When Billboard closes out 2008 next week by charting the year’s biggest hits, you can expect several songs from late 2007 to loom large on the year-end Hot 100.
But I doubt any will surpass the song that made an unrecognizable Tom Cruise shake his groove thing this past summer.
If there’s any chance that something will upset Flo Rida’s pop-rap smash, it’ll be by another newcomer whose big hit proved tough to follow: Leona Lewis. But I wouldn’t count on it.
In the annals of popular music, certain albums stand out for their sheer percentage of hit-bound material. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the most famous, not just because it spun off seven Top 10 singles—the first album to do so—but because the whole disc had only nine tracks. That’s a stunning 78% hit ratio. Shania Twain’s Come on Over, roughly 70% of which charted on the country and pop charts over the course of two years, is nearly as legendary. More recently, Rihanna has mined just over half of Good Girl Gone Bad for a string of hits.
Normally, feats like these are the result of months of patient promotion, as singles are promoted one by one—lined up for release to radio like planes on a slow-moving runway.
When you’re an 18-year-old country-pop phenomenon, however, things move a lot faster.
For the first time in months, the most oft-recurring name on Billboard‘s Hot 100 isn’t ubiquitous rapper Lil Wayne. It’s Taylor Swift, who appears with seven songs this week, six of them brand-new to the chart.
We’ve seen this chart ubiquity happen several times this year—not just with Weezy but with American Idol winner David Cook and the Jonas Brothers. What’s unprecedented is just how much of an individual Swift album has now made the chart.
Eat your heart out, Michael: just one week after it debuted in stores, Swift’s Fearless is 85% hit.
A band with a charismatic frontwoman attracts a passionate young following, briefly with Contemporary Christian fans and then with a mass audience bewitched by their alternative-but-accessible vibe. While the group attracts certain emo elements and the tattooed-and-pierced set, their straight-up-the-middle pop sensibilities win over radio programmers looking for some femme-friendly rock content. Finally, after a steady build, the attachment of a key single to a preordained hit movie brings them into the Top 40 in a big way.
I’m not the first person to make the connection between Evanescence and Paramore, but the No. 34 Billboard Hot 100 debut of “Decode” from the chart-topping Twilight soundtrack makes it a bit more obvious. It’s Paramore’s highest-ever pop debut, and it finds them embracing the teen-goth subculture.
Evanescence’s Amy Lee could tell Paramore about how lucrative the black-wearing-girl demographic can be. But she also has the 2003 Ben Affleck comic-schlock movie Daredevil to thank for Evanescence’s breakthrough. “Bring Me to Life” probably would’ve been a hit eventually no matter what, but the Hollywood-fueled promotional boost—at a time when modern rock and even top 40 radio were allergic to female-fronted rock songs—didn’t hurt.
The only difference is that Evanescence went the Hollywood route with its first major-label single. One wonders why Paramore didn’t go this way sooner.
Maybe the country has been a little too distracted to listen to the radio recently, but for whatever reason, there’s a paucity of big moves on Billboard‘s Hot 100 this week: no skyrocketing songs moving up on account of an iTunes surge, as we’ve seen continually all during the fall.
Amid the stasis, the steady performance of T.I.’s two simultaneous hits wins the day, as his Rihanna duet “Live Your Life” finally does something I’d been expecting for weeks now: it returns to No. 1, knocking out his other chart-topper, “Whatever You Like.” It’s the second time these songs have traded places; “Life” first replaced “Whatever” in the penthouse four weeks ago. Digital sales for “Life” are a model of consistency, as the song shifts another 184,000 downloads (up 2% from last week) more than a month after dropping on iTunes.
Take a good look at what’s in this week’s Top 10—we could be living with these songs for a while. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but I have a sense that as we head toward the holidays, the song charts are seizing up as they often do at year-end and through the early winter.
For some acts like T.I., this will be good news. For others who rely on certain radio formats, this could be a problem. Jason Mraz, we’re looking in your direction.
We knew last week that Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” was poised to make a big leap on Billboard‘s Hot 100. The only question was, how big?
Just a year ago, a 65-space jump to No. 3 would have been enough to make our eyes pop. When Britney Spears did it in early October 2007 with “Gimme More,” it was considered something of a triumph—especially as she was at the height of her meltdown phase and coming off a tragic performance at the 2007 Video Music Awards.
Now, we’re a little harder to impress. In its third week on the charts, “Boy” makes the exact same move from No. 68 to No. 3–and chart geeks yawn. That’s because the last two months have brought three straight leaps all the way to No. 1 from below No. 70. (The most recent was by Spears herself, whose “Womanizer” bested “Gimme More” by shooting from No. 96 to the penthouse.)
Still, Beyoncé’s got nothing to be ashamed of: her gender-flip of Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” (well, I like to think of it that way) is her ninth career Top 10 single and sold almost 190,000 digital downloads. And it brings her one hit away from matching the career chart record of the group she ditched four years ago.
“Okay, it’s official,” I wrote to Maura midday on Thursday, when Billboard released the new Hot 100. “I have seriously underestimated ‘Whatever You Like.’”
That durable smash by Atlanta rap deity T.I. moves into the penthouse for the third time since late August. Directly behind it is T.I.’s simultaneous hit, the Rihanna duet “Live Your Life,” which moves up to No. 2 two weeks after it spent a sole week in the top spot.
After I bravely predicted a few weeks ago that the irresistible “Life” would dominate the fall and make “Whatever” a distant memory, the T-and-Ri pairing has had a hard time holding onto the top spot. Last week’s coup by Britney Spears’s well-hyped “Womanizer” was pretty predictable. But the idea that T.I.’s new hit would also have to fight off his older one—a loping, sluggish song that’s neither a ballad nor a club jam—was a development few saw coming, least of all me.
If there’s one thing it shows, it’s that for all our talk here in recent weeks about the dominance of digital sales on the charts these days, airplay still matters. “Whatever” wouldn’t still be competing for the top slot without radio’s fervent support.
For all you vinyl fetishists out there, here are a couple of catalog numbers to look up in your collection of vintage 45s: Atlantic 3761, and Atlantic 3787.
From what classic, hit-single-producing Atlantic act could those be? Aretha Franklin, you’re thinking? Maybe Crosby, Stills and Nash? Phil Collins?
Try AC/DC—those are the U.S. release numbers for the 7-inch singles of “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back in Black.” Both were relased in 1980; both charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Which is proof that they were, in fact, released as singles—songs weren’t allowed to appear on the Hot 100 prior to 1998 unless the public could buy them at retail for a buck or two.
Of course, as you’ve been reading in the press for the past few weeks, Angus Young and his gang of perpetual adolescents aren’t big fans of buck-a-songs anymore. In fact, they view their albums—the latest of which, Black Ice, hits Wal-Mart shelves exclusively on Monday—as indivisible works of art. That’s why they’ve resisted not only Apple’s industry-dominating iTunes Store and its 99-cent-songs policy, but also all requests to release a greatest-hits album.
Accepting, with a straight face, a comparison of the band’s studio albums to Picasso’s oeuvre means buying into the idea that AC/DC can only be appreciated at album length. But a study of the Aussie-Scottish band’s U.S. sales and chart history suggests that AC/DC thrive on hit songs. And their disinclination to release their most beloved songs either a la carte or on a compilation is likely motivated not by pride but by plain fear of the free market.
Ten years ago this month—Oct. 23, 1998, to be exact—Jive Records released a savvy, Max Martin–produced pop trifle called “…Baby One More Time.” It went on to top Billboard‘s Hot 100 in the winter of 1999 and kick off teen-pop’s headiest, craziest and silliest year of cultural dominance.
It was also the last time former Mouseketeer, aspiring starlet and pop fetish object Britney Spears would top the premier U.S. singles chart—until this week, when Spears (as predicted) shoots from the chart’s bottom rungs to the penthouse with “Womanizer.” In the process, she ousts rap king T.I. and duet partner Rihanna; defeats a record he set twice in the last two months for the biggest leap to the top in Billboard history; beats Mariah Carey’s record for one-week digital sales by a female act; and consummates a year-long effort to rehabilitate her career.
When I speak about Britney’s rehabilitation, I’m not just referring to her well-publicized efforts to turn around a half-decade of tabloid-level personal breakdown. I’m also referring to her surprisingly checkered U.S. chart history. Indeed, the first question some of you might be asking yourselves is, How is this only her second No. 1 hit?
The short answer: she’s arguably gotten screwed by the refs. To a chart geek like me, Spears comes off as a victim of a decade of erratic industry practices and radical shifts in Hot 100 chart rules. More »
In the doldrums of January 2006, several weeks after the annual flurry of post-Christmas music-buying, the iTunes Store was livened up by the sudden appearance on its best-sellers list of a bunch of new hit songs.
It’s not unheard of for the industry to drop new songs in the dead of winter by non-blockbuster, developing acts—but these songs were credited to a bunch of kids who’d never had a hit, or even a shred of major-label promotion.
Within a month, eight songs by this gang of toothsome newcomers with names like “Ashley Tisdale” and “Zac Efron” were on the Hot 100, the largest number of simultaneous charting songs from a single album ever. And that album, the soundtrack to the Disney Channel made-for-TV flick High School Musical, went on to become 2006’s top-selling disc.
The feat was almost precisely duplicated 18 months later, when the flick’s much-hyped sequel premiered. The High School Musical 2 soundtrack spawned seven simultaneous Hot 100 hits and was 2007’s best-selling album until a Josh Groban Christmas CD topped it in the last weeks of December.
In both cases, iTunes sales of single tracks served as early indicators: of the soundtrack albums’ blockbuster futures, and the movies’ repeatability and Zeitgeist-defining success. With High School Musical 3 nine days away from its premiere—in movie theaters this time—and the soundtrack album less than a week out, what are the early iTunes indicators telling us?
Call me an old sourpuss, but they’re telling me that, as a musical force at least, this franchise might be spent.
In a week where it seems the global financial crisis is inescapable, America decides that a buck is a nice price to spend on music, and the Top 40 of Billboard‘s Hot 100 sees a wave of new best-selling singles—including two in the Top 10 and a massive leap by a new No. 1 smash.
With that 79-place jump (which, ahem…I called last week), T.I. accomplishes two major chart feats. New No. 1 “Live Your Life” featuring Rihanna sets the record for the biggest leap to the top in history—which would be unremarkable, given the frequency with which this record has been broken recently, if not for the fact that T.I. is beating himself, having reset the mark just six weeks ago.
More impressively, by ousting his own “Whatever You Like,” T.I. joins a very elite club: acts that succeeded themselves at No. 1. During the Hot 100’s entire 50-year history, there have only been eight, and if you ignore featuring-artist credits, the number is six.
Besides these chart feats, T.I.’s hit also sets a record for the biggest debut sales week for a digital single. But we might want to get used to that happening. Already, iTunes is reporting a wave of new best-sellers as the music industry’s last blockbuster holiday hits full swing.