Independent Woman: Beyoncé Approaching Destiny’s Chart Record

We knew last week that Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” was poised to make a big leap on Billboard‘s Hot 100. The only question was, how big?

Just a year ago, a 65-space jump to No. 3 would have been enough to make our eyes pop. When Britney Spears did it in early October 2007 with “Gimme More,” it was considered something of a triumph—especially as she was at the height of her meltdown phase and coming off a tragic performance at the 2007 Video Music Awards.

Now, we’re a little harder to impress. In its third week on the charts, “Boy” makes the exact same move from No. 68 to No. 3–and chart geeks yawn. That’s because the last two months have brought three straight leaps all the way to No. 1 from below No. 70. (The most recent was by Spears herself, whose “Womanizer” bested “Gimme More” by shooting from No. 96 to the penthouse.)

Still, Beyoncé’s got nothing to be ashamed of: her gender-flip of Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” (well, I like to think of it that way) is her ninth career Top 10 single and sold almost 190,000 digital downloads. And it brings her one hit away from matching the career chart record of the group she ditched four years ago.

Destiny’s Child, B’s erstwhile group, scored a total of 10 U.S. Top 10 hits. (That actually understates their global popularity a bit: in Britain, Australia, and Canada, they scored 12.) Those 10 U.S. hits are out of 14 Top 40 hits, which is itself an impressive track record; in a little over six years, all of their singles either made the top 40 of the Hot 100 or didn’t chart here at all (usually because they weren’t promoted here). Among their hits were four No. 1s: “Bills, Bills, Bills” (1999), “Say My Name” (2000), “Independent Women, Part I” (2000) and “Bootylicious” (2001).

With “Boy,” Beyoncé scores her ninth Top 10 hit, just one hit away from Destiny’s total. A couple of her hits have missed the Top 40, but that’s not too shameful (especially in the iTunes era, when some songs chart based on brief spurts of digital sales; DC missed that phenomenon entirely). B also has four career No. 1 hits: “Crazy in Love” (2003), still her all-time best as far as I’m concerned; “Baby Boy” with Sean Paul (2003); “Check on It” with Slim Thug and Bun-B (2006); and “Irreplaceable” (2006, and the top Billboard pop hit for all of 2007). At least for now, “Boy” isn’t going to give her bragging rights to a fifth.

It took Destiny’s Child a little over six years to amass their 10 Top 10s, and that’s pretty much exactly where B is in her career, if we start her “solo” career (which overlaps with the last Destiny’s album and a greatest-hits collection) in 2002. That’s when she made an appearance on “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” a duet with then-future husband Jay-Z. (Think I’m making up that Prince comparison? B actually sings a couple of lines from “If I Was Your Girlfriend” on that hit.)

It’s quite likely that Beyoncé will tie her former group’s Top 10 track record soon, maybe even in the next few weeks. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” the other single leading off I Am… Sasha Fierce, is already a fast-breaking Top 10 R&B hit. It will presumably be available for individual download when the album drops in two weeks, and a sales rush would make “Single Ladies” an easy Top 10 hit on the Hot 100.

Just to address one elephant in the room, which Beyoncé’s casting in the movie Dreamgirls hinted at: B seems to be doing better as a solo act when compared with Diana Ross after she left the Supremes. Ross’s solo career—six No. 1’s, 14 Top 10s, and 30 Top 40s over 15 years—is impressive by almost any reckoning. Any reckoning, that is, except that of the Supremes, the second-biggest pop-chart act of the ’60s (after the Beatles), with 12 No. 1’s, 19 Top 10s, and 26 Top 40s in a remarkably tight six-year-and-change timeframe. (Unlike Destiny’s Child, the Supremes continued to exist after Ross left in 1970—and without her they scored seven more Top 40 hits by 1976.)

I guess, thinking for a minute less like a chart columnist and more like a critic, it could be argued that Beyoncé’s entire career has been as a glorified solo act, and that we might as well tote those DC hits in her column. Unlike dad/manager Mathew Knowles, who by all accounts knew what his girl was doing from the moment Destiny’s Child launched in 1997, it took Berry Gordy a few years to reconceive his star group as a solo-act preparatory vehicle—they only became “Diana Ross and the Supremes” halfway through 1967. On the other hand, unlike Diana, Beyoncé returned to the group in 2004 even after scoring her first raft of solo hits, and the Knowleses insisted on regarding DC as its own distinct thing.

No matter what, among big solo careers that followed already-big group careers—from Beatles/Paul McCartney to Simon and Garfunkel/Paul Simon to Wham!/George Michael—Ms. Knowles already ranks among the bigger ones, and within a few years she’ll probably have Ms. Ross beat for the biggest two-act career by a woman. Not too shabby.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:

• It’s stasis above Beyoncé on the Hot 100, with T.I.’s simultaneous hits holding position in the top two slots. “Whatever You Like” continues to slip in sales—at 137,000 downloads, it’s down 11% this week, after a 5% drop last week—but it’s still growing at radio, and that airplay dominance keeps it in the top slot overall for a seventh week. Even so, T.I.’s chart-topper loses its bullet on this week’s chart. But his “Live Your Life,” at No. 2, is bulleted and still growing. The Rihanna duet sells another 180,000 downloads, and as I kinda predicted last week, it’s now the third most-played song at radio, up from fourth. I’m done trying to predict when or if the T.I./Rihanna duet will return to No. 1, but all signs continue to point to a comeback.

• David Cook’s “Light On” makes a modest chart comeback three weeks after it debuted at a tepid (for him) No. 17 and a week after it dropped off the Hot 100 entirely. A rebound in his digital sales, to about 34,000 copies, fuels a re-entry on the big chart at No. 60. It remains absent at most radio stations, including all rock formats and most Top 40 stations—with the exception of Adult Top 40, where it’s up seven slots to rank 29th.

The next week or two might be really interesting for Cook’s chart performance. As of this writing, on iTunes, “Light On” is down, relatively, once again. But that will likely all change in the last 24 hours of the tracking week, after Cook performs the song on a Saturday Night Live episode featuring an appearance by John McCain. A sales boost is inevitable, and the only question is how big that one day will be. SNL has already worked wonders for British singer Adele, who makes her Hot 100 debut this week with “Chasing Pavements” at No. 82, after her performance on the show’s highly-rated episode featuring Sarah Palin. With 25,000 downloads, she’s up 73% over the prior week—but this is actually her second chart week after the SNL performance; one day of sales in the prior chart week did give her a massive sales boost, but not enough to make the big chart immediately.

Bottom line: expect a bit of a pop for Cook next week and maybe a bigger boost the week after—which will help his promotional team get what they really need: the attention of thus far uninterested radio programmers.

• Only one song, Brad Paisley’s former No. 1 “Waitin’ on a Woman,” dropped out of the Country Top 10 this week, and it’s replaced by a new song from… Brad Paisley. “Start a Band,” a duet with Keith Urban, is the leadoff single from Paisley’s forthcoming album and 2008 Worst Album Cover Of The Year contender Play. You have to admire the guy’s consistency: he pumped four Country No. 1 singles from 2007 Worst Cover nominee 5th Gear; he re-released the album (booooo!) with new songs on it, including the aforementioned “Waitin’…,” scoring a fifth consecutive No. 1; and now he moves back into the winners’ circle the very week the previous hit falls out. Unlike slugger Kenny Chesney, who dominated radio last week with six hits from his new album, Paisley is Country’s Joe DiMaggio, batting for a single each time he steps to the plate.

• In a horrible real-world week for Jennifer Hudson, the parallel world of the charts is also a little unkind, as “Spotlight” falls out of the R&B/Hip-Hop chart’s top spot after two weeks there. I would surmise that the gentle, midtempo song is becoming somewhat inadequate radio programming compared with the magnitude of her family tragedy. No word on whether or if Arista will promote a followup single from Hudson’s album, and it’s hard to speculate how her personal travails will affect her radio profile over the next few weeks. The death of a star herself has given chart boosts to the likes of Aaliyah, but Hudson’s sympathy-inspiring situation is rather different.

Forgetting all this awfulness for a moment, the one nice thing about the turnover in the R&B chart’s top spot is who takes over: Ne-Yo, with the utterly superb single “Miss Independent.” Amazingly, this is his first chart-topper there, about two and a half years after he first reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 with “So Sick.”

Top 10s Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses (Digital Songs chart includes total downloads/percentage change in parentheses):

Hot 100 1. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 2. T.I. feat. Rihanna, “Live Your Life” (LW No. 2, 5 weeks) 3. Beyoncé, “If I Were a Boy” (LW No. 68, 3 weeks) 4. Pink, “So What” (LW No. 3, 10 weeks) 5. Britney Spears, “Womanizer” (LW No. 4, 4 weeks) 6. Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold” (LW No. 5, 13 weeks) 7. Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil Wayne, “Let It Rock” (LW No. 7, 9 weeks) 8. Ne-Yo, “Miss Independent” (LW No. 8, 10 weeks) 9. Rihanna, “Disturbia” (LW No. 6, 19 weeks) 10. Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours” (LW No. 13, 28 weeks)

Hot Digital Songs 1. Beyoncé, “If I Were a Boy” (CHART DEBUT, 190,000 downloads) 2. Britney Spears, “Womanizer” (LW No. 1, 181,000 downloads) 3. T.I. feat. Rihanna, “Live Your Life” (LW No. 2, 180,000 downloads) 4. Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil Wayne, “Let It Rock” (LW No. 7, 142,000 downloads) 5. Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold” (LW No. 6, 137,000 downloads) 6. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (LW No. 4, 137,000 downloads) 7. Pink, “So What” (LW No. 5, 133,000 downloads) 8. Kanye West, “Love Lockdown” (LW No. 8, 96,000 downloads) 9. Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours” (LW No. 12, 96,000 downloads) 10. Taylor Swift, “Love Story” (LW No. 9, 88,000 downloads)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Ne-Yo, “Miss Independent” (LW No. 2, 14 weeks) 2. Jennifer Hudson, “Spotlight” (LW No. 1, 24 weeks) 3. T.I., “Whatever You Like” (LW No. 3, 15 weeks) 4. T-Pain feat. Lil Wayne, “Can’t Believe It,” (LW No. 4, 16 weeks) 5. Lil Wayne feat. Bobby Valentino, “Mrs. Officer” (LW No. 6, 17 weeks) 6. Jazmine Sullivan, “Need U Bad” (LW No. 5, 26 weeks) 7. T.I. feat. Rihanna, “Live Your Life” (LW No. 7, 7 weeks) 8. Beyoncé, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (LW No. 10, 3 weeks) 9. Jazmine Sullivan, “Bust Your Windows” (LW No. 8, 7 weeks) 10. Slim feat. Yung Joc, “So Fly” (LW No. 9, 21 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream” (LW No. 3, 16 weeks) 2. Toby Keith, “She Never Cried in Front of Me” (LW No. 1, 18 weeks) 3. Taylor Swift, “Love Story” (LW No. 4, 7 weeks) 4. Kenny Chesney, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” (LW No. 2, 13 weeks) 5. Tim McGraw, “Let It Go” (LW No. 6, 15 weeks) 6. Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried” (LW No. 7, 19 weeks) 7. Darius Rucker, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” (LW No. 5, 28 weeks) 8. Montgomery Gentry, “Roll with Me” (LW No. 9, 14 weeks) 9. Sugarland, “Already Gone” (LW No. 8, 9 weeks) 10. Brad Paisley with Keith Urban, “Start a Band” (LW No. 13, 20 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. The Offspring, “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” (LW No. 1, 14 weeks) 2. Weezer, “Troublemaker” (LW No. 2, 16 weeks) 3. Rise Against, “Re-Education (Through Labor)” (LW No. 3, 10 weeks) 4. Apocalyptica feat. Adam Gontier, “I Don’t Care” (LW No. 4, 17 weeks) 5. Kings of Leon, “Sex on Fire” (LW No. 5, 10 weeks) 6. The Killers, “Human” (LW No. 6, 5 weeks) 7. Metallica, “The Day That Never Comes” (LW No. 8, 10 weeks) 8. Staind, “Believe” (LW No. 7, 18 weeks) 9. Theory of a Deadman, “Bad Girlfriend” (LW No. 9, 19 weeks) 10. Nickelback, “Gotta Be Somebody” (LW No. 10, 4 weeks)

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