Friday, March 5, 2021

Battle Royale for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Chartbusters


To start things off, we’re going to look at the hitmaking prowess of each of the nominees, which seems like it ought to be straightforward to measure, but it really isn’t. You can't just arrange the acts in the order of their total Number One hits. Artists like Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J dominated the R&B charts, while the Foo Fighters dominated the Alternative and Mainstream Rock charts – are those achievements as strong as Chaka Khan’s 12 Top Forty hits?

Then there’s the fact that you have to do some pretty serious era adjustments on these chart feats, since hardly anybody buys records anymore. That means that any contemporary album with any sales at all is going to show up on the album charts, even if its sales are next to nothing. To take one example, Carole King’s 2010 album Live at the Troubadour reached No. 4 on the charts on the strength of 78,000 sales in one week, which would have been a disappointing number for Head East two generations ago. A real hit album of today, like Taylor Swift’s Folklore, sells ten times as many units in a single week.

So there’s going to be a little subjectivity in this ranking. But as I see it, here’s how I’d rank the current crop of candidates in their chart impact: 


  1. Dionne Warwick Thirty-one Top Forty hits, ten of them reaching the Top Ten, two Number Ones (both collaborations: “Then Came You” with the Spinners, and “That’s What Friends Are For” with Stevie, Elton and Gladys).

  2. Jay-Z Nineteen Top 20 hits, with “Empire State of Mind” as the only Number One. Eleven of his 13 solo albums have gone to Number One on the charts.

  3. Chaka Khan Twelve Top Forty hits counting her work with Rufus, and eight hits that went to Number One on the R&B chart.

  4. Foo Fighters They’ve pretty much dominated the U.S. Alternative Airplay (26 Top Tens, 10 Numbers Ones) and Mainstream Rock (27 Top Tens, 9 Number Ones) charts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the top performers on each of those charts, both of which debuted in the Eighties.

  5. Mary J. Blige Just four Top Ten hits on the Hot 100, and “Family Affair” is her only Number One single. But 20 Top Ten singles on the R&B chart, and most impressively, all 13 of her albums made the Top Ten on the albums chart, even her Christmas LP.

  6. LL Cool J Eight Number One R&B hits, nine Top Ten albums.

  7. Carole King More impressive as an album artist than a singles artist: Just four Top Twenty hits, but seven Top Ten albums (counting the aforementioned Live at the Troubadour), including three Number Ones.

  8. Tina Turner She and Ike are already inducted as a team, so this is strictly about her solo career, which consists of six Top Ten hits and two Top Ten albums.

  9. Todd Rundgren Six Top Forty hits, including a cover of “Good Vibrations” that peaked at No. 34 in 1976; can’t say that I’ve heard it.

  10. The Go-Go’s Five Top Forty hits, two of them in the Top Ten, including “We Got the Beat,” which peaked at Number Two.

  11. Rage Against the Machine Two Number One albums, no Top Forty hits but eight singles on the Alternative Rock chart.

  12. Kate Bush “Running Up That Hill” is her only stateside Top Forty hit, although she’s had seven Top Tens in the U.K., including her first single, “Wuthering Heights,’ which went to Number One.

  13. Devo Well, there’s “Whip It”…. The theme from Doctor Detroit didn’t even make the Top Forty.

  14. Iron Maiden They’ve had ten albums make the Top 20 on the U.S. albums chart, but never had a single even make the Hot 100.

  15. New York Dolls The self-titled debut album peaked at No. 116.

  16. Fela Kuti Nothing at all on the U.S. charts as far as I can see.


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