Number Theory: Britney Takes a Tumble!

Things are pretty mediocre on the Billboard Hot 100, where “Grenade” by Bruno Mars (pictured) carries on at number one in the January dearth of new hits. Pink, who was top on the digital-single charts, comes close with her song, styled by Billboard “F**kin’ Perfect,” but the airplay simply isn’t there yet for the veteran (it’s not even her most-played song on the radio right now). The explicitly-titled song (with a graphic video intended to be inspirational) may be something of a hard sell – Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” the closest analogue, never made it to number one, despite its iconic stature now.

Not much else exciting in the chart as 2010 holdovers Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Enrique Iglesias fight for scraps. Intriguingly, Britney Spears, whose “Hold It Against Me” was the first new single of 2011 to hit number-one has fallen to eighth place just two weeks later. Her – and “her” is used particularly loosely with the closely managed Spears – strategy hinges entirely on getting a number-one hit. Online enthusiasm among longtime Spears fans (the only kind of Spears fans) was closely managed, and the song was dropped with much forewarning. The fact that a number-one song that quickly drops may not exactly be a “hit” does not trouble Spears’s people, surely – their entire m.o. is to justify Spears’s continued working, though she may not be emotionally or artistically ready, with numbers. The work must be great – a lot of people, all at once, bought it!

1. Bruno Mars, “Grenade”

2. Pink, “F**kin’ Perfect”

3. Katy Perry, “Firework”

4. Wiz Khalifa, “Black and Yellow”

5. Enrique Iglesias, “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)”

6. Rihanna feat. Drake, “What’s My Name?”

7. Pitbull feat. T-Pain, “Drop It To the Floor”

8. Britney Spears, “Hold It Against Me”

9. Far*East Movement feat. Ryan Tedder, “Rocketeer”

10. Ke$ha, “We R Who We R”


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Interest in holdovers remains strong, too, on the nonfiction book list – Christmas-season buys like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and George W. Bush’s Decision Points remain at number one and three respectively. Books you first heard of last fall, on the lives of Mark Twain (#4), Cleopatra (#5), Keith Richards (#6), Henrietta Lacks (#7), and Jay-Z (#8) are all holding on strong, but one woman’s story is converting newfound media attention into sales.

Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in only its second week on sale, has slid into the second-place spot. Both Chua’s book and its only fellow 2011 debut on this week’s chart, Ron Reagan’s (pictured) My Father at 100 (#13), benefit from a tawdry sort of sideshow appeal. She raises her kids like that? He thinks about his father like that? And yet Tiger Mother will likely have more staying power – no Republican will want to purchase Ron Reagan’s revisionist take, whereas marveling at Chua’s parenting style (and picking up a few tips) is a nonpartisan enterprise.

1. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken (Random House)

2. Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press)

3. George W. Bush, Decision Points (Crown)

4. Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (University of California Press)

5. Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra (Little, Brown)

6. Keith Richards with James Fox, Life (Little, Brown)

7. Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown)

8. Jay-Z, Decoded (Spiegel & Grau)

9. Peter L. Bergen, The Longest War (Free Press)

10. Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers (Little, Brown)

[New York Times]

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In the world of syndication, Oprah Winfrey is having a strong final season (with secret-sister revelations!) as the number-one talk show and number-four program overall (beating the closest syndicated talk show, Live with Regis and Kelly at #14 overall, by more than three million viewers). Ahead of Oprah? Only stalwart game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and, who knew, reruns of Two and a Half Men.

Oprah's absence from the daily talk scene, at the end of the season, may result less in a scramble for dominance or an Ellenic era (Ellen's show is down at #22), but the further rise of Judge Judy (pictured). She's a familiar face, and her show is sniffing most closely at Oprah's heels. It'd be an easy thing to switch on at Oprah-time, for viewers who don't like Ellen's dancing.

1. Wheel of Fortune, 12.997 million viewers

2. Jeopardy!, 10.267 million viewers

3. Two and a Half Men, 10.133 million viewers

4. The Oprah Winfrey Show, 7.069 million viewers

5. Judge Judy, 6.776 million viewers

6. Entertainment Tonight, 6.497 million viewers

7. Family Guy, 6.612 million viewers

8. Two and a Half Men (weekend), 5.563 million viewers

9. Wheel of Fortune (weekend), 5.757 million viewers

10. Two and a Half Men (weekend), 5.126 million viewers

[TV By the Numbers]

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While one might imagine that the hourly-updated Kindle Store bestsellers would be more responsive to trends, somehow all three Stieg Larsson novels make their way into the top 10 (at #5, #6, and #8). They’re simple, as easy to comprehend as “Flip It!,” an unexpected attempt by Amazon to turn the Kindle into a multipurpose device – it appears to be an app like Angry Birds, using the Kindle’s stark black-and-white screen to flip tiles from one tone to the other. The appeal of “Flip It!” may be its cheapness – it’s only $.99, a far easier proposition than the $12.99 of some novels on the device. Older best-sellers, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Water for Elephants (#9) seem to gain new life from a $5 price that gets readers hooked on the system without outrageous expense. Unexpected bestsellers, like Lisa Gardner’s Alone (#1 -- and only $.99!), Oliver Pötzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter (#2), and Amanda Hocking’s Switched (#4) overcome low name recognition – no tiger mothers here! – with easily advertised low prices. But don’t count out Laura Hillenbrand or James Patterson, both authors whose books are offered at full (or, in Patterson’s case, above average) prices, and both of whose books land in the top 10.

1. Lisa Gardner, Alone (Bantam)

2. Oliver Pötzsch, The Hangman's Daughter (AmazonCrossing)

3. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken (Random House)

4. Amanda Hocking, Switched (self-published e-book)

5. Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)

6. Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Knopf)

7. "Flip It!" (7 Dragons)

8. Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played With Fire (Vintage)

9. Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants (Algonquin)

10. James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge, Tick Tock (Little, Brown)


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Predictably, Jersey Show (co-starring Snooki, pictured) remains cable's most popular show - strangely, though, it's come to seem like a moderately popular network show and not a cable show. Jersey Shore is burning bright, but - now in its third season - not particularly quickly. The network's sharp turn away from "aspirational" programming has benefited it as much as History's creep away from, well, History. Late showings of Pawn Stars are bringing millions of viewers to the network - many of whom likely wouldn't be interested in the network's less- and less-used stable of Hitler documentaries.

The Spongebob glut on the cable charts shows no signs of abating, casting into relief Disney's failure to find a franchise hit of its own. And speaking of popular franchises: Fox News won the post-State of the Union analysis, the Republican response, and the feed itself. More viewers' loyalties now go beyond Beck and Hannity: they're simply used to turning their TV to Fox News. It's like an all-day Today show, with Republicans.

1. Jersey Shore, MTV, 8.833 million viewers

2. Pawn Stars, History, 6.986 million viewers

3. Pawn Stars, History, 6.747 million viewers

4. SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 6.553 million viewers

5, SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 6.528 million viewers

6. American Pickers, History, 6.196 million viewers

7. SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 6.054 million viewers

8. SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 6.004 million viewers

9. SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 5.972 million viewers

10. SpongeBob Squarepants, Nickelodeon, 5.769 million viewers

[TV By the Numbers]

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This week's Billboard album charts made history - and, predictably enough, it's not the good kind of history. The top spot belongs to Amos Lee, who broke the two-week-old record for lowest-ever sales for a number-one album. "Mission Bell" sold 40,000 copies - at what point does a number-one hit stop being a hit?

It hasn't reached that point yet, as 40,000 is huge for Lee. If it were Nicki Minaj or Taylor Swift debuting with 40,000 copies, things might be a lot more dire for the record industry. There's some hope for the record industry in the fact that Amos Lee just had the best sales week of his career, and the number-two album seller, Iron and Wine, achieved the same feat. Music-buyers, we know, will still buy blockbusters (for instance, Minaj's album sales went up this week and Swift's barely dropped). But for the other 50 weeks of the year, the record labels may have to rely more heavily on selling albums to a crowd that still appreciates them, older or more discerning buyers.

1. Amos Lee, "Mission Bell" (Blue Note / EMI)

2. Iron and Wine, "Kiss Each Other Clean" (Warner Bros.)

3. Nicki Minaj, "Pink Friday" (Young Money / Cash Money / Universal Motown)

4. Various artists, "2011 Grammy Nominees" (Jive)

5. Bruno Mars, "Doo-Wops and Hooligans" (Atlantic / Elektra)

6. Mumford & Sons, "Sigh No More" (Island / Glassnote)

7. Taylor Swift, "Speak Now" (Big Machine)

8. Wisin & Yandel, "Los Vaqueros: El Regreso" (WY / Machete)

9. Kidz Bop Kids, "Kidz Bop 19" (Razor & Tie / Studiopolis)

10. The Decembrists, "The King is Dead" (Capitol)


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