The Weeknd holds top spot on Billboard chart

15 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ask Billboard: Canada Heats Up the U.S. Charts.

‘Face’ unseats Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’ following the latter’s chart-topping debut, as The Weeknd becomes the first act at Nos. 1 & 2 as a lead act since 2009.The Weeknd earns a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart as Beauty Behind the Madness continues to reign as the most popular album in the U.S. In all, a great time for Canadians on the charts, as Bieber and The Weeknd follow forbearers like the Guess Who, Anne Murray, Alannah Myles, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain and others.

By and large, these songs did not wind up being the respective acts’ best hit, or even their biggest (e.g., neither Britney hit is one of her classics, the Eminem song is a half-decent rewrite of “Lose Yourself,” and the Gaga and Katy songs were massive but relatively short-lived). That 114,000 figure is also the group’s best sales week ever, surpassing the 112,000 launch of 2013’s No. 2-peaking The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Volume 1. It drops 2-3 on Digital Songs (101,000 downloads sold, down 19 percent, in the week ending Sept. 10) and holds at No. 4 on Streaming Songs (17.5 million U.S. streams, down 3 percent). “Face” also leads Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a ninth week. “Face” rebounds to the top of the Hot 100 after first leading the Aug. 15 chart and returning to reign on Aug. 29 (and remaining in the lead on the Sept. 5 survey). So many elements, from sales to airplay to streaming, make up Billboard’s flagship pop chart that getting a plurality of them to line up, right when a single is launching, demands name-brand artist recognition and military-industrial precision. The last song listed above, Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”—an electro-pop ode to hopefully innocent romantic miscommunication—joins the list of No. 1 debuters this week, thanks to just such an industrial-strength campaign.

Their steady climb started with 1998’s Virtual XI (10,000 sales debut, up from the 6,000 of 1995’s X Factor) and then continued on with 2000’s Brave New World (38,000), 2003’s Dance of Death (40,000), 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death (56,000), 2010’s The Final Frontier (63,000) and now its new album. No. 1 song—remarkable when you consider that for the last half-decade Bieber has been the nation’s biggest teen idol, racking up five No. 1 albums before his 19th birthday, a record. (Contrary to popular belief, if tweens and teens are really into a pop star, they will pay hard cash for his album.) Now legal drinking age, Bieber is attempting the classic boy-to-man career transition achieved by numerous pop idols over the decades.

To be sure, with its friendly lilt, tick-tock tempo, and synth burble that recalls the centrist pop of the ’80s, “What” is charming and insinuating enough to make believers out of music lovers over 17. Luke Bryan’s former No. 1 album Kill the Lights slips 3-6 with 45,000 units (down 11 percent) and Taylor Swift’s 1989 dips 4-7 with 43,000 units (down 2 percent). I just read last week’s “Ask Billboard” email from Larry Cohen regarding artists in the Hot 100’s top 40 at the same time of songs that name-check those acts. Actually, let’s stay in 1998 for a moment. (Ahem: What’s this Internet thing? … What’s the deal with that Seinfeld finale? … And, well, whose boy is it, Brandy’s or Monica’s?!) 1998 wasn’t just big for Sonny and Cher, it was also notable for “Sunny” and Cher, and thanks to another Shawn: Shawn Colvin. For Jackson and his Sony army, the secret was building radio airplay of the song for weeks, then dropping a retail single at the moment of maximum demand.

Once Jackson’s team showed it could be done, other hit acts and labels rushed to copy the formula for a No. 1 debut, which in the late ’90s and early ’00s revolved entirely around physical singles (during an era when the single was otherwise being killed off as a retail medium). All three of his top 10s are from his album x; his latest follows “Thinking Out Loud,” which peaked at No. 2 for eight weeks earlier this year, and “Don’t” (No. 9, last November). Since then, the 1961 soundtrack to the feature film version of the Broadway musical West Side Story holds the record for the most weeks at No. 1: 54 (or a year and two weeks).

In a statement to Billboard, Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels effused about “the Def Jam family [coming] together to execute this effort, with the vision and the goal of Justin’s first-ever Hot 100 chart-topper.” Nice corporate-speak, Steve! Of course, most songs start slower at radio than they do with digital consumers, and “What’s” other stats were strong enough that he didn’t really need major airplay to top the big chart. But the long-term future of Bieber’s career will depend on his credibility with more passive music lovers—and the Biebs has had an especially tough slog on the airwaves.

If you’ve made it this far in this article and are over the age of 20, chances are you have long been, at best, bemused by the Justin Bieber phenomenon, or more likely repulsed by the dude’s sense of post-adolescent entitlement. People with jobs, degrees, and fully developed pituitary glands are the bread-and-butter of radio audience measurement and advertising, and even back to the heyday of Backstreet Boys and N Sync, radio has been cautious about overplaying boy bands and TRL fare, putting a glass ceiling over the chart success of many teenpop acts. That goes double for Bieber: Since he broke as a YouTube phenomenon in 2009–10 and quickly became the people’s choice, radio programmers have been very careful not to overplay the likes of “Baby” and “U Smile,” lest adults lunge for their dashboard station-preset buttons. Near the start of 2013, he scored two Top Five radio hits with key assists from artists old enough to rent a car: “As Long as You Love Me,” featuring rapper Big Sean, made it all the way to No. 2 at radio, and “Beauty and a Beat,” featuring hip-pop megastar Nicki Minaj, reached No. 4.

Having launched his career with a puppy-like version of R&B, Bieber has found that more dissonant forms of electronic dance music are a better vehicle to make his transition to legit adult pop. Bieber probably would have built on those successes straight away—if he hadn’t spent much of 2013 and 2014 making a public spectacle out of himself rather than recording. Realizing his jackass image was starting to overshadow his music, Bieber and his team have spent 2015 on a very public comeback trail—and they haven’t been subtle about it.

It’s built around a piano-and-vocal melody Bieber co-wrote and performed, then mailed to the production duo for heavy manipulation. “Where” is the “Climax” of 2015—like that 2012 Usher song (also produced by Diplo), “Where” is an innovative pop song with a distinctive, break-the-mold sound that also managed to infiltrate the radio. In a comprehensive New York Times feature and video dissecting “Where Are Ü Now,” veteran critic Jon Pareles learned that its piercing, Brian Eno/David Byrne–like worldbeat hook (let’s call it “My Life in the Bieber of Ghosts”) was actually Justin’s voice run through a computer to make it sound like a flute, or maybe a dolphin. In addition to its similar title, “What” sounds like “Where” was passed through the Top 40 radio chop shop and stripped of its weirdest elements—retaining the prior hit’s heartbeat rhythm and digital blips, but now using them to surround a brighter, shinier, vaguely tropical melody. In sum, Boyd, Levy, and Bieber have pulled off a leaner, less futuristic version of Justin’s prior hit, winding up with something less shrill but also closer to aural wallpaper.

It’s one of the few Bieber singles to date that you could imagine hearing in an elevator or a convenience store six months from now, one that might endure thanks to its very passivity. What makes Bieber’s first chart-topper more interesting than either of those quick-burn singles, however, is that it is a hungry hit rather than an Imperial hit—“What” has something to prove, which it can only prove over time.

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