Green Day Own Rock Charts, Prepare to Qualify

The most notable move on any of Billboard‘s flagship singles charts this week isn’t on the Hot 100, where the Black Eyed Peas make it a month at No. 1 with the tiresome “Boom Boom Pow.” Instead, over on the normally snoozy Modern Rock chart, a veteran band makes the second-biggest leap to No. 1 in a decade and a half, and in the process breaks out of a tie with U2 for the second-biggest roster of penthouse-dwellers in this chart’s history. I’m speaking of Green Day, a band with arguably the most daunting challenge of any act in post-millennial rock (especially since Axl Rose finally got Chinese Democracy out of his system): following up an album that hit the trifecta of popular success, critical acclaim and industry recognition. Scoring a No. 1 hit right away at radio sets up that forthcoming album nicely. But a close examination of the erstwhile Bay Area punkers’ chart history indicates that this quick score doesn’t necessarily mean much as a predictor of Green Day’s success. In its second week, “Know Your Enemy,” the leadoff single from the May 15 release 21st Century Breakdown, leaps from No. 8 to No. 1 at Modern Rock. That gives Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool the biggest jump to the top since Nirvana’s “All Apologies” moved from No. 9 to the summit in January 1994. (For all you nostalgists out there, that Nirvana hit almost booted Pearl Jam from the No. 1 spot — Seattle showdown alert! — but instead, “Daughter” was succeeded for a single week by the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You,” which was then ousted by “All Apologies.” Two weeks later, Nirvana was booted by Beck’s “Loser.” Ah, 1994.) “Enemy” is Green Day’s ninth career No. 1, putting them solidly in second place on the all-time list of Modern Rock chart-toppers. Only the Red Hot Chili Peppers have done better, with a staggering 11 bell-ringers. U2, with eight, now fall to third place (and it doesn’t look like any tracks from No Line on the Horizon are going to change that; “Get on Your Boots” barely scraped the Top Five two months ago, and this week, second single “Magnificent” moves up one piddling notch, sans bullet, to No. 19). This chart tracks radio airplay, which means it’s basically a barometer of the bands that rock programmers rely on to keep twitchy 18‒49 year-old males from flipping the dial. To those programmers, Green Day sit alongside the Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, and (lately) Incubus among reliable name-brand hit-producers. Like those other four acts, what’s most remarkable about Green Day’s track record is its consistency. Out of a total 24 charting Modern Rock hits, only six missed the Top 10, a 75% winners’-circle ratio. Actually, that’s not even the most impressive figure. The Chili Peppers’ Top 10 ratio is 88%, with only three out of 24 chart hits missing. Linkin Park’s is 80%; the Foos’ is a slightly less impressive 72%; and little ol’ Incubus — with only 14 chart hits since 1999 — has an insane 93% Top 10 hit ratio, with only one charted song missing the top decile. (Just this week, Incubus adds the 13th of those Top 10 hits to its roster, as “Black Heart Inertia” moves up to No. 9.) The one way Green Day has its rock-radio peers beat is their ratio of No. 1 hits — nine out of 24 charted songs, or 38% — and the speed with which they charged out of the gate. The first single from their first major-label album, Dookie‘s “Longview,” marched to No. 1. Sure, by 1994, they’d been a band for more than six years, having kicked around the East Bay punk scene before landing their Warner Bros. contract. But no other act dropped a major-label single and managed to ring the bell that quickly — even bands with a big leg up, like the Chilis (already four albums deep on the majors when the Modern Rock chart launched) or the Foos (massive on impact thanks to Dave Grohl’s previous fame), started with a few hits that fell just shy of the top. As nice as all these radio hits are for Green Day, the point of hits, especially rock-format hits, is to sell albums. And over these 15 years of hitmaking, there’s a somewhat wobbly relationship between the band’s chart-toppers and their sales. True, their two best-selling albums have produced three No. 1 hits each, which makes intuitive sense. The 10-times platinum Dookie (still their all-time best-seller) squeezed out the 1994 chart-toppers “Longview,” “Basket Case,” and “When I Come Around.” And 10 years later, American Idiot rang the bell with the title track, as well as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Holiday.” It’s those other big hits that don’t follow any pattern. In 1995, “J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)” came from the Angus soundtrack and benefited from Green Day’s massive post-Dookie radio profile, shooting to No. 1 while not being especially memorable or making the movie — or its soundtrack — a hit. Even less predictive was the jig-like 2000 hit “Minority,” which topped the charts in under a month but did little to boost sales of Warning, Green Day’s lowest-selling album. (Seriously: even the two independent albums the band released on Lookout! before the Warners contract have outsold that merely gold album by now.) On the flip side, some of Green Day’s most enduring radio gold missed the top entirely, including 1996’s “Brain Stew/Jaded” (still a radio favorite) or 1997’s TV-montage-friendly “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” In short, what does the quick success of “Know Your Enemy” — a classicist, if not classic, Green Day single if ever there was one — mean for 21st Century Breakdown? At the very least, it seems to suggest pent-up excitement for new material from the band. It’s been almost four years since the Idiot promotional cycle wound down (a period during which the band has only dropped an odd, pseudonymous disc designed to kill time). Honest-to-goodness Green Day(TM) material is surely hotly anticipated — but perversely, the song’s topping the charts in only two weeks suggests only that radio programmers are excited for the disc, not average fans per se. You might also think it meant a clear No. 1 debut for the album, but even that’s not assured. The band has only topped the album chart once (with Idiot), and Warner’s off-cycle release of the disc on a Friday could have weird chart effects. Plus, remember “Minority”: one of the band’s fastest-rising hits, from its worst-selling album. Truth be told, whether this is the last chart-topper for Green Day from this album will probably have something to do with a very basic metric: whether the disc is any good. For most acts, the correlation between Modern Rock chart-toppers and artistic quality is often exceedingly low. But the fact is, Green Day’s two biggest albums, with the largest quantity of hits, also happen to be its two best — something that can’t be said about, say, the Chili Peppers or Foo Fighters. I mean, personally, I’m actually a fan of the underloved 2000 album Warning, but I wouldn’t claim it’s the equal of Dookie or Idiot. Whether Breakdown is another Warning, or one of the latter, remains to be seen.Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts: • Turning now to another chart that’s been sleepy, and still is: R&B/Hip-Hop, where Jamie Foxx is in his 12th week at No. 1 with “Blame It.” But that stasis is what’s interesting — as Billboard‘s Chart Beat team notes, that 12-week reign already puts Foxx in a three-way tie for third place on the all-time list of R&B longevity champs. One more week in the penthouse for “Blame It,” and it’s got third place to itself. Two more weeks, and it’s tied for second place with 14-week chart toppers “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” (Deborah Cox, 1998-99) and “We Belong Together” (Mariah Carey, 2005). Three more weeks, and he ties all-time champ “Be Without You,” a Mary J. Blige track that led the list for 15 weeks in 2006. Now I’m wondering whether Foxx can threaten for No. 1 on the Hot 100. “Blame It,” ranked No. 4 there, has been storming the big chart based largely on airplay; for the past two weeks, it’s been the most-played track in the country. What it has lacked all along has been the massive iTunes sales a No. 1 hit needs. While “Blame” has scraped the Digital Sales Top 10, it’s never really broken the six-figure range in weekly sales; this week it rolls about 73,000 downloads. However, Foxx’s appearances on this week’s American Idol have given the track a lift, and it’s currently ranked fourth on iTunes. To reach the top, Foxx doesn’t have to have a top-seller, just enough sales to combine with his huge airplay and threaten the Black Eyed Peas. I know who I’m rooting for. • Two more singles in the Hot 100’s Top 10 are breaking the followup curse we’ve discussed around here a lot lately — i.e., the difficulty blockbuster-level acts are having following up their chart-topping smashes. Neither track is likely to go all the way to No. 1, but each is making a solid appearance. Flo Rida’s “Sugar” rises to No. 7, instantly giving him his third-biggest hit (it surpasses last year’s “In the Ayer,” which peaked at No. 9). More importantly, he pulled a direct Top 10 followup to his No. 1 hit “Right Round” (which is still in the Top Five) without breaking a sweat, something that eluded him during the aftermath of last year’s megasmash “Low.” The other Top 10 debutante this week is a veteran, Beyonce, whose “Halo” finally reaches the winners’ circle after a slow (for her) 14-week climb. I frankly doubted after the undeniable “Single Ladies” that anything from I Am… Sasha Fierce would find favor at radio, but B’s proved me wrong. I’ll still be surprised if it makes the Top Five, though. • Speaking of followup hits: Soulja Boy, seriously?!! With two Top 10 hits on the R&B/Hip-Hop list? This kid was supposed to have the longevity of a ringtone.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. The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (LW No. 1, 7 weeks) 2. Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” (LW No. 2, 19 weeks) 3. Kid Cudi, “Day ‘N’ Nite” (LW No. 6, 15 weeks) 4. Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain, “Blame It” (LW No. 7, 15 weeks) 5. Flo Rida, “Right Round” (LW No. 3, 13 weeks) 6. Soulja Boy feat. Sammie, “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” (LW No. 5, 18 weeks) 7. Flo Rida feat. Wynter, “Sugar” (LW No. 15, 6 weeks) 8. T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake, “Dead and Gone” (LW No. 8, 21 weeks) 9. Miley Cyrus, “The Climb” (LW No. 4, 8 weeks) 10. Beyonce, “Halo” (LW No. 12, 14 weeks)Hot Digital Songs 1. The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (LW No. 1, 226,000 downloads) 2. Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” (LW No. 4, 128,000 downloads) 3. Flo Rida feat. Wynter, “Sugar ” (LW No. 15, 127,000 downloads) 4. Miley Cyrus, “The Climb” (LW No. 2, 125,000 downloads) 5. Kid Cudi, “Day ‘N’ Nite” (LW No. 5, 121,000 downloads) 6. Eminem, “We Made You” (LW No. 3, 113,000 downloads) 7. Flo Rida, “Right Round” (LW No. 6, 98,000 downloads) 8. 3OH!3, “Don’t Trust Me” (LW No. 14, 96,000 downloads) 9. Soulja Boy feat. Sammie, “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” (LW No. 9, 84,000 downloads) 10. Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain, “Blame It” (LW No. 11, 73,000 downloads)Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain, “Blame It” (LW No. 1, 20 weeks) 2. The-Dream, “Rockin’ That Thang” (LW No. 4, 21 weeks) 3. Pleasure P, “Boyfriend #2” (LW No. 6, 13 weeks) 4. Keri Hilson feat. Lil Wayne, “Turnin’ Me On” (LW No. 3, 23 weeks) 5. Soulja Boy, “Turn My Swag On,” (LW No. 7, 15 weeks) 6. T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake, “Dead and Gone” (LW No. 2, 16 weeks) 7. Jennifer Hudson, “If This Isn’t Love” (LW No. 10, 24 weeks) 8. Soulja Boy feat. Sammie, “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” (LW No. 5, 18 weeks) 9. Kid Cudi, “Day ‘N’ Nite” (LW No. 13, 10 weeks) 10. Rick Ross feat. John Legend, “Magnificent” (LW No. 8, 13 weeks)Hot Country Songs 1. Rodney Atkins, “It’s America” (LW No. 1, 24 weeks) 2. Jason Aldean, “She’s Country” (LW No. 3, 23 weeks) 3. Carrie Underwood feat. Randy Travis, “I Told You So” (LW No. 4, 15 weeks) 4. Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks) 5. Sugarland, “It Happens” (LW No. 6, 11 weeks) 6. Keith Urban, “Kiss a Girl” (LW No. 9, 7 weeks) 7. Brad Paisley, “Then” (LW No. 10, 6 weeks) 8. Montgomery Gentry, “One in Every Crowd” (LW No. 11, 14 weeks) 9. Kenny Chesney, “Out Last Night” (LW No. 12, 5 weeks) 10. Tim McGraw, “Nothin’ to Die For” (LW No. 5, 19 weeks)Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Green Day, “Know Your Enemy” (LW No. 8, 2 weeks) 2. Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 3. Anberlin, “Feel Good Drag” (LW No. 1, 30 weeks) 4. Rise Against, “Audience of One” (LW No. 4, 17 weeks) 5. 311, “Hey You” (LW No. 6, 3 weeks) 6. Seether, “Careless Whisper” (LW No. 5, 9 weeks) 7. Papa Roach, “Lifeline” (LW No. 3, 15 weeks) 8. Silversun Pickups, “Panic Switch” (LW No. 7, 7 weeks) 9. Incubus, “Black Heart Inertia” (LW No. 10, 4 weeks) 10. Blue October, “Dirt Room” (LW No. 9, 17 weeks)