Chris Molanphy is a columnist for
REIFIED 'til I Can't No More: What a No. 1 Hit Meant as the Hot 100 Evolved
Chapter 4 explores the history of the Billboard charts and what a No. 1 hit meant as America's flagship pop singles chart, the Hot 100, evolved. The Hot 100 has always been a hybrid chart, combining data on song sales and radio airplay. This balance of active and passive fandom made the chart authoritative. Technology eventually improved the chart's accuracy—revealing the breadth and depth of rap's and country's popularity—but also complicated hit tracking as digital music reinvented the idea of the “single.” Billboard's changing methodologies also equipped record labels to game the charts in new ways. Finally, the addition of streaming both infused and confused chart metrics. These factors would all prove instrumental to Lil Nas X's success.