Archive forNovember, 2009

Chart Update: Jay-Z Don’t Need Dem Bums to Hit No. 1; Hipsters Go Top 10

Note to my dear readers: Thanks to the dozens of you who sent good wishes my way last week, on Twitter and elsewhere, as I took “100 and Single” to my own blog. Also, apologies for the ongoing commenting glitches; I hope to have that fixed by the time I do my next full-length column. Below is a mini-column. For the past year on Idolator, the column has been biweekly, but now that I’m taking it back I’m hoping, as my work schedule permits, to produce something every Friday – a full-length piece one week followed by quicker, shorter rundowns the next. Please bear with me during this transitional period.

How he broke the curse: Completely contrary to my confident prediction last week, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys rise to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Empire State of Mind,” making it the first song specifically about New York City to reach the penthouse. As if taunting me, Billboard’s own “Chart Beat” team does a better job than I did running down previous NYC-centric hits. (My biggest mistake: forgetting to search for hits with “Harlem” or “Broadway” in the title. Aretha Franklin’s “Spanish Harlem” peaked at No. 2, among several other Gotham-based tracks. Still, I was right about no NYC songs going to the top before.)

Incidentally, “Empire” is also the first-ever chart-topper for Jigga as a lead, not featured, act; he’s dropped rhymes over the bridge or lead-in of three prior chart-toppers, by Mariah Carey (“Heartbreaker,” 1999), future wife Beyoncé (“Crazy in Love,” 2003) and protégée Rihanna (“Umbrella,” 2007). Scoring his first No. 1 one month before his 40th birthday is sort of unbelievable. It’s doubly so when you consider his album-chart record: 11 chart-toppers as of two months ago, the most among solo acts and second place among all acts, behind the Beatles. (So much for that old rock-critic theory that hip-hop is a singles-based, not album-based, medium…)


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These Little-Town Blues: Jay-Z’s Yankee Anthem Gives NYC Its Best-Ever Chart Berth

In 2000, John Mellencamp gave one of the more heartfelt Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speeches I’ve ever seen, honoring the Lovin’ Spoonful. In the midst of his speech, the ex–Johnny Cougar sang a whole verse and chorus of the Spoonful’s 1966 No. 1 smash “Summer in the City.” Said Mellencamp: “That song meant a lot to a small-town boy from Indiana.”

Well, sure it did, I thought. But I bet you wouldn’t have liked the song half as much if it’d been called “Summer, New York City.”

It was smart of Spoonful leader John Sebastian and his brother Mark, both native New Yorkers, not to namecheck their hometown in their biggest hit. If they had, I can guarantee you “Summer in the City” wouldn’t have topped Billboard’s Hot 100. More than 50 years into the Rock Era, no song specifically about New York has gone all the way to No. 1.

But damned if that’ll stop Jay-Z. One week after his hometown ballclub won its 27th World Series, he and fellow New Yorker Alicia Keys find themselves one rung from the top of the charts with “Empire State of Mind.” It’s a song Jay wrote seemingly predicting a Yankee victory season, and its timing has been impeccable. If it weren’t for a competing hit by a bedroom pop geek from Minnesota, Jigga and Alicia would have the first-ever explicitly New York City–related chart-topper.

But then, songs about New York City are like baseball teams from New York City: something most of the country takes pride in loathing.


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Chart Blog Migration: Coming Soon

To anyone who might have stumbled across this site in the last couple of days, given recent changes at the music blog Idolator: Yes, I am hoping to continue writing about the Billboard charts, and I am working on migrating my column here.

For the last two years–plus, I’ve been Idolator’s chief chart analyst/columnist. Since the fall of 2007, I’ve written “100 & Single,” the biweekly pop-chart column I conceived. Thanks to the support of Idolator editor Maura Johnston, it’s been the best music-writing assignment of my career.

Sadly, Maura was compelled to step down as Idolator’s editor on 9 November, and a new editorial team has taken over. With her departure, my tenure at Idolator likewise ends.

I’ve had too much fun writing “100 & Single” and gotten to know too many smart people to give it up now. I daresay I’ve had a rare privilege – writing about music on the Internet and generally loving the people who show up to comment on what I write! It would break my heart to say goodbye to all of my fellow chart geeks.

Please bear with me as I try to revive this old blog of mine, which has laid essentially dormant since I began writing for Idolator in earnest in 2007. I hope to check in with a roundup of this week’s Hot 100 goings-on this Friday, 13 November, and keep to some kind of regular schedule thereafter. Thanks in advance for your patience, and your continued interest.

Your humble chart geek &c.