You “Where” It Well: Posing Those Pop Chart Questions

He arrives Justin time.

He arrives Justin time.

The news arrived earlier today that singer Justin Bieber entered atop the Billboard Hot 100 with “What Do You Mean?”, which gives him his first #1 hit on that survey since his debut in 2009. “Mean” is the first cut to be released from his forthcoming album, title TBA, due on November 13. The song also follows shortly after his featured appearance on a recent top ten single “Where Are Ü Now”, credited to Skrillex and Diplo as the duo Jack Ü. It’s a bit of a career revitalization for Bieber, who hasn’t had a major hit on the radio for two years and has largely been on top of the tabloids for several legal issues and arrests.

As it’s been noted over the last few weeks, Bieber’s latest two singles pose different questions in their titles: “What do you mean?” and “Where are you now?” It certainly isn’t uncommon for a singer to ask a question in their song title, or to have multiple singles posed as questions throughout their career. However, for an act to have two back-to-back question titles, and to have those songs each reach the top ten, is an extremely rare situation. Since “Mean” will be storming the top ten on pop radio later this month, I’m giving you a few cases from the Radio & Records days to show you how few times it’s happened. Could it occur again with another feature/main credit combination? Stay tuned!

“Who’s Holding Donna Now” (as DeBarge) (#8, Aug. 1985)
“Who’s Johnny” (as El DeBarge) (#5, June 1986)

This one might be a little bit of a reach as two DeBarge (the group) singles were released after “Donna”, but as far as the pop chart archives go, neither charted in-between the two question singles. “Johnny” was the theme from the film Short Circuit. That movie may also describe his solo career on the pop survey… well, at least the short part. Both acts continued to get spins on R&B outlets.

“How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” (#1, Jan. 1990)
“How Can We Be Lovers” (#4, Apr. 1990)

After the title song off Soul Provider was provided a couple of weeks in the top 20 during the late summer of 1989, Bolton roared back with his first two of ten top ten hits on the pop radio survey between 1990 and 1993. Strangely enough, his last CHR entry to go top 40 in 1995 was also posed as a question: “Can I Touch You… There?” (It climbed to #28 in August. Listen at your own risk.)

“Who Is It” (#4, May 1993)
“Will You Be There” (#5, Sep. 1993)

The Dangerous era was another big one for Jackson on the pop chart, and the sixth and seventh (!) singles from the effort asked a few questions, returning with two more top five answers. The latter song was also featured on the soundtrack to Free Willy, and a year later, it won the MTV Movie Award for the category of Best Song In A Movie. Of course, the singer passed away six years ago.

“Who Knew” (re-issue) (#1, Sep. 2007)
“So What” (#1, Oct. 2008)

After “U + Ur Hand” took half a year to reach the top spot from its initial debut in the top 50, the 16 weeks this track took to reach the #1 spot in its second run seemed to breeze by (though it was 21 weeks if we include its prior time on in its initial release.) 2008 gave us a huge pop single with an attitude from this singer that landed her back at the summit. Will she hit the chart by year’s end?

Have a favorite release or pairing of songs from the ones listed above? Let me know! Comment below or click on the “Get Social!” tab above to find PGTC on Facebook and Twitter


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