The lead artist on the #1 hit on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart is white. And here's the amazing part: That has been the case for 35 consecutive weeks. "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell tops the R&B/Hip-Hop chart for the 14th week. Immediately before Thicke took over the top spot, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had back-to-back #1 hits on this chart: "Thrift Shop" (featuring Wanz) for 14 weeks and "Can’t Hold Us" (featuring Ray Dalton) for seven weeks.
This is an unintended consequence of a change in Billboard’s chart methodology for various genres, such as R&B and country. Those charts used to be configured separately from the Hot 100. But now, the R&B and country charts are simply subsets of the Hot 100. The highest-ranking R&B or hip-hop hit on the Hot 100 is #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. It’s as simple as that.
It didn’t use to be this way. "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men logged 16 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 in 1995-1996, longer than any other song since 1955. But, you may be surprised to learn, it never reached #1 on Hot R&B Singles. It logged nine weeks at #2. For seven of those nine weeks, the #1 R&B hit was Whitney Houston’s "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)."
At "pop," though, it was a different story. Houston’s record debuted at #1 and then spent 11 weeks stuck at #2 behind "One Sweet Day." So "One Sweet Day" was a bigger pop record, but “Exhale” was a bigger R&B record.
It worked the other way, too. Some songs did better on the R&B charts than their pop chart success would indicate.
Robin Thicke’s "Lost Without U" spent 11 weeks at #1 on the R&B chart in 2007, but stalled at #14 on the Hot 100. Alicia Keys’ "Un-Thinkable (I’m Ready)" topped the R&B chart for 12 weeks in 2010. On the Hot 100, it peaked at #21. Maxwell’s "Pretty Wings" topped the R&B chart for 14 weeks in 2009. On the Hot 100, it peaked at #33.
As you can see, before the chart methodology change, the charts told two stories—the pop story and the R&B story. There was often a high degree of overlap, but sometimes, as these examples show, there were differences. Now, the charts tell just one story. This is change, but is it progress?
The R&B chart originated in Billboard in October 1942 as Harlem Hit Parade. White artists have had hits on the R&B charts in most eras, just not to the point of locking up the #1 spot for nearly nine months.
"Blurred Lines" holds at #2 on the Hot 100 following a 12-week run at #1. It's #1 on the Radio Songs chart (which measures radio airplay across all genres) for the 10th week. That's the longest run at #1 since "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris logged 12 weeks on top nearly two years ago.
Katy Perry’s "Roar" holds at #1 on the Hot 100 and debuts at #1 on the U.K.’s Official Singles Chart. It’s her fourth song to hit the top spot in both the U.S. and the U.K. Only two other female artists in chart history have had four or more transatlantic #1 hits. Rihanna leads with six. Madonna has had five.
Perry’s four songs to reach #1 in both countries are "I Kissed A Girl," "California Gurls" (featuring Snoop Dogg), "Part Of Me" and now "Roar."
Rihanna’s six are "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z), "Take A Bow," "Only Girl (In The World)," "What’s My Name?" (featuring Drake), "We Found Love" (featuring Calvin Harris) and Diamonds."
Madonna’s five are "Papa Don’t Preach," "Who’s That Girl," "Like A Prayer," "Vogue" and "Music."
In case you’re wondering, Whitney Houston is next in line with three transatlantic #1 hits: "Saving All My Love For You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and "I Will Always Love You."
Lorde's "Royals" leaps from #8 to #3. It's the breakthrough hit by the 16-year old New Zealander. You can count on hearing Lorde perform the evocative ballad on the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26, where it is likely to be nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year and she for Best New Artist. "Royals" is #1 on the Alternative Songs airplay chart for the fifth week, which ties Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" from 1995 for the longest run at #1 by a female solo artist.
"Holy Grail" by Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake jumps from #5 to #4, which is its highest ranking to date. The song has now climbed as high as Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," which gets a shout-out in the song. That hit, the seventh top 10 hit from Jackson’s blockbuster album of the same name, reached #4 in March 1984.
Avicii’s "Wake Me Up!" jumps from #7 to #5. It jumps to #1 on Dance/Electronic Songs, displacing Lady Gaga's "Applause." "Wake Me Up!" tops the 1 million mark in digital sales this week. It’s Avicii’s second million-seller. "Levels" has sold 1,463,000 copies.
"Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais rebounds from #10 to #6. The song tops the 1 million mark in digital sales this week. It’s Del Rey’s first million-seller. "Young And Beautiful," her hit from The Great Gatsby soundtrack, has sold 788K copies. (That song, which peaked at #22 earlier this year, rebounds from #66 to #57 in its 18th week.)
Lady Gaga’s "Applause" dips from #6 to #7 in its fourth week. Here's some better news for Gaga fans: Gaga’s 2009 smash "Poker Face" becomes the seventh song to reach the 7 million mark in digital sales. It’s just the third song by a female solo artist to achieve this feat, following Adele’s "Rolling In The Deep" (7,984,000) and Carly Rae Jepsen’s "Call Me Maybe" (7,223,000). "Poker Face" hit #1 in the spring of 2009. It received Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year.
Drake lands his 13th top 10 hit in a little more than four years as "Hold On, We’re Going Home" (featuring Majid Jordan) jumps from #12 to #8 in its fifth week. Drake first cracked the top 10 in June 2009 with "Best I Ever Had."
Eminem's "Berzerk" drops from #3 to #10 in its second week. The song borrows the key riff from Billy Squier's 1981 hit "The Stroke." That song peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 in August 1981—two months before young Marshall Mathers turned nine.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 songs.
The Top Five: Katy Perry’s holds at #1 for the second week in its fifth week on the chart. This is its fourth week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #1 (373K)…"Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell holds at #2 for the second week in its 21st week on the chart. This is its 15th week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #5 (168K)… Lorde’s "Royals" jumps from #8 to #3 in its 10th week on the chart. This is its second week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #2 (225K)…"Holy Grail" by Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake jumps from #5 to #4 in its ninth week on the chart. It has been in the top 10 the entire time. Digital sales rank: #7 (159K)… Avicii’s "Wake Me Up!" jumps from #7 to #5 in its 11th week on the chart. This is its third week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #3 (197K).
The Second Five: "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais leaps from #10 to #6 in its ninth week on the chart. This is its third week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #8 (127K)…Lady Gaga’s "Applause" dips from #6 to #7 in its fourth week on the chart. It has been in the top 10 the entire time. Digital sales rank: #6 (160K)… "Hold On, We’re Going Home" by Drake featuring Majid Jordan jumps from #12 to #8 in its fifth week on the chart. It's Drake's 13th top 10 hit; Jordan's first. Digital sales rank: #9 (127K)…Capital Cities' "Safe And Sound" rebounds from #11 to #9 in its 19th week on the chart. The song has climbed as high as #8. This is its fifth week in the top 10. Digital sales rank: #13 (83K)…Eminem’s "Berzerk" drops from #3 to #10 in its second week on the chart. Digital sales rank: #4 (187K).
Two songs drop out of the top 10 this week. Miley Cyrus’ "We Can’t Stop" drops from #4 to #11. Imagine Dragons’ "Radioactive" drops from #9 to #12. Both songs were pivotal in the artists' careers.
Luke Bryan's "That's My Kind Of Night" rebounds from #22 to #19 in its fourth week. The song has climbed as high as #16. It's #1 on Hot Country Songs for the fourth week. Bryan had never spent more than two weeks on top before, but he's a lot hotter than he used to be and the genre charts are a lot "slower" than they used to be. Winners stay up there forever, it seems.
Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" drops from #14 to #22 in its third week, but it's expected to make a major turnaround next week. The song took a sledgehammer to One Direction's record for most views across Vevo in a 24-hour period. "Wrecking Ball" received 19.3 million views, far more than the 12.3 million views that "Best Song Ever" received in July. This marks the first time that a song titled "Wrecking Ball" has charted, though Bruce Springsteen had a #1 album by that title in March 2012. "Wrecking Ball" is in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs for the second week. Digital sales rank: #10 (116K).
AWOLNATION's "Sail" jumps from #27 to #24 in its 53rd week. This is the song's highest ranking to date, which is remarkable for a song beginning its second year on the chart…Ylvis' "The Fox" is the week's top new entry at #29. This is one of those novelty songs that is so unbelievably awful that you have to drop what you're doing to check it out. Will this have the legs that PSY's "Gangham Style" did or will it fade quickly? We'll see.
Jason Aldean lands his fifth top 30 hit as "Night Train" jumps from #35 to #30 in its 10th week…Tyler Farr's "Redneck Crazy" jumps from #43 to #32 in its 15th week…Paramore's "Still Into You" jumps from #48 to #36 in its ninth week…"Crooked Smile" by J. Cole featuring TLC jumps from #44 to #37 in its 12th week…"Love More" by Chris Brown featuring Nicki Minaj jumps from #52 to #39 in its seventh week. This surpasses the #51 peak of their first collabo, "Right By Side" (by Minaj featuring Brown)…OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" jumps from #55 to #41 in its 12th week. The song has climbed as high as #32…Passenger's "Let Her Go" jumps from #63 to #52 in its sixth week…Selena Gomez's "Slow Down" jumps from #81 to #68 in its fifth week. The song has climbed as high as #66…Bastille's "Pompeii" jumps from #88 to #72 in its fourth week. Bad Blood, the first studio album by the British alternative band, enters The Billboard 200 at #11 this week.
Coldplay's "Atlas" is the week's second highest new entry at #75. This is from the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. Will this song do as well as Taylor Swift's two big hits from the first The Hunger Games soundtrack? "Safe & Sound" (featuring The Civil Wars) has sold 1,628,000 copies. "Eyes Open" has sold 1,281,000 copies. And will "Atlas" receive an Oscar nomination (which Swift's songs did not)? The members of Coldplay wrote "Atlas." If it wins as Best Song, Chris Martin and his wife Gwyneth Paltrow will have his-and-hers Oscars. Am I getting ahead of myself? Sure, but that's half the fun.
Sheryl Crow's "Easy" jumps from #99 to #79 in its seventh week. Crow's first country album, Feels Like Home, is expected to sell about 30K copies in the coming week…"Bounce It" by Juicy J featuring Wale and Trey Songz jumps from #96 to #81 in its second week…"Almost Is Never Enough" by Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes re-enters the chart at #82. "Baby I" re-enters the chart at #94. Both songs are from Yours Truly, which enters The Billboard 200 at #1 this week…Joe Nichols' "Sunny And 75" jumps from #98 to #83 in its second week…"I Luv This Sh*t" by August Alsina featuring Trinidad James debuts at #85…"Popular Song" by Mika featuring Ariana Grande debuts at #87. This is from Mika's third studio album The Origin Of Love, which was released a year ago.
John Legend’s “All Of Me” debuts at #97. It’s from his fourth solo studio album, Love In The Future, which enters The Billboard 200 at #4 this week…"M.A.A.D. City" by Kendrick Lamar featuring MC Eiht re-enters the chart at #98. The song has climbed as high as #94.
Migos' "Versace" debuts at #99. It's one of two songs on the current Hot 100 whose title is the name of a famous fashion designer. Jay Z's "Tom Ford," which jumps from #77 to #74 in its ninth week, is the other…"Act Right" by Yo Gotti featuring Jeezy and YG, debuts at #100. It's from Yo Gotti's second studio album I Am, which is due Nov. 19.
"I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull tops the 4 million mark in digital sales this week. The song reached #4 in August 2010. It's Iglesias' first song to reach this sales plateau. "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" (featuring Ludacris & DJ Frank E) is up to 3,204,000.
"Power Trip" by J. Cole featuring Miguel tops the 1 million mark in digital sales. It’s J. Cole’s second song as a lead artist to hit this mark. "Work Out" is up to 1,853,000.