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Experts answer your questions. For January 30, 2009
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.


Hi Gary,

I'm having a hard time with the news that Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck without You" has reached the pole position on the Billboard Hot 100. Not because I don't like her or the song; I happen to love both. It's the fact that I can't help but ask: is the No. 1 single losing its prestige?

Take a look at the No. 1 songs in 2008 that were first singles off albums:

Flo Rida, "Low" ("Mail on Sunday")
Usher, "Love in This Club" ("Here I Stand")
Mariah Carey, "Touch My Body" ("E=MC2")
Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love" ("Leona Lewis")
Lil Wayne, "Lollipop" ("Tha Carter III")
Coldplay, "Viva La Vida" ("Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends")
Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl" ("One of the Boys")
Pink, "So What" ("Funhouse")
T.I., "Whatever You Like" ("Paper Trail")
Britney Spears, "Womanizer" ("Circus")
Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" ("I Am...Sasha Fierce")

That is 11 songs out of 14! The only three songs that were not first singles were all by, or featuring, Rihanna: "Take a Bow," "Disturbia" and T.I.'s "Live Your Life." And, "Bow" could possibly be added to the list of first singles because it accompanied her re-release of "Good Girl Gone Bad." You could also argue that "Live Your Life" was not truly a second single, as it was released practically at the same time as first single "Whatever You Like."

It is obvious that these songs are shooting straight to the top from sales. All of the artists on last year's No. 1 list were not even able to come close to the top with their second singles.

I feel that now with the strength of sales for first singles, artists who have established a fan base will have half the trouble they had in the past in getting their first release from an album to No. 1. So I ask: what is happening to our No. 1s?

Steve Duchon
Orlando, Fla.

Hi Steve,

Your research is very much appreciated. First, though, let's just clarify a few of the songs you reference. Both Coldplay ("Violet Hill") and Katy Perry ("Ur So Gay") did release prior singles, but since neither track found mainstream public acceptance, their No. 1s were the first songs that likely introduced a majority of fans to each album. And, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" was released at about the same time as "If I Were a Boy," though "Boy" did reach the Hot 100 a week before "Ladies."

Also, several follow-ups to the above songs fared well on the Hot 100. Perry's "Hot N Cold" and Spears' "Circus" each rose to No. 3, Lil Wayne's "A Milli" No. 6, Lewis' "Better in Time" No. 11 and Pink's "Sober" climbs this week to No. 16.

Your point is well-taken, however, that first singles, bolstered by impressive sales totals, are most often topping the Billboard Hot 100 these days. To find a context, I looked at the No. 1 songs of 2004, before digital sales began counting towards the Hot 100 in February 2005. In 2004, eight of the year's 12 No. 1s were first singles (unscientifically counting both of OutKast's No. 1s as first efforts, since "The Way You Move" and "Hey Ya!" had simultaneous chart runs.)

Going back to 1999, 10 of that year's 14 songs that ascended to No. 1 were lead tracks. In 1992, the first full year in which the Hot 100 incorporated Nielsen data, nine of 12 No. 1s kicked off new sets.

Looking further back 20 years, 14 of the 32 songs to rise to No. 1 in 1989 were first singles, a much lower percentage. But because the rate of turnover atop the chart was higher before the Nielsen era dawned, let's only consider the time frame since then.

First, I don't think it's anything to be upset about. And glad you like the new Clarkson single. After all, how can listening to such a catchy pop song put anyone in a bad mood?

Ultimately, it's not a coincidence that first singles perform well. They are generally an album's most commercial-sounding cut - that's why they're released first. It takes a superstar in recent years - Rihanna, as you note, or Justin Timberlake, Akon or Nelly Furtado - to send multiple cuts from an album to the summit.

It also stands to reason that the excitement level is higher for a first single. Perhaps it's released before an album, or it's the first new music an artist has offered in awhile. By the time a third or fourth single is released, the song is already known to fans who have the album and thus may not need to download the track separately. Radio likewise mirrors the tastes of listeners, and thus is similarly likely to play a first single more than a later one. Labels, too, often place a greater promotional push on earlier singles, as part of the marketing strategy that accompanies an album's launch.

There are recent cases of later releases leading the chart without having followed a previous No. 1. Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," for instance, hit top in 2006 after "Déjà Vu" and "Ring the Alarm" failed to find such mass appeal.

Overall, the Hot 100 reflects sales and airplay (weighted to provide a fairly even split for each), plus streaming, and the proof is in the numbers: to be first on the chart, it pays to be the first song released from an album.


Hello Gary,

I think my question is rather timely, since the eighth season of "American Idol" has debuted. I was wondering the status of last season's runner-up, David Archuleta. I am a huge fan of his album and was wondering if his second single, "A Little Too Not Over You," is getting airplay. I truly feel it is one of the most radio-friendly tracks on the disc and has such hit potential. Is the label not pushing it, or are they waiting for the buzz over "Crush" to fade completely?

Thanks for the info.!

Jeffrey Goodall
Mayfield, Penn.

Hi Jeffrey,

It's early in the game, but "A Little Too Not Over You" is building at mainstream top 40 radio, climbing 66-63 this week on Pop 100 Airplay, the top 25 of which is viewable here. For the entire 75-position list, visit, where you can sign up for complete access to all Billboard charts in full. The song has so far reached No. 83 on the Pop 100, which combines mainstream top 40 audience with digital sales data.

"Crush" was quite the hit, debuting and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August, the year's highest entrance. It's still rising this week on Adult Contemporary, where it bullets at No. 7.


Dear Gary,

As Guided By Voices is one of the most underrated bands in the history of music, I was wondering if you could tell me how many copies the group has sold of its albums "Do the Collapse," "Isolation Drills," "Universal Truths and Cycles," "Earthquake Glue" and "Half Smiles of the Decomposed"?


Ron Erickson
Bethesda, Md.

Hi Ron,

One of the most touching storylines in the history of "Scrubs" featured guest star Brendan Fraser in 2002. The episode "My Occurrence" included a scene where Guided By Voices' song "Hold on Hope" was played in its entirety (click here for a clip). "Scrubs" may be ending March 10 with a two-part finale, but at least it came back, switching from NBC to ABC this year, for one last season. But your question was about Guided by Voices, wasn't it?

Here are sales to date of the albums you requested, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"Do the Collapse," 50,000
"Isolation Drills," 50,000
"Universal Truths and Cycles," 54,000
"Earthquake Glue," 27,000
"Half Smiles of the Decomposed," 24,000

The biggest seller by the act, which broke up in 2004 after more than 20 years, is its 1995 album "Alien Lanes," with 73,000 copies sold.

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Gary Trust is Billboard's pop/adult chart manager. He oversees the Pop 100, Mainstream Top 40, Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts. He also edits the Billboard Canadian Update and manages the pop and adult charts for sister publication Radio & Records. Before joining Billboard, Gary spent 14 years in New England radio. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in communications from Boston University, where he worked at student-run station WTBU (home of Howard Stern's first on-air job).

Note: Questions regarding the Recording Industry Association of America's gold and platinum certification program can be answered by visiting

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