Thursday, March 27, 2008

Billboard Hot 100, 4/5/2008

1. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis

Ah...this is the stuff chart comentators live for. Leona Lewis ascends to #1 this week with "Bleeding Love," knocking Usher 's "Love in This Club" from the perch after a 3-week stay, and in doing so sets a couple of notable chart milestones. First off, Leona Lewis is the first in the recent slate of acts to get their start on a reality music competition show to top the singles charts in both the U.S. and the UK. This, I think, is the more notable feat. Like 'em or not, these shows have been an important source for emerging pop acts in both countries over the last few years, helping to launch high-profile, award-winning careers for household names like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks in the States; Will Young, Girls Aloud, Shayne Ward, Gareth Gates, and Liberty X in Britain; and of course Leona Lewis. By my count, such artists have scored six number hits in the U.S. and 22 number one hits in the UK.

That Leona Lewis is the first of the gang to score #1s on both sides of the pond is remarkable. That it was a Brit and not an American to make the achievement is extraordinary, given that for years now the British chart has been more hospitable to Americans that the Billboard Hot 100 has been to Brits. In fact Leona Lewis is only the second British act to score a Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit this decade, following James Blunt's #1 hit "Your'e Beautiful" from 2006. To Lewis's credit, she achieves the feat as a legitimate pop artist to the American public, not as a reality TV product, for most Americans are likely unaware of her stature as Britain's equivalent to say Jordin Sparks. While American Idol airs in the UK, The X Factor does not air in the U.S. So the draw that makes a lot of these artists score quick hits out of the gate--that the audience has gotten to know them first on TV--plays no factor in Lewis's U.S. #1.

Back to Lewis being the only the second Brit to hit #1 this decade. She's also the first British female soloist to hit #1 since Kim Wilde did it in 1987 with "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The last time any British ladies were atop the Hot 100 was 1997, when the Spice Girls hit #1 with their debut "Wannabe." While there were a number of Brits hitting #1 during the '90s, they were mostly guys or groups (George Michael, Elton John, EMF, UB40, to name a few). Meanwhile, American female pop artists hit #1 in the UK all the time, with such recent hits coming from Beyonce, Madonna, Ciara, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez, to name but a few.

Lewis is also the sales gainer this week--a strength she'll need if she's to retain #1 next week, given that the long-anticipated new singles from Mariah Carey and Madonna finally hit iTunes this week. That's all the really interested me about the chart this week, but I think it was enough.

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