Having set records on Pop Songs, Rihanna reaches a key career milestone, as her former No. 1 on the ranking ‘Stay’ becomes her first Adult Contemporary top 10.
Madonna did it. And, Cyndi Lauper. So did fellow pop/dance divas more recently like Fergie, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry. Now Rihanna has, too.
Like those female stars, Rihanna’s career path to further crossover success reaches a notable milestone: with an 11-9 rise, “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko, marks her first top 10 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. (Earlier this month, the ballad likewise became her highest-charting entry on Adult Pop Songs, having reached No. 2.) In contrast, last month “Stay” became Rihanna’s record-setting 10th No. 1 on Pop Songs, where she also holds the marks for most top 10s (23) and appearances (36). She first arrived on the latter list eight years ago with the No. 2 dancehall-ready “Pon De Replay,” but she didn’t grace AC until three years later, when “Take a Bow” nudged to a No. 21 peak.
Rihanna’s road to top 10 AC status follows those taken by other female soloists who arrived conquering pop radio but with songs that were far from adult contemporary-friendly, at the time anyway.
The ultimate benefits that acts reap from adding AC success after scoring at pop? Reaching adult consumers, who are more affluent and, thus, more likely to buy albums than younger pop audiences. AC hits can also have much longer shelf lives – by years – than pop-only titles, so a song like “Stay” might become an AC staple in a way that only a handful of pop hits do on current-based pop radio. It may also open programmers’ thinking to her prior hits. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was too young-leaning for AC in 2007, but it receives play at the format now, just like “Holiday” has become an AC standard for Madonna.
Essentially, “Stay” might be putting a song to the name Rihanna for adult listeners, who are likely familiar with her pop culture-wise but might not have been that familiar with her music. Now, she’s gaining that musical familiarity. (So, too, for that matter, are bands like fun., Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men, as acts that start at rock likewise are only the right hit away from scaling the AC chart.)
So, while the run of “Stay” on Pop Songs (where it falls 7-10 in its in 19th week) is waning, the song’s AC rise may mean that its radio lifespan is only beginning.