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Chartbeat Chat...

Billboard's Fred Bronson answers a few questions pertinent to Whitney Houston in his online column this week:

IS IT A HIT OR A MISS?

Fred,

First, let me say I enjoy reading your column each week. Thanks for all the chart info! My question is more a request for your opinion on some recent chart activity.

It seems to me in the past couple of months there have been several songs by big name artists that I thought for sure would really tear up the charts, but turned out to do nothing at radio.

These include "Can't Take That Away" by Mariah Carey, "I Want You To Need Me" by Celine Dion, "6 8 12" by Brian McKnight, and "Can I Have This Kiss Forever" by Whitney Houston and Enrique Iglesias. It seems that these songs garnered little airplay and then fell off quickly.

I was just wondering if you had any insight into the failure of these very good songs by big name artists.

Thanks,
Adam Kuhl
Tucson, Az

Dear Adam,

Being a name artist is no guarantee that radio is going to play your songs -- it's really always been so. Every artist, no matter how successful, has had some radio flops - even Elvis Presley (in his day) and Madonna. "Can't Take That Away" sold very well, peaking at No. 2 in sales, but radio didn't go near it. The "B" side, "Crybaby," received more airplay, but not that much more.

Celine Dion's "I Want You To Need Me" is No. 8 on the Hot Dance Music: Maxi-Singles Sales chart in its third week, but hasn't received enough airplay to matter (it's No. 24 on the Adult Contemporary chart). The Whitney Houston/Enrique Iglesias duet sounded like a hit to me, but this song also had an airplay problem, and a planned commercial single was cancelled, hampering its chart chances. For another take on this subject, see the next E-mail.

SOUNDING OFF

Fred,

I really enjoy reading your column on the Internet every Friday. My question is: how do radio programmers, particularly for top 40 stations, decide which single gets the airplay, and which one does not?

I have observed that there is a bias against older musicians. Cher had her greatest hit of her career last year with the worldwide smash "Believe." Before its debut at No. 99 on The Billboard Hot 100, radio programmers were still reluctant to play the song despite it being No. 1 in 23 countries.

Although it was the No. 1 song for 1999, it was not in the top 10 for airplay for the end of the year rankings. Her follow-up songs, "Strong Enough" and "All Or Nothing," were ignored by radio, despite following the success of "Believe," and good reviews from music magazines like Billboard.

Tina Turner's two singles from her latest album never charted on the Hot 100, despite all the
publicity of her comeback and successful tour. Even perennial radio favorites like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston have current singles performing lower than expectations.

However, Janet Jackson seems to be a favorite among radio programmers, with all her songs reaching the top 40. Her latest, "Doesn't Really Matter," is expected to be No. 1 next week. Madonna's "Music" made it to No. 23 in just two weeks.

How do these radio programmers make these decisions? They seem to be like gods in making a radio hit. An excellent song may never chart on the Hot 100, but a mediocre song can go all the way to the top.

John Reyes
JReyes3567@aol.com

Dear John,

I remember when I was 14, I was frustrated that KRLA in Los Angeles wasn't playing the latest single by one of my favorite artists -- an artist who had just had a No. 1 hit a few months earlier. I called the station and asked them to play the song. The program director told me that the single wasn't selling and they weren't getting any requests for the song. Even at 14, I was able to tell him that of course it wasn't selling and it wasn't being requested -- no one knew about it because they weren't playing it!

That said, you do bring up a good point about ageism. But it's not restricted to the music industry. Television networks used to be interested in ratings that reflected the total number of viewers watching, but now the ratings that really count are the ones for the 18-49 group. That's what advertisers are interested in. Look at the number of motion pictures released that are aimed at a youth audience, compared to the number of films targeted for adults. Anyone remember the film "Logan's Run"?

Another issue is the one discussed in the above E-mail: radio doesn't automatically play hits by name artists. Even Janet Jackson is not an automatic add, as pointed out in an insightful column by Sean Ross, group editor of Billboard's sister publications, the Airplay Monitors. Ross writes in his "Top 40 Topics" column in the Aug. 25 issue of Top 40 Airplay Monitor that many programmers were reluctant to add "Doesn't Really Matter" at first, and were surprised at how popular the song was with listeners. Go figure!


WHITHER WHITNEY?

Dear Fred:

Thank you very much for your weekly information. I'm a huge fan of your column. I've noticed that three duets from the Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Hits" album, have had either radio airplay or commercial singles, but none of them has been a big hit.

I'm talking about "If I Told You That" (with George Michael), which has a commercial single, as well as "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (with Enrique Iglesias), which also entered the Hot 100 with no real success, and has a video clip. "Same Script, Different Cast" (with Deborah Cox) not only entered the Hot 100 at the same time that the duet with Enrique did, but also is No. 14 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

How have the three duets done on The Billboard Hot 100? Did Whitney's record company release the duets as commercial singles? Were they on the Hot 100 simultaneously?

Thanks,
Juan Manuel Cortes
Miami

Dear Juan,

None of the new songs from Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Hits" double-CD have been commercially released in the U.S. yet. As mentioned in an E-mail above, "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" was supposed to be released as a single, but those plans were cancelled. The two tracks that have charted to date on the Hot 100 are the aforementioned "Kiss" and the duet with Deborah Cox, "Same Script, Different Cast."

Personally, I was looking forward to "Kiss" being a top 10 hit, but as an album track, it stalled at No. 52. "Script" did well on the R&B chart, peaking at No. 14, but sputtered out at No. 70 on the Hot 100. "Kiss" and "Script" were on the Hot 100 at the same time.

There's more to come from Whitney's "The Greatest Hits," though. Promotional singles of "Fine" and "If I Told You That" are going to radio and should be charting soon.

NEWSFILE: 26 AUGUST 2000

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