History Making #1 Runs on Billboard’s Genre Charts are an Aberration
Country isn’t the only music community scratching its head while a fairly innocuous and forgettable pop song rewrites history by hitting record marks for its time at #1 on a genre specific chart, or a performer or group who doesn’t even seem to belong in the genre dominates that genre’s most important chart metrics. Meanwhile other disruptions in common sense are giving even more clear evidence that Billboard’s methodology for its modern charts is completely askew as they attempt to adapt to the streaming age, and appear to be grossly overcompensating and missing critical marks.
This week, the song “The Middle” by EDM producer Zedd became the longest-running #1 song on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in history after spending 28 weeks atop the index. A song that started out as a commercial for Target now becomes the greatest dance song in history, at least according to Billboard. “‘The Middle’ just broke the record for the longest running #1 dance song in Billboard ever!” Zedd tweeted out on Tuesday, August 14th, celebrating the achievement.
But Zedd has nothing on Bebe Rexha, and her collaboration with Florida Georgia Line called “Meant To Be.” The song has now spent 37 weeks at #1, meaning it has owned the chart for over 9 months. After cresting the 35 week mark at #1, “Meant To Be” became the longest #1 on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in the chart’s nearly 70-year-old history. And all of this is for a song from an artist who doesn’t even identify as country, never intended the song to be considered country, didn’t release the song as country initially, hasn’t been played on country radio in any measurable significance in months, and is still racking up weeks at #1 with no end in immediate sight.
But imagine being a rock fan, and having to stare at Imagine Dragons dominating all four top spots on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart. That’s what happened for the first time in the chart’s history on August 3rd of this year, when the group had their single “Thunder” sitting at #1 for its 22nd week, while three other Imagine Dragons songs filled spots 2 through 4. Just like Bebe Rexha in country, Imagine Dragons has drawn the ire of some rock fans of being unrepresentative of the genre. Meanwhile the band’s “Thunder” has now topped the chart for a total of 24 weeks, which is nearing that chart’s record.
In fact looking across the board at Billboard’s genre specific charts, nearly all of them are being dominated by one song that has been in the #1 position for months.
Current #1’s and weeks on Billboard’s major genre charts
- Hot Latin Songs – Luis Fonzi’s “Despacito” – 55 weeks
- Hot Country Songs – Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” – 37 weeks
- Hot Dance / Electronic Songs – Zedd’s “The Middle” – 28 weeks
- Hot Rock Songs – Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” – 24 weeks
- Hot R&B / Hip-Hop Songs – Drake’s “In My Feelings” – 5 weeks
#1’s and weeks on Billboard’s major genre charts the week in October 2012 when the chart rules were first implemented.
- Hot Latin Songs – Carlos Vives’s “Volvi A Nacer” – 1 week
- Hot Country Songs – Jason Aldean’s “Take A Little Ride” – 2 weeks
- Hot Dance / Electronic Songs – will.i.am and Britney Spears “Scream & Shout – 1 week
- Hot Rock Songs – Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” – 2 weeks
- Hot R&B / Hip-Hop Songs – Miguel’s “Adorn” – 4 weeks
…and remember, Drake recently set a record of his own when a total of 27 songs all charted on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously after the surprise release of his record Scorpion, including slots 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 on the chart. There’s a good chance Drake’s “In My Feelings” will dominate the Hot R&B / Hip-Hop Songs chart for the foreseeable future, just like the other songs are dominating their respective charts.
Meanwhile dozens of other songs and artists are being denied the opportunity to spend even a week or two at #1 and benefit from that exposure and recognition as one song continues to dominate. Compare this with the history of these charts where the normal course for a song is to spend a week or two at #1, or possibly five or six weeks if it really was a smash, and anyone can see the clear anomaly these genre-specific charts are presenting.
And none of this passes the “sniff test” so to speak, meaning you look at songs such as Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be,” or Zedd’s “The Middle,” they’re not ubiquitous throughout culture or even radio. They’re not a defining song of a generation. They haven’t captured the zeitgeist and become a cultural phenomenon on their own. Think of songs like Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” or even Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” and these were songs that either exploded in popularity, or presented a seismic shift in music that would probably justify the setting of a new record, regardless of anyone’s personal appeal in them. Only the Latin song “Despacito” could boast sparking a culturally significant moment on its own.
When it comes to Billboard’s genre charts, the reason for the discrepancies between common sense and the historic runs of certain songs, it’s mostly due to the new chart rules first implemented in 2012 that give radio spins on other formats credit on the genre specific charts. For example, since Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” continues to receive interest from pop and adult contemporary radio, it continues to be embellished on the Hot Country Songs chart, even though the song doesn’t appear in any significant way on country radio. Also, as Billboard has enhanced the importance of streaming data, songs like “Meant To Be” that have benefited from favorable (and sometimes spurious) playlist placement also receive a boost long after they’ve disappeared from radio proper.
The evidence is clear, and the frustration from genres across the board is evident. But Billboard seems to be asleep at the wheel about the issue, participating itself in harping on the breaking of historic records on genre specific charts with news stories about the accomplishments. Meanwhile decades of music history is being rewritten and torn asunder as today’s superstars rack up surreptitious accomplishments, and diminish the achievements of artists who came before when the charts were handled with a more even-handed approach.
August 15, 2018 @ 11:05 am
Great article. I couldn’t care less about Billboard as a value filter. They are dead to me. To find new music, I have SCM, YouTube, and places like KEXP in Seattle or Acme Radio in Nashville. Commercial music pretty much sucks. Long live the independents!
August 15, 2018 @ 12:28 pm
It’s gotten to where despite its flaws, only the airplay chart still has any meaning. And even then Mediabase is a better representation than Billboard.
August 16, 2018 @ 12:25 am
The main issue with airplay is it’s essentially paid for by labels.
August 15, 2018 @ 1:09 pm
Reading the “Billboard Country Update” each week is enough to know what’s wrong with the (country) charts.
Year-long #1 runs by one song & year-long chart climbs & the song is still not in the Top 10 like “Hooked” (Dylan Scott – #11 – 50 weeks). Curb is still promoting “Hooked” each & every week in the “Update”.
The “Update” is going gaga over every new act (as long as she or he is on a Nashville mainstream label) & it’s the same group of acts getting pages & Billboard-love after the release of a new single: Old Dominion, Dan & his Shay, Chris Lane, Kelsea Ballerini… .
August 15, 2018 @ 1:42 pm
Music categories have always been messed up, and weird bands have always landed in weird places.
A few years back, Jethro Tull won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental, beating AC/DC and Metallica.
Every now and then I end up somewhere with a “classic rock” station playing, and after Zeppelin and Deep Purple they’ll play some Billy Joel.
Billy Joel is pop. You should never hear Billy Joel anywhere near Hendrix, just like you should never hear Florida Georgia line anywhere near…. your ears, I guess.
I gave up on music categories having any meaning decades ago. Even “americana” gets misused here and there.
And while I don’t like to brag, I’ve still never heard the Bebe Rexha/FGL song that has everyone so upset.
August 15, 2018 @ 2:51 pm
Which Billy Joel song? If it was Uptown Girl or most post-Glass Houses then I would agree. But a lot of his pre-Glass Houses material fits well on a classic rock station. For example Captain Jack, Angry Man, Ballad of Billy the Kid, etc.
August 15, 2018 @ 3:07 pm
I put those songs in the “pop” world as well, some of them sound like Broadway showtunes to me.
I understand Joel has a following and he can write a hit song, I don’t mean to offend any Joel fans, but to me he’s better suited for an Oldies/Top 40 type station than classic rock.
August 15, 2018 @ 5:34 pm
I have to ask if the classic rock station you are referring to is WCSX in Detroit. Despite imaging themselves as “Classic Rock” their playlist is closer to Classic Hits at times. Most of the harder classics are handled by their sister station WRIF, but it’s still it’s disconcerting to hear a straight-up AC oldie like “Missing You” by John Waite or “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon on a station calling itself classic rock.
August 15, 2018 @ 8:24 pm
I’m in Phoenix. It’s one of those classic rock stations owned somewhere else and they feed the music from New York or somewhere.
I haven’t tuned in for years, I gave up on terrestrial radio. Clear Channel killed it. Three songs then 10 loud commercials and some giggling idiot pretending to be interesting.
I used to live in California and in the 70’s/80’s was spoiled with KFAT on the FM dial playing Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, and KEEN on the AM side playing real shit on your boots country. And for rock we had KSAN in the early 70’s which was as free form as it got, and later KOME did a decent job for a little while.
I think there’s music out today that’s as good and sometimes better than “the old days”, but damn, I miss radio.
August 16, 2018 @ 4:30 am
Having grown up in the NY area in the late 70s and 80s I can guarantee you that he was played on AOR stations like WNEW and WYSP. I remember Scott Muni not being shy about playing something like Zanzibar.
Point taken that Billy was also big pop guy but I’ve always thought of him as belonging to both, depending on the song. Like Elton.
How would you characterize Bowie? He had the makeup and costumes for show tunes ;). And a bunch of top 40 hits. No doubt in my mind he’s classic rock.
August 16, 2018 @ 7:40 am
Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s possible I’m just not a fan of Joel and that’s clouding my judgement. 🙂
August 16, 2018 @ 9:13 am
Speaking of classic rock, I think the classic rock station here in Little Rock, Ark. has played Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” almost every day, like clockwork, for the past 25+ years.
August 15, 2018 @ 2:41 pm
My only advice to all you young people out there is don’t put bad shit in your ears. Nothing good will come of it. You could end up like my brother in-law, 62 yrs. old and never been outside mainstream commercial radio. Last week he admitted to me he hadn’t heard of John Prine. Just pathetic.
theres my kids n thats my wife but whose that Lil Dale runnin my life?
August 15, 2018 @ 3:30 pm
hay trigg my paster toll me a close personelle frend of his that is a big wig in nashville sed he hurd a roomer sam hunt and jaxonville jagwires qb blake bordells are the same person I went back an compared the game film from the 2007 uab n fsu game and I thank he mite have something there there stile in play are ded on and I meen dad gum they look just a like
August 15, 2018 @ 3:31 pm
In an age of satellite radio, YouTube and other alternatives to terrestrial radio, Billboard rankings and records are pretty much a measure of a records popularity. I seriously doubt any one under the age of 30 listens to AM/FM radio for music….maybe sports talk or news talk but not for music.
August 15, 2018 @ 3:44 pm
I meant to say a poor measure of a record’s popularity.
August 15, 2018 @ 3:45 pm
I meant to say a poor measure of a records popularity.
August 15, 2018 @ 3:37 pm
I know we spend a lot of time on here lamenting the demise of country music as we’ve known it for 50-plus years, but seriously, what the hell has happened to rock music as of late? That “Thunder” song isn’t “rock” by any definition. I remember lots of people fifteen years ago saying that bands like Green Day weren’t really “rock” music in the traditional sense, but at least they and rest of the pop-punk wave still performed their music in the standard format of guitar, bass, drums, and little else. “Thunder” has no guitar, the drums sound completely artificial, and that stupid chorus with that high-pitched voice is an instant dial-changer for me.
The Other Wayne
August 15, 2018 @ 4:05 pm
The problem with rock in my opinion is that when post-grunge, rap metal, and pop-punk were at their height, a lot of artists that didn’t fit that mold and weren’t yet at stadium-level success either dissolved or were incorporated into the alternative/indie world.
Once the three aforementioned rock subgenres became cliche trends of the past, rock didn’t evolve, because anything outside of the mold of those subgenres was prohibited. The “rebellious youth” demographic previously incorporated by rock was swallowed by hip-hop as Kanye West and Jay-Z had albums in the late-2000s/early-2010s that won over a lot of the young white suburban demographic that rock used target.
Other than brief moments of high-level success from artists like The Black Keys, the rock charts have been a parade of mediocrity for the past 10-ish years. The best rock music being played these days is instead either a part of indie/alternative (Black Pistol Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, The Orwells, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard) for example, or if at all rootsy, the bands are instead labeled americana (Gary Clark Jr., Band of Heathens, Blitzen Trapper).
Rock doesn’t exist anymore, the rock charts are mediocre electronic versions of what was being played 10 years ago, and all the good/innovative rock is played under other genre labels. Rock as a commercial genre no longer has an audience, it’s old demographic now either listens to rap, or if they’re from rural areas, pop-country.
August 15, 2018 @ 5:58 pm
If you want to hear some good rock music, check out a band from south of the border called The Warning (https://youtu.be/syTyga3lVL0) or a band from north of the border called Motion Device (https://youtu.be/N8D9Lk-UT7Q).
August 15, 2018 @ 3:45 pm
Thank you!! So sick of hearing about Drake songs breaking chart records when only the singles are getting any airplay….even if the songs are horrible. Check out mediabase for a more accurate chart based on airplay.
Dirt Road Derek
August 15, 2018 @ 4:47 pm
Is Billboard’s reluctance to fix the problem because of the web traffic it’s bringing to them, because they don’t know how to fix it, or because they actually don’t think their system is flawed?
August 16, 2018 @ 10:52 am
If I had to guess, it would be a 3 word answer: “Follow the money.”
Dirt Road Derek
August 16, 2018 @ 10:55 am
That seems most likely. Greed ruins everything.
August 15, 2018 @ 5:42 pm
My nine-year-old nephew loves Imagine Dragons, but when I told him that they’re at number one on the Rock chart, he exclaimed, “Imagine Dragons isn’t a rock band! They’re a pop band!” Out of the mouths of babes. It is official – my nine-year-old nephew is smarter than the chart department at Billboard.
Frankly if you’re going to include Imagine Dragons on a “rock” chart you may as well include Maroon 5, whose music ceased any resemblance to rock (or to actual music) years ago.
A Country-Pop Fan
August 15, 2018 @ 8:15 pm
Indeed. Tons of pop bands/artists (CHVRCHES, The 1975, Portugal The Man and obviously, Imagine Dragons) are on the Rock Chart so why not include Maroon 5? Their current song Girls Like You is actually pretty decent, and if included on the Rock chart, it will be another evidence of how messed up Billboard is, because Cardi B, a rapper, will have a Rock chart entry. FFS
August 16, 2018 @ 1:08 am
”Girls Like You is actually pretty decent..”
I beg to respectfully differ . This band sold out COMPLETELY to trendy pop fluff radio and heavily programmed tracks with .
This particular song is an excellent example of the state of mainstream pop ……lifeless generic and bereft of creativity not to mention REAL musicians playing REAL parts .
Pop is barely recognizable in terms of what it once was whether it was the 50’s ,60’s…. the 80’s /90’s . The singers are mostly auto-tuned , similar -sounding and ‘bands’ are pretty-much non-existant . The material is mostly lyrically and melodically weak . Trend-chasing is rampant . NOBODY dares push the envelope too far from hip-hop . The biggest selling male artist is Ed Sheeran . WTF …Have you listened to his cliched excuse for lyrics lately ? His under-produced , derivative songs?
One of the most viewed videos ( over a million ) is a song called I DON’T GIVE A FUCK . Are we really so desperate for a song idea that THIS becomes one of the most played/viewed songs ???? Man …mainstream has gone to hell in a hand-basket with so little originality , artistry or vision involved that it could be produced by Artificial Intelligence and I use the term ‘ intelligence ‘ VERY loosely ! Its still a notch better than ‘ country ‘ mainstream but what’s THAT really saying ?
Yes …the goodtimes really are over at pop radio ….unless you’re a female under 12 years old cuz all the songs are either written by that demographic or written FOR that demographic.
A Country-Pop Fan
August 16, 2018 @ 6:09 am
Yes, it’s not a masterpiece, nor a great song, but it’s decent compared to all the bullsh*t that swarms the Hot 100’s Top 10. Tell me otherwise after you listen to FEFE by 6ix9ine. That’ll be hard.
Oh, and that IDGAF song by Dua Lipa? That wasn’t even considered a hit, but it gained millions of views only because Lipa’s past single New Rules became viral and played a lot on radio and streaming sites, so of course it’ll gain from NR’s momentum. She has better songs to offer though, and IDGAF isn’t one of them.
August 15, 2018 @ 8:27 pm
I am latino and I hate DESPACITO because it doesn’t represent our real music and radio stations, tv music channels and the network in general only put reguetton in our ears, blocking real music and real artists like Natalia Laforcade, solidartha or Los Cafres. I think billboard is a shame for the music. Rock music is not into the top 40 anymore forgetting songs from musicI and like lenny kravitz with Low that is the best song of 2018 so far, or gorillaz with humility, the war on drugs with pain, Florence + the Machine with hanger. I think country music is not Florida Georgia line when the did rap in thier first hit. I think young people don’t have choice the networks and media are killing the music. Grammys 2018 was a shame being part of this like another VMAs.
August 15, 2018 @ 8:30 pm
I still read Billboard every week (free from the library) just for heck of it and to look at the Country Album chart or to laugh at the 6 Country singles charts that all have the same exact songs in different order. Of course last week Cody had the #1 spot for his incredible Americana/Folk album Lifers. I basically laugh at most of the other charts because they’re a mish mash of music I don’t or rarely listen to.
Trigger got me reading Country Aircheck Weekly every week now but they haven’t mentioned Lifers anywhere at all I guess because it gets zero airplay on anything except Sirius Outlaw.
I don’t think anything will ever change @ Billboard magazine. They have a monopoly in the music business and always have. They know they can do whatever they want with no ramifications because there are no other options.
August 15, 2018 @ 8:39 pm
I’m proud to program Cody and I’m sure there are a few other outlets doing the same.
August 15, 2018 @ 10:20 pm
“Meant to Be” isn’t even getting airplay anymore. It’s not on the Mainstream Top 40 at all, it’s close to the bottom of the Top 20 on the Hot 100 (if it’s even in the top 20), and it’s not in the Top 30 on iTunes. What, is it still streaming well or something?
August 16, 2018 @ 3:23 am
Is it time to have the “is Babe Rexha the greatest female country music singer ever?”?
August 16, 2018 @ 8:12 am
Taste of Country will be all over this idea ASAP. They recently asked who was the greater Keith in country music, Whitley or Urban. Nothing they do can ever make up for even posing that question.
August 16, 2018 @ 8:17 am
Completely agree. I was being disingenuous with my post. I can’t take any conversation seriously that contains both the name Babe Rexha and the topic of country music.
August 16, 2018 @ 9:54 am
Whitley of course, although I find his songs really depressing except for “It Ain’t Nothin’.”
August 16, 2018 @ 7:41 am
Billboard is worthless at this point. A total anarchism that serves no functional purpose in today’s day and age other than to serve as an advertisement for whatever the remnants of the industry want to push.
August 16, 2018 @ 10:58 am
“Meanwhile decades of music history is being rewritten and torn asunder as today’s superstars rack up surreptitious accomplishments, and diminish the achievements of artists who came before when the charts were handled with a more even-handed approach.”
I think most intelligent people understand that anything related to album sales or charts or anything, post-internet, is not the same as pre-internet. There are negative sides to this for sure, but I stopped paying attention to the charts a long time ago. More telling to me is seeing someone like Colter Wall’s crowd size at his shows in my city go from 10 ppl to700 to 2000 each subsequent year. Now that is impressive.
August 17, 2018 @ 10:11 am
You could honestly make websites like this one for all the genres listed here. Latin music has been overrun by reggaeton (Even its big stars like Shakira have had to adapt to it in order to get played. Try listening to reggaeton. Every song is built around literally the same beat), rock has become a neutered, poppier version of itself and pop music is basically EDM and/or rap/hip hop.
And obviously at this point it’s clear you have to break up chart history to pre and post streaming…and to when labels weren’t doing desperate things like tour bundling to boost album sales.
August 17, 2018 @ 3:54 pm
An enjoyable article for this news and I’ve enjoyed reading these comments.
Billy Joel started more ‘Rock’ then went more ‘Pop’ like (unfortunately) almost every ‘Rock’ music act at the time–into the 1980’s. But I think he’s fit well into the ‘Classic Rock’ playlists these recent years. A few of his song are played (very) often on Classic Rock radio–the station esp. seems to like “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Only The Good Die Young”.
Maroon 5, I think, is a decent band. I would call them ‘Pop/Rock’. They seem to put thought in their lyrics and do all play instruments, not just electronic sounds like so many today. They stand out to me for that.
I had to laugh reading about the mention of Jethro Tull getting that award, the Grammy joke that keeps on giving.
I like some of Imagine Dragons songs, but I don’t like the added sounds in certain songs, a more ‘Pop’ sound not even enjoyable, imo.
Scott G, I liked reading about the increase in fans at those shows. It seems that’s where the importance in music will be, more and more—who tours, how many fans show up, increasing fan support that way, as these charting systems frustrate everyone more and more. I’ve heard that’s where Recording Artists make the most money anyway.
August 19, 2018 @ 5:17 pm
While I agree with sentiment and understand what #1 means to people.
Some of the best songs never went the top but hung around in the top ten or 20 forever.
I think of Leanna Rimes “How Do I Live.” for example.
So I have ALWAYS felt chart success needs context.