Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rihanna, Ludacris, Lady Gaga Return to Chart Tops

Follow That Chart!
Week of March 27, 2010
(Data from Week Ending March 14, 2010)

The new Billboard charts announced today contain none of the shockers of last week; instead, while all five of the main pop-related charts Vertigo Shtick follows (Hot 100, Billboard 200, Radio Songs, Digital Songs, and Pop Songs) welcomed newcomers to each of their top spots, each of the five acts to reach new heights this week have been on top before, albeit some more recently -  and others more often - than others. Here's a breakdown of what happened and what might happen next.

Hot 100 (Singles)

"Rude Boy," the third single from Rihanna's fourth album Rated R (released way back on November 20, 2009 and this week holding steady at number 22 on the albums chart after debuting and peaking at number four), finally managed what its two predecessors from Rated R could not ("Russian Roulette" and "Hard" peaked at numbers nine and eight on the Hot 100, respectively). In its leap from number four to number one, "Rude Boy" knocks off last week's chart-topping shocker debut "Break Your Heart" by Rihanna label-mate Taio Cruz, making it the first time Island Def Jam Music group has had back-to-back top singles since Kanye West's "Gold Digger" took over after Mariah Carey's dominant chart run with "We Belong Together" in 2005. Rihanna also earns the distinction of having the most number one singles in the time since her debut in June 2005 with "Pon de Replay" (which peaked at number two), with her current reign being her sixth, and fifth as a lead artist.

Meanwhile, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" stays put at number two, ahead of last week's champ "Break Your Heart," which predictably slides to number three after failing (also predictably) to crack the top ten in the notoriously molasses-quick Radio Songs chart. Former champ "Imma Be" moves the Black Eyed Peas up one spot to number four, and Train's simmering success "Hey Soul Sister" inches back up one spot to number six, while Young Money's "BedRock" (3-7), Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" (another former champ, 6-8) and Jason Derulo's "In My Head" (8-10) all experience minor slides. The only two newcomers to the top ten are new act B.o.B., whose single "Nothin' On You" (featuring Bruno Mars) leaps up eleven spots to number five thanks to strong digital sales, and "Telephone" by Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé, no doubt buoyed by the release a week ago of its controversial music video. Gaga's "Bad Romance" slips six spots to number 15, while Ludacris' "How Low" drops from number ten to number fourteen the same week its accompanying album topped the album chart.

What to Watch For: With the baffling loyalty Rihanna enjoys added to the actual strength of "Rude Boy" as a single, it is far from unlikely that the Barbadian pop diva may enjoy the first consecutive reign atop the Hot 100 since Ke$ha's nine-week domination with "TiK ToK" earlier this winter, but the rapid rise of B.o.B.'s "Nothin' On You" in both digital and radio arenas makes it a worthy contender; "Need You Now" is unlikely to get that final push needed to take the top spot now that the field has become competitive after the winter lull. "Telephone" will likely continue to climb, albeit slowly, as long as its airplay remains as high as it has, but since it has been available for download for such a long time it is unlikely to surge in that area, dampening its chances at the top spot. A concentrated effort by the frighteningly massive legion of Justin Bieber fans to get one of the teenage heartthrob's singles to the top may make some scary headway in the digital charts, but unless airplay jumpstarts he is unlikely to prove a major threat. Ludacris may find himself back in the top ten soon if second single "My Chick Bad," featuring an irresistable Nicki Minaj, continues to climb at its current rate (it rose from 44 to 27 in the past week and has a good deal of word of mouth).

Billboard 200 (Albums)

Five debuts on the albums chart join two long-term mainstays, two relatively recent sales victors, and one holdover from the previous week in the top ten of the Billboard 200. Rapper Ludacris comes closer to making history as Battle of the Sexes becomes his fourth number one album, landing him third all-time among rap acts (but far from the record in first place: Jay-Z has had a whopping eleven). With 137,000 sold, Ludacris edges out a strong showing from animated band Gorillaz, whose third album Plastic Beach sold 112,000 copies to finish in second, the highest chart position for the virtual band fronted by Damon Albarn and known for previous singles "Feel Good, Inc." "D.A.R.E." and "Clint Eastwood." A posthumous release of Jimi Hendrix material titled Valleys of Neptune lands at number four, ahead of country singer Gary Allan's Get Off On The Pain, debuting at number five. Rounding out the newbies is the self-titled release by Broken Bells, a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and Shins singer James Mercer, which bows at number seven after moving 49,000 copies.

Lady Antebellum continues its hot streak with another 105,000 copies of Need You Now and the number three honor in its seventh week, while former number one Soldier of Love by Sade slips to number six in its fifth week of release, and Blake Shelton's EP Hillbilly Bone, in its second week, moves a measly 29,000 copies which is still enough for tenth place.

Meanwhile, two perennial juggernauts continue to sit comfortably in the top ten well after their respective release dates. Lady Gaga's debut album The Fame dropped only 3% after the previous week, selling another 48,000 units in its 72nd week on the chart to finish seventh, while The Black Eyed Peas shifted 43,000 more copies of The E.N.D. to come in eighth in the album's fortieth week on the chart.

Pop Songs (Top 40 Airplay)

Although usually I cover the Radio Songs chart, which measures airplay from all arrays of radio stations regardless of genre, this week the more interesting movement (if it can be called that) occured in the Pop Songs chart, also an airplay chart but one that only reflects the playlists of 132 national "Top 40" stations (i.e. mainstream pop radio). Lady Gaga scored her sixth number one single on this week's chart (I also write this as a respectful asterisk to Gaga's triumphant claim of "six number ones" that she is no doubt trumpeting all over the social media; she has to date earned two number one singles on the Hot 100: "Just Dance" and "Poker Face," while "Bad Romance" peaked at number two) with "Telephone," the stomper featuring Beyoncé that slides up one spot to the top. Another point of significance: the Pop Songs chart was the last holdout of Ke$ha's "TiK ToK," which held the top spot through last week's charts despite falling on every other chart for the past four weeks. Those Clear Channel DJs, though, never seem to get the memo.

Other than that, the changes within the Pop Songs chart are typically miniscule; the only newcomer to the top ten, Kris Allen's "Live Like We're Dying," inched up a measly one space from number eleven.

Digital Songs (Download Sales)

The Digital Songs chart has become pretty much the best indicator of what people actually want to listen to, i.e. what is actually "popular" in as close to real time as possible. Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart" held a second week at number one, but obviously not with enough downloads to repeat its radio-unassisted domination of the Hot 100 like the previous week. "Rude Boy" stays in second, but with large gains in sales, and will likely take over next week. That is, if "Nothin' On You" doesn't leapfrog it after jumping from fifteenth to fourth this week. Justin Bieber holds in seventh with "Baby," although the imminent release of his full-length debut My World 2.0 (due March 23) will likely cause a downloading riot in the coming weeks. Timbaland rebounds back into the top ten with "Carry Out" (featuring Justin Timberlake) at number eight, but so far none of the singles from Shock Value II have done much more than that.

Although if Rihanna is any indication, one must never say never.

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