Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Reaches Billboard Charts With Brad Paisley Charity Single

2023-03-08T18:58:08+00:00March 8th, 2023|News|

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appears on Billboard’s charts, thanks to his feature on Brad Paisley‘s new single.

“Same Here” enters the all-genre Digital Song Sales chart (dated March 11) at No. 7 with 5,000 downloads sold Feb. 24-March 2, according to Luminate.

The track, Paisley’s co-written first release on Universal Music Group Nashville’s EMI Nashville Records, also begins on Country Digital Song Sales at No. 3.

Featuring a spoken section from Zelenskyy, the song benefits United24, a charitable program to restore Ukrainian homes destroyed during the ongoing Russian invasion (which began Feb. 24, 2022, a year to the day before the song’s release).

“The label [was] so great about it, realizing this isn’t going to be the feel-good hit of the year and this isn’t going to be something that’s going to work long-term at radio, [that it’s] not going to research,” Paisley told Billboard, noting that there will not be a radio edit without Zelenskyy. “I thought, ‘Would President Zelenskyy like to have the last couple of minutes and have a discussion with me on the ways we’re the same?’ This needs to exist in whatever form we can present it.”

Notably, other political leaders have used their platforms to appear on recordings, also resulting in Billboard chart placements.

In December 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama, then in his second term in office, reached No. 10 on the (now-defunct) Billboard Twitter Emerging Artists chart as featured on JX Cannon’s “Pop Off.” The track was built upon Obama’s G20 Summit speech in Turkey that November in which he mused, “If folks want to pop off and have opinions on what they think they would do, present a specific plan.”

No one-hit wonder, Obama, following the conclusion of his presidency, received artist credit with singers Christopher Jackson and BeBe Winans on the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned “One Last Time (44 Remix)” from Hamilton. The song hit No. 2 on R&B Digital Song Sales, No. 15 on R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Song Sales, No. 22 on Hot R&B Songs and No. 38 on Digital Song Sales in January 2019.

Earlier that decade, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev contributed to an eclectic billing with beloved actress Sophia Loren and the Russian National Orchestra on the album Sergei Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Jean-Pascal Beintus: Wolf Tracks. The set hit No. 5 on Classical Catalog Albums in March 2012, with proceeds benefiting multiple charities. At the 2004 Grammy Awards, it won for best spoken word album for children.

Meanwhile, 10 albums credited to late U.S. President John F. Kennedy hit the Billboard 200, including two top 10s in February 1964: That Was the Week That Was (No. 5), a BBC tribute to Kennedy, and The Presidential Years 1960-1963 (No. 8). One title highlighted two former commanders in chief: Actual Speeches of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy (No. 109, also in February 1964).

Prior to Kennedy’s chart run, an impersonator of his had climbed even higher on the Billboard 200: comedian Vaughn Meader dominated for 12 weeks in 1962-63 with The First Family and hit No. 4 in 1963 with The First Family, volume two. The former also won the 1962 Grammy for album of the year. (The set sports such send-ups as “Press Conference,” in which, after a family dinner, “Kennedy” takes questions on such vital topics as why he didn’t touch the salad that wife Jackie had prepared: “I would prefer if, er-uh, in the future, we stuck to coleslaw …”)

Similarly, Welcome to the LBJ Ranch!, an album ribbing U.S. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as former Vice President Richard Nixon, among others, via out-of-context recordings of them (helmed by Earle Doud and Alen Robin), hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in 1965.

Plus, impressionists David Frye and Rich Little made, well, impressions on the Billboard 200: The former charted four albums about then-President Nixon in 1969-73, led by the No. 18-peaking I Am the President in 1969, and the latter hit No. 29 in 1982 with The First Family Rides Again, gently lampooning U.S. President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan (with contributions from Doud and Meader).

Others known for prominent world leadership positions that have hit Billboard charts include Pope John XXIII (a Billboard 200 entry in 1963), Pope John Paul II (multiple chart appearances in 1995-99) and singer – and first lady of France in 2008-12 – Carla Bruni (visits to various charts in 2005-17).

Additional research by Jim Asker, Paul Grein and Alex Vitoulis.

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