Hacks of Stacks of Wax: Billboard Top 100 Data, Part 2

16 Jul

The hits keep coming on the Billboard 100 dataset, and its mighty chorus of voces populi (it’s the plural; I checked) sounds an arpeggio of questions our spreadsheet is prepared to answer. Topping the survey, perhaps, is one that is both obvious and most compelling: who’s the most prodigious hit maker? The answer, again, should emerge from the trenchant Data Model Distinct Count query we described last week. It informs a pivot table that should look something like this:

Rows: Performer

Values: Song (Distinct Count)

Sort the results Highest to Lowest.

The listings, at least to this way-behind-the-curve listener, were cause for surprise:


Pulling away from the pack, and by a couple of orders of magnitude, is the vast vocal catalogue of ditties crooning your way from the Glee television show, its cover versions of other person’s hits splattering all over the charts, but with a curious aggregate brevity. Its 183 unique hits resounded through the rankings for a total of but 223 weeks, if I’ve gotten my filter right; not one-hit wonders, then, but one-week.

But those counts call for a measure of refinements. In addition to the generic Glee Cast appellation, a filtered scan of the data for the artists bearing the name Glee somewhere in their handle reports:


Filter-confining our pivot table to that expanded Glee complement, I get


Apart from the fact that I haven’t heard of half of the above collaborators, we’ve boosted the Glee count to 206 unique tracks that some time, somehow, succeeded in booking their place in the top 100.

And of course, the multi-name problem is no idiosyncrasy of the Glee phenomenon. You’ll note a Mr. Presley, whose 53 chart visits essayed in conjunction with his antiquarian colleagues the Jordanaires combine with his 49 solo efforts (we’re apparently not counting his backup singers here). That’s 102 appearances for the troubadour from Tupelo, but we’re not finished. Filter for Elvis Presley, and


I’m all shook up. (And like you, I have no idea who the Carol Lombard Trio/Quartet was. The movie star was spelled Carole, but so is one of the listings up there.) And by the way, remember that the Billboard 100 data tracks back to August, 1958; but Elvis’ debut hit, “Heartbreak Hotel”, bears a time stamp of February 1956, and so won’t be found here (though four renditions of a song with the same name by others will).

Aim a like filter at the Beatles – that is, the words Beatles, and –


Or take James Brown. Soul brother number 1 has 47 entries per his name in stand-alone mode, but filter for all instances of the original disco man and we see:


You’ll appreciate the problem; a proper census of each and every artist’s top 100 total would appear to require a filter of the sort we’ve applied above, a necessity that, if plied, can’t be directly pivot tabled, in part because a great many songs would need to be counted more than once. You’d need to allot an entry, after all, to each artist enumerated in a tandem hit, e.g. you’d be bidden to assign one hit each to the Beatles and Billy Preston for “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Get Back”. Remember them?

Now the route to another need-to-know metric, the total number of weeks an artist’s offerings have informed the top 100, offers a smoother ride, particularly if you simply need the total:

Rows: Performer

Values: Songs (Count)

Each appearance of a song in the data set amounts to a 1, after all, or one week’s visit to the top 100. Sort the outcomes by Highest to Lowest, and I get, in excerpt:


Your cultural weltanschauung will dictate your adjective, i.e., the results are interesting, surprising, confirmatory, or dismaying. I am in addition either embarrassed or proud to say I’ve never heard of Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley; that these titans are country and western singers explains my arrant illiteracy in this character-defining matter.

But the complication we uncovered earlier reappears here. If you’re asking after the missing Elvis Presley in the above screen shot, for example, run the Performer filter for the generic Elvis Presley – again, filter for all instances of his name:


And you’ll see:


That’s 19 years’ worth of time spent in the top 100. Next filter for all mentions of Elton John:



A remarkably comparable durability, but again, we haven’t accredited Presley’s pre-August 1958 incursions into the chart.

And just for the record, here’s some other all-mentions-of-an-artist/top-100 week tenures:

The Beatles: 608

Michael Jackson: 726 (none of which factor in the Jackson Five’s 212 weeks, however)

James Brown: 682

U2: 397

Kelly Clarkson: 542

Diana Ross: 626 (but the Supremes qua Supremes, sans any official allusion to Ross, contribute another 299)

Barry White: 175

The erstwhile Beatles in solo-act capacity:

Paul McCartney: 344 (but Wings brings another 201 weeks to the count)

John Lennon: 161

George Harrison: 161

Ringo Starr: 129

But just don’t ask me what any of it means.

And still another need-to-know follow-on takes our analysis to its interrogative crescendo: Which tracks have enjoyed the longest stays (welcome or not) on the Billboard 100?

That question seems to admit of a pretty straightforward answer:

Rows: SongID

Values: SongID (count, of necessity; the field is text)

(Remember that SongID, and not Song, need be applied to the pivot table. SongID imparts a unique identifier to each song, in order to disambiguate multiple versions of the same song.)

I get, in excerpt:


Remember that SongID concatenates title and artist; and so oblivious am I to all these next big things that I wasn’t sure if the week leader above is entitled Radioactive Imagine by the Dragons, or Radioactive by the Imagine Dragons. I have since learned the latter formulation properly parses song and group; described by Wikipedia as a sleeper hit, Radioactive nevertheless somnambulated across the charts for 87 weeks (a figure Wikipedia corroborates), or about  1 2/3 years. That’s a long snooze; but don’t overlook their Demons, chart-resident for another 61 weeks. In fact, a scan down the list counts 55 songs that persisted somewhere in the top 100 for at least a year.

And I think the only one I know is Unchained Melody, by the Righteous Brothers. Are you amused?

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