There has been an awful lot of hand-wringing in the past 24 hours about a particular piece of trivia that seems a lot more significant that it actually is. On Wednesday, people came to the realization that the cast of "Glee" has now sent more singles into the Hot 100 (75) than the Beatles (71). That puts them third on the all-time list, within reasonable striking distance of both James Brown and Elvis Presley (the latter of whom had a whopping 108 singles show up in the chart). Rock purists immediately panicked at the idea that a collection of actors could eclipse the hallowed Beatles in just about anything, but just like most statistics in baseball, the idea that the "Glee" cast has more charting singles than the biggest and most influential rock band of all time is completely, utterly meaningless.
Why? There are plenty of reasons. First, the science of chart-tracking has changed profoundly since the days when the Beatles were churning out product. Today, it's extremely easy to come up with hard data about digital downloads and radio and Internet airplay, the pieces of criteria that all go into the Billboard Hot 100 rankings. But prior to digital tracking (and even before the invention of SoundScan, the system that tracks album and single sales), the numbers on the Hot 100 were based on an inexact science at best (and total blind guessing at worst). The songs from "Glee" benefit because their download and streaming numbers are accurately tracked. If that kind of science was around in '67, it's likely that every single song the Beatles ever put out would have charted somewhere in the Hot 100. That's just how gigantic they were.
Obviously, the "Glee" cast has the benefit of the songs themselves as well. All of the tracks that are scoring chart appearances have already been hits, so it's not surprising that their revival of said hits would resonate. And they've got the benefit of decades worth of pop history at their disposal, which allows them to shift from '70s AM rock hits to modern day pop twist-ups without much fuss.
As they have proven time and again (and as the huge ratings for their Britney Spears-themed episode backed up), the cast and producers of "Glee" have turned the show from a wacky gimmick into a genuine television phenomenon. Considering their rate of chart-related success, they should be eclipsing Elvis' record before this season is out. Will it mean that "Glee" is better than the King? Not in the slightest. If "Glee" manages to swing something as big as Presley's "'68 Comeback Special" or a live simulcast from Hawaii, then we can start talking about immortality. Until then, it's merely a good way to kill some time on a Tuesday night.