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'American Idol' on the Charts: Kimberley Locke Leads Fellow Alums with Most Club Play No. 1s

The season two finalist debuts her latest dance single, co-written and produced by season five's Ace Young. Plus: New Billboard methodology provides big boost for Phillip Phillips' "Home."

Kimberley Locke PR P

TAKING THE FIFTH: Season two's Kimberley Locke scores her fifth hit on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, as her new single, “Finally Free,” debuts at No. 49. The song is a co-write with another Idol, season five’s Ace Young, who was also a producer on the track. “While I was in the booth singing it, Ace was pushing me to my vocal limits,” Locke tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He kept saying, ‘You’ve got one more in you.’ I told him, ‘You said that ten times ago.’ We had a lot of fun and I’m very proud of the record we put together.”

"The song is representative of everything I was going through in my life [at the time] and I felt every word of it,” Locke explains to THR. “We all come to that moment when we say, ‘I’ve finally conquered this, I’m finally free.’ That was the moment for me, feeling like I’d really grown up. I was stepping out on my own creating my own company, I Am Entertainment, putting out my music independently. I had not a clue how this was all going to work out, but I knew I was headed in the right direction. I think a lot of people can relate to that.”

“Finally Free” gives Locke a Billboard career chart span of eight years, ten months and one week, dating back to the debut of her version of the holiday classic “Silver Bells” on the Adult Contemporary chart the week of Dec. 13, 2003. In March 2004, her first pop single, “8th World Wonder,” debuted on four Billboard charts, including the Hot 100. “8th World Wonder” gave Locke her first two No. 1s, when it topped Hot 100 Singles Sales and Hot Dance Singles Sales. THR asked Locke how she reacted when she first learned that she was No. 1 in Billboard. “I was so shocked,” she answered, “because I didn’t win American Idol. That’s when I realized, you don’t have to win! It was one of those moments where I felt so proud and so accomplished, and I knew I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.”

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Just looking at the Hot Dance Club Play tally, Locke has a chart span of five years, six months and three weeks, counting back to the debut of “Change” the week of March 31, 2007. “Change” moved into first place the week of June 9, 2007, knocking “Glamorous” by Fergie featuring Ludacris out of the No. 1 spot. Locke’s next entry on this chart was a cover version of Freda Payne’s 1970 hit “Band of Gold.” This remake also went to No. 1, succeeding “No, No, No” by Yoko Ono, simply billed as Ono, the week of Jan. 19, 2008. Six months later, Locke was sitting in pole position for a third time, with a dance version of Clay Walker’s country song, “Fall.” 

After a long stint on the Nashville-based Curb label, Locke released a single in 2010 on Randy Jackson’s Dream Merchant 21 imprint. “Strobelight” peaked at No. 5 the week of Aug. 7, 2010.

The first Idol to have a No. 1 song on the Hot Dance Club Play chart was Jennifer Hudson, who took the lead position the week of March 24, 2007, with her soundtrack recording of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. After Locke’s three dance chart-toppers, Jordin Sparks became the third Idol to visit this tally’s penthouse, when “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)” went to No. 1 the week of Dec. 5, 2009. The first and – so far – only male Idol to go to No. 1 on the Dance Club Play list was Blake Lewis. The title track from his album Heartbreak on Vinyl spent the week of April 24, 2010 on top.  

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The most recent Idol to reach the summit was Kelly Clarkson, whose “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” was No. 1 the week of March 3. Five months later, Clarkson was back on top of this survey with “Dark Side.” Hot Dance Club Play is the only chart where “Dark Side” went to No. 1.

That gives Hudson and Lewis one No. 1 each, Clarkson two and Locke three, a lead that could be extended if “Finally Free” goes all the way.

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: A change in how Billboard compiles some genre charts that went into effect this week has made a difference in some Idols’ chart positions. The Hot Country Songs chart, formerly based exclusively on airplay, now incorporates digital download sales and streaming data, aligning it with the same methodology used for the Hot 100. A new chart, Country Airplay, will keep track of radio spins. On that airplay survey, Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” takes a 4-2 hike, indicating where it would have charted on Hot Country Songs if the new methods had not been introduced this week. On the revamped Hot Country Songs, Taylor Swift captures the top two positions, so Underwood’s “Blown Away” has to settle for a berth at No. 3.

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Phillip Phillips is a major beneficiary of the new chart methodology. The Hot Rock Songs chart, previously based solely on airplay, is also revised to include digital sales and streaming. That sends “Home” rocketing 42-3 and makes the song a candidate for No. 1. “Home” has already topped three charts: Rock Digital Songs, Hot Digital Songs and Hot Digital Tracks.

BITS AND PIECES: Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away rebounds to No. 2 on Top Country Albums, making a return to pole position possible for the album that has already reigned for seven weeks…Kelly Clarkson’s new single “Catch My Breath” went to radio this week, making its Hot 100 debut inevitable. It will be Clarkson’s 24th entry on this chart…Great move for the new Bucky Covington set on Top Country Albums. Good Guys takes a healthy 11-point hike, up 66-55 with a bullet.

Twitter: @Idol_Worship