Radio Hits One: The Always Exciting, Sometimes Difficult Climb Back To The Top Of The Charts

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Following up a hit song, especially a big chart-topping hit, can be one of the best moments in a pop act's career. But it's also one of the most difficult; you could be Katy Perry, scoring five No. 1s in a row, or you could be Daniel Powter, who missed the Hot 100 entirely with the follow-up to "Bad Day." On one hand, the act has momentum; on the other hand, the act has nowhere to go but down. A second single is often where an up-and-comer falls into the one-hit wonder trap, and even established acts can wonder if they just enjoyed their last chart-topper.

So it always fascinates me to see what songs artists choose to follow hot on the heels of a big hit—whether they try to repeat that success with a stylistically similar song, or take a left turn to prove their versatility or court a different audience—and how they fare.

From 2000 to 2010, 147 different songs occupied the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. Nearly all of those songs were followed a few months later by another single by the same artist, usually from the same album; in some cases, the No. 1 came from a soundtrack or compilation, and in others it was the last single from an album cycle. 19% of those 147 chart-toppers were immediately followed by the artist's next single reaching the same heights. 54% of the follow-ups were top-ten hits; 78% were top 40 hits. Only 10% of all those No. 1s yielded follow-ups that didn't even penetrate the Hot 100.

Rihanna has had plenty of opportunities to follow up No. 1 songs with either surefire smashes or curveballs. The first three singles from her last album, 2010's Loud, reached No. 1. But after the third, "S&M," she took a break from uptempo pop and R&B tracks and put out "California King Bed," a guitar-driven ballad that failed to launch her successfully into the adult-contemporary format,and peaked on the Hot 100 at No. 37. At the same time, the return to her Caribbean roots "Man Down" became the rare Rihanna single that did better on urban radio than pop radio. But its R&B radio success didn't translate to a Top 40 chart position, leaving it to peak at No. 59 on the Hot 100. Since then, she's returned to the top 10 with another uptempo party track, "Cheers," and she may soon have her next No. 1 with "We Found Love," the clubby lead single from her next album that debuted this week at No. 16.

Since "S&M" topped the charts in April, five songs have reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. The strategy for capitalizing on those chart-toppers has differed from song to song. Pitbull notched his first No. 1 with the Ne-Yo crossover smash "Give Me Everything" but his follow-up single—a collaboration with Marc Anthony, who hasn't had much Hot 100 action in the decade since "I Need To Know" and "You Sang To Me" blanketed playlists—seems to be playing to his base. "Rain Over Me" has so far only climbed to No. 30, and I imagine that it won't go any higher, and that Pitbull will quickly follow it with something with broader appeal.


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