Atlanta hip-hop king T.I. vaults 70 places into the No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s Hot 100 this week with “Whatever You Like,” a sing-songy, smudgy Xerox of his classic 2006 hit “What You Know.”
With this move, Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. scores his first No. 1 as a lead artist (he was credited two years ago on Justin Timberlake’s chart-topper “My Love”) and sets a new Hot 100 record for biggest leap to the top spot. T.I. takes the record away from Maroon 5, who set it just 16 months ago when “Makes Me Wonder” leapt from No. 64 to No. 1 in a single bound. They, in turn, had stolen the record from Kelly Clarkson, whose only No. 1 hit, “A Moment Like This,” held the record for about four years, after she leapt from No. 52 to the top in 2002.
Before Clarkson, this record was held for 28 years, by the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” (No. 26-No. 1 in 1964). The fact that a record held for three decades has been broken thrice in the last six years says less about these songs’ popularity and more about the quirks of the modern charts and the sometimes dysfunctional relationship between sales and airplay.
And it means T.I. shouldn’t gloat for too long–this record’s likely to be broken again.
Prior to this week, “Whatever You Like” was performing so modestly on the chart that I’d barely even noticed it. The song debuted a couple of weeks ago, way down at No. 99. Then it made a solid 28-spot move last week–but that still left it in the bottom third of the chart.
The August 19 digital release of “Whatever” provided the rocket fuel: the song sold more than 200,000 copies in its first week at iTunes and elsewhere. Radio airplay is growing quickly, too, as it leaps into the top 20 of the Hot 100 Airplay chart and the Top 10 of the radio-centric Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. But T.I.’s airplay growth is dwarfed by his explosion in sales.
As I’ve said here often, in the modern, iTunes-fueled music economy, the mismatch between sales and airplay–particularly on new records by established artists–produces weird chart moves. The only reason T.I. is setting the leap-to-No. 1 record this week is that he had a fairly serious misalignment between radio and pent-up fan demand.
Let me offer a hypothetical: If “Whatever,” which was sent to radio back in mid-July, had been embraced by radio programmers sooner, as of last week the song would have been further up the Hot 100 thanks to airplay points–say, the Top 50. Then, when those 200,000 in sales came crashing in, the song still would have made an impressive moon-shot to No. 1, but it wouldn’t have beaten Maroon 5′s record. (The same goes for Maroon 5 in 2007, with a song radio eventually played to death but not right away; and especially Clarkson in 2002, with a song that American Idol fans bought in droves but radio embraced only half-heartedly.)
The fact is, chart feats like T.I’s are becoming more yawn-inducing all the time. This year alone, we’ve seen numerous massive Hot 100 leaps, all fueled by sudden digital sales bursts on songs that were a little too new for radio.
Two of them shot to No. 1 with leaps that didn’t quite beat Maroon 5′s record: Usher in early March, with a 50-spot jump by “Love in this Club”; and Rihanna in mid-May, with a 52-space move by “Take a Bow.” Other big chart moves this year included two back-to-back jumps of more than 70 spaces each, by Lil Mama, with the short-lived Top 10 hit “Shawty Get Loose,” and Lil Wayne, with the chart-topper-to-be “Lollipop.”
In three of the above four cases, radio eventually caught on and made the songs not just chart smashes but radio ubiquities. (Poor Lil Mama.) But what all four songs had in common was an aberrant week of massive digital sales, fueled by a carefully timed iTunes release designed to maximize the acts’ impatient fans–the kind you can count on to buy anything you release the instant it’s available. We saw something similar just last week, when Idol runner-up David Archuleta dropped his official post-show single, and rabid fans bought enough copies to give the song a big debut at No. 2 on the Hot 100. Nice, but who knows–if Archie had scored slightly better airplay the week before, the song might’ve spent a week at No. 99 or so before pole-vaulting to the runner-up slot, and we’d be talking about him setting a different record.
In short, I advise chart-watchers not to be too amazed anymore by big leaps into the upper reaches or seemingly out-of-nowhere debuts. It’s an event to be savored by screaming fans or savvy label promotional teams–but the true measure of a song’s reception by the general public is what it’s doing a week later.
Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:
• Speaking of week two, and big debuts, let’s talk about the two aberrant debuts from last week, and one more from this week. Archuelta’s single makes a predictable second-week plummet, falling 13 spots to No. 15. Digital sales fell by nearly half after Archie’s big iTunes debut, and the song’s airplay remains too weak (it’s still nowhere to be found on Hot 100 Airplay) to offset that fall-off. Falling even faster is Taylor Swift’s “Change,” which drops 29 spots after its No. 10 debut last week. Her sales go down by 56%, and country radio still isn’t focused enough on the song to give it an airplay boost.
This week, the eye-popping debut comes from Pink’s “So What.” Sales of more than 100K out of the box splash her onto the chart at No. 9–the exact position her last two hits peaked after much longer, more deliberate chart runs. (Something tells me, a year from now, we’ll still be hearing those two very good hits, “U + Ur Hand” and “Who Knew,” on the radio a lot more than we’ll be hearing “So What.”)
• Following up on my Thursday report, on Atlantic’s campaign to sell more Estelle albums by pulling her from iTunes, the near-Top 10 hit “American Boy” makes (sigh) an expected massive drop this week. Falling 26 spots to No. 37, it’s barely clinging onto the Top 40. It’s a bad week for Estelle all around: not only does Atlantic’s gambit not produce growth in her corresponding album sales, but radio is cooling on the song, too. “Boy” loses its bullet and falls back a bit on the Hot 100 Airplay list; it’s now the 25th-most-played song at radio nationwide.
• Meanwhile, Estelle’s label-mate and fellow iTunes boycotter Kid Rock is still seeing airplay growth and a Hot 100 bullet–but the highest-charting version of “All Summer Long” is no longer his! The cheesy insta-cover by Hit Masters vaults 46 notches to No. 19, outdistancing the Kid, who holds at No. 25. Meanwhile, as I noted in a comment yesterday, there’s now a cheesy insta-cover of the Estelle song, too, by a group calling itself the Studio All-Stars. According to iTunes, this cover has been on sale since mid-July, but unsurprisingly it only sold enough copies to register on the charts the week Estelle’s original version got pulled. With more than 30,000 downloads sold last week, the “Boy” cover debuts on the Hot 100 at No. 85–and you can expect it to make a big leap next week.
(A quick public service to loyal readers and pop fans: I actually spent $1.98 to hear these two covers, and… oy! The Hit Masters’ “Summer” is actually passable and surprisingly listenable, if you can ignore the obvious replacement of the original Warren Zevon and Lynyrd Skynyrd samples. But the Studio All-Stars’ “Boy” is nigh-unlistenable, with the worst Kanye West impersonation imaginable. Avoid at all costs.)
• Even if you know little or nothing about country, you’ll probably recognize two names in its Top 10 this week: Kid Rock, whose crossover smash “All Summer Long” makes its inevitable rise into the red-state winner’s circle; and Darius Rucker, whom a couple of my sharp-eyed commenters noticed entering the Country Top 10 last week. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” the debut country-crossover single by The Artist Formerly Known As Hootie, moves up to No. 7 this week.
One of my favorite throwaway gags in Airplane! is the bit where the little old lady asks Julie Hagerty’s flight attendant for “something light” to read, and Hagerty replies, “How about this leaflet, Famous Jewish Sports Legends?” A list of Famous African-American Country Stars would fill a similar-sized document. When this Guardian article was written two years ago, Grand Ole Opry-inducted legend Charley Pride was the only black country star signed to a major label’s Nashville imprint. It’s impossible to search Billboard chart records by race–so if anyone has some decent research on this, help me out. But best as I can tell, Rucker’s Top 10 hit is the first on country radio by a black artist in a long, long while. Pride’s last Top 10 hit was 20 years ago, and in the ’80s only Lionel Richie and Ray Charles–both with duets–made inroads on this chart.
• The R&B/Hip-Hop chart continues to be August’s most interesting list, with constant shake-ups at the top. There’s yet another new No. 1 this week–the fourth chart-topper in four weeks–this time from newcomer and Missy Elliott protégée Jazmine Sullivan, with the growling ballad “Need U Bad.” (Interestingly, she’s probably getting an airplay boost from the guy at No. 1 on the Hot 100–T.I. joins Missy on the song’s official remix.) The one constant in all this change at the top: Keyshia Cole can’t be stopped. Her former No. 1, “Heaven Sent,” which was evicted by Lil Wayne three weeks ago, has been quietly holding down No. 2 ever since while the songs that succeeded her at No. 1 (Weezy’s, and Rihanna’s “Take a Bow”) have both dropped past her.
A little lower down, two songs move into the Top 10: the aforementioned T.I. track, and “Spotlight,” the surprisingly excellent post-Dreamgirls debut by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.
• On the flip side, Modern Rock continues to be the most boring chart of the summer, with the entire Top Eight staying the same from last week. Hilariously, last week’s No. 9 track, Offspring’s “Hammerhead,” is this week replaced at No. 9 by a newer song from the same band. Oh, and Weezer now has two songs in the Top 10. (Zzzzz.)
• The most notable rock debut of the week is by Metallica, whose “The Day That Never Comes” materializes on three charts. The song is the week’s highest Modern Rock debut at No. 25. But at Mainstream Rock, the band’s more natural home, “Day” debuts all the way up at No. 7. Finally, thanks to nearly 58,000 digital sales, the song debuts on the Hot 100, at a solid No. 31–for the record, that’s Lars & co.’s sixth career Top 40 hit, dating back to their first (still their best!), “One,” in 1989.
Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses (Digital Songs chart includes total downloads/percentage change in parentheses):
1. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (LW No. 71, 3 weeks)
2. Rihanna, “Disturbia” (LW No. 1, 10 weeks)
3. Chris Brown, “Forever” (LW No. 3, 18 weeks)
4. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 4, 16 weeks)
5. Kardinal Offishall feat. Akon, “Dangerous” (LW No. 7, 16 weeks)
6. M.I.A., “Paper Planes” (LW No. 6, 6 weeks)
7. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 5, 16 weeks)
8. Ne-Yo, “Closer” (LW No. 8, 19 weeks)
9. Pink, “So What” (CHART DEBUT)
10. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 8, 20 weeks)
Hot Digital Songs
1. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (CHART DEBUT, 186,000 downloads)
2. Rihanna, “Disturbia” (LW No. 2, 144,000 downloads)
3. M.I.A., “Paper Planes” (LW No. 4, 116,000 downloads)
4. Pink, “So What” (CHART DEBUT, 116,000 downloads)
5. Hit Masters, “All Summer Long” (LW No. 32, 95,000 downloads)
6. David Archuleta, “Crush” (LW No. 1, 89,000 downloads)
7. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 7, 79,000 downloads)
8. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 8, 78,000 downloads)
9. The Pussycat Dolls, “When I Grow Up” (LW No. 12, 76,000 downloads)
10. Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours” (LW No. 13, 73,000 downloads)
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
1. Jazmine Sullivan, “Need U Bad” (LW No. 4, 17 weeks)
2. Keyshia Cole, “Heaven Sent” (LW No. 2, 22 weeks)
3. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 1, 18 weeks)
4. Lil Wayne, “A Milli” (LW No. 3, 18 weeks)
5. Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West, “Put On” (LW No. 5, 16 weeks)
6. Yung Berg feat. Casha, “The Business” (LW No. 9, 14 weeks)
7. Robin Thicke, “Magic” (LW No. 6, 14 weeks)
8. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (LW No. 13, 6 weeks)
9. David Banner feat. Chris Brown, “Get Like Me” (LW No. 7, 26 weeks)
10. Jennifer Hudson, “Spotlight” (LW No. 12, 15 weeks)
Hot Country Songs
1. Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks)
2. Keith Anderson, “I Still Miss You” (LW No. 3, 30 weeks)
3. Brad Paisley, “Waitin’ on a Woman” (LW No. 5, 11 weeks)
4. Jimmy Wayne, “Do You Believe Me Now” (LW No. 4, 22 weeks)
5. Taylor Swift, “Should’ve Said No” (LW No. 1, 15 weeks)
6. Kenny Chesney, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” (LW No. 13, 4 weeks)
7. Darius Rucker, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” (LW No. 10, 19 weeks)
8. George Strait, “Troubadour” (LW No. 9, 13 weeks)
9. Toby Keith, “She Never Cried in Front of Me” (LW No. 11, 9 weeks)
10. Kid Rock, “All Summer Long” (LW No. 14, 15 weeks)
Hot Modern Rock Tracks
1. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks)
2. Foo Fighters, “Let It Die” (LW No. 2, 21 weeks)
3. Staind, “Believe” (LW No. 3, 9 weeks)
4. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 4, 19 weeks)
5. Disturbed, “Inside the Fire” (LW No. 5, 22 weeks)
6. Carolina Liar, “I’m Not Over” (LW No. 6, 17 weeks)
7. Saving Abel, ” Addicted” (LW No. 7, 23 weeks)
8. Ludo, “Love Me Dead” (LW No. 8, 23 weeks)
9. The Offspring, “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” (LW No. 19, 5 weeks)
10. Weezer, “Troublemaker” (LW No. 16, 7 weeks)