Rihanna, Taylor Swift, And Nicki Minaj Beat Madonna On Charts, But There’s A Catch

Daryl Deino

Rihanna made headlines this week by scoring her 57th Top 100 hit “Sex With Me” on Billboard‘s Hot 100. Billboard broke the news on Monday and noted that only Aretha Franklin, Taylor Swift, and Nicki Minaj have scored more hits. Several other news sites reported on Rihanna’s latest chart feat. Madonna fans were quite disappointed in the comments section after the Billboard article.

Madonna Billboard
Do today’s female pop queens really have more hits than Madonna?
[Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images]
“I love Rihanna 100% but she isn’t, and will never come close to the creative ground breaking force that is Madonna. Throw these numbers around all you like…they don’t mean sh**. The End,” said CheesePlease.

“Can anyone name or sing more than 10/20 songs from Rihanna, Nicky Minaj or Taylor Swift? The fact is that now into the Hot 100 they also count album tracks that were not even released as singles and that nobody knows, while Madonna’s were all huge hits that we still listen to today,” claimed Milky, who made a good point.

Before the age of digital downloads, a song could chart only if it was released as a commercial single by the record company or as a radio promotional release. Several songs by Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and even Nicki Minaj wouldn’t have been eligible to chart in Billboard if they had been considered before 2005. In early 2005, USA Today described Billboard‘s new chart system.

Taylor Swift Billboard
Taylor Swift is another artist who has benefited from revised chart rules. [Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

“For the first time, Billboard magazine will include songs sold by download in its weekly calculation of the nation’s top hits. The change reflects the booming popularity of digital music players like Apple’s iPod, which has accounted for dramatic increases in download sales.”

The article added that for years, Billboard calculated their Hot 100 chart using a combination of radio airplay and retail sales. However, this caused problems in the 1990s, as many singles started to be sold at a deep discount in order to manipulate the charts. After 1998, a song’s success was based primarily on airplay. For the first time in Billboard‘s existence, songs were now allowed to chart even if they weren’t released as commercial singles. A perfect example is Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger,” which charted in the top 20 in 1999 based on airplay, but never had a physical single release. In 2001, “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson also charted in the top 20 without a physical single release.

When Billboard added digital downloads to the chart mix in 2005, an artist was able to chart with several songs from one album, even if the song was not released as a standalone single. After 2006, digital downloads became more mainstream and artists such as Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Nicki Minaj were able to score multiple Hot 100 hits from one album, even if the hits were never played on the radio or released as singles. Rihanna and others were also helped when Billboard added streaming and YouTube views to the mix. Billboard has to constantly change their chart methods to reflect consumer habits.

The accomplishments for Rihanna and others should not be discounted. However, Billboard shouldn’t announce that these artists’ achievements have topped those of legacy acts without explaining how their charting methods have changed. Madonna has several hits (“Into the Groove,” “Spotlight,” and “Where’s The Party” are examples) that didn’t chart because of the rules that were set back in the 1980s. Aretha Franklin also has several songs that are well-known, but didn’t chart because they weren’t released as singles. Perhaps Billboard could do some sort of retroactive chart to recognize these songs.

[Photo by Brian Killian/Getty Images]