New Kids On The Block Have A Brand-New Hit

Chris Molanphy | May 23, 2008 12:00 pm

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

Last week I poured cold water on the chart comeback of New Kids on the Block, who appeared on Billboard‘s less-heralded Pop 100 chart but remained M.I.A. on the all-genre Hot 100.

But I snarked too soon. This week, Danny, Donny Joey, Jon and Jordan have the week’s highest Hot 100 debut with “Summertime,” their un-Jazzy Jeff-related bid for postmillennial Top 40 radio. By debuting at No. 57, “Summertime” breaks a 14-year drought for NKOTB, who last made the middle rungs on the big chart with 1994’s “Dirty Dawg.”

It’s poetic that the ur-boy band of the modern-pop era resurfaces the very same week boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman gets thrown in the clink. After all, 1994 was pretty much the moment when Pearlman began dreaming of rejiggering the five-boy New Kids template, launching the Backstreet-*N Sync era that entrenched the boy band in pop lore.

It’s like a passing-back of the baton, from one pop era to its forbear. Not that I’d accept anything baton-shaped from Lou Pearlman…

Say what you want about teen screamers-turned-soccer moms, they’re loyal–or at least, willing to part with 99 cents. The spur for the Kids’ chart appearance is iTunes, where “Summertime” made its debut last week and toted nearly 39,000 downloads.

That’s a respectable total for an act that’s been out of the limelight for a decade and a half. But it probably satisfies the entire first wave of NKOTB’s hardcore fanbase. (Imagine, if you can, the existence in 2008 of a hardcore New Kids fan.) If “Summertime” is going to move up the chart from here, it’s going to need to sell to the moms’ daughters, which means it’s going to need radio airplay. It’s nowhere to be found on the all-genre Hot 100 Airplay list, but Billboard reports that the track has made “a strong start at Top 40 radio”; on the magazine’s list that’s limited to pop-radio airplay only, “Summertime” is already ranked 35th among the most-played songs.

The bad news for the Kids is that, at least for now, they’ve shot their wad on major-market appearances that might goose sales or inspire radio programmers. The aforementioned 39K downloads includes sales tallied during the week of their incompetent but warmly received Today show appearance, as well as the height of New York-based frenzy surrounding radio station Z100’s Zootopia concert last Saturday.

Still: if the last two decades of pop history are any indication, the last two years of a decade are ripe for a pure-pop comeback on the charts. New Kids owned that space in the early years of Bush, Sr.; whether they’re destined for a lasting comeback in the waning days of Bush fils will largely depend on luck.

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

• We’ve had a string of fairly rare occurrences in the Hot 100’s top slot lately. Three weeks ago we saw a Leona Lewis song enter the penthouse a third time after falling out twice–the first time that’s happened in three decades. Last week we saw Rihanna leap 52 notches into pole position, the second-largest such leap ever. And now, a somewhat less rare but still oddball phenomenon: Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” sneaks back into the top slot after a three-week pause. That’s the largest such gap since Usher floated out of and, after four weeks, back into No. 1 in early 2002 with “U Got It Bad.”

Weezy sneaks back into the penthouse thanks to consistency. His 143,000-download total is solid but not spectacular, but he’s the only act in the Top Five to see his sales decline by single-digit percentages each week over the last month. Compare him to recently ruling divas Lewis and Rihanna: the former’s sales yo-yo up and down week to week (up 28% one week in late April, down 24% a couple of weeks later), and the latter followed last week’s explosive sales debut with a 27% swoon this week.

The bottom line: after several weeks of exciting turnover in March and April, the upper reaches of the chart are sleepy again–so sleepy that our man Matos interviewed his peeps for another hilarious Billboard Top 10 review session, using last week’s chart, and all 10 of those songs are still in the winners’ circle. (Man, can somebody get Matos’ sister Brittany over to some radio programmers’ offices? She’d call them “illiterate” and insist they stop playing Usher and Young Jeezy on pain of withering shame.)

• On the Hot Country chart, two blonde reality-TV veterans with sin-drenched current singles each have a pretty good week–with the promise of a better one next week. Carrie Underwood’s floozy confessional “Last Name,” which had been stalled at the bottom of the Top 10 for about a month, finally catches fire again, slinking up three spots to No. 7. And Miranda Lambert’s heat-packing “Gunpowder and Lead” inches up two more spots to No. 18, looking to become her biggest-ever country radio hit (she’s four notches shy of the peak by 2007’s “Famous in a Small Town”).

What the two gals have in common is great recent TV exposure that won’t be reflected until next week’s charts. Underwood just performed “Last Name” on the American Idol finale two nights ago, and while her inevitable iTunes boost won’t affect this chart, I’ll be shocked if Idol-savvy country programmers don’t boost its airplay. As for Lambert, her CMA triumph this past Sunday, winning the marquee Album of the Year trophy, might finally give radio the excuse it’s been waiting for to put her into power rotation.

• Talk about filling a market gap: “Hallelujah” by Kate Voegele debuts at No. 68, on the strength of 37,000 downloads. All of those sales were presumably at iTunes, because Voegele’s cover of the Leonard Cohen tune is an Apple-exclusive bonus track on her most recent album. (The iTunes bonus is ironic, because Voegele is signed to the Interscope-distributed MySpace Records.)

As we reported here months ago, Jason Castro’s performance of “Hallelujah” on American Idol spurred hundreds of thousands of iTunes downloads of Jeff Buckley’s angelic 1994 cover of the song, the obvious model for Castro’s performance. But neither Buckley’s nor Castro’s versions of “Hallelujah” were eligible for the Hot 100–the former is too old, and sales of the latter weren’t reported to Billboard for charting purposes. Voegele’s cover, however, is fully Hot 100-eligible, hence its debut. The shocker: this is the first version of “Hallelujah” ever to appear on the Hot 100.

A repeat performance of the song by Castro on the Idol finale this week is going to boost anything “Hallelujah”-related, but apparently most of the people who wanted the Buckley version bought it after Castro’s first performance in March. As of today, Voegele is beating Buckley on iTunes: his cover is ranked 77th among Apple’s top-selling songs, and Voegele’s is ranked 67th.

• One last Idol-related item: we could see some huge chart debuts on the Hot 100 next week. I don’t have the full story at press time, but apparently iTunes and the Idol producers have decided to open the floodgates to the finalists’ songs now that the contest is over–you can not only buy them (as you could all season), but their sales are being publicly reported for the first time. Check out the store’s top sellers as of today: David Cook has the top four songs, with “The Time of My Life” (his gooey finale song), “Dream Big” (his Tuesday pick among the schlocky songwriting candidates), his U2 cover, and his Collective Soul cover. Also in the iTunes top 20: three David Archuleta songs.

God only knows how many copies each of these tracks is selling, but if all interested parties and Billboard collectively decide these recordings are chart-eligible, the Top 10 could look wildly different and even Beatles-like next week.

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

Hot 100 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 3, 10 weeks) 2. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks) 3. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 1, 6 weeks) 4. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 5, 14 weeks) 5. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 4, 20 weeks) 6. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 6, 16 weeks) 7. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 7, 9 weeks) 8. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 9, 14 weeks) 9. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 8, 14 weeks) 10. Danity Kane, “Damaged” (LW No. 10, 10 weeks)

Hot Digital Songs 1. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 1, 196,000 downloads, -27%) 2. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 2, 143,000 downloads, -13%) 3. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 3, 143,000 downloads, -8%) 4. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 4, 131,000 downloads, -1%) 5. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 5, 120,000 downloads, -6%) 6. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 8, 88,000 downloads, +2%) 7. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 7, 85,000 downloads, -9%) 8. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 9, 78,000 downloads, -10%) 9. Jesse McCartney, “Leavin'” (LW No. 10, 77,000 downloads, -10%) 10. John Mayer, “Say” (LW No. 11, 67,000 downloads, -5%)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 10 weeks) 2. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 6, 12 weeks) 3. Keyshia Cole, “Heaven Sent” (LW No. 8, 8 weeks) 4. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 5, 11 weeks) 5. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 6. Ashanti, “The Way That I Love You” (LW No. 3, 14 weeks) 7. Chris Brown, “Take You Down” (LW No. 10, 8 weeks) 8. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 4, 15 weeks) 9. Trey Songz, “Last Time” (LW No. 9, 16 weeks) 10. Usher feat. Beyonce and Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club, Part II” (LW No. 12, 4 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 2, 13 weeks) 2. Phil Vassar, “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” (LW No. 3, 29 weeks) 3. James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (LW No. 1, 31 weeks) 4. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 6, 13 weeks) 5. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” (LW No. 8, 33 weeks) 6. George Strait, “I Saw God Today” (LW No. 5, 15 weeks) 7. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 10, 10 weeks) 8. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 9, 9 weeks) 9. Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn” (LW No. 4, 19 weeks) 10. Montgomery Gentry, “Back When I Knew It All” (LW No. 11, 13 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 1, 5 weeks) 2. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 2, 13 weeks) 3. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 3, 7 weeks) 4. The Offspring, “Hammerhead” (LW No. 5, 2 weeks) 5. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 8, 11 weeks) 6. Nine Inch Nails, “Discipline” (LW No. 10, 4 weeks) 7. Foo Fighters, “Let It Die” (LW No. 11, 7 weeks) 8. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 6, 8 weeks) 9. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 9, 9 weeks) 10. Coldplay, “Violet Hill” (LW No. 14, 3 weeks)