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Billboard Hot 100
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Billboard Hot 100

The Billboard Hot 100 is the main singles chart used by Billboard magazine. The new charts go into effect every Saturday, while the charts are posted every previous Thursday on the website.

What is now the Hot 100 existed for nearly 15 years as almost a half-dozen different charts. Apparently all the charts became a little too difficult for industry professionals to keep track of, so Billboard started the main Hot 100 chart on August 4, 1958. The first #1 song of the Hot 100 era was "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson. As of August 7, 2004, the Hot 100 has had 906 No. 1 hits. Its current number one is "Slow Motion", by Juvenile.

Table of contents
1 Album Cuts
2 Notable Hot 100 Records
3 Nielsen Soundscan
4 Limitations

Album Cuts

Prior to December 5, 1998, the Hot 100 was compiled solely on available singles that could be purchased. Now singles can hit #1 based only on airplay points. These variety of singles are called album cuts. The year after the album cut implementation, no album cut single managed to hit #1 because the album cuts just were not strong enough to advance to pole position. In fact, the first airplay-only single to hit #1 came on June 17, 2000 when Aaliyah's "Try Again" managed to spend one week at the top.

Airplay-only singles are not allowed on the Hot 100 until they make the top 75 of the Hot 100 Airplay Singles chart (separate from this one).

Notable Hot 100 Records

Arguably, the most notable Hot 100 record is the longest consecutive week run at #1. The record changed hands three times during the Hot 100 era. Elvis Presley set the record at 11 weeks with "Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel", in 1956. That was the record for 36 years, until 1992 when Boyz II Men held #1 for 13 weeks with "End of the Road". Then just 2 weeks after that run ended, Whitney Houston broke the record yet again with "I Will Always Love You" (her rendition of the Dolly Parton hit). It stayed at #1 for 14 weeks during late 1992 and early 1993 and made 1993 the first year where Billboard did not get its very first new #1 until March. The record was then broken again early in 1996 when Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men retained #1 for 16 weeks with "One Sweet Day"; this record holds to the present. One of Billboard's biggest predictions as to a song that could possibly break the record was a 1998 duet between two people who have held the record: Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. The song, "When You Believe", from the Prince Of Egypt soundtrack, was a relative flop, peaking only at #15 on the Hot 100. In the near future, it seems implausible that the 16 week streak will be broken; many songs have held onto the #1 position for 10+ weeks within the past few years, but--no matter how massive they've been--they haven't been able to spend more than twelve weeks (Santana's "Smooth") at the top since "One Sweet Day".

Another notable record is the biggest gain to #1 in Hot 100 history. This record has only changed hands twice since the Hot 100 implementation. Up until December 5, 1998, The Beatles held that record with "Can't Buy Me Love". The record was set on April 4, 1964, the exact same week when The Beatles had the entire top 5 of the Hot 100 occupied. The record was broken 34 years later when "I'm Your Angel", a popular duet between superstars R. Kelly and Celine Dion, jumped from 46-1. In 2002, the record was again broken by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, who posted a massive 52-1 gain with her song "A Moment Like This". This is an example of how strong commercially released singles sometimes are compared to airplay-only songs: both "A Moment Like This" and "I'm Your Angel" broke the record during a time (1998 to present) when songs could chart based only on the strength of their radio airplay. This is different than pre-1998, when songs could only place on the Hot 100 if they were singles that were commercially buyable in stores.

The airplay and sales combined into a formula that Billboard used to determine the weekly song ranking. This makes the Beatles' record even more impressive because a very large increase in both weekly sales and weekly radio airplay likely fueled the jump to number one; as opposed to the more recent record-holders, whose songs had been charting based only on strong radio airplay and then received a large jump due only to very strong first-week single sales. Mariah Carey, who tended to score high-peaking Hot 100 singles by selling the singles for incredibly low prices, once released a single that managed to jump from in the low 60's to #2 in one week, due to massive sales that managed to offset the song's lackluster radio airplay position. Such shady tactics have caused Billboard to alter their Hot 100 formula several times over the past six years, placing less and less of an emphasis on sales points and more of an emphasis on airplay points. The result is that the songs that place highly on the Hot 100 chart are now more likely than ever to be the same ones that are heard most often on the radio. Some people would argue that this has caused American radio playlists to become stagnant and boring and is also responsible for having depleted the American CD singles market.

These are the five biggest gains to #1 in Hot 100 history:

52-1   Kelly Clarkson   "A Moment Like This"  October 5, 2002
46-1   R. Kelly and     "I'm Your Angel"      December 5, 1998
      Celine Dion
27-1   The Beatles      "Can't Buy Me Love"   April 4, 1964
24-1   Usher            "U Remind Me"         July 7, 2001
23-1   Brandy and Monica "The Boy Is Mine"    June 6, 1998

Yet another notable record is the first debuting of a single on the Hot 100 at the #1 position. To date, only twelve singles have ever debuted at #1 on the chart; but Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" holds the record for being the first. It debuted at #1 on the Hot 100 chart dated September 2, 1995, due to the single having been released and selling copiously during a time when radio airplay had already had a chance to grow. It spent one week at #1, as its sales declined rapidly during the following week. The other eleven songs that have debuted at number one were, in order:

Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" (Sept 30, 1995)
Whitney Houston's "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" (Nov 25, 1995)
Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day" (Dec 2, 1995)
P. Diddy & Faith Evans' "I'll Be Missing You" (June 14, 1997)
Mariah Carey's "Honey" (Sept 13, 1997)
Elton John's "Candle In The Wind 1997"/"Something About The Way You Look Tonight" (Oct 11, 1997)
Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" (Feb 28, 1998)
Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" (Sept 5, 1998)
Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (Nov 14, 1998)
Clay Aiken's "This Is The Night" (June 28, 2003)
Fantasia Barrino's "I Believe" (Jul 10, 2004)

Like "You Are Not Alone" the above songs, with the exception of the two most recent ones, managed their number one debuts by employing waiting to release the commercial single till the airplay levels were already substantially high. As can be seen, the December 1998 modification to the chart, which allowed album cuts to chart prior to the release of a commercial single, all but ended number one Hot 100 debuts. Aiken and Barrino each managed to debut at number one with radio airplay that was too insignificant to cause their singles to chart. The fact that they still achieved number one debuts, with minimal airplay, on a chart that weights radio airplay far more heavily than sales, in a market where buyable singles are hardly popular anymore, is testament to the commercial popularity of Aiken and Barrino.

The record for most #1's by a group belongs to The Beatles, who have had twenty on the US Charts. The record for a female soloist is fifteen, held by Mariah Carey; Michael Jackson holds the record for a male soloist with thirteen.

Whitney Houston holds the record for consecutive #1's: she had seven in 1987, demolishing the previous record held by The Beatles. In the middle of Houston's run of seven consecutive number one singles, she released one song that did not even make it onto the Hot 100 chart; however, her record stands at 7 when worded as "most consecutive #1 peaking Hot 100 singles", since the non-charting single never peaked anywhere lower than #1 (it didn't peak at all) on the Hot 100. When overall consecutive #1 singles are considered, regardless of if they made it onto the Hot 100 or not, the Beatles' record of 6 holds.

The most successful debut also belongs to Mariah Carey, whose first five singles reached #1. The previous record was four.

On the UK charts, which are based solely on sales, the best debut is one #1, which has been reached multiple times. The first time was in 1997. The record for most top 10's from one's debut belongs to Kylie Minogue Her first eleven singles reached the top 10.

The record for most weeks on the chart by a single belongs to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" which was on the chart for 41 weeks in 1981.

The soundtrack of the musical South Pacific was #1 for 61 weeks starting in 1947. They were not all consecutive.

Nielsen Soundscan

Nowadays, sales performance of singles are tracked by Nielsen Soundscan, and radio airplay performance of singles is tracked by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. Since Nielsen Soundscan's implementation in May 1991, it was reported that people like most songs longer than previously suspected (thus double-digit consecutive week runs at #1). Because of the double-digit consecutive weeks runs at #1, the amount of #1's for a year have dropped considerably. The four years Billboard posted the least amount of #1's in Hot 100 history were 2002 (7 #1 hits), 1996 (8 #1 hits), 1994 and 1997 (9 #1 hits).


The limitations of the Hot 100 have increased in importance over time. Since the Hot 100 is based on singles sales, as singles have themselves become a less common form of song release, the Hot 100's data has represented a narrowing segment of sales. Further, the history of popular music shows nearly as many remarkable failures to chart as it does important charting positions. Some critics have argued that the emphasis on a limited number of singles has distorted record industry development efforts, and there are nearly as many critics of the Hot 100 as there are supporters.

See also: List of Number 1 Hits (USA) by year