Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom: Peas Join 10-Week Club
Though 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 critic–charming 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.
Prior to the 1991 introduction of SoundScan sales tallying and accurate radio reporting, 10-week chart-toppers were extraordinarily rare. From the start of the Rock Era until that game-changing moment, only two songs had ever done it; three if you count an Elvis Presley single that topped one of Billboard’s predecessors to the Hot 100.
But starting in 1992, epic stays at No. 1 increased dramatically. Once Billboard had solid, verifiable data by which to build the chart, we learned just how tenaciously the U.S. public holds onto a hit record. Radio stations with a reliable audience favorite are loath to take a smash out of power rotation. And big hits that capture the public’s fancy sell hundreds of thousands of copies over months, not weeks. It was nice, in the ’70s and ’80s, to think that every week or two, America had a new favorite song, but we’re really not that hip. When we’re addicted to something like the Macarena, we get rather fixated.
Here’s the complete, chronological list of double-digit No. 1 hits, or as I’ll refer to them heretofore, mega-toppers:
Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog”/“Don’t Be Cruel” — 1956, 11 weeks (Best-Sellers chart; all other songs below topped the Hot 100)
Debby Boone, “You Light Up My Life” — 1977, 10 weeks
Olivia Newton-John, “Physical” — 1981-82, 10 weeks
Boyz II Men, “End of the Road” — 1992, 13 weeks
Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You” — 1992-93, 14 weeks
All-4-One, “I Swear” — 1994, 11 weeks
Boyz II Men, “I’ll Make Love to You” — 1994, 14 weeks
Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, “One Sweet Day” — 1995-96, 16 weeks
Los Del Rio, “Macarena (Bayside Boys mix)” — 1996, 14 weeks
Toni Braxton, “Un-Break My Heart” — 1996, 11 weeks
Puff Daddy and Faith Evans feat. 112, “I’ll Be Missing You” — 1997, 11 weeks
Elton John, “Candle in the Wind 1997”/”Something About the Way You Look Tonight” — 1997-98, 14 weeks
Brandy and Monica, “The Boy Is Mine” — 1998, 13 weeks
Santana feat. Rob Thomas, “Smooth” — 1999-2000, 12 weeks
Santana feat. The Product G&B, “Maria Maria” — 2000, 10 weeks
Destiny’s Child, “Independent Women (Part I)” — 2000-01, 11 weeks
Ashanti, “Foolish” — 2002, 10 weeks
Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma” — 2002, 10 weeks
Eminem, “Lose Yourself” — 2002-03, 12 weeks
Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris, “Yeah!” — 2004, 12 weeks
Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together” — 2005, 14 weeks
Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx, “Gold Digger” — 2005, 10 weeks
Beyonce, “Irreplaceable” — 2006-07, 10 weeks
Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low” — 2008, 10 weeks
The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” — 2009, 10 weeks (so far)
That’s 25 songs in all, 22 of them after the SoundScan introduction in 1991. Only three acts repeat: Boyz II Men, with a champion three mega-toppers; and Mariah Carey and Santana, with two each. Otherwise, the mega-toppers are all aberrations in the acts’ respective careers. (Maybe for Carlos Santana, too; arguably, the entire period from late 1999 through early 2000, when he scored that pair of mega-toppers, was one big career aberration, but never mind.)
Interestingly, in 40% of cases — 10 out of 25 — the mega-topper was the act’s first No. 1 hit, ever. (The Peas’ current smash is one of these.) And in another seven cases, the song was one of the act’s first two or three chart-toppers. In other words, more than two-thirds of the time, the mega-topper is not the culmination of many years of chart dominance, a la Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. It’s either a sudden explosion after a few patient years of also-ran status (Boyz, Toni Braxton, Eminem), or it’s a total novelty hit (Debby Boone, Los Del Rio).
But aren’t a lot of these songs, in essence, novelty records? I mean, what is that Princess Diana tribute record by Elton John? Here’s a chart veteran who, by then, had scored more than a half-dozen chart-toppers and countless other Top 40 hits besides. But let’s be honest, “Candle ’97” is a novelty record, purchased by millions of people who didn’t normally visit record stores.
Many of the mega-toppers, even those by regular chart fixtures, have what I would call a novelty factor. “Physical” was Newton-John’s fifth and final career No. 1, but it’s also one of pop’s all-time Zeitgeist records, capturing a headband-wearing moment and seeming dated just months later. Puffy’s 1997 smash came amid a string of chart-toppers by him and his newly-deceased homeboy Biggie, but “I’ll Be Missing You” is all gimmick, capitalizing on Big’s death and milking Sting’s catchiest hook. “Yeah!” was Usher’s fourth chart-topper, but the assist from Lil Jon turned it into the record for the Crunk Moment, at the very instant Dave Chappelle was wearing fake braids and shouting “WHAT?!!” on Comedy Central. Even “Gold Digger,” the biggest of several huge hits for Kanye and one of his best, is arguably a frat-boy T-shirt catchphrase that partially capitalizes on Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles impersonation.
Where does this leave the Peas and “Boom Boom Pow” in the all-time pop firmament? Leaving aside my own opinions about the song’s merits, I think it’s fair to say the track combines a little bit of everything that makes a mega-topper.
Sudden explosion? Check. “Pow” is a major aberration in the group’s chart history, and I’m not sure anyone (not even the Peas) entirely saw its massive success coming.
Career culmination? Check. The Peas and “Pow” also qualify under the “patiently waiting” trend — you can’t deny that they’ve been building to this moment since “Where Is the Love” in 2003, and that’s not even counting their pre-Fergie, pre-platinum period dating to the late ’90s. Compared with all the acts on the list above, the Peas had to wait longer for their mega-topper than virtually anybody except Santana.
Novelty record? Check. Fergie’s signature line “You’re so 2000-and-late” probably inspired half of the 2.5 million downloads the song has shifted so far, and it will go down as the pop catchphrase of the year. It will also seem horribly dated before the leaves start to turn. I mean, it has to be — the line doesn’t even refer to 2009!
About the only thing we won’t know, until next week at least, is what this mega-topper signals for the Peas’ career. Do they move on to a slew of followup hits and truckloads of album sales, like Beyonce or Kanye? Or, like Ashanti, is this their peak?
Early word on this week’s album sales has the Peas’ album The E.N.D. shifting a chart-topping but somewhat tepid 200,000 copies. This from an act that sold more than 4.2 million copies of their last album in 2005 and is directly following up a triple-platinum Fergie album.
On the other hand, pop over to iTunes right now, and you’ll see that “Pow” has been replaced as the top selling download — by another Peas song, “I Gotta Feeling.” Love them or hate them, it’s going to be a long, Black-Eyed summer.
Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:
• The other question the Peas’ long-running hit prompts is, is 10 weeks where it ends? I think it’s safe to predict “Boom Boom Pow” will hold down No. 1 for at least another week or two, even if the aforementioned “I Gotta Feeling” starts creeping up on it. “Pow” is not only still a top-seller but also the most-played song in the country, with nothing looking to threaten it anytime soon.
Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” now at No. 2 on the big chart, is also rising at radio, but it still only ranks seventh among all airplay records. Moving even faster is Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down,” which hurtles four big spots to No. 3 and is already radio’s second most-played record. But with “Pow” outselling it two-to-one, she’s got a huge gap to make up.
Bottom line, next week the Peas’ new hit will likely make a big move on the chart and might start to steal away sales and airplay from their old one. But whether Pitbull and Hilson benefit will ultimately depend on whether sales for “Pow” finally fall significantly below where they are now.
• Speaing of Keri Hilson, last week she scored only the fourth No. 1 R&B/Hip-Hop hit of 2009 so far, as “Knock You Down” knocked Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex” from the summit. Beyoncé and Jamie Foxx led the chart for so long from January through May — 12 weeks for “Single Ladies,” 14 weeks for “Blame It” — that nothing else could break through. But we’ve now had two different R&B chart-toppers over the past four weeks.
We could have another one next week, if Canadian rapper Drake can go the distance with his first-ever U.S. chart hit, “Best I Ever Had.” Eight weeks is an unusually fast rise for a No. 2 hit on this chart, and a rise to the summit next week would give Drake the fastest chart-topper of the year so far, after Jeremih and Hilson each took 11 weeks.
• In the Seamless Baton-Passing dept.: For the second time this year, two current hits by Lady GaGa — one rising, one falling — are in adjacent Top 10 positions. At No. 5, “Poker Face” is spending its probable final week in the Top Five, while successor “LoveGame” at No. 6 is likely one week away from assuming the über-circle. One week back in March, her first chart-topper, “Just Dance,” fell to No. 7 the same week “Poker Face” was up to No. 6.
Too bad for GaGa that “Poker” wasn’t at No. 5 during that March week; except for that solitary frame, she’s had a song in the Top Five for more than six months now — 27 of the last 28 weeks. And she’s been in the Top 10 solid, without a break, for 29 weeks. In case you’re wondering how being the year’s most consistent hit-single act is affecting the bottom line, thus far GaGa’s shifted just under a million copies of her album The Fame and about 8.1 million digital singles.
• A final nomenclature item: You will note that the last chart shown below is no longer titled “Hot Modern Rock Tracks.” This week, Billboard fully absorbs the now-defunct airplay-tracking magazine Radio & Records into its charts and is picking up R&R’s name for the chart: that hoary old term we thought we killed off in the ’90s, Alternative. The chart and (with minimal tweaking) its radio panel stay the same, just with a different, and I would argue more dated, name.
Of course, as our dear friend and rock-radio tracker Al Shipley has been saying for years, the term “alternative” isn’t the only thing dated about this format. Modern/alternative radio has been morphing into its “Mainstream Rock” sister format for most of this decade, with ballcap-friendly and aging-metal bands increasingly appearing on both lists. As if acknowledging this, Billboard also announced this week that it’s introducing a 50-position Rock Songs chart, which combines and ranks airplay among the alternative, mainstream and triple-A rock formats.
My guess? This is the first step in the gradual demotion of the niche-rock format charts, including Modern/Alternative, in favor of this all-encompassing Rock chart. It’s a totally practical move, given the increasing, bordering-on-absurd overlaps between the various radio flavors (though I imagine it will still be worth Billboard’s while to keep compiling the niche charts for radio specialists). This week, for example, as Linkin Park evicts Green Day to score a new No. 1 Alternative hit with “New Divide,”
that same track is the first chart-topper on Rock Songs. Correction, June 18: My bad. In its first week, the Rock chart has a different No. 1 from Alternative, albeit one that’s recently very familiar to alt-radio listeners: Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy.” That song was knocked out of No. 1 on the Alternative list this past week by the Linkin Park track. Apologies. -CM
For now, we’ll keep following the Alternative list here, but I’ll be keeping an eye on where Billboard’s emphasis goes. Sooner or later, we may have to bow to reality and declare a two-decade-long format essentially dead.
Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses (Digital Songs chart includes total downloads/percentage change in parentheses):
1. The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks)
2. Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me” (LW No. 3, 15 weeks)
3. Keri Hilson feat. Kanye West and Ne-Yo, “Knock You Down” (LW No. 7, 11 weeks)
4. Jeremih, “Birthday Sex” (LW No. 4, 9 weeks)
5. Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” (LW No. 2, 25 weeks)
6. Lady GaGa, “LoveGame” (LW No. 10, 8 weeks)
7. Shinedown, “Second Chance” (LW No. 11, 28 weeks)
8. Beyoncé, “Halo” (LW No. 6, 20 weeks)
9. Sean Kingston, “Fire Burning” (LW No. 9, 5 weeks)
10. Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain, “Blame It” (LW No. 5, 21 weeks)
Hot Digital Songs
1. The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (LW No. 1, 200,000 downloads)
2. Lady GaGa, “LoveGame” (LW No. 4, 130,000 downloads)
3. Sean Kingston, “Fire Burning” (LW No. 10, 121,000 downloads)
4. Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me” (LW No. 2, 103,000 downloads)
5. Jeremih, “Birthday Sex” (LW No. 7, 103,000 downloads)
6. Shinedown, “Second Chance” (LW No. 12, 102,000 downloads)
7. Katy Perry, “Waking Up in Vegas” (LW No. 6, 101,000 downloads)
8. Keri Hilson feat. Kanye West and Ne-Yo, “Knock You Down” (LW No. 14, 100,000 downloads)
9. Lady GaGa, “Poker Face” (LW No. 5, 91,000 downloads)
10. Kristinia Debarge, “Goodbye” (LW No. 19, 90,000 downloads)
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
1. Keri Hilson feat. Kanye West and Ne-Yo, “Knock You Down” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks)
2. Drake, “Best I Ever Had” (LW No. 3, 8 weeks)
3. Jeremih, “Birthday Sex” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks)
4. Young Money, “Every Girl” (LW No. 5, 9 weeks)
5. Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain, “Blame It” (LW No. 4, 26 weeks)
6. Pleasure P, “Boyfriend #2” (LW No. 6, 19 weeks)
7. Hurricane Chris feat. Superstarr, “Halle Berry (She’s Fine)” (LW No. 10, 21 weeks)
8. Maxwell, “Pretty Wings” (LW No. 11, 6 weeks)
9. Musiq Soulchild, “sobeautiful” (LW No. 8, 27 weeks)
10. Kid Cudi, “Day ‘N’ Nite” (LW No. 7, 16 weeks)
Hot Country Songs
1. Brad Paisley, “Then” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks)
2. Kenny Chesney, “Out Last Night” (LW No. 2, 11 weeks)
3. Keith Urban, “Kiss a Girl” (LW No. 3, 13 weeks)
4. Zac Brown Band, “Whatever It Is” (LW No. 6, 22 weeks)
5. Dierks Bentley, “Sideways” (LW No. 4, 15 weeks)
6. Lady Antebellum, “I Run to You” (LW No. 8, 21 weeks)
7. Sugarland, “It Happens” (LW No. 5, 17 weeks)
8. Montgomery Gentry, “One in Every Crowd” (LW No. 7, 20 weeks)
9. Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me” (LW No. 10, 8 weeks)
10. Alan Jackson, “Sissy’s Song” (LW No. 9, 17 weeks)
Hot Alternative Tracks
1. Linkin Park, “New Divide” (LW No. 4, 3 weeks)
2. Green Day, “Know Your Enemy” (LW No. 1, 8 weeks)
3. Silversun Pickups, “Panic Switch” (LW No. 2, 13 weeks)
4. Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody” (LW No. 3, 21 weeks)
5. Cage the Elephant, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” (LW No. 5, 12 weeks)
6. 311, “Hey You” (LW No. 6, 9 weeks)
7. Anberlin, “Feel Good Drag” (LW No. 7, 36 weeks)
8. Incubus, “Black Heart Inertia” (LW No. 8, 10 weeks)
9. Seether, “Careless Whisper” (LW No. 9, 15 weeks)
10. Rise Against, “Audience of One” (LW No. 10, 23 weeks)