Hot 100 50th Anniversary Charts FAQ
How were the 50th Anniversary Billboard Hot 100 song charts determined?
The 50th Anniversary Hot 100 Song and Artist charts are based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100, since the chart's inception in August 1958 through the issue dated July 26, 2008. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least.
Prior to the Hot 100's implementation in 1991 of enhanced radio and sales information from Nielsen BDS and Nielsen SoundScan, songs had shorter reigns at No. 1 and shorter chart lives.
To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all 50 years, earlier time frames were each weighted to compensate for the differences in the faster turnover rates from those earlier decades, compared to the slower churn the Hot 100 has seen since the advent of Nielsen Music data.
Before that conversion, UB40's cover of "Red, Red Wine," which was on the chart for 40 weeks, and Chubby Checker's "The Twist," with 39 weeks, represented the longest chart stays ever by a No. 1 title. Since December 1991, 17 No. 1 titles have surpassed UB40's prior record, the longest being 60 weeks by Los Del Rio's "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)."
All-time Hot 100 recaps for Country, R&B/Hip-Hop, Rock, and Latin utilize the same methodology as described above, with designation of titles for each of those genre charts determined by Billboard chart managers, based on characteristics of those genres.
The Latin chart includes Brazilian repertoire. For artists with multi-format appeal (like Jennifer Lopez or Enrique Iglesias), tracks released since the October 1986 launch of Hot Latin Songs were only included if either Spanish or English versions of those songs received enough radio play to appear on that chart or one of Billboard's other Latin Airplay charts.
Did the weighted formula used for the all-time song charts also determine the artist chart?
The artist chart utilizes the same methodology, with weighted points applied to all titles charted by each artist during that 50-year span.
The ranks of solo artists who also appeared as a member of a band do not reflect the band's hits, with the following exceptions:
• Paul McCartney's rank includes songs credited to Wings (but not the Beatles).
• We combined Smokey Robinson and the Miracles with the Miracles (but tracked Smokey's solo career separately).
• Sergio Mendez and his various ensembles (Brasil '66, Brasil '77, etc.) were merged with titles on which he was the sole artist listed.
• We also linked Gloria Estefan with Miami Sound Machine, Bob Seger with the Silver Bullet Band, Kenny Rogers with First Edition, Jackson 5 and the Jacksons (but not solo careers of the various Jackson brothers), Herb Alpert with the Tijuana Brass, and Jefferson Airplane with Jefferson Starship and Starship.
Is this the same methodology that was used for the all-time charts in Billboard's 100th Anniversary issue in 1994 or the 40th Anniversary of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988?
No. Similar but different, and the differences can be significant. Those earlier charts were based only on weeks spent in the top 10, while the charts for the Hot 100's 50th Anniversary award relative points for every week that a title spent on the chart, regardless of rank. Consequently, some of the songs that ranked high on the 1994 and/or 1998 recaps stand lower on the 50th Anniversary title chart.
Why was the all-time chart methodology revised?
The same methodology that provided a fairly balanced list with hits from all eras on the 1994 chart skewed heavily toward the '90s when that same formula was employed for the Hot 100's 40th Anniversary. To wit, every single title in the top 10 of the 1998 chart had been released since 1991, while earlier decades had less representation on that 1998 recap than was seen on the 1994 all-time chart.
That shift toward newer songs happened during that four-year interval because the 1991 advent of sales tracking from Nielsen SoundScan and radio monitoring by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems allows big hits to spend more weeks in the top 10, and more weeks on the overall chart, than happened in the earlier years when the chart was based on surveys of retailers and radio programmers.
For the Hot 100's 50th Anniversary, Billboard's charts department ensured a more balanced representation of hits from all 50 years, by analyzing the length of chart runs in earlier decades, as well as the average weeks that titles spent in the top 10 and at No. 1. Weights for earlier spans were then formulated, to compensate for the shorter chart runs that titles experienced before the 1991 conversion to precise and objective sales and radio data from Nielsen Music.
Why are some of the hits that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 absent from the 50th Anniversary chart, or lower on this list than they were in the 1994 and 1998 anniversary charts?
Prior to December 1998, songs did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 until a retail single became available (which, incidentally, is why hits like Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and No Doubt's "Don't Speak" never appeared on the Hot 100). In earlier years, retail singles came to market fairly early in a song's life-usually shortly after, or even before, a song came to radio.
But, during the '90s, when labels would strategize No. 1 chart bows by significant hits, the retail release of some priority singles were withheld until radio audience reached maximum levels. Although some of these songs spent significant numbers of weeks at No. 1 or in the top 10, the delay of the sales component ultimately shortened the spans these songs would spend on the chart.
With the new methodology rewarding points for a song's entire chart run, rather than confining points to weeks spent in the top 10, the shorter chart lives recorded by the songs that debuted at No. 1 impact their all-time standings.
The 11-times platinum "Candle in the Wind 1997/Something About the Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John was the biggest selling single ever. Why does it rank no higher than No. 41?
As described above, the 50th Anniversary Songs chart is based on length of stay on the chart, as opposed to the specific dimensions of sales or radio data. That limitation stands with any recap that includes titles predating 1991, because specific sales and radio audience data from those earlier years cannot be applied.
Thus, "Candle In the Wind 1997," or any Nielsen Broadcast Data-era song with record-setting radio audience marks, are ranked here according to chart tenure, rather than specific sales or audience successes that occurred during those chart runs.