American Idol 3 winner Fantasia (who has officially dropped her last name, Barrino) may have only sold about half the quantity of singles as Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard did in the official debut week, but she now has accomplished something that Ruben never has: reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles and tracks chart.

The Billboard Hot 100 chart dated July 10, 2004, which is based on both sales and airplay, ranks Fantasia's J Records track 'I Believe' as #1 in its debut. Fantasia thus becomes the third former Idol contestant to reach #1 on the Hot 100, joining Idol 1 winner Kelly Clarkson's 'A Moment Like This' and Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken's 'This Is The Night', which held the top spot for two weeks. Like Kelly and Clay, who both record for J's sister label RCA, Fantasia also holds the top spot on the Nielsen SoundScan U.S. Singles Sales chart at the same time.

Ruben, of course, never rose above #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 because his J Records single 'Flying Without Wings' was released the same week as Clay's. RCA Music Group CEO (and J co-owner) Clive Davis did not repeat his mistake, choosing to release Fantasia's single the week before runner-up Diana DeGarmo's.

In total, six Idol singles have reached the Top 4 on the Hot 100 -- Kelly, Clay and Fantasia at #1, Ruben at #2, and both the American Idol 2 Finalists (with 'God Bless the U.S.A.') and Clay again (with 'Solitaire') at #4. Unsurprisingly, those are also the six Idol singles that sold over 100,000 copies in their week of release.

As this data indicates, the most successful season of Idol on the Hot 100 has been Season 2. In addition to the four Top 4 tracks, a second Ruben track ('Sorry 2004') and a third Clay track ('Invisible'), both Kimberley Locke ('8th World Wonder,' Curb Records, which also reached #1 on the Nielsen SoundScan U.S. Singles Sales chart) and Josh Gracin ('I Want to Live,' Lyric Street Records) have charted singles or tracks.

By contrast, no one except Kelly (who also charted 'Miss Independent' in the top 20) from Season 1 has reached the Hot 100, despite releases from runner-up Justin Guarini, fourth-place Tamyra Gray and fifth-place R.J. Helton. Fantasia's single is the first release from Season 3, since runner-up Diana DeGarmo's RCA single 'Dreams' / 'Don't Cry Out Loud' didn't ship until June 29.

We congratulate Fantasia for her chart-topping success, even if her sales were more modest than those of previous Idols ... and we congratulate Billboard for remembering that customers actually shelling out cash to buy a CD-single has to count for more than mere airplay does.