Forever Leavin’ Pork & Beans: Big Chart Moves By Summer Single Contenders

Chris Molanphy | May 2, 2008 2:00 am

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

You can’t kill Leona Lewis, you can only make her stronger. For the first time in 30 years, a song returns to the No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s Hot 100 after being evicted twice. Love her or hate her, Ol’ Dead Eyes is back.

As unusual as Leona’s threepeat is, the more interesting moves this week are made below the No. 1 spot, in part because it looks like the songs we may be hearing during car-radio season are hitting the charts now. That includes big debuts by the unsinkable Chris Brown and heartthrob Jesse McCartney, a first-time appearance by new British “It” girl Duffy, and a huge move on Modern Rock by a certain gang of veteran geek-rockers trying to regain their cred.

First, Leona’s unusual feat: In general, it’s not uncommon for songs to return to No. 1 after falling out for a week or two; just last year, two songs (Maroon 5’s “Makes Me Wonder” and Soulja Boy’s “Crank That”) pulled it off. But “Bleeding Love” is the first song on the Hot 100 to go to No. 1, drop out, return, drop out again, and then come back a third time since the immortal “Le Freak” by Chic in 1978.

Back then, Chic’s competition for the top slot came from Barbra Streisand’s and Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and the Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven”–a classic disco song outlasting two sappy ballads. This year, it’s the sappy ballad beating back the more uptempo material: Lewis first evicted Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” and now ousts Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” which falls to No. 2.

Each time “Bleeding” has hit No. 1, there’s been a sales-related deus ex machina assisting it. The first time, it was Oprah (now that’s a deus!); the second time, the release of Lewis’ album and the attendant hype surrounding it. This time, it’s Lewis’ performance of the song on last week’s American Idol results show, which boosts sales of “Bleeding” to a new peak of 233,000 downloads.

However, as I’ve said here before, Lewis’ ballad is becoming legitimately huge with the public and will likely hang around the upper reaches of the charts for a while. At this writing, more than a week removed from her Idol performance, “Bleeding” is still the top seller on iTunes. Any of this week’s top four songs could be No. 1 next week, but for once, plain old inertia might keep Lewis there two weeks in a row.

Clear The Way: The number of debuts on the Hot 100 this week, 10, isn’t unusual, but the bona fides of the songs debuting is, kinda. At least half of them, out of the gate, stand a legitimate chance of reaching the winners’ circle. (One of them is already there!) It all depends on how soon they catch on with radio audiences. Let’s review a half-dozen of them.

Chris Brown, “Forever” – Debuting all the way up at No. 9, it matches Yael Naïm’s fluke hit “New Soul” as the highest debut of the year so far. Actually, this is a fluke hit too, as improbable as that seems. “Forever” isn’t the “official” fourth single from Brown’s sophomore album Exclusive. That would be the vaguely lewd slow-jam “Take You Down,” which debuted on the Hot 100 last week (way down at No. 99) and on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart more than a month ago (it’s just outside that chart’s Top 20 now). “Forever,” on the other hand, is a bonus track on the forthcoming “special edition” rerelease of Exclusive. As a kind gesture, the Zomba label released the song early on iTunes for those who already bought Brown’s album. Those loyal fans snapped up 113,000 copies of the song, which entirely explains its high placement on the chart this week; it’s receiving no measurable airplay so far. You can expect “Forever” to drop next week, which ironically makes it the only one of this week’s debuts to have likely already peaked.

Jesse McCartney, “Leavin'” – Another huge debut, at No. 14, the leadoff single from McCartney’s forthcoming Depature boasts production assistance from a dream team (no pun intended) of Terius “The-Dream” Nash, Tricky Stewart, and the Neptunes. As with Brown’s latest single, McCartney’s high debut masks a bit of weakness: it’s been available to radio programmers for nearly two months, but only its recent digital release (95,000 downloads, the ninth-biggest seller of the week) got it onto the chart. So it’ll probably have a couple of bad weeks on the list until radio catches on. But with no similar singles competing with it–and a solid hook and thumping beat–“Leavin'” could solidify into a genuine hit by summer.

Lil Wayne, “Milli” – A fairly impressive debut at No. 60, “Milli” is a less obvious pop crossover than “Lollipop,” with plenty of Wayne’s conversational spew. The fall of Weezy’s first No. 1 hit isn’t fazing him much; he’s already unleashed the followup on iTunes, with Tha Carter III still weeks away from release. (Theoretically–I wouldn’t bet the farm on this–the album comes out June 10.) As is typical for the world’s most prolific recording artist, “Milli” has been out for a couple of months already on mixtapes under the name “A Milli” (sometimes “A Millie”). We’ve grown accustomed by now to Weezy dropping singles regularly; the difference is, he’s now enough of a pop presence that his singles actually perform on the Hot 100.

Usher feat. Beyonce & Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club, Part II” – Debuting at No. 79 on the Hot 100 and a stunning No. 14 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Chart, this looks like a booming-jeep smash already. As reviewed last week by Maura, the rethink of Usher’s No. 1 smash is a revelatory transformation of an already-established hit into something breezier and groovier. R&B radio is already signaling its preference: the same week “Part II” makes that massive debut, its “part I” predecessor falls out of the R&B/Hip-Hop chart’s No. 1 slot (giving way to Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop”).

Weezer, “Pork and Beans” – A Hot 100 debut at No. 84, but that’s not the big news: on the Modern Rock chart, Rivers Cuomo’s bid for post-“Beverly Hills” acceptance vaults 16 notches to No. 3, suggesting it could top the chart in near-record time. That rock format is probably the song’s only source of airplay so far, but then, with the exception of the fluke “Hills,” it’s been a long time since Weezer was a regular Top 40 radio presence. The main cause of “Pork’s” Hot 100 debut is its 17,000 downloads sold–a fairly light total that suggests fans are a bit wary. Or maybe the old-school Cuomo-heads are holding out for the Red Album.

Duffy, “Mercy” – Debuting at No. 87, the 21st-century Lulu (I’m with Ken Barnes: these Dusty Springfield comparisons are bullshit) actually sold more downloads last week (nearly 18,000) than Weezer. Radio airplay is still light, so Duffy’s strong sales are probably attributable to “Mercy” getting played during a recent episode of ER. Still, the helium-voiced British gal’s irresistible hit has that summer vibe all over it, and MTV is starting to play the hell out of the video (at, um, three in the morning). So theoretically the hype will turn real pretty soon.

…And One More Thing: If you’re an iTunes user who’s nostalgic for the middle of the aughts, be sure to check out the special section Apple posted to commemorate the iTunes Music Store’s fifth anniversary this past Monday (careful, autoloads iTunes).

Included in the package are lists of all of Apple’s biggest sellers, year by year, from 2003 through 2007. The lists for the first two years, 2003 and 2004, are the most interesting to me. Digital sales have only been used to compile the Billboard charts since early 2005, so this is the first time I’ve seen all-encompassing lists of Apple’s biggest buck-a-song sellers from the Store’s early days.

The top download of 2003: OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”–which sounds obvious, until you consider that André 3000’s megasmash was released about two months before the end of that year. The likely explanation for its end-of-year dominance is that Apple added Windows compatibility for iTunes in October 2003, which exponentially increased the Store’s userbase just as OutKast released its biggest single ever.

The top seller for 2004 was Maroon 5’s annoyingly inescapable “This Love.” Actually, the whole 2004 list is a parade of minivan-friendly adult pop, with Hoobastank, U2, the Black Eyed Peas, and Counting Crows taking the rest of Apple’s top five, and a second Maroon 5 track, “She Will Be Loved,” making the year-end top 10, too. That brings up another theme of Apple’s Store: its evolution from a yuppie-friendly, Starbucksish place for early iPod adopters into the biggest teen gathering place on earth. You really see it on the singles side: by 2007, the list of top-selling albums continues to house soccer-mom-friendly fare like Maroon 5, John Mayer and Amy Winehouse, but the top-selling single is the no-adults-allowed smash “Crank That” by Soulja Boy.

Top 10s Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses:

Hot 100 1. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 2, 11 weeks) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 7 weeks) 3. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 3, 17 weeks) 4. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 6, 6 weeks) 5. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 4, 11 weeks) 6. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 7, 13 weeks) 7. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 5, 11 weeks) 8. Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” (LW No. 8, 26 weeks) 9. Chris Brown, “Forever” (CHART DEBUT, 1 week) 10. Chris Brown, “With You” (LW No. 9, 22 weeks)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 3, 7 weeks) 2. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 2, 12 weeks) 3. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 4. Ashanti, “The Way That I Love You” (LW No. 6, 11 weeks) 5. Rick Ross feat. T-Pain, “The Boss” (LW No. 7, 16 weeks) 6. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 4, 16 weeks) 7. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 8, 8 weeks) 8. Keyshia Cole, “I Remember” (LW No. 5, 26 weeks) 9. 2 Pistols feat. T-Pain and Tay Dizm, “She Got It” (LW No. 13, 16 weeks) 10. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 17, 9 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. George Strait, “I Saw God Today” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 2. James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (LW No. 3, 28 weeks) 3. Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This” (LW No. 2, 21 weeks) 4. Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn” (LW No. 4, 16 weeks) 5. Phil Vassar, “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” (LW No. 5, 26 weeks) 6. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 6, 10 weeks) 7. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 7, 10 weeks) 8. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” (LW No. 9, 30 weeks) 9. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 10, 7 weeks) 10. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 11, 6 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 1, 10 weeks) 2. Puddle of Mudd, “Psycho” (LW No. 2, 26 weeks) 3. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 19, 2 weeks) 4. Atreyu, “Falling Down” (LW No. 3, 14 weeks) 5. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 7, 4 weeks) 6. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 4, 5 weeks) 7. 3 Doors Down, “It’s Not My Time” (LW No. 5, 10 weeks) 8. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 8, 8 weeks) 9. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 9, 6 weeks) 10. The Bravery, “Believe” (LW No. 6, 30 weeks)