Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Week In Music: Oh, Yes, Whitney, But There's Much More

The past week in music is shouting from a mountain on high with a momentous record of achievements—and no, they’re not all about Whitney Houston. The biz is still celebrating the afterglow of the Grammy Awards and Super Bowl.

But yes, let’s start with the profound impact that Houston’s death February 11 has had on the single and album charts. Whitney returns to the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 with her iconic 1992 No. 1 hit “I Will Always Love You” (which then reigned for 14 weeks), re-entering at No. 7, fueled by an enormous resurgence in radio airplay (18 million audience impressions, up 915%) and digital sales (195,000, up 6,723%).

Meanwhile, Houston places two other former No. 1s on the singles chart: 1987’s "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" at No. 35; and 1986’s "Greatest Love of All" at No. 41. In all, Whitney sold 887,000 digital single downloads last week.

Houston’s return to the Hot 100 with catalog and recurrent songs marks a profound change in policy for Billboard, which historically has shut out oldies on the Hot 100. The only other occasion the mag allowed such activity followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when Lee Greenwood's 1984 country hit "God Bless the USA" and Houston's "The Star Spangled Banner” were randomly allowed to re-chart.

But now, Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo concludes, "Going forward, we feel it is the proper move to allow older titles posting enough activity to return to the Hot 100 if ranking in the chart's upper half." That could profoundly change the essence of the quintessential industry chart forevermore, when current events foster renewed sales and radio airplay... perhaps reflecting a more relevant real-world purview of American musical tastes.

On the album chart, Whitney: The Greatest Hits re-enters the Billboard 200 chart at No. 6, moving 64,000 copies—reflecting only one full day of sales after her passing. (Wait until next week, when it is almost a given that she will return to No. 1.) In addition, 1986 debut Whitney Houston charts at No. 72; The Bodyguard soundtrack is No. 80; last studio album I Look To You is  No. 118; 1987's Whitney is No. 122; and The Preacher's Wife soundtrack is No. 183.

2012 Grammy darling Adele, who won all the six awards she was nominated for, scores a rare three songs inside the top 20 of the Billboard top 20: Her former two-week No. 1 "Set Fire to the Rain" holds at No. 2 on the Hot 100 (behind Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," No. 1 for a second week); while former No. 1 “Someone Like You” rebounds 22-11; and 2011 No. 1 hit of the year “Rolling In The Deep” escalates 44-17 in its 58th week on the chart.

In addition, Adele's sophomore album 21 logs its 21th week at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. She has already scored a number of longevity records, and the latest: It ties with M.C. Hammer's 1990 Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em for the longest run at No. 1 by any artist's sophomore album.

And then there’s Lady Madonna. While the Super Bowl may seem a distant memory following the Grammy Awards and the overwhelming coverage of Houston’s demise, new single "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A), bounds 13-10 on the Hot 100. That makes it's her record-extending 38th top 10. (Apologies to The Beatles & Grammy performer Paul McCartney, who ranks second with 34.)

However, as many industry watchers suspected, Clear Channel’s early embrace of Madonna's cheerleading-chanting song (during which it was played at the top of every hour from Friday, February 3, at 9 a.m. until the game's kickoff) has quickly subsided. The track slides 28-59 on Billboard's Radio Songs chart.

Likely, we ain't seen nothing yet: Next week, Houston is expected to see mammoth sales, with reporting that wraps Sunday, February 19. *