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Monday, January 13, 2014

No Black Artists Had Number One Singles On The Billboard Hot 100 Charts In 2013

In 2013 no black artists were at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for the first time since the company began charting top 40 singles in 1958. Jay Z, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Pusha T and Drake all put out albums in 2013 but none of them were able to get a top single. During the 52 weeks in a year, white artists were on top of the R&B and hip hop charts for 44 of them.


It almost like the ’50s and ’60s when you had a lot of music that was being made by white artists and being popularized by them but it was coming from black artists. Evidently it is much easier to sell a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, an Eminem, a Justin Timberlake, to mainstream audiences than it is to sell a Jay Z. It is still a preferred feeling in mainstream pop culture that if we can find an attractive white act to do it, why not?

The problem arose when Billboard started using digital sales to compile its charts. What has happened is, whether it’s radio, whether it’s iTunes, there is now a lot of data feeding into the Hot 100.  The charts of ten years ago when Outkast was No. 1 — iTunes was not a factor in the charts yet because it was brand new. There was no YouTube — it literally didn’t exist — and so this great feedback loop we used to have where we had crossover from the R&B charts to the pop charts has kind of gotten swamped.

It is a huge pendulum swing in less than a decade: In 2004, literally every song that topped the Hot 100 was by a person of color. This year, black artists had only featured roles.

Essentially the playing field has been broadened enormously since Billboard started changing the way they chart singles. What this means, is that since the incorporation of digital sales, R&B and hip hop acts can’t compete in their own genres.

One could argue that not every Justin Timberlake song is R&B, but Billboard no longer looks at it that way, instead of compiling charts based off of what the R&B audience is listening to, they’re including an artists entire album into the mix.

In another blow to musicians of color, not a single living black artist is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year for only the second time in the history of the Hall.

This year the Hall will induct Daryl Hall and John Oates—an act with a long history of soul-music appreciation that once even topped the R&B chart—so Rock Hall voters are honoring the sound of black music. Just not actual black people. (Mass Appeal)
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