chris molanphy

105871-0Our resident chart guru Chris Molanphy was on WNYC’s On The Media this weekend, where he shared his thoughts on the meaning of the pop charts in an age where music is so atomized. The transcript isn’t up yet, but you can listen to his package—and the rest of the show, which is all about Where Music Is Now—at the link. [On The Media] More »

Green Day Own Rock Charts, Prepare to Qualify

knowyourThe most notable move on any of Billboard‘s flagship singles charts this week isn’t on the Hot 100, where the Black Eyed Peas make it a month at No. 1 with the tiresome “Boom Boom Pow.”

Instead, over on the normally snoozy Modern Rock chart, a veteran band makes the second-biggest leap to No. 1 in a decade and a half, and in the process breaks out of a tie with U2 for the second-biggest roster of penthouse-dwellers in this chart’s history.

I’m speaking of Green Day, a band with arguably the most daunting challenge of any act in post-millennial rock (especially since Axl Rose finally got Chinese Democracy out of his system): following up an album that hit the trifecta of popular success, critical acclaim and industry recognition.

Scoring a No. 1 hit right away at radio sets up that forthcoming album nicely. But a close examination of the erstwhile Bay Area punkers’ chart history indicates that this quick score doesn’t necessarily mean much as a predictor of Green Day’s success. More »

A Moment Of Gratitude (With An Assist From Big Star)

As you might have noticed, this is a bittersweet week around here; because of budget cuts, we’ve had to say goodbye to pretty much all the Idolator contributing writers, from columnists to daily bloggers. The site is going to go on as a solo project of sorts, although the news cycle might run at a slightly slower pace. I just wanted to take a moment on this crappy day to thank everyone who’s contributed to the site during my tenure, from the people who helped me sift through the news cycle every day to the columnists, each of whom expanded the focus of the site. More »

Lady GaGa Takes Slow and Steady Route to the Top

Lady GaGa Scores Hot 100 Milestone,” a Billboard headline trumpeted yesterday upon the release of the new Hot 100.

What could this milestone be? you might ask yourself. Biggest self-aggrandizer since 50 Cent to reach the top slot? Most similar-sounding pair of hits since Rick Astley? Most successful pantsless act?

As it happens, GaGa’s achievement has to do with her Billboard batting average: two chart hits, two No. 1’s. This week, “Poker Face” follows January’s smash “Just Dance” into the top slot. She’s the first act to step up to the plate, swing just twice, and hit two homers since Christina Aguilera’s first pair of hits, “Genie in a Bottle” and “What a Girl Wants,” topped the Hot 100 in 1999–2000.

That’s nice for the Lady and all, but it masks a more notable achievement: her slowness in achieving those hits. The amount of time “Dance” and “Poker” took to reach No. 1 is literally unprecedented in recent chart history.

In a sea of hits that explode up the charts based on faddish bursts of iTunes sales, GaGa’s chart pattern is contrary to everything going on in pop music promotion right now, recalling the more languid runs by songs in the ’70s through the mid-’90s. It’s almost enough to make an old-school chart geek like me root for her. More »

Two-Hit Wonder Flo Rida Owns Charts, Reminds Us He Exists

Obviously, we need to talk about the new song that takes over the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100, and the mind-blowing record it sets.

But before we do that, let’s talk about Hilary Swank.

I find Swank’s movie career totally incomprehensible: She either wins Oscars, or she tanks. Not even Meryl Streep has won two Best Actress statues, yet in under a decade Swank has gone to that podium twice, like some kind of modern-day Katharine Hepburn. You’d think that would make her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, or at least its most respected. Sure, she wins roles in some blockbuster-type stuff (The Core) or prestige-like stuff (The Black Dahlia), but these movies are invariably flops. Swank’s successes seem to have had no impact on her career, or the way she’s regarded by the general public. She’s some kind of metaphor for the in-and-out nature of post-millennial fame.

All this leaps to my mind when I consider Flo Rida, the rapper who reaches No. 1 on the Hot 100 for the second time, with the kind of sales total that you’d think would make Lil Wayne, Kanye West or Jay-Z bow respectfully.

But if I were them, I wouldn’t. Because after all, who is this clown? How did Flo Rida become the Hilary Swank of pop music?

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Heavy Lies the Crown: Clarkson Still Tops, But Slim Shady Is Poised to Pounce

eminem_l.jpgMaura and I have already taken a victory lap about our fulfilled prediction that Kelly Clarkson would vault to the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100. Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” dominates the list again this week, thanks to commanding sales and fast-rising radio airplay.

How long will she stay there? Nothing in the Top 10 looks like a threat. The few songs that are on the rise, including Kanye West’s “Heartless” and All-American Rejects’ “Gives You Hell,” appear to be losing momentum. The Fray’s “You Found Me” will likely get a boost from the release of their album this week, but probably not enough to take over the penthouse.

If anything’s going to dethrone Clarkson, it will come from outside the winners’ circle. “Prom Queen,” the ill-advised rock single from Lil Wayne, makes an impressive debut at No. 17, the highest start so far this year. You’d think that would give him the edge.

But the more likely scenario involves someone doing to Kelly what Kelly did to Lady GaGa two weeks ago: an outside ambush that vaults from the bottom to the top in one fell swoop. And the probable ambusher is making an even bigger chart comeback this year than Clarkson.

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“Suck” Blows (Up): Clarkson’s Comeback Could Make It To The Top Of The Pops

The most interesting news on Billboard’s Hot 100 isn’t at the summit, where the entire Top Five has been static for the last couple of weeks. It’s in the basement, where a flotilla of new songs—many by established acts—debuts.

We could talk about the return of Eminem to the Hot 100, for the first time in nearly three years, with his 50 and Dre-supported “Crack the Bottle,” at No. 76.

Or the third single and first ballad from the omnipresent Katy Perry, one notch below. (More on her in a minute.)

Or a couple of all-star duets—mellow twosome Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat (“Lucky,” No. 84) or smoove pair Jamie Foxx and T-Pain (“Blame It,” No. 98).

But all of these budding hits are overshadowed by the single that debuts quietly at No. 97—a song that could well be the chart’s next No. 1 and finally put some distance between Kelly Clarkson and the other American Idol finalists who’ve been chipping away at her crown all these years.

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Lady GaGa Dances To No. 1 As iTunes’ Beat Gets A Little Bit Slower

Over the holidays, Billboard‘s song charts were, at least on the surface, pretty sleepy. On the Hot 100, most of the songs that were hot late last fall—Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy,” T.I. and Rihanna’s “Live Your Life,” Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless,” Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” the unkillable Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold”—continued bumping around the Top 10 like lazy molecules.

But below the surface, a ton of music was being consumed. In particular, one song benefited massively from the annual iPod-filling digital megasale that hits iTunes every Christmas—and that song, Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance,” reaches No. 1 the very week Apple’s music store removes digital-rights management restrictions on all of its songs, making them freely copyable.

Does this mean we’re in for even more Lady GaGa than we’re enduring now, as kids trade their iTunes purchases like baseball cards? Unlikely: those who “share” music probably figured out their DRM workarounds years ago.

But the official start of the post-DRM era—and, more important, the changes to song pricing—could have some interesting effects on digital song sales, and the charts that track them.

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One More List Before We Go: The Top 12 Idolator Posts Of 2008

As you may have gathered, I’m raring to close the book on 2008, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t run down some of the site’s highlights during what was a pretty dreary year overall. After the jump, behold a pretty subjective top 12 of the year (thanks to our technological limbo I can’t run any sort of numbers, but I think this list accurately captures the best moments we’ve had during a long slog of a year). And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you for coming back, reading, commenting, and pointing out when I get shit wrong (which is too often). If you think I got this list wrong, feel free to abuse me with compliments in the comments section!

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Doubled His Pleasure, Quadrupled His Fun: Chris Brown is 2008’s Stealth Chart Star

foreverrrr.jpgThe release today of Billboard’s tallies for the year’s biggest U.S. singles and albums produce few jaw-dropping surprises. The top eight songs of the year, according to the Hot 100, come directly from the list of 10 songs in my predictions post last week.

So what about those two songs I called wrong? I’ll get to my bad calls later, but let’s focus for a moment on the act who surprised me by bum-rushing the year-end winner’s circle and taking Nos. 9 and 10.

That would be Chris Brown, who quietly dominates the year-end Hot 100, even though his name doesn’t appear any higher than No. 6 (with a featured-artist credit). In all, the 19-year-old’s name appears four times in the Top 20, three of them as a lead act.

That kind of dominance isn’t totally unheard of—just last year, Fergie appeared thrice in the year-end Top 20—but it’s still pretty remarkable. Combining all of his appearances on both the song and album charts, Billboard names Brown the top pop artist of the year, beating out such ubiquitous-in-2008 acts as Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift.

Throw in his supporting performance on another top 100–ranked song by David Banner; his six appearances on the year-end R&B/Hip-Hop list; his co-writing credit on one of Rihanna’s biggest hits; and the fact that one of his top-ranked hits doubled as a jingle for chewing gum, and Brown—more than Wayne, more than T-Pain—comes off as 2008’s true pop utilityman.

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