Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks

The Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart (formerly known as Adult Contemporary Singles, Easy Listening, and only Adult Contemporary) lists the most popular songs weekly calculated by airplay and occasionally sales in the United States. "Billboard" magazine publishes this listing which includes adult contemporary and pop songs played on "lite-pop" and adult contemporary radio stations and available for sale in stores across the United States.

Like most other "Billboard" charts since 1998, airplay-only songs are allowed to enter the Adult Contemporary chart besides commercially available singles. The first song to reach the AC chart without being available as a retail single was Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" in 1977.

With the merger of Billboard and Radio & Records, the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart on Billboard corresponds to Radio & Records' Adult Contemporary chart; R&R's Hot AC chart is a completely different chart.

Chart history and composition

Billboard has published an adult-music chart since July 1961; it was originally called "Easy Listening" and was simply a listing of the top Hot 100 hits of the week excluding songs considered to be rock and roll. The #1 song on the first Easy Listening chart was "The Boll Weevil Song" by Brook Benton; the first female artist to top the chart was Connie Francis with her version of the standard "Together". In the early years of the Easy Listening chart, the top song on the chart was generally always a Top 10 pop hit as well. The methodology for compiling the chart at that time allowed some rock and roll artists, such as Lesley Gore and The Drifters, to make the AC chart on occasion with their softer or ballad releases, regardless of whether Easy Listening and middle of the road radio stations were actually playing those songs. Over the next several years, the chart went by a variety of names, including "Middle-Road Singles" and "Pop-Standard Singles".

In 1965, Billboard revamped the Easy Listening chart to better reflect what middle of the road stations were actually playing, and the composition of the chart changed dramatically. As rock music continued to harden, there was much less crossover between the Hot 100 and Easy Listening chart than there had been in the early half of the 1960s. Several #1 Easy Listening hits of the late 1960s made the pop chart in only minor positions, "Bubbled Under" the Hot 100, or (as was the case with John Gary's 1967 hit "Cold") failed even to "Bubble Under". In 1967, only one single reached #1 on both the Easy Listening and Hot 100 charts - "Somethin' Stupid" by Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra.

By the same token, many of the 1960s hits that later became AC radio staples, such as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, "Downtown" by Petula Clark, and "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & The Papas, never made the AC chart when they were first released (or, in the case of "Unchained Melody," did not chart AC until they were re-released years later) because they were considered too "hard" for the middle of the road format of the day. The Beatles and Diana Ross & The Supremes did not enter the AC chart until 1969 (with "Something" and "Someday We'll Be Together", respectively). Songs that "were" popular on Easy Listening radio during the 1960s have, for the most part, been relegated to the Adult Standards radio format.

This situation began to change toward the end of the 1960s and into the early and mid-1970s, when the texture of much of the music played on Top 40 radio once more began to soften. Contemporary artists who recorded adult-appeal music, such as The Carpenters, Bread, The Fifth Dimension, Barry Manilow, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, and John Denver, began to be played more often on Top 40 radio. Much of the music recorded by singer-songwriters such as Carole King, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Janis Ian got as much, if not more, airplay on AC radio than on Top 40 stations. Easy Listening radio by then had also begun to open its airwaves to artists who had begun in the rock and roll or R&B fields, such as Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, and The Vogues, along with individual singles released by the former Beatles (such as John Lennon's "Imagine" and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"). Once again, there was a good amount of crossover between the Easy Listening and Hot 100 charts, and many more songs reached #1 on both charts.

Billboard changed the name of the Easy Listening chart to the younger-sounding "Adult Contemporary" in 1979, by which time, like most other music formats, the format had transitioned from the AM dial to the FM dial. Since then, the amount of crossover between the AC chart and the Hot 100 has varied based on how much the passing pop music trends of the times appealed to adult listeners. Not many disco or new wave songs were particularly successful on the AC chart during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and much of the hip-hop and harder rock music now featured on CHR formats would be unacceptable on AC. But in the 1980s and 1990s and into the new millennium, artists like Elton John, Gloria Estefan, Cher, Michael Bolton, Hall & Oates, REO Speedwagon, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Anita Baker, Eric Clapton, Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlan, the Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain appealed to both CHR and AC listeners.

More recently, AC radio has come to embrace more artists and songs from the softer side of pop rock and alternative rock, from artists such as Sheryl Crow, Kelly Clarkson, Daniel Powter, Natasha Bedingfield, The Fray, Lifehouse, James Blunt, Sara Bareilles and Daughtry, all of whom have had #1 AC hits. However, relatively few urban contemporary and hip-hop artists manage to successfully cross over to AC, although there have been a few recent exceptions, such as Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," Fergie's hit ballad "Big Girls Don't Cry," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and Timbaland's remix of OneRepublic's "Apologize."

Crossover from the country charts has also been common on the AC chart since the chart began. Among the country stars who had a number of singles cross over to the AC chart (and the pop chart as well) from the 1960s through the 1980s included Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Eddy Arnold, Roger Miller, Ronnie Milsap, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson, and Juice Newton. The huge growth of country music as a radio format in the 1990s brought a number of new country crossovers onto the AC airwaves, including Restless Heart, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Lonestar, Lee Ann Womack (whose "I Hope You Dance" reached #1 AC as well as Country), Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and Garth Brooks. More recently, a new wave of country performers has been crossing over to AC, including Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, the Dixie Chicks (who topped the AC chart with their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide"), Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and Big & Rich.

The Contemporary Christian music market has also been relatively successful in crossing over to mainstream radio. In the mid-1980s, one of the biggest CCM artists at the time, Amy Grant, crossed over into secular music with the 1985 single "Find a Way," which became a Top Ten AC hit and a #1 Christian single simultaneously. In the 1990s and into the 2000s, while Grant continued to enjoy AC success, other artists such as MercyMe (including "I Can Only Imagine," "Here With Me," and "So Long Self"), Chris Rice ("When Did You Fall (In Love With Me)"), Natalie Grant, Kathy Troccoli, Sixpence None the Richer ("Kiss Me"), and Michael W. Smith (who had a Top Ten Hot 100 and AC hit in 1991 with "Place in this World") have crossed in between the Christian and secular worlds with little disapproval from their fan bases.

Songs released to adult contemporary radio tend to remain at top positions of the chart longer than in many other music formats. "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer, for example, was still at #2 on August 24, 2007, a full year after the song first entered the chart. One reason for this is artists release fewer songs to the format than other formats that may be their "main" style of music (Tim McGraw, for example, released four AC singles over the span of ten country singles). Also the wide chronological breadth of the format - most other formats focus on the last fifteen years or fewer, while AC often stretches to the 1960s - results in fewer new songs being played in the span of a day or week.

ee also

*List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart


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