So, while most of us were sleeping, the all powerful ruler of Billboard, otherwise known as Snow White’s Evil Queen stepmother, cast a dark curse on the charts with a major rule change. With immediate effects being reflected in the tallies this week, R&B, Rap, Country, Rock and Latin artists now find themselves on the losing end of a battle against dominant crossover acts.
The Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Latin Songs, Rap Songs, Hot Country Songs and Hot Rock Songs charts have now been reformatted to included digital sales figures as well as Nielsen BDS online streaming datete from Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio, Xbox Music and others. The introduction of this new system has altered the previous points systems of the individual tallies, which previously relied on radio airplay and dwindling physical singles sales.
Furthermore, Billboard has introduced the R&B Songs chart as an extension of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart that only focuses on the ranking of “core R&B acts”, at least according to Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard Director of Charts. This fancy new methodology mimics the Billboard Hot 100 formula of incorporating airplay from more than 1200 stations of all genres and “will reward crossover titles receiving airplay on a multitude of formats.“
Other altered categories in the R&B and Rap fields include the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay (R&B and Rap songs with the highest airplay on radio as well as streams) and R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs (most downloaded R&B and Rap songs). The Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap albums charts remain intact.
So, what does this mean for the artists in the various Billboard chart subcategories? They will now have to compete with crossover artists who dominate the Hot 100. Just take a look at the updated R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week and you will see Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ perched at the summit, following a leap from #66 to #1.
That move by ‘Diamonds’ was made possible because of Billboard’s inclusion of digital sales figures, which the executives failed to fully explain, primarily because of a gross flaw in the new systems: the chart rankings reflect all digital sales and not just those in the field of R&B. Head on over to iTunes right now and you’ll see that ‘Diamonds’ isn’t even ranked in the top 20 of R&B/Soul. Also, the song isn’t even in the top 50 of Urban radio!
Moreover, since ‘Diamonds’ is registered as a Pop song on iTunes, who made the decision to include it among the tracks listed on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart? Furthermore, with the song now perched atop the R&B Songs lineup, how does that reflect the goal of Billboard to give “core R&B” acts their own space?
This horrible oversight is reflected across all of genres affected by the Billboard rule change. For instance, Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ is now #1 on the Billboard Country Songs chart. Where was the record last week before the system alteration? The tune was ranked a a lukewarm #21.
Hence, Billboard has dealt a severe blow to the individual music genres. Yes, it was very important to finally include digital sales and streaming data into the system so that we can observe a clearer picture of which songs are truly performing best in the US. However, by taking this downright lazy and inefficient approach, Billboard executives have given “core” genre artists the finger in favour of their mainstream peers, and we have them to thank for Psy’s horrendous Pop/Dance song ‘Gangnam Style’ being #1 on the Rap Songs lineup.