Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ode to the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs Chart

Billboard magazine is mainly known for its two signature charts, the Hot 100 singles and the Billboard 200 albums. Yet over the years as genres have grown more defined, and different formats and means of distribution have developed, Billboard has grown to include well over a hundred different charts measuring all sorts of things. Most of the charts rank based on sales, radio airplay, online streaming, or some combination of the three. But my favorite  has always been a scrappy, lovably quirky chart called Hot Dance Club Songs.

Hot Dance Club Songs is unlike any other Billboard chart in that it compiles from weekly reports submitted by a nationwide panel of club DJs "detailing the tracks that elicit the most audience response." This unusual methodology obviously makes things more unpredictable on the whole, but it also engenders the chart with a unique kind of personality, with a few quirky habits of its own. The main is that, with the rarest of exceptions, there is a new #1 every week. Not only that, but songs that hit #1 typically have a hilariously big drop the following week, the reason for which is amusing to conjecture. (Surely the audience response isn't "oh, that song is #1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart this week, how boring.") In fact, a song will typically spend more time on the chart, especially in the upper regions, if it never actually peaks at #1.

As for the music, you might expect the Hot Dance Club Songs chart to be your Aviciis and Tiëstos and other Electric Daisy Carnival headliners - and you do get them, but no, their domination tends to be more in the other Dance/Electronica charts, which reflect sales, streaming and "airplay". The songs on this chart mostly fall into four main types: super giant current mainstream hits (of any style); non-Top 40 label dance pop artists; flop singles by artists the gays like (or like ironically); and small indie/unsigned/underground artists. Because remixes count for this chart, and super giant current mainstream hits I think get mandatory dance club duty (I don't know), you do get the occasional spit-take moment with this chart, and I could totally see a newcomer questioning its bona fides upon seeing "Say Something" at #1.

But it's easy to forgive, because this chart is one of the few on which the big superhit interlopers are the minority; it's the only Billboard chart I would go to for music discovery. And because its pace is so speedy,* you get a lot more material passing through the chart somewhere, even if it doesn't make it all the way to the top. In honor of this, the best of Billboard charts you've never heard of, each week Vertigo Shtick will spotlight the new #1 (and it will be new) on the chart.

This week's Hot Dance Club Songs #1 is Beyoncé's "Partition".

The single was written by...well, a crapload of people: The-Dream, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Jerome Harmon, Beyoncé herself, Dwane Weir, and Mike Dean; and produced by Timbaland, Harmon, Timberlake, Beyoncé, Weir, Dean, and Boots. Released along with the entire self-titled album and accompanying videos on December 13, 2013, "Partition" has peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.

"Partition" involves many of the themes in Beyoncé: sexual fulfillment as a celebration of marriage, Beyoncé's stardom, and feminism (the French bit is a translation of a monologue from The Big Lebowski in which Julianne Moore's character explains "feminists love sex"). Like the album it comes from, it has definitely made a mark on the present day even when referring to the past: Monica Lewinsky mentions her shout-out in her recent Vanity Fair essay, ("Thanks Beyoncé, but if we're verbing, I think you meant 'Bill Clinton'd all on my gown'"); Andrew Garfield starred in a Saturday Night Live skit called "The Beygency," in which he learns the consequences of being but a casual fan; and Bill O'Reilly's breathless puritan outrage over the music video led Jon Stewart and Jessica Williams to lampoon him uproariously on The Daily Show.

The music video, amusingly labeled "Explicit" on YouTube (it's not), was directed by Jake Nava and features Beyoncé paying homage to Josephine Baker (sometimes explicitly) and ultimately dancing on the stage for her horny, cigar-smoking hubby. Beyoncé has also said of the video, "I was 195lbs when I gave birth. I lost 65lbs.... I wanted to show that you can have a child and you can work hard and you can get your body back." The video was inspired by a trip to the Crazy Horse nightclub in Paris, where it was eventually filmed.

Previous #1:  Mariah Carey - "You're Mine (Eternal)" (Drops 1-7)
Possible #1s Next Week: Avicii - "Addicted to You" (up 3-2), Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull - "I'm a Freak" (up 4-3), Idina Menzel - "Let It Go" (up 12-6)

Visit Billboard.com for a look at many of the charts on offer, including the Hot 100, Billboard 200, and Hot Dance Club Songs.

*If Billboard charts were druggies, Hot Dance Club Songs would be the speedy coke-head, Social 50 love-crazed on Molly, Billboard 200 the violent alcoholic, Streaming Songs the cheap-ass dime-bag heroin junkie, Adult Pop Songs the boring conservative on opioids, and Radio Songs the catatonic stoner who never ever bothers to move.
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