Chris Molanphy

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Boy Least Likely: Jay Sean Sinks Black Eyed Peas’ Titanic Run

jaysean1Remember Lost in Space? What a timeless film: William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, and TV greats Lacey Chabert and Matt LeBlanc. Back in 1998, there was such excitement for this cinematic recreation of the classic ’60s CBS series.

What’s that? You say you don’t remember this bit of Clinton-era movie magic? Or…you do, vaguely — but you seem to recall that it kind of blew chunks?

Well, how could that be? After all, Lost in Space was the movie that evicted Titanic, the highest-grossing and Oscar-winningest movie of all time, from the top of the U.S. box office after a record-setting, still unbeaten run.

This bit of throwaway trivia (regarding a movie that, all kidding aside, was a serious flop) leaps to mind as I consider the song that finally terminates the Black Eyed Peas’ half-year run atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Jay Sean’s “Down,” to be fair, isn’t half as bad a song as Lost in Space was a movie. It’s a pleasant little ditty, a Chris Brown‒like midtempo jam with a not-embarrassing supporting rap from prodigal chart hero Lil Wayne. London native Sean — born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti — also earns the happy status as one of the few people of South Asian descent to top our singles chart, after a successful half-decade career hitting charts in the United Kingdom and India.

Still, there’s no question that the Hot 100 win by “Down,” over a very competitive field of songs-in-waiting, has less to do with love for the track than with the Peas at last letting go. Jay Sean should enjoy the victory he’s eked out, because it will likely be short-lived. More »

jaysean1Remember Lost in Space? What a timeless film: William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, and TV greats Lacey Chabert and Matt LeBlanc. Back in 1998, there was such excitement for this cinematic recreation of the classic ’60s CBS series.

What’s that? You say you don’t remember this bit of Clinton-era movie magic? Or…you do, vaguely — but you seem to recall that it kind of blew chunks?

Well, how could that be? After all, Lost in Space was the movie that evicted Titanic, the highest-grossing and Oscar-winningest movie of all time, from the top of the U.S. box office after a record-setting, still unbeaten run.

This bit of throwaway trivia (regarding a movie that, all kidding aside, was a serious flop) leaps to mind as I consider the song that finally terminates the Black Eyed Peas’ half-year run atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Jay Sean’s “Down,” to be fair, isn’t half as bad a song as Lost in Space was a movie. It’s a pleasant little ditty, a Chris Brown‒like midtempo jam with a not-embarrassing supporting rap from prodigal chart hero Lil Wayne. London native Sean — born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti — also earns the happy status as one of the few people of South Asian descent to top our singles chart, after a successful half-decade career hitting charts in the United Kingdom and India.

Still, there’s no question that the Hot 100 win by “Down,” over a very competitive field of songs-in-waiting, has less to do with love for the track than with the Peas at last letting go. Jay Sean should enjoy the victory he’s eked out, because it will likely be short-lived. More »

Letting Her Finish: Taylor Swift Completes Country’s Pop-Chart Comeback

58337136In his 1990s heyday, Garth Brooks refused to release even his biggest songs, from “Friends in Low Places” to “Shameless,” as singles. Sure, it pumped up his album sales. And mostly, he was following the Nashville convention at the time, wherein country hits were generally released only as noncommercial 45’s for jukeboxes.

But Brooks was no ordinary country act; he was the bestselling ’90s act of any genre, period. If anyone could have sold truckloads of singles like a pop act, it would have been him. No, Brooks eschewed them, in part, to prove a point: in interviews, he acknowledged that singles would have made him eligible for Billboard‘s Hot 100, and Brooks was proud that the bulk of his blockbuster sales came from the country radio audience alone.

Brooks’s chip-on-shoulder attitude was emblematic of most ’90s Nashville stars, who nursed still-fresh memories of the Urban Cowboy fad of the late ’70s and early ’80s. That’s when Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton scored huge crossover Top 40 hits — before the pop audience abruptly fled in droves (blame MTV and Michael Jackson). For the rest of the ’80s, country stars like Alabama and the Judds sold albums on the strength of county radio alone.

A proud country star, Brooks danced with the audience that brung him. (Well, except for that Chris Gaines thing, but that’s a topic for another day.) But as the ’90s veered toward the ’00s, bit by bit, country acts were seduced to the pop side of the dial again.

So think of this week’s charts as the culmination of a two-decade pendulum swing. For the first time since probably “Islands in the Stream,” the most-played song on American radio is a country tune — sung by America’s new sweetheart, who, usurping rappers aside, just put her first MTV Video Music Award on the mantle. More »

58337136In his 1990s heyday, Garth Brooks refused to release even his biggest songs, from “Friends in Low Places” to “Shameless,” as singles. Sure, it pumped up his album sales. And mostly, he was following the Nashville convention at the time, wherein country hits were generally released only as noncommercial 45’s for jukeboxes.

But Brooks was no ordinary country act; he was the bestselling ’90s act of any genre, period. If anyone could have sold truckloads of singles like a pop act, it would have been him. No, Brooks eschewed them, in part, to prove a point: in interviews, he acknowledged that singles would have made him eligible for Billboard‘s Hot 100, and Brooks was proud that the bulk of his blockbuster sales came from the country radio audience alone.

Brooks’s chip-on-shoulder attitude was emblematic of most ’90s Nashville stars, who nursed still-fresh memories of the Urban Cowboy fad of the late ’70s and early ’80s. That’s when Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton scored huge crossover Top 40 hits — before the pop audience abruptly fled in droves (blame MTV and Michael Jackson). For the rest of the ’80s, country stars like Alabama and the Judds sold albums on the strength of county radio alone.

A proud country star, Brooks danced with the audience that brung him. (Well, except for that Chris Gaines thing, but that’s a topic for another day.) But as the ’90s veered toward the ’00s, bit by bit, country acts were seduced to the pop side of the dial again.

So think of this week’s charts as the culmination of a two-decade pendulum swing. For the first time since probably “Islands in the Stream,” the most-played song on American radio is a country tune — sung by America’s new sweetheart, who, usurping rappers aside, just put her first MTV Video Music Award on the mantle. More »

Belting Like It’s 1989: Mariah And Whitney Enjoy (Fleeting) Chart Redemption

1mariahwhitneyWe complain often around here about the mainstream media’s tendency to oversimplify music stories in their quest for an easy headline. This week, Billboard‘s Hot 100 and Billboard 200 suggest splashy headlines that practically write themselves: Return of the Big-Voiced Divas!

Topping the album chart is Whitney Houston’s much-dissected comeback effort I Look to You, her first No. 1 disc in more than 16 years. And breaking into the Top 10 on the songs chart is her onetime rival and duet partner, Mariah Carey, with the beleaguered pre-album track “Obsessed” — the single that might bring her one step closer to tying the Beatles’ all-time record for Hot 100 chart-toppers.

So: mission accomplished, right? We can pretend pegged jeans and Bill Clinton are back in style, because Diva Era Redux is on? (Why not: Melrose Place is on the tube again!)

Sure, let’s let the two aging pop queens enjoy their week of glory; in Houston’s case especially, it’s earned (and all the intense press Carey’s been getting lately almost makes me feel for her). But a close look at the numbers that brought them back to the winners’ circle suggests that we might not be talking much about these two come Christmas. More »

1mariahwhitneyWe complain often around here about the mainstream media’s tendency to oversimplify music stories in their quest for an easy headline. This week, Billboard‘s Hot 100 and Billboard 200 suggest splashy headlines that practically write themselves: Return of the Big-Voiced Divas!

Topping the album chart is Whitney Houston’s much-dissected comeback effort I Look to You, her first No. 1 disc in more than 16 years. And breaking into the Top 10 on the songs chart is her onetime rival and duet partner, Mariah Carey, with the beleaguered pre-album track “Obsessed” — the single that might bring her one step closer to tying the Beatles’ all-time record for Hot 100 chart-toppers.

So: mission accomplished, right? We can pretend pegged jeans and Bill Clinton are back in style, because Diva Era Redux is on? (Why not: Melrose Place is on the tube again!)

Sure, let’s let the two aging pop queens enjoy their week of glory; in Houston’s case especially, it’s earned (and all the intense press Carey’s been getting lately almost makes me feel for her). But a close look at the numbers that brought them back to the winners’ circle suggests that we might not be talking much about these two come Christmas. More »


Seasonal Allergies: Black Eyed Peas Dominate Hot 100 All Summer Long

57666299As we approach the end of a summer in which some (including including our esteemed editor) claim that there was no one Song of Summer thanks to Michael Jackson looming large in the afterlife, we are a few weeks away from a rare act of chart dominance: Total Hot 100 ownership by a single act for every week of a calendar season.

The Black Eyed Peas have held the top spot on Billboard’s flagship chart for 21 weeks, so long that they’ve already set a new record for consecutive dominance by a single act (beating Usher). Billboard has celebrated that feat with copious coverage.

But for cultural critics who care less about raw chart statistics and more about how said numbers reflect the Zeitgeist, owning an entire summer lock, stock and barrel is a more interesting accomplishment. Depending on whether you define “summer” as going from Memorial Day to Labor Day or from June 21 to Sept. 22, the Peas either have this feat locked up or are just a few weeks away from it.

If they actually make it all the way to mid-September, the Peas will be the first credited artist (not just writer or featured act) to dominate for a full American summer. But several other acts have come pretty close. More »

57666299As we approach the end of a summer in which some (including including our esteemed editor) claim that there was no one Song of Summer thanks to Michael Jackson looming large in the afterlife, we are a few weeks away from a rare act of chart dominance: Total Hot 100 ownership by a single act for every week of a calendar season.

The Black Eyed Peas have held the top spot on Billboard’s flagship chart for 21 weeks, so long that they’ve already set a new record for consecutive dominance by a single act (beating Usher). Billboard has celebrated that feat with copious coverage.

But for cultural critics who care less about raw chart statistics and more about how said numbers reflect the Zeitgeist, owning an entire summer lock, stock and barrel is a more interesting accomplishment. Depending on whether you define “summer” as going from Memorial Day to Labor Day or from June 21 to Sept. 22, the Peas either have this feat locked up or are just a few weeks away from it.

If they actually make it all the way to mid-September, the Peas will be the first credited artist (not just writer or featured act) to dominate for a full American summer. But several other acts have come pretty close. More »

What About Their Friends: Top 10 Debutantes Have Famous Pals to Thank

keriThe charts are in a bit of a Dog Days slumber, so let’s try a little trivia: What’s the most oft-recurring word on Billboard‘s Hot 100 over the last decade? I’m thinking of a word that appeared virtually never prior to, say, 1990 and eventually became ubiquitous. “Remix”? “Tha”/“Da”? “Dre”? “T-Pain”?

No, the most common word on the chart, pretty much every week, is “Featuring.”

This week, for example, 16 songs with “featuring” credits are on the Hot 100—17 if you count a “duet with” credit on Keyshia Cole’s latest single with Monica. (But then it goes back down to 16 if you exclude the craven Pussycat Dolls single “featuring” existing lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, a la Diana Ross in ’67 or George Michael in ’85.)

A dozen of these tracks, unsurprisingly, come from the worlds of R&B and hip-hop – genres where the team-up is standard operating procedure for both emerging acts (Drake, Kid Cudi) and veterans (T.I., Mary J. Blige). On this week’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “featuring” appears no less than 37 times.

Back on the Hot 100, three of this week’s “featurers” are in the Top 10, and two are brand-new to the winners’ circle. Examining just these three tracks, you get a sense of the power of the featured-artist credit. Simply put, in pop music, there are friends, and there are friends. All three of these singles benefit to some degree from the name(s) to the right of the magic word. More »

keriThe charts are in a bit of a Dog Days slumber, so let’s try a little trivia: What’s the most oft-recurring word on Billboard‘s Hot 100 over the last decade? I’m thinking of a word that appeared virtually never prior to, say, 1990 and eventually became ubiquitous. “Remix”? “Tha”/“Da”? “Dre”? “T-Pain”?

No, the most common word on the chart, pretty much every week, is “Featuring.”

This week, for example, 16 songs with “featuring” credits are on the Hot 100—17 if you count a “duet with” credit on Keyshia Cole’s latest single with Monica. (But then it goes back down to 16 if you exclude the craven Pussycat Dolls single “featuring” existing lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, a la Diana Ross in ’67 or George Michael in ’85.)

A dozen of these tracks, unsurprisingly, come from the worlds of R&B and hip-hop – genres where the team-up is standard operating procedure for both emerging acts (Drake, Kid Cudi) and veterans (T.I., Mary J. Blige). On this week’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “featuring” appears no less than 37 times.

Back on the Hot 100, three of this week’s “featurers” are in the Top 10, and two are brand-new to the winners’ circle. Examining just these three tracks, you get a sense of the power of the featured-artist credit. Simply put, in pop music, there are friends, and there are friends. All three of these singles benefit to some degree from the name(s) to the right of the magic word. More »

Brake The Drake? “Degrassi” Alum Scales Chart Despite Online Stumbling Blocks

drake_bestWhen the music story of 2009 is written, the year’s debutante queen and king will be Lady GaGa and Drake, who have treated Billboard‘s Hot 100 as their playground lately. Each is a lock for a Best New Artist Grammy nomination next winter, because each is exactly the sort of not-too-innovative, chart-friendly act the Recording Academy routinely rewards.

For both acts, however, the path to the Top 10 has been a bit of a slog. GaGa’s on a roll now, but she spent most of 2008 watching her debut “Just Dance” creep up the Hot 100 before its January 2009 triumph; each of her chart-toppers needed an abnormally long time to scale the list. Her latest, “LoveGame,” has had the easiest rise of all, even as it peaked below the top slot.

Drake is poised to join GaGa as a debutante chart-topper with “Best I Ever Had” (No. 2), if he can get past the Black Eyed Peas. Compared with the Lady, the former Degrassi: The Next Generation cast member has had an easier time, exploding into the Top 10 with “Best” and the Lil Wayne-backed Young Money single “Every Girl.”

But even Drake has had bumps along the way—in particular, a week in which “Best” took a one-week, Estelle-like swoon thanks to a dispute over who was allowed to release his songs on iTunes. He’s more than recovered, but the mix-up and the song’s temporary plummet show how critical digital sales are to the Hot 100.

I don’t normally talk here about technology or digital rights, but in the wake of Amazon’s disastrous recall of two George Orwell e-books last week, it’s worth exploring what happened to Drake’s hit and what it means for chart tabulation and the songs we buy. More »

drake_bestWhen the music story of 2009 is written, the year’s debutante queen and king will be Lady GaGa and Drake, who have treated Billboard‘s Hot 100 as their playground lately. Each is a lock for a Best New Artist Grammy nomination next winter, because each is exactly the sort of not-too-innovative, chart-friendly act the Recording Academy routinely rewards.

For both acts, however, the path to the Top 10 has been a bit of a slog. GaGa’s on a roll now, but she spent most of 2008 watching her debut “Just Dance” creep up the Hot 100 before its January 2009 triumph; each of her chart-toppers needed an abnormally long time to scale the list. Her latest, “LoveGame,” has had the easiest rise of all, even as it peaked below the top slot.

Drake is poised to join GaGa as a debutante chart-topper with “Best I Ever Had” (No. 2), if he can get past the Black Eyed Peas. Compared with the Lady, the former Degrassi: The Next Generation cast member has had an easier time, exploding into the Top 10 with “Best” and the Lil Wayne-backed Young Money single “Every Girl.”

But even Drake has had bumps along the way—in particular, a week in which “Best” took a one-week, Estelle-like swoon thanks to a dispute over who was allowed to release his songs on iTunes. He’s more than recovered, but the mix-up and the song’s temporary plummet show how critical digital sales are to the Hot 100.

I don’t normally talk here about technology or digital rights, but in the wake of Amazon’s disastrous recall of two George Orwell e-books last week, it’s worth exploring what happened to Drake’s hit and what it means for chart tabulation and the songs we buy. More »


The Invisible Glove: Jackson Presides Over Parallel-Universe Charts

200px-mjmitmWhat’s stronger and more impregnable than the news judgment of network television, the fiscal wisdom of Los Angeles City Hall, or a celebrity’s last will and testament?

Answer: Billboard‘s chart rules.

Even as the early summer of 2009 has seen TV newscasters ignore global unrest in favor of Michael Jackson death coverage; L.A. spend millions amid a state budget crisis to police a Jackson memorial; and Jackson’s heirs treat his final documented wishes as mere suggestions, Billboard has not budged.

Since the early ’90s, the magazine has ruled that songs and albums more than a couple of years old will not appear on its flagship lists, the Hot 100 or the Billboard 200, respectively. That goes even if an old disc is outselling every current title, or if an old song is booming out of car radios from coast to coast.

I don’t blame Billboard for standing firm on its rules amid all the Jackson hoopla, but it has made the last couple of weeks surreal for chart-watchers like me. The two big lists have looked placid on the surface, but everybody knows the real action is elsewhere: Jackson has had the top-selling album(s) for two weeks now (and possibly a third soon), and his songs have earned Top 10-level sales and airplay — none of which is reflected on these flagship charts.

But nothing’s stopping us from imagining what these lists would look like if Jackson were allowed to appear on them. If he’d been allowed on last week’s Hot 100, for example, Jackson would have beaten a 45-year-old record by the Fab Four. Let’s explore what both of the big charts would have looked like in this parallel universe. More »

200px-mjmitmWhat’s stronger and more impregnable than the news judgment of network television, the fiscal wisdom of Los Angeles City Hall, or a celebrity’s last will and testament?

Answer: Billboard‘s chart rules.

Even as the early summer of 2009 has seen TV newscasters ignore global unrest in favor of Michael Jackson death coverage; L.A. spend millions amid a state budget crisis to police a Jackson memorial; and Jackson’s heirs treat his final documented wishes as mere suggestions, Billboard has not budged.

Since the early ’90s, the magazine has ruled that songs and albums more than a couple of years old will not appear on its flagship lists, the Hot 100 or the Billboard 200, respectively. That goes even if an old disc is outselling every current title, or if an old song is booming out of car radios from coast to coast.

I don’t blame Billboard for standing firm on its rules amid all the Jackson hoopla, but it has made the last couple of weeks surreal for chart-watchers like me. The two big lists have looked placid on the surface, but everybody knows the real action is elsewhere: Jackson has had the top-selling album(s) for two weeks now (and possibly a third soon), and his songs have earned Top 10-level sales and airplay — none of which is reflected on these flagship charts.

But nothing’s stopping us from imagining what these lists would look like if Jackson were allowed to appear on them. If he’d been allowed on last week’s Hot 100, for example, Jackson would have beaten a 45-year-old record by the Fab Four. Let’s explore what both of the big charts would have looked like in this parallel universe. More »

Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom: Peas Join 10-Week Club

endThough 2009 hasn’t been a great year for pop hits overall, over the winter and early spring I couldn’t complain that I was bored by Billboard‘s Hot 100. The first three and a half months of the year saw frequent turnover in the No. 1 spot, with a half-dozen songs occupying the penthouse and only Flo Rida’s “Right Round” spending more than three weeks on top.

That all changed in April, when the Black Eyed Peas assumed the summit with their inescapable, mysteriously criticcharming hit “Boom Boom Pow” and wouldn’t let go.

More than two months later, Will.I.Am’s dance-rap joint is still on top, and it now enters a fairly elite club: singles that have topped the Hot 100 for 10 weeks or more.

Songs that spend this long at No. 1 are undeniable smashes, but they also reflect larger forces at work: a momentary slowdown in the pop world’s metabolism, and a perception that a song is bigger than the act itself. While the Peas do deserve to bask in their big hit’s elite status, the release this week of the album containing it might prompt a bit of reckoning over what it means for the way they’re perceived. More »

endThough 2009 hasn’t been a great year for pop hits overall, over the winter and early spring I couldn’t complain that I was bored by Billboard‘s Hot 100. The first three and a half months of the year saw frequent turnover in the No. 1 spot, with a half-dozen songs occupying the penthouse and only Flo Rida’s “Right Round” spending more than three weeks on top.

That all changed in April, when the Black Eyed Peas assumed the summit with their inescapable, mysteriously criticcharming hit “Boom Boom Pow” and wouldn’t let go.

More than two months later, Will.I.Am’s dance-rap joint is still on top, and it now enters a fairly elite club: singles that have topped the Hot 100 for 10 weeks or more.

Songs that spend this long at No. 1 are undeniable smashes, but they also reflect larger forces at work: a momentary slowdown in the pop world’s metabolism, and a perception that a song is bigger than the act itself. While the Peas do deserve to bask in their big hit’s elite status, the release this week of the album containing it might prompt a bit of reckoning over what it means for the way they’re perceived. More »

After ‘Idol,’ a ‘Glee’-ful Upset on the Charts

openwideWhat makes American Idol such a pop-hit-generating juggernaut? The show-closing singles its winners are forced to sing are uniformly awful, so there must be something about Idol itself that ensures hits.

Is it the fact that it’s a cannily crafted competition that gives pop fans a rooting interest in budding acts with compelling backstories? It’s been said that Idol is the closest thing we Americans have to Eurovision, the annual nation-vs.-nation song smackdown, which has been generating pop hits reliably since the middle of the last century.

Or is it the simple fact that Idol is on TV, period? I’m starting to think that’s it, looking at this week’s Billboard Hot 100.

In a week that should’ve been a chart triumph for the two finalists competing in what was perhaps the show’s most compelling finale ever, the week’s highest debut comes not from winner Kris Allen or runner-up Adam Lambert, but from a bunch of no-name teenagers who sang on Fox TV in the hour after those guys finished competing two Tuesdays ago. More »

openwideWhat makes American Idol such a pop-hit-generating juggernaut? The show-closing singles its winners are forced to sing are uniformly awful, so there must be something about Idol itself that ensures hits.

Is it the fact that it’s a cannily crafted competition that gives pop fans a rooting interest in budding acts with compelling backstories? It’s been said that Idol is the closest thing we Americans have to Eurovision, the annual nation-vs.-nation song smackdown, which has been generating pop hits reliably since the middle of the last century.

Or is it the simple fact that Idol is on TV, period? I’m starting to think that’s it, looking at this week’s Billboard Hot 100.

In a week that should’ve been a chart triumph for the two finalists competing in what was perhaps the show’s most compelling finale ever, the week’s highest debut comes not from winner Kris Allen or runner-up Adam Lambert, but from a bunch of no-name teenagers who sang on Fox TV in the hour after those guys finished competing two Tuesdays ago. More »


From Asher to Jeremih: Selling Chart Hits on the New, Pricier iTunes

asherjeremihIt’s now been just over a month since Apple flipped the switch at the iTunes Music Store and gave the major labels what they wanted: higher-priced hit singles.

Since April 7, downloads at the world’s largest music retailer have varied in price–from 69 cents for hundreds of low-profile catalog tracks to $1.29 for best-sellers, both new and vintage. For most observers, the question has been what effect these changes would have on what remains of the music industry, and, to a lesser extent, on Apple’s bottom line.

But I’m equally interested in how it might affect Billboard‘s Hot 100.

You can’t figure this out by looking at the top of the chart. One song, the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” has been No. 1 that entire time. And for reasons that remain, aesthetically, a mystery to me, it seems that people will buy it at almost any price (it was 99 cents its first week on sale, $1.29 thereafter). Nothing has threatened the Peas’ dominance, priced at 99 cents or otherwise.

Instead, to really get a sense of it, you have to look at a hit that’s in the middle of the pack: big enough to matter, but modest enough to provide a useful test case. Let’s give it a shot, by comparing two tracks by new acts that were, respectively, the fastest-rising sales hits of March and May–just before and just after the switch. And while these songs emerge from different sides of the pop spectrum (quite literally), they’re both youth-oriented, seemingly viral in their chart rise, and kinda dumb. More »

asherjeremihIt’s now been just over a month since Apple flipped the switch at the iTunes Music Store and gave the major labels what they wanted: higher-priced hit singles.

Since April 7, downloads at the world’s largest music retailer have varied in price–from 69 cents for hundreds of low-profile catalog tracks to $1.29 for best-sellers, both new and vintage. For most observers, the question has been what effect these changes would have on what remains of the music industry, and, to a lesser extent, on Apple’s bottom line.

But I’m equally interested in how it might affect Billboard‘s Hot 100.

You can’t figure this out by looking at the top of the chart. One song, the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” has been No. 1 that entire time. And for reasons that remain, aesthetically, a mystery to me, it seems that people will buy it at almost any price (it was 99 cents its first week on sale, $1.29 thereafter). Nothing has threatened the Peas’ dominance, priced at 99 cents or otherwise.

Instead, to really get a sense of it, you have to look at a hit that’s in the middle of the pack: big enough to matter, but modest enough to provide a useful test case. Let’s give it a shot, by comparing two tracks by new acts that were, respectively, the fastest-rising sales hits of March and May–just before and just after the switch. And while these songs emerge from different sides of the pop spectrum (quite literally), they’re both youth-oriented, seemingly viral in their chart rise, and kinda dumb. More »


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