This week, a significant development shook up the Song of the Summer competition, and it had nothing to do with new music. On Tuesday, the company BigChampgane unveiled its first-ever Ultimate Chart, a new ranking that aims to go beyond Billboard’s monitoring of airplay and sales into appraisals of a track’s presence in social-networking sites and online streams in order to most accurately gauge popularity. Long overdue, wholeheartedly welcome. So, were there revelations afoot? Not really! The New York Times breaks down the very first Ultimate Chart:
For the week that ended July 11, Billboard’s Hot 100 had Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” at No. 1 and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” at No. 2. The Ultimate Chart, measuring the week to July 13, had those songs in reverse order. But No. 3 on the Ultimate Chart — Shakira’s World Cup song, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” — is a distant No. 39 on Billboard; the Ultimate’s No. 4, Eminem’s “Not Afraid,” is No. 11.
The most notable disparity is Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” which is No. 5 on the Ultimate Chart; on the Hot 100, the song peaked at No. 5 in February, but fell off the chart entirely in June.
The charts have been updated slightly since, but as the Times points out, the biggest difference is the presence of “Waka Waka” (explainable by its World Cup affiliation) and “Baby” (presumably holding strong on the UC because of Twitter’s Bieber obsession). The differences for the most part being minimal means one of two things: either the good-old grizzled standby Billboard Hot 100 is still a reliable barometer of a song’s overall popularity (Billboard does, after all, factor in both AOL and Yahoo’s streaming services!), or Ultimate Chart hasn’t yet nailed down its process (since illegal downloads aren’t counted in any way, it’s probably more the latter).
Which brings us, as always, back to Katy Perry. As long as we’ve been keeping track of this season’s SoS, Perry’s “California Gurls” has been the more or less consensus front-runner, thanks not only to its Billboard position but also our personal experience with hearing the goddamned thing everywhere. But now both the Ultimate Chart and Billboard have “Love the Way You Lie” — which, it should be pointed out again, features the lyrics “Now you get to watch her leave out the window/Guess that’s why they call it window pane” — at No. 1. “Lie”’s presence has presumably been boosted thanks to a mini Eminem and Rihanna tag-team publicity blitz, which includes a surprise live performance in L.A.; breathless reports on the duo’s upcoming video, which features Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan, for some reason; and, as always, blogs posting slideshows of crazy shit Rihanna wore.
It’ll be tough for any track to eclipse the amount of attention and airplay “Gurls” has accrued already this summer. But off the strength of this new campaign, could “Love the Way You Lie” do it? Also: Are “Waka Waka” and “Baby” legitimate contenders, or is Ultimate Chart way off base? And what else could you see making a charge?