Billboard : Could Rihanna be bigger than the Beatles on the Hot 100?

By Gary Trust, New York

“We are watching history in the making.”

So said Island Def Jam president/COO Steve Bartels Wednesday, regarding Rihanna’s “We Found Love” (featuring Calvin Harris) making her the seventh artist in the Hot 100’s 53-year history to tally at least 11 No. 1s. “With Rihanna achieving her 11th Hot 100 No. 1 single, she continues to be a class unto herself. It’s rare and wonderful to see a hitmaker of Rihanna’s talent and consistency.”

Like any competitive record executive, however, Bartels has quickly moved past this week’s chart.

“We look forward with pride and excitement to Rihanna’s next great milestone,” he added.

Why stop there? With the ascension of “Love,” Rihanna becomes just the seventh artist to notch at least 11 Hot 100 No. 1s, joining the Beatles (20), Mariah Carey (18), Michael Jackson (13), Madonna (12), the Supremes (12) and Whitney Houston (11).

Rihanna, thus, needs seven more No. 1s to match labelmate Carey’s mark for most chart leaders among women, and nine to tie the Beatles. In order to pass the Fab Four, Rihanna will need to almost double her current No. 1 sum.

Could she do it? Rihanna first commanded the Hot 100 with “SOS” the week of May 13, 2006. With this week’s chart dated Nov. 12, 2011, she reaches her 11th No. 1 five years and six months after her first visit to the summit.

Among the seven acts to tally at least 11 leaders, only two acts reached the milestone more quickly: the Beatles in just one (albeit Beatlemania-fueled) year, 11 months and one week between “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (Feb. 1, 1964) and “We Can Work It Out” (Jan. 8, 1966); and, the Supremes, who needed only four years, three months and one week between “Where Did Our Love Go” (Aug. 22, 1964) and “Love Child” (Nov. 30, 1968).

(Note: Prior to the Hot 100’s inception on Aug. 4, 1958, and afterward, Elvis Presley racked 11 No. 1s on various Billboard pop charts over a rapid-fire span of three years, three months and three weeks).

Being a solo artist would work in Rihanna’s favor in her attempt at topping the Beatles. The group broke up after jam-packing their 20 Hot 100 No. 1s in a stretch of just six years, four months and two weeks. After the Supremes scored their 12th and final No. 1, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” Diana Ross left the group. All four Beatles and Ross went on to tally solo Hot 100 No. 1s (including nine for Paul McCartney, including his billings with Wings), but none of those solo leaders extended their former groups’ chart-topping totals.

As such career moves cannot affect a solo artist’s chart history (unless she forms a separately-named group), Rihanna would continue to pad her No. 1 total with any potential future chart leaders.

Rihanna has additionally exhibited wide crossover appeal, a key ingredient to Hot 100 success given the chart’s all-format radio panel. She’s scored a record eight No. 1s on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, plus six on Rhythmic and three on Rap Songs and racked eight top 10s on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Her latest Hot 100 entry proves that her recognizable voice is equally fitting on a rock track, as Coldplay’s “Princess of China,” on which she guests, storms the chart as the Hot Shot Debut at No. 20.

Beyond her music, Rihanna has prioritized engagement with her audience (a.k.a. the “Rihanna Navy”), boasting 46 million Facebook fans, the highest total among female artists, according to Island Def Jam.

And, she won’t turn 24 until Feb. 20th.

These are all factors that provide reason to consider that Rihanna could have a chance at equaling or passing the Beatles’ record for most Hot 100 No. 1s. (She did, after all, find love in a hopeless place, so who’s to question the extent of her powers?)

Examining the scope of her popularity, there could be significantly more chart history for Rihanna yet to make.


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