Just In Time For Summer, Millennial Teenpop Takes Over The Hot 100

Chris Molanphy | June 27, 2008 1:00 am

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

In the last two years, we’ve seen several impressive feats on Billboard‘s Hot 100 by Disney Channel-groomed pop acts, and this week, we see another.

Four songs from the Jonas Brothers vehicle Camp Rock, which premiered on the channel last week, debut within the Top 40. And separately, Miley Cyrus previews her first album unattached from the Hannah Montana brand–and quickly scores her second-ever Top 10 hit.

Dig below these impressive numbers, and it becomes apparent that this is not necessarily another short-lived High School Musical-style chart blip. One week into summer, teenpop may be launching one of its once-a-decade all-out assaults on the pop charts–the kind of siege that will make even you, person over 18, forcibly aware of these songs faster than you can say “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).”

Let’s run down the five Top 40 debutantes. Cyrus’ “7 Things,” an odd rock/country-lite hybrid, shoots 60 spots to No. 10, powered by its release on iTunes, where it sells more than 100,000 downloads in its first full week on sale. That matches the Hot 100 peak of her biggest hit to date, “See You Again,” which peaked at No. 10 two months ago.

Coming in at Nos. 11, 20, 30 and 33 are the four Camp Rock songs: respectively, the climactic power ballad by costars Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas, “This Is Me”; a Jonas Brothers rocker, “Play My Music”; a wounded solo ballad by Joe Jonas, “Gotta Find You”; and the full-cast singalong “We Rock.” (Somehow, I doubt that.) All four are fueled exclusively by download sales, ranging from about 68,000 for “We Rock” to 135,000 for the Lovato-Jonas duet.

This is the fifth time in the last two and a half years that the Hot 100 has been slammed with a wave of tunes from a Disney Channel soundtrack. In February 2006, eight songs from cast members of the first High School Musical stormed the chart. Nine months later, seven songs credited to Cyrus’ alter ego Hannah Montana materialized. Cyrus followed that up in July 2007 with a hybrid Hannah soundtrack and straight-up studio album; five songs from that project (one by Cyrus, four by “Hannah”) hit the chart at once. Just over a month later, seven songs by assorted High School Musical 2 cast members hit the chart.

Virtually all of these 27 songs stayed on the charts for a week or two at most; you can expect this week’s four-song Camp Rock sortie to be gone by mid-July. All scored virtually imperceptible airplay on any station that doesn’t syndicate Radio Disney’s programming (such feeds generally don’t count toward the Hot 100). Basically, these songs got a massive hit of iTunes sales in week one; they debuted on the Hot 100 solely thanks to those sales points; they slacked off in sales within a couple of weeks (as rabid tweens moved on to buying the soundtrack CDs, or just plain moved on); and, still unsupported by any radio airplay, they fell off the chart.

However, what’s made the last 12 months interesting for tweenpop is the emergence of some longer-lasting hits that worked their way up the chart the hard way. Cyrus’s “See You Again” debuted last Christmas and peaked nearly five months later, a slow, steady, pretty traditional chart run; in addition to its 1.7 million cumulative song sales, it scored serious adult-radio play, peaking just outside the top 10 of the airplay-only chart. The Jonases haven’t scored their first big crossover hit yet (wait), but of their four previous Hot 100 entries, three were Top 40 hits and had multiple-month chart runs. The biggest, “S.O.S.,” peaked at No. 17 and stayed on the chart for more than five months; the second-biggest, the No. 25 ballad “When You Look Me in the Eyes,” ran for two months and scored several weeks’ worth of measurable adult-radio airplay.

In short, the last few months’ activity feels like it could be the throat-clearing for a late-aughts mini-era of teenpop dominance, not unlike the mini-eras we experienced in the last two years of the ’80s and ’90s. The 1988-90 period was only really dominated by one act, New Kids on the Block, but I’m sure everyone reading this remembers teenpop’s ’90s ascent in the States, from terminal unhipness around 1996 to chart dominance by 1999. Halfway through ’08, the signs of breakthrough are there: under-18s are drowning in the stuff, but mainstream radio program directors won’t succumb until they finally have to. We’re just waiting for that first Backstreet Boys-size smash to break things wide open.

Looks like we’re about to get it: the top seller on iTunes as I type is the Jonas Brothers’ “Burnin’ Up,” the leadoff single from their preordained blockbuster A Little Bit Longer. The digital track was just released at the end of last week and its sales haven’t been reported yet, but it’s a safe bet they’ll be massive. A Top 10 debut on next week’s Hot 100 is a near-lock.

I’ve been passively eyeing the Jonases over the past year and enjoying their output only moderately, but “Burnin'” is catchy as hell, with a lite-funk sound that’s credibly compatible with mainstream radio. On pure pop stations, at least, the song is already making inroads: it ranks 51st on Billboard‘s Pop 100 Airplay list in its first week. After their brief Top 40 radio dalliance with “Eyes” this past winter, the JoBros might have finally delivered the hit that radio can’t ignore–like it or not.

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

• Before we leave the topic of teenpop, I should mention that the comeback Kids are all right: “Summertime,” by the now-manly New Kids on the Block, is three spaces away from the Top 40. Digital sales have held up since its debut–this week’s 46,000-download total is the largest to date–and on pop stations, the song is nearing the top 20 in airplay. Next week, assuming a big Jonas debut, we could be looking at the new guard and old guard attacking the Top 40 at the same time. (Can someone get Hanson into a studio with some Swedish producers stat?)

• The second-biggest debut on the Hot 100, and the biggest not affiliated with Camp Rock, is Rihanna’s “Disturbia” at No. 19. Like her short-lived chart-topper “Take a Bow” a month ago, the new tune (seemingly unrelated to movies starring Shia LaBeouf) is a bonus track from the fan-soaking rerelease of her most recent album. A clubby throwdown in the mode of “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Disturbia” in its debut week actually outsells “Bow” at iTunes. But “Bow” is belatedly blooming as a radio smash, which explains its higher Hot 100 position (No. 4). It’s now the fourth most-played song at radio nationwide, as “Bow” gains traction at R&B radio along with Top 40; it’s nearing the Top 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

All three bonus tracks on Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded have made splashy debuts on the Hot 100, but so far the underpeformer is Ri’s duet with Maroon 5, “If I Never See Your Face Again,” which has been knocking around mid-chart ever since its debut seven weeks ago; it falls two spots to No. 55 this week. The track could get a promotional boost from the mid-July debut of Maroon 5’s own ripoff re-release, which will also include “Face.”

• As if the Hot 100’s new No. 1 single, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” weren’t depressing enough, it also earns a singular chart distinction that means something to us hardcore chart geeks. According to Billboard chart-trivia god Fred Bronson, “Kissed” is the 1,000th No. 1 single of the Rock Era.

That is, according to what I call the “Bronson Method,” which mixes the Hot 100, launched in 1958, with three years’ worth of No. 1s from a predecessor chart.

When he launched his much-beloved Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits in 1985, Bronson codified a yardstick for measuring the Rock Era that persists to this day–beginning not with the recording of “Rocket 88” or the founding of Sun Records but with the chart success of Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955. Bronson didn’t invent this starting line, of course (it had been in popular discourse for decades before), but he did use it to establish “Clock” as the first official Rock Era No. 1, counting up from there. Here, things get technical: for the early years before the Hot 100 launched, 1955 through 1958, Bronson relies on Billboard‘s then-dominant Best Sellers in Stores chart. This puts him slightly at odds with the other major chart historian and author, the legendary Joel Whitburn, whose Billboard reference books list numerous No. 1’s from 1955 to 1958 that topped such long-gone lists as Most Played By Jockeys and Most Played in Jukeboxes.

If you count by Whitburn’s multiple-charts method, Katy Perry’s song is actually the 1,026th No. 1 of the Rock Era, and the 1,000th, Akon’s “I Wanna Love You,” came two years ago. If you count only No. 1s on the Hot 100, starting with the chart’s launch in August 1958, Perry has the 961st.

Still, the Bronson Method persists for good reasons: it’s simpler than any other method, it covers the generally undisputed entirety of the Rock Era, and it’s been in a best-selling chart book (with friendly, large-type numbers in the corners of each page) for more than 20 years.

In his online column this week, Bronson lists the 10 songs that topped the chart at every 100-mark, starting with the 100th, 200th and so on up to Perry’s 1,000th hit. (Her crapfest is the outlier; the other nine are mostly great songs, like “Paint It Black,” “Maggie May,” “Lovin’ You” and “Like a Virgin.”) To honor Bronson’s method but ignore Perry’s achievement, I prefer to list the songs that topped the chart at the triple-digits, up to last week’s 999th No. 1–like so:

111: Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1962) 222: Nancy and Frank Sinatra, “Somethin’ Stupid” (1967) 333: Stevie Wonder, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (1973) 444: Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, “A Fifth of Beethoven” (1976) 555: Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, “Ebony and Ivory” (1982) 666: U2, “With or Without You” (1987) 777: Surface, “The First Time” (1991) 888: Mariah Carey feat. Jay-Z, “Heartbreaker” (1999) 999: Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (2008)

Okay, it’s not as great a list as Bronson’s 100s. But at least it doesn’t have any lurid girl-kissing in it.

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. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 2, 7 weeks) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 3, 15 weeks) 3. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 4, 19 weeks) 4. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 5, 11 weeks) 5. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 6, 19 weeks) 6. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 1, 7 weeks) 7. Chris Brown, “Forever” (LW No. 8, 9 weeks) 8. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 11, 13 weeks) 9. The Pussycat Dolls, “When I Grow Up” (LW No. 18, 4 weeks) 10. Miley Cyrus, “7 Things” (LW No. 70, 3 weeks)

Hot Digital Songs 1. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 2, 217,000 downloads, +0.4%) 2. Demi Lovato & Joe Jonas, “This Is Me” (CHART DEBUT, 135,000 downloads) 3. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 1, 127,000 downloads, -48%) 4. Miley Cyrus, “7 Things” (LW No. 48, 130,000 downloads, +402%) 5. The Pussycat Dolls, “When I Grow Up” (LW No. 11, 128,000 downloads, +71%) 6. Rihanna, “Disturbia” (CHART DEBUT, 111,000 downloads) 7. Jonas Brothers, “Play My Music” (CHART DEBUT, 109,000 downloads) 8. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 7, 107,000 downloads, +8%) 9. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 4, 102,000 downloads, -8%) 10. Metro Station, “Shake It” (LW No. 3, 103,000 downloads, -14%)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Keyshia Cole, “Heaven Sent” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 3, 15 weeks) 3. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 2, 17 weeks) 4. Lil Wayne, “A Milli” (LW No. 7, 9 weeks) 5. The-Dream, “I Luv Your Girl” (LW No. 4, 17 weeks) 6. Chris Brown, “Take You Down” (LW No. 5, 13 weeks) 7. Alicia Keys, “Teenage Love Affair” (LW No. 6, 19 weeks) 8. Usher feat. Beyonce and Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club, Part II” (LW No. 8, 9 weeks) 9. Trey Songz, “Last Time” (LW No. 9, 21 weeks) 10. Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West, “Put On” (LW No. 17, 7 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 1, 14 weeks) 2. Blake Shelton, “Home” (LW No. 3, 22 weeks) 3. Montgomery Gentry, “Back When I Knew It All” (LW No. 6, 18 weeks) 4. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 5. Alan Jackson, “Good Time” (LW No. 7, 11 weeks) 6. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 4, 18 weeks) 7. Dierks Bentley, “Trying to Stop Your Leaving” (LW No. 8, 24 weeks) 8. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 5, 18 weeks) 9. Brooks & Dunn, “Put a Girl in It” (LW No. 10, 9 weeks) 10. Sugarland, “All I Want to Do” (LW No. 13, 5 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 1, 10 weeks) 2. The Offspring, “Hammerhead” (LW No. 2, 7 weeks) 3. Foo Fighters, “Let It Die” (LW No. 3, 12 weeks) 4. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 4, 16 weeks) 5. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 5, 18 weeks) 6. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 6, 14 weeks) 7. Nine Inch Nails, “Discipline” (LW No. 8, 9 weeks) 8. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 7, 12 weeks) 9. Disturbed, “Inside the Fire” (LW No. 9, 13 weeks) 10. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 10, 13 weeks)