7, 12 weeks) 6. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 6, 11 weeks) 7. James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (LW No. 3, 33 weeks) 8. Blake Shelton, “Home” (LW No. 8, 19 weeks) 9. Montgomery Gentry, “Back When I Knew It All” (LW No. 9, 15 weeks) 10. Alan Jackson, “Good Time” (LW No. 12, 8 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 1, 7 weeks) 2. The Offspring, “Hammerhead” (LW No. 3, 4 weeks) 3. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 4. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 4, 9 weeks) 5. Foo Fighters, “Let It Die” (LW No. 6, 9 weeks) 6. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 5, 13 weeks) 7. Nine Inch Nails, “Discipline” (LW No. 7, 6 weeks) 8. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 9, 11 weeks) 9. Coldplay, “Violet Hill” (LW No. 10, 5 weeks) 10. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 8, 10 weeks)