100 & Single: "Call Me Maybe," Justin Bieber, And Teenpop Idols' Ongoing Love-Hate Relationship With Radio

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After three weeks of patiently waiting at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100, Carly Rae Jepsen this week became the first solo female Canadian since Céline Dion to top America's premier song chart. Right on schedule for the start of summer, the ubiquitous "Call Me Maybe" finally climbs into the penthouse.

Or should I say treehouse? With its featherweight synth-string arrangement, its gently clubby dance beats and its boycrush-oriented video, "CMM" is the closest thing to a pure teenpop song we've had at No. 1 since the turn of the decade. You can keep your Teenage Dream, Katy Perry—it's Jepsen who's poised to clean up at the Teen Choice Awards this year.

Interesting, considering that Jepsen is 26. That's eight years older than fellow Canadian and actual teenager Justin Bieber, who with the tweet heard 'round the net helped break Jepsen in America. He's having a busy week, too, having just dropped his preordained blockbuster album Believe.

The age difference between these two—plus Carly Rae's gender—may account for why she is sitting atop our singles chart and he isn't. Bieber's album is poised for a massive No. 1 debut next week. But if he's ever going to earn a No. 1 U.S. single to match his blockbuster album sales and online-media dominance, he's going to have to get past U.S. radio programmers, who are inherently averse to the objects of teen crushes. Getting kids to buy singles by major teenpop acts has never been all that difficult. Getting radio to play those same songs is a perpetual struggle.

Radio was certainly key to Jepsen's victory. As we often discuss here, the Hot 100 combines several pools of data to determine the biggest hits in the U.S.A., and the two biggest pools are digital song sales and radio audience.

"Call Me Maybe" has had the sales part on lockdown: It's been America's best-selling song for a month, racking up weekly sales approaching 300K for four straight weeks. But for three of those weeks, radio airplay was keeping "CMM" out of the Hot 100's top slot.

Jepsen's hit was stuck behind Gotye's improbable megasmash "Somebody That I Used to Know," which spent eight weeks at No. 1. Radio took a while to catch onto Gotye's hit (helped by some late-breaking dance mixes that finally convinced them they could power-rotate it). They're still playing the crap out of Gotye, and that heavy airplay kept "Somebody" atop the big chart through early June, even as its sales weakened.

"Somebody" still commands Billboard's Radio Songs chart—the airplay half of the Hot 100 formula. But Jepsen's song has since moved up to second place on the airplay list. That, plus her continued sales dominance, gave "CMM" the final boost it needed to top the Hot 100 overall. Without radio, she'd probably still be cooling her heels in the runner-up spot.

This radio support is exactly what Jepsen's pal and mentor Bieber is lacking. For a guy widely considered the world's biggest pop star—possessor of the most-watched YouTube video of all time, period—the teen-and-tween-beloved Justin has gotten a notably cool reception from U.S. programmers.


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