Lil Wayne Has The Hot 100 Locked Down

Ed. note: Chris “dennisobell” Molanphy, our resident chart guru, looks at the upward, downward, and lack of movement on this week’s Billboard charts:

Lil Wayne is expected to triumph on next week’s album chart, but this week, he has locked up a remarkable percentage of the Hot 100 singles chart: seven songs, starting with his five-week No. 1 champ “Lollipop.”

This is the second time in three weeks that a single artist has laid claim to nearly a tenth of the chart; the other recent chart dominator was American Idol winner David Cook, who scored a mind-blowing 11 Hot 100 hits at the end of May. But Cook’s feat was short-lived–he was down to three songs last week and is down to only one this week.

What makes Lil Wayne’s feat impressive is not only that he could keep most of these seven songs on the chart for several weeks yet. It’s that, a little bit like all-time record-holder the Beatles, he earned it.

Two Lil Wayne songs debut on the Hot 100’s lower rungs, joining the five that were on the chart last week. Here’s the latest list of his hits, with their exact credits shown (note that every song except “A Milli” includes vocals by someone else):

No. 1: Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” No. 21: Lil Wayne feat. T-Pain, “Got Money” No. 27: Usher feat. Beyonce and Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club Part II” No. 29: Lil Wayne, “A Milli” No. 79: Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne, “Girls Around the World” No. 81: Lil Wayne featuring Juelz Santana and Fabolous, “You Ain’t Got Nuthin” No. 92: Lil Wayne featuring Jay-Z, “Mr. Carter”

All five of the Lil Wayne-fronted singles appear on Tha Carter III. But remember, that album’s only been on sale since Tuesday, and the Hot 100 captures data on songs from the prior week. Except for “Lollipop,” most of his Hot 100 chart points are coming from digital sales, which means he released all four of the other songs as digital singles at the same damn time.

This is highly irregular major-label-act behavior, even in the iTunes era: you release one single, maybe two, in the leadup to an album, and generally promote one song to radio at a time. In this case, the sensible thing would have been to let “Lollipop” run its course, then release the followup “Got Money” just as the former single was peaking and start working radio stations to score airplay on the new hit.

Screw that, this release strategy seems to say. He released “A Milli” on iTunes in April, while “Lollipop” was still on the rise. “Got Money,” the T-Pain-supported “official” followup hit, dropped the last week of May. Just one week later, and only a week before the album dropped, he released both “You Ain’t Got Nuthin” and “Mr. Carter.”

This throw-it-all-out-there approach has been the M.O. for both Lil Wayne and Cash Money, his formerly independent label, for years now. But I must say it’s admirable of distributing label Universal that it’s apparently not fighting Weezy’s irrepressible need to release a song with every moon phase. (Or it could be a sign that they’ve totally relinquished control.)

Maybe that’s because the strategy is working, even at radio. Most of Weezy’s Hot 100 points are coming from sales, but virtually all of these songs are getting airplay, too–almost all of it from black radio. On the radio-dominated Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, Lil Wayne’s name appears eight times–and half the songs he’s attached to are in the Top 20 (“Lollipop,” “Love in This Club,” “A Milli,” “Girls Around the World”). In fact, all of the Hot 100 songs shown above are receiving airplay except “You Ain’t Got Nuthin.” (The other two R&B/Hip-Hop charters: the six-month-old track from The Leak EP, “I’m Me”; and his supporting performance on Birdman’s “I Run This.”)

Right now on iTunes, in the wake of Tha Carter III‘s release, Lil Wayne dominates the store’s best-selling tracks. Four versions of “Lollipop” are selling big; many of the above songs are still in the top 100; and there’s yet another new song, “3 Peat.” A week from now on the Hot 100, assuming none of his current hits drop off and “3 Peat” joins them, he could be even more dominant than he is now.

So where does all this place Lil Wayne in chart history?

When David Cook set the SoundScan-era record for Hot 100 dominance two weeks ago, Billboard chart columnist Fred Bronson fielded several grumbly letters from aging Boomers, who complained that comparing David Cook’s 11 songs to the Beatles’ 14 charters in April 1964 was a farce. To be fair to these thinly veiled Fabs fans, comparing chart phenomena in the modern era–with its whipsaw chart moves and instant-boom-and-bust singles–to the more regimented old-school charts is, shall we say, a bit fraught.

Still: you don’t achieve what the Beatles, David Cook and Lil Wayne pulled off without something wonderfully weird going on. The fact is, all three acts have a rupture in the normal record-label release pattern to thank for their success. As Bronson explained in his column, the only reason the Fabs scored 14 simultaneous Hot 100 singles was the sheer number of labels releasing Beatles product before the group broke in the United States early in 1964; then, after their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, about a half-dozen tiny U.S. labels emptied their vaults of any Beatles-related tracks they’d been lucky enough to sign up.

In short, it was the combination of television and a series of contractual accidents resulting in a flood of songs–not unlike the combination of television and a weird contractual arrangement (iTunes’ agreement to withhold Idol song-reporting until the show’s final week) that propelled Cook’s feat.

In fact, out of these three artists, Lil Wayne’s feat looks the most traditional. One label let him release a slew of material all at once, and his rabid fans are buying and requesting virtually all of it. There’s a word for that: popularity.

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

• When we last left the race for No. 1, two songs were closing in on “Lollipop”: Coldplay’s Apple-fueled “Viva La Vida” and Katy Perry’s tackiness-fueled “I Kissed a Girl.” Both contenders move up one notch this week, and their respective patterns persist. For Coldplay, it’s all about the digital–selling only at iTunes, the track moved a quarter-million downloads, a jump from its already-stunning total the prior week. But the airplay picture is still developing–it’s absent from the all-genre Hot 100 Airplay list, but it does debut on Modern Rock tracks at No. 33 (the bigger Coldplay hit at rock radio, “Violet Hill,” remains in the Top 10). For Perry, sales are lower but still huge–up another 27,000 or so to nearly 200,000–and airplay is growing all the time. “Kissed” is now among the 40 most-played songs at radio nationwide.

It may all be moot next week: Lil Wayne, currently enjoying the biggest moment of his career, will likely hold onto No. 1 for another week as Carter-mania keeps “Lollipop” selling and playing everywhere. Two weeks from now, however, if Coldplay sees a similar burst of attention from the release of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, the title track could make its final bid for the Hot 100 penthouse.

• The only chink in Weezy’s armor this week: he no longer leads the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, as “Lollipop” is evicted from the top slot by the unstoppable Keyshia Cole. Just two weeks ago Billboard reported that Lil Wayne had one of the biggest leads in chart points for a No. 1 hit over the last couple of years. It’s also a blow to Plies’ Ne-Yo-backed “Bust It Baby,” which had been holding at No. 2, waiting for Wayne to wane, and which Cole’s “Heaven Sent” hops right over.

This is Cole’s third consecutive R&B chart-topper, after “Let It Go” and “I Remember.” Provocative topic for discussion: is Mary J. Blige handing over her hip-hop-soul crown? [Chart columnist ducks.]

• It took a bit longer than we expected, but Carrie Underwood finally tops Hot Country Songs with “Last Name.” The girl-gone-wild, omigawd-what-have-I-done? tune takes a relatively big move from No. 5 to No. 1. After Underwood sang it on the May 21 American Idol finale in a leg-baring outfit, we expected country radio programmers to boost spins of the track, and it took a while, but here we are. This gives Underwood two consecutive albums with three No. 1 hits each. With just three years of recording history, she’s become–no kidding–the 21st Century’s biggest female country performer, beating the likes of Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina and Sara Evans.

• After performing their comeback/let’s-forget-Nicole’s-solo-record-ever-happened hit on the MTV Movie Awards last week, the Pussycat Dolls “When I Grow Up” (which makes your columnist weep for the future) leaps 45 notches to No. 31 on the Hot 100. It’s the biggest digital-sales gainer for the week, more than doubling its total to 64,000 downloads. That’s a decent total, and enough to give the Dolls their sixth Top 40 hit overall–but other TV-fueled hits have performed far better this year. If I may start the schadenfreude party early, Scherzinger & co. shouldn’t get too comfortable; the song isn’t catching on at radio (yet) and will likely fall back next week.

• It’s been a good year already for hip-hop comebacks, songs with Autotune, and supporting raps by Kanye West. So why shouldn’t Young Jeezy jump on the bandwagon? The Hot 100’s top debut this week is Jeezy’s “Put On” featuring West, already a Top 40 hit with its No. 36 appearance. Looks like for 2008, Ayyyyyyyyy! has become AyyyeeeEEEeeoooowweeeeaaaayyyyy!

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. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks) 2. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 3, 5 weeks) 3. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 2, 17 weeks) 4. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 5, 5 weeks) 5. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 4, 9 weeks) 6. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 6, 17 weeks) 7. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 7, 23 weeks) 8. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 8, 19 weeks) 9. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 11, 17 weeks) 10. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 10, 12 weeks)

Hot Digital Songs 1. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (LW No. 1, 253,000 downloads, +15%) 2. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (LW No. 3, 199,000 downloads, +16%) 3. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 2, 154,000 downloads, -20%) 4. Rihanna, “Take a Bow” (LW No. 3, 117,000 downloads, -6%) 5. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 8, 113,000 downloads, +3%) 6. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 7, 103,000 downloads, -5%) 7. Chris Brown, “Forever” (LW No. 12, 102,000 downloads, +36%) 8. Metro Station, “Shake It” (LW No. 15, 93,000 downloads, +52%) 9. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 9, 84,000 downloads, -10%) 10. David Cook, “The Time of My Life” (LW No. 4, 80,000 downloads, -51%)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Keyshia Cole, “Heaven Sent” (LW No. 3, 11 weeks) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks) 3. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 4. Chris Brown, “Take You Down” (LW No. 4, 11 weeks) 5. The-Dream, “I Luv Your Girl” (LW No. 5, 15 weeks) 6. Alicia Keys, “Teenage Love Affair” (LW No. 8, 17 weeks) 7. Usher feat. Beyonce and Lil Wayne, “Love in This Club, Part II” (LW No. 9, 7 weeks) 8. Ashanti, “The Way That I Love You” (LW No. 6, 17 weeks) 9. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 7, 18 weeks) 10. Trey Songz, “Last Time” (LW No. 11, 19 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 5, 13 weeks) 2. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 1, 16 weeks) 3. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 2, 16 weeks) 4. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 6, 12 weeks) 5. Blake Shelton, “Home” (LW No. 8, 20 weeks) 6. Montgomery Gentry, “Back When I Knew It All” (LW No. 9, 16 weeks) 7. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” (LW No. 3, 36 weeks) 8. James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (LW No. 7, 34 weeks) 9. Alan Jackson, “Good Time” (LW No. 10, 9 weeks) 10. Dierks Bentley, “Trying to Stop Your Leaving” (LW No. 12, 22 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 1, 8 weeks) 2. The Offspring, “Hammerhead” (LW No. 2, 5 weeks) 3. Foo Fighters, “Let It Die” (LW No. 5, 10 weeks) 4. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 6, 14 weeks) 5. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 3, 16 weeks) 6. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 4, 10 weeks) 7. Nine Inch Nails, “Discipline” (LW No. 7, 7 weeks) 8. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 8, 12 weeks) 9. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 10, 11 weeks) 10. Coldplay, “Violet Hill” (LW No. 9, 6 weeks)

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