Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ask Billboard: Will "Living For Love" Chart On The Hot 100?

Responding to a tweet about when "Living For Love" is going to debut on the Hot 100, Billboard's Gary Trust had the following to say:

Hi George,

Following Madonna's accomplishments with "Living for Love" on this week's charts, that now seems to be the pressing question among her (and chart) fans.

As previously reported, the song makes one of the most historic moves in seven decades of Billboard chart history this week: it tops Dance Club Songs, becoming her 44th No. 1 on the ranking. She ties George Strait for the most No. 1s on any singular chart, as Strait has saddled up atop Hot Country Songs with 44 titles between 1982 and 2009. (He also just missed the summit twice since: "Living for the Night" and "Here for a Good Time" reached No. 2 in 2009 and 2011, respectively.)

"Living for Love" added to its bounty yesterday (Feb. 23), upon the release of the Nielsen Music-based Pop Songs airplay chart by debuting at No. 36. Several iHeartMedia-owned stations, including WHTZ New York (19 plays last week), KIIS Los Angeles and WKSC Chicago (16 each), teamed to play the song in all dayparts last week. The leaders: KZHT Salt Lake City, Utah (27) and WXKS Boston (22), with the latter (aka, Kiss 108) beginning in the '70s as a disco/pop station and, thus, having been in the top 40 format for Madonna's entire career.

As for the question burning up the "Ask Billboard" inbox and Twitter feed: does "Living for Love" have, like, a prayer to hit the Billboard Hot 100 when the chart is compiled tomorrow (and released in full on Billboard.com on Thursday)? Sorry to say, but its chances look significantly less than borderline. (I'm trying to ease the sting here a little bit …) Sales projections simply look too low for the song to reach the Hot 100. In fact, the final figure should be noticeably down from its total last week of 17,000 downloads sold. That sum (up 72 percent) was fueled by her performance of the song at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, with last week's chart covering the Feb. 9-15 tracking period. This week's chart will encompass purchases made Feb. 16-22, past the Grammys afterglow, and the total could be around 5,000-6,000, according to early estimates.

That figure, combined with radio audience and streams, would leave "Living for Love" short of the Hot 100 for another week. Last week, it came close, entering the Hot 100's Bubbling Under chart at No. 8 (up 102 percent in overall activity).

Still …

Hey Gary,

With "Living for Love" charting on Pop Songs this week, that makes Madonna the oldest female to crack the chart as a lead act, I believe. Carly Simon was around the same age, but with a featured role on a Janet Jackson single.

Her new top 40 appearance is likely temporary, but better than I was expecting, given the wacky release of the song, i.e., its December availability, February radio push and the March release of Rebel Heart.

Hope all is well,

Jim Radenhausen
Reeders, Pennsylvania

Thanks Jim,

Madonna is seemingly timeless, although she is technically 56 years, six months and a week young, having been born Aug. 16, 1958 (12 days after the Hot 100 launched …) As you note, in 2002, Simon reached No. 20 on Pop Songs as featured, with Missy Elliott and P. Diddy, as he was then known, on Janet's "Son of a Gun." At the time of its last week on the chart (that Feb. 9), Simon was slightly older than Madonna is now: 56 years, eight months and two weeks.

While both Madonna and Simon are to be lauded for their uncommon longevity, there's, of course, another icon currently on Pop Songs and he tallies his own achievement this week: Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney's "FourFiveSeconds" bounds 13-10 (and with the format's fourth-best gain of the week). McCartney becomes the senior-most artist with a Pop Songs top 10, reaching the region four months shy of his 73rd birthday. He passes an artist who drops off the chart this week: James Newton Howard (63), who, like McCartney, also teamed with a younger-generation talent, as "The Hanging Tree," featuring Jennifer Lawrence, reached No. 10 four weeks ago.

Given top 40's penchant for youth, it's fairly astounding that Madonna, 56, and McCartney, 72, are currently on Pop Songs simultaneously (and following Howard's chart run). The last time that Madonna and McCartney shared space in the top 40 of Billboard's main pop chart? July 15, 1989. That week on the Hot 100 (as Pop Songs would launch in 1992), McCartney's "My Brave Face" dipped to No. 26 from its No. 25 peak and Madonna's "Express Yourself" rose to its peak (4-2).

A quarter-century later, ranking among several artists that weren't even born in 1989 (Rihanna was a year old at the time), the two luminaries continue to write new chapters of chart success.

Notably, that same week in 1989 (five months before Taylor Swift was born), LL Cool J lifted 35-32 on the Hot 100 with "I'm That Type of Guy." Flash forward to two weeks ago, and he'd host the Grammy Awards at which Madonna and McCartney would take to the stage to perform "Living for Love" and "FourFiveSeconds," respectively, the latest hits in each artist's legendary, and ever-evolving, career.

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