No black artist got a No.1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts in 2013

Billboard-Top-100-music-chart

Here is a shocking statistic that no one thought would ever happen in the modern era. Not a single black artist scored a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 2013, the first time that has happened in 55 years.

How is this possible?” You may ask. Jay Z, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Pusha T and Drake all dropped albums in 2013 but none of them were able to get a top single. Furthermore, of the 52 weeks in a year, white artists were on top of the R&B and hip hop charts for 44 of them and blue eyed soul reigned supreme.

Writer Chris Molanphy, who surveys the pop charts in a piece written for Slate, says this represents a huge contrast to 10 years ago when a person of a color recorded every chart-topping hit. Rather, African-American artists were featured on other artists’ songs last year, such as Rihanna on Eminem’s “The Monster” and T.I. and Pharrell on Robin Thicke’s inescapable summer hit “Blurred Lines.” But no black artist had their own No. 1 hit.

Pop chart analyst and Slate writer, Chris Molanphy says the problem arose when Billboard started using digital sales to compile its charts; “What’s happened is, whether it’s radio, whether it’s iTunes — there’s 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.” As Molanphy points out, “It’s 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.

And here is a another surprising development. White artists topped the No. 1 spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart in 44 out of the 52 weeks last year.

Time magazine noted that this extends to this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which there is not one living African American who will be inducted this year. Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band sax player Clarence Clemons will be inducted posthumously.

To try to explain why this happened, Molanphy wrote: “Music fans are playing out an unironic version of Stephen Colbert’s joke about not seeing color…and yet somehow, when the data is compiled about what we’re all buying and streaming, the Timberlakes and Matherses and Macklemores keep winding up atop the stack, ahead of the Miguels and J. Coles.”

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