CHART WATCH: Only Girl Sets Chart Records

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

Two weeks removed from scoring her eighth No. 1 hit with “What’s My Name?” featuring Drake, Rihanna returns to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with another Loud single,  “Only Girl (In The World)”, setting a number of chart records.

What’s interesting is that “Only Girl” was the first single to be released from Loud but its second song to go No. 1. That has never happened in Hot 100 history. First appearing on the Hot 100 the week of October 3, “Only Girl” originally peaked at No. 3 and has yo-yoed up and down the top ten since then. Although it seemed like an obvious chart topper from one of the Hot 100′s most consistent pop stars, when follow up single “What’s My Name?” went No. 1, “Only Girl” seemed destined to be remembered as the older, more commercial, though less successful sister to “What’s My Name?”

“What’s My Name?” made it to the top due to a combination of strong sales and lack of tough competition. The week that it peaked in sales, “Only Girl” was waning, but it did have a foot up in radio airplay. The Hot 100 is a combination of both sales and airplay, but each of those components work differently. Sales are quick one or two week bursts, but can rarely sustain themselves for longer than that. Airplay builds slowly. It makes sense then that “What’s My Name?” was No. 1 for a single week because of its sales while “Only Girl” reached the top slot only after weeks of building at radio (And you might want to keep your eye on “What’s My Name?”. Even though it falls this week from No. 7 to 8, it was this week’s radio airplay gainer. Depending on how a number of other songs perform in the coming weeks, “What’s My Name?” could return to No. 1).

The other record Rihanna sets is in regards to the sheer number of chart toppers she’s had this year. The singer adds “What’s My Name?” and “Only Girl” to her other 2010 No. 1s, “Rude Boy”, and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” to become the first female artist in Billboard’s 52-year history to land four No. 1s in a calendar year. Not only is Rihanna the only female to accomplish this feat, but this marks only the fifth time an artist has banked over three chart toppers in a year.

Here’s the chronological list of artists who have undisputedly dominated the Hot 100 during a calendar year:

1964 The Beatles (6): “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Feel Fine”

1965 The Beatles (4): “Eight Days a Week,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Help!,” “Yesterday”

1970 Jackson 5 (4): “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save”/”I Found That Girl,” “I’ll Be There”

2004 Usher (4): “Yeah!” (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris), “Burn,” “Confessions Part II,” “My Boo” (Usher and Alicia Keys)

2010 Rihanna (4): “Rude Boy,” “Love The Way You Lie” (Eminem featuring Rihanna), “What’s My Name?” (featuring Drake), “Only Girl (In The World)”

It’s not surprising that the Beatles managed ten No. 1s in two years considering the power of Beatlemania, and Usher’s four hits are a result of a Hot 100 skewed strongly towards airplay in the days after the death of the physical single but before iTunes. Both artists also had a profound impact on popular culture at the time. Have you seen clips of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show? Do you remember how many cell phones had “Yeah!” as their ringtone in 2004? Even though Rihanna has spent three and a half months at the top of the Hot 100, she just doesn’t have the hold on pop culture that either the Beatles or Usher had when they dominated the Hot 100. She also doesn’t have a No. 1 album, something that both the Beatles and Usher have had plenty of.

Loud enters the album charts this week at a commendable third place. Despite all of her No. 1 hits (she has totaled nine in six years), Rihanna has never had a No. 1 album. But then again, neither did the Jackson 5. Although Loud could have been No. 1 a different week with first week sales of 207,000, I think that Rihanna’s lack of No. 1 albums indicates how the record buying public perceives her. She’s the definition of singles artist. She has great songs worth spending $1.29 on every so often, but people aren’t so willing to buy a whole album. I imagine that people felt the same way about the Jackson 5 in 1970.

Albums make more money than singles, so the folks at Def Jam are hoping Rihanna doesn’t stay a singles artist forever. Being a singles artist does have its benefits though if you’re hoping to break records on the Hot 100.  Rihanna’s albums sales and cultural impact are nowhere near as ubiquitous as other pop stars, but she beats them all on the singles chart. Just compare Rihanna’s nine No. 1 hits to Beyonce’s five, Britney’s three, and Gaga’s two.

Sure, the Jackson 5 never had a No. 1 album, but they also only had four No. 1 singles. Rihanna is eying her tenth which would put her in a tie for eighth place for artists with the most chart topping songs. How long can a singles artist and minor player in the pop landscape remain there with such a consistent and constant stream of hit songs? I contend that 2010 is the year that Rihanna became more than just a minor player. It is as if her greatest weakness turned into her greatest strength. People haven’t been willing to buy a full Rihanna album, but in five short years, they realize that they sure have downloaded a whole lot of her songs.

Here’s what’s happening on the rest of the Hot 100:

  • Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” lifts 7-2 to become her highest charting hit since her 2008 No. 1 “So What”.
  • Cee Lo enters the top 10 with “F**k You” thanks to Glee. The censored Glee rendition enters the chart at No. 11, but it seems that the record buying public preferred the dirty original version.
  • The King of Pop gets his 48th Hot 100 hit as “Hold My Hand” with Akon from the forthcoming Michael album debuts at No. 84.

Here’s this week’s top ten:

1. “Only Girl (In The World)” – Rihanna (1st week at No. 1)

2. “Raise Your Glass” – Pink

3. “Like a G6″ – Far East Movement feat. Cataracs & Dev

4. “We R Who We R” – Ke$ha

5. “Just A Dream” – Nelly

6. “Firework” – Katy Perry

7. “Just The Way You Are” – Bruno Mars

8. “What’s My Name?” – Rihanna feat. Drake (Airplay gainer)

9. “F**k You” – Cee Lo Green (Digital gainer)

10. “Bottoms Up” – Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj


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