Carey's album sold as many copies as the next 12 albums on this week's chart, combined. And yet, Carey's opening tally is less than half of the first week total of the biggest opener of 2007, Kanye West's Graduation, which bowed with sales of 957,000 in September. In fact, 10 albums in 2007 debuted with higher sales totals. The others were, in descending order, Alicia Keys, the Eagles, 50 Cent, Blige, Linkin Park, High School Musical 2, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and T.I. For Carey to fall short of blockbusters by West, Keys and the Eagles is no shame, but failing to keep pace with more routine hits by Underwood and T.I. raises questions--especially given Carey's all-out promotional effort. She appeared on TV's #1 show, American Idol, and the #1 daytime show, Oprah.
In the end, what you make of Carey's number is a lot like the old philosophical question: Is the glass half empty or half full?
On the same day that Sen. Hillary Clinton won the crucial Pennsylvania primary, female solo artists locked up the top three spots on Nielsen SoundScan's list of the nation's best-selling albums. Trailing Carey are Leona Lewis and Miley Cyrus. It's the first time that female solo artists have swept the top three spots since January 2003, when Norah Jones, Jennifer Lopez and Avril Lavigne led the chart.
This marks a continuation of one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent pop history. It's easy to forget now, but in 2001, when her movie Glitter bombed, Carey became a punch-line. Her behavior was briefly erratic. It wasn't a meltdown of Britney Spears proportions, but it was far from the highly polished persona that Carey had cultivated. Thinking they were cutting their losses, Virgin Records gave her a multi-million dollar payout to leave the label. That would have been a humiliating blow to many artists, but Carey soldiered on.
Her first step was to quickly return with a new album, Charmbracelet. The album has sold 1,149,000 copies, a far cry from her blockbusters, but good enough to prove that she wasn't as washed-up as everyone was saying. And then she came back with The Emancipation Of Mimi, which put her right back on top. The album has sold 5,848,000 copies--third best of all of Carey's albums (behind only Daydream, which has sold 7,547,000 copies, and Music Box, which has sold 7,172,000). Emancipation spawned three #1 or #2 hits and brought Carey three Grammys, her first wins since her debut album.
For the first time in nearly five years, there are three movie soundtracks in the top 10. The Best Of Both Worlds Concert is #4, Juno is #7 and Alvin & The Chipmunks is #8. This last happened in June 2003, with The Lizzie McGuire Movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Matrix Reloaded. Note that in both cases, one of the movies was a big-screen spin-off of a Disney Channel TV series.
"4 Minutes" by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs, with sales of 202,000 downloads. This is the fifth straight week that the #1 song on that chart has registered more than 200,000 downloads. That's a new record.
Here's the low down on this week's top 10 albums.
Five albums fall out of the top 10. Rick Ross' Trilla dips from #8 to #11, James Otto's Sunset Man drops from #3 to #12, Danity Kane's Welcome To The Dollhouse slips from #10 to #14, Ray J's All I Feel falls from #7 to #35 and P.O.D.'s When Angels And Serpents Dance plummets from #9 to #44.
Top 20 Debuts: Thrice bows at #17 with Alchemy Index: Vols. III and IV: Air & Earth. This is the California-based rock group's third straight top 20 album. The band's 2003 breakthrough album, The Artist In The Ambulance, hit #16. Its 2005 follow-up Vheissu, reached #15. And Rush's Snakes & Arrows Live opens at #18. The veteran band's studio album Snakes & Arrows opened at #3 in May. This double-CD set is Rush's sixth multi-disk live album. All have reached the top 40. One made the top 10-1981's Exit...Stage Left.
I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith returns to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart, again displacing Michael Jackson's Thriller 25. The contemporary Christian collection sold 20,000 copies this week and would have ranked #19 if the older, catalog albums were allowed to compete on the big chart.
Clive Davis: Last Wednesday, Leona Lewis' debut album entered the album chart at #1 and her single "Bleeding Love" returned to #1 on the Hot 100. One day later, Clive Davis was replaced as Chairman/CEO of the BMG Label Group, North America, which encompasses Lewis' label, J Records. (And here I've always thought that a bottle of champagne was the appropriate congratulatory gift.) Clive is staying on as Chief Creative Officer for Sony BMG Music Entertainment Worldwide, but the move was widely seen as an unwelcome one.
Clive has his share of detractors. The man has a touch of ego. OK, maybe more than a touch. Though what some people see as arrogance is a patrician air that is simply his manner. Some say that he is limited-without peer at finding hits for pop artists, but not as adept at other genres. But every music executive has his niche. Nobody ever dissed Berry Gordy for being "limited." Some say that he specializes in music and artists that are ephemeral. The last time I checked, Barry Manilow was doing pretty well, 33 years after his first hit, "Mandy"--a song that Clive brought him.
Let 'em say what they will. Few, if any, executives in the history of the music business have lasted as long at the top as Clive Davis. Clive has been an industry leader since 1966, when he was named Vice President and General Manager of Columbia Records. You've got to give the guy credit for his staying power, work ethic and passion for music.
Credit Roll: This marks six months of Chart Watch. I'd like to thank Rob Sisco and his team at Nielsen SoundScan for letting me play with their data each week; Geoff Mayfield and his team at Billboard, which began publishing a weekly pop album chart 35 years before Nielsen SoundScan set up shop; and Joel Whitburn's Record Research company for publishing a series of first-rate chart reference books. The Nielsen/SoundScan information allows those of us who do this to write with an unprecedented degree of precision and specificity. The Billboard chart data for the pre-1991 period gives the column greater depth and a sense of history. And the Whitburn books allow me to check my facts quickly and get the darned thing posted already. My thanks to all of them, and to you for reading it.
- Mariah Carey