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Alicia Keys named top R&B artist of decade

Singer Alicia Keys poses for a portrait while promoting her new album "The Element of Freedom" in New York December 17, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Billboard) - With seven No. 1s on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs tally and four consecutive chart-toppers on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, Alicia Keys walks off as Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop artist of the decade.

The singer’s 2001 debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” reigned over Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for six weeks and launched a pair of top 10 singles, including the multiformat smash “Fallin’.”

Keys followed “Songs in A Minor” with “The Diary of Alicia Keys” (2003), “Unplugged” (2005) and “As I Am” (2007). With the exception of her third offering, each set ranks in the top 40 of the decade’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. On Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Keys’ No. 1 singles have led for 41 chart weeks, more than any other artist. Among them, “No One” and “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” combined for 17 consecutive weeks at No. 1.

Keys’ dominance reflects the broader picture of the era’s top-ranked acts. Straight-ahead R&B artists like Keys, Beyonce and Ne-Yo fare better than rap acts on the all-encompassing top artist ranking, despite being responsible for fewer than half of the decade’s top 50 R&B/hip-hop albums. R&B acts account for 31 of the decade’s top 50 artists, while rap acts, led by Jay-Z at No. 2, round out the remaining slots.

R&B’s grip of the Top Artists list is buoyed by its greater appeal on adult R&B and mainstream R&B/hip-hop radio stations. Due to broader airplay across multiple formats of radio, R&B songs generally enjoy a longer life span and are more successful on the chart. Since 2000, no rap song has spent more than nine weeks at No. 1 or more than 56 chart weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Meanwhile, R&B singles have tallied nine leaders with at least 10 weeks at No. 1 and eight songs that spent at least 60 weeks on the chart. During the decade, “Be Without You” by Mary J. Blige established the record for the most weeks at No. 1 since 1958 (15).

All is not lost for rap. Of the aforementioned Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, rap holds seven of the top 10 positions. Jay-Z is the genre’s Top Album Artist of the decade with 10 No. 1s, the most for any artist.