Rather than complain about it, we’ll just get on with it and talk about some chart-related topics afterward. Set the Way-Back Machine for March 15, Sherman.
2. Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger”
3. Adele – “Set Fire To The Rain”
4. The Wanted – “Glad You Came”
5. Gotye Featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
6. David Guetta Featuring Nicki Minaj – “Turn Me On”
7. Drake Featuring Rihanna – “Take Care”
8. Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa Featuring Bruno Mars – “Young, Wild, & Free”
9. Nicki Minaj – “Starships”
10. Katy Perry – “Part Of Me”
This news came to us via the New York Times this week: “Billboard magazine is changing the way it ranks songs on its Hot 100 singles chart to take into account online music-streaming services like Spotify and Rhapsody, responding to a major shift in how people are consuming music.”
Further, “On Thursday Billboard will begin to publish a new chart — On-Demand Songs — that ranks singles according to the number of times they were listened to on those six Internet services — Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Slacker, Muve Music and Rdio. That data will then be folded into the Hot 100 chart, along with tallies of streams from sites like Yahoo, Myspace, Guvera and Akoo. The chart’s new methodology, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, still gives the greatest weight to sales, followed by radio play, and then online streaming.”
“The new system gives more prominence to electronic dance music composers, like Skrillex, Avicii and M-83, whose online fame has yet to translate into airplay.”
“‘There is definitely a class of stars in the on-demand space that are driven more by buzz and word of mouth than radio,’ said Bill Werde, Billboard’s Editorial Director. ‘Skrillex would be the king of this.’ Some hits may stick around longer, too, Werde added.”
If we are to take the first part of this announcement with utmost consideration, then we find that this change has not changed anything at all. The top ten songs remain the same as they were last week and roughly constant for the month (unless the new data regime doesn’t kick in until this coming chart, March 22). The latter portion gave me chills, and not the good kind. It is impossible to imagine, after seeing the impasse songs like “We Found Love” and “Set Fire To The Rain” have caused for so long, that songs could remain at the top of the charts even longer.
This is all very much about nothing, and kind of speaks to the fractured nature of the modern music industry. We’ve already discussed how on the digital charts Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball hasn’t been a barnstormer in sales, yet has been an unqualified success on physical media. With that in mind, this was the big week of South By Southwest in Austin, Texas (have you been keeping up with our coverage?) and the town has been besieged by music fans of every stripe. Springsteen held forth as the venerated professor, and generations of students paid attention. Important note: to my knowledge few if any of our top ten artists were at SXSW, but again, those SXSW artists haven’t been included in the top ten and may never be.
And yet both have equal weight as far as fan interest, consumer interest, and notoriety on different planes. It’s as if the Indie World is now as powerful as the Corporate World (for lack of better signifiers) yet the two serve wholly different purposes and never cross. It’s difficult to determine how Soundscan’s new data aggregation will affect that. We’ll keep you posted.
In other news, the newly-separated Katy Perry said in a recent piece in Interview Magazine, “Yeah, well, my music is about to get real f***ing dark.” I can’t understand why this bothers me as much as it does. I’m not really a fan of her work and, I fully admit, I’m not the target audience for it so why should I be? So if I’m not inclined to listen now, why would I be when she decides to swing the cage doors wide?
I think it is partly because going “dark” is so easy. It is done as a bid for seriousness, or to vent anger, and is prepped as a calling card to critics who would pigeonhole an artist as being just one thing. Sometimes it works and that darkness is made to count for something. Most of the time it is an audio middle-finger that might not be emblematic of the flipper post-flip, and if we are talking about a “breakup album” here (and I think we are), that is one of the oldest plays in the pop handbook. Does that mean Perry shouldn’t do it, just because it has been done so often? In pop music terms that argument holds no weight as a whole third of Billboard’s current top one hundred share the same annoying doorbell chime of a chord progression. This is not about originality.
What it is about is that, even those who haven’t much interest in Perry’s music have to admit she is a fun personality. She has a lightheartedness about her that is goofy for goofy’s sake. She’s not trying to sucker punch the culture or pretend to sucker punch the culture (depending on your opinion of Lady Gaga, she fits one or the other categories). The world is slightly more fun because she appreciates her latent dweeb, and if that changes then something alongside of it changes too — she becomes yet another angry voice on the radio. In this day, age, and economy is there really a need for that, especially when we all need some light right now?
The opinion of one pop culture writer who has little interest in a performer’s previous output has no influence on matters; most clearly not in this case. However if I was to be able to appeal to the former Katy Hudson, I’d say, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If she recalls where that’s from, she also can summon up the ability to retaliate in a manner that doesn’t descend into something “real f***ing dark,” and be so much better for it.
In this instance, I don’t expect my perspective to count for much.