Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Billboard 50th Anniversary

50 years ago, Billboard launched a new chart that would become the most important music chart in the world. The Billboard Hot 100 chart was born on 4 August, 1958, replacing the Top 100 charts that was introduced in 1955.

 The Hot 100 is an all-genre singles chart that combined the weightage of radio airplay and singles sales. Prior to the Top 100, there were also three separate charts for airplay and sales - Bestseller In Stores, Most Played By Jockeys and Most Played By Jukeboxes charts. As we progressed into the digital age, sales of digital singles via online merchants such as iTunes became part of the formula for calculating chart position. 

The first #1 hit on the Hot 100 was Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool. The past 50 years have yielded more than 1,000 #1 hits, and as Billboard celebrates this special occasion, they are publishing a series of special charts that pay tribute to some Hot 100 milestones.

Among the notable achievements are:

Most Weeks At #1 By Artist
1. Mariah Carey - 79 weeks
2. The Beatles - 59 weeks
3. Boyz II Men - 50 weeks
4. Usher - 43 weeks
5. Michael Jackson - 37 weeks
6. Elton John - 34 weeks
7. Janet Jackson - 33 weeks
8. Beyonce & Madonna (tied) - 32 weeks
10. Whitney Houston - 31 weeks
11. Paul McCartney/Wings - 30 weeks

It's good to see that the Jacksons have cemented their place in history. However, I would argue that MJ's placing on this chart deserves to be higher because it does not count his weeks at #1 with the Jackson 5 or USA For Africa.

The Jackson 5 scored four #1 hits, spending a total of 10 weeks at the summit. The superstar ensemble USA For Africa spent four weeks at #1 with We Are The World. Mariah's 79 weeks includes songs that she collaborated with other artists (with Boyz II Men on One Sweet Day, with 98 Degrees & Joe on Thank God I Found You). 

While the distinction is made such that it only counts if the artist credited to the track is the artist's own name - Thank Got I Found You by Mariah Carey, Joe & 98 Degrees, as opposed to I'll Be There by Jackson 5, rather than I'll Be There by Michael Jackson and his 4 brothers - it is perhaps more important to recognise the number of career #1s. 

While MJ might have recorded those tracks with different artists at different stages of his career, he was still an integral part of those groups and he did reach #1 with those groups. So rightfully, he did achieve #1 in his career in those instances.

So accounting for those "lost" weeks would leave MJ with 51 weeks at #1, which would place him at the #3 position, just above Boyz II Men, and just behind The Beatles and Mariah Carey. This rationale will also improve Paul McCartney's standings to 69 weeks, after taking into account his Beatles record.

Applying this methodology, it also affect MJ's standings in another related chart:

Most #1s By Artists (All Time)
1. The Beatles - 20
2. Mariah Carey - 18
3. Michael Jackson - 13
4. Madonna & The Supremes (tied) - 12 each
6. Whitney Houston - 11
7. Janet Jackson & Stevie Wonder (tied) - 10
9. Bee Gees, Elton John & Paul McCartney/Wings (tied) - 9
12. The Rolling Stones & Usher (tied) - 8

MJ's 13 #1s here do not include his J5 and USA For Africa #1s, so adding these in will yield a further 5 #1 hits, tying him with Mariah with 18 career #1s each.

Billboard will continue to unveil more chart tributes, and they will conclude the series with a special All-Time Hot 100 chart this week. You can check out Billboard's Hot 100 Special for the rest of the charts.

But anyway, good job MJ and Janet! You are officially the most successful siblings in music, there's no denying it now. They should record another track together and include it on both their next comeback albums. Scream Part 2!

And also reflecting on these charts here, I seriously find it hard to name a current pop star who will be able to creep his/her name into these lists say, 10 or 20 years down the road. The so-called "stars" of today have no longevity, and that's due to the simple fact that they don't have real talent. 

Success has come too easily for them - all they have to do is fiddle with some hi-tech audio software to create some beats and loops, write some verses that no one understands and have no melodic structure whatsoever, spout those words (not sing) into a mic  and voila! You have a new #1 hit!

It's easy to create a "hit" song nowadays, but it's just as easy to fall out of favour with the fickle-minded public by the time you drop an album 2 years later. The musical landscape might have changed dramatically and moved on without you. 

That's why I especially admire the true pop stars of yesteryear that truly have the talent and longevity. And their legacy is assured, as you can see from these charts here. Let's hope today's batch of the most promising stars - Justin, Christina and Usher - can continue to work their way into the pantheon of greatness and earn a spot in the next Hot 100 Special - 50 years from now.


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