Scorsese's growing stature is suggested by the fact that his name is above the title on the Stones' album cover. His name was also on the cover of the Dylan album in 2005, but below the title. It wasn't on the cover of The Band's 1978 album. Scorsese is probably more immersed in popular music than any other movie director. The Last Temptation Of Christ generated a hit soundtrack for Peter Gabriel. New York, New York spawned a signature song for both Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra. The King Of Comedy featured the Pretenders' biggest hit, "Back On The Chain Gang." Scorsese's directing credits also include Michael Jackson's 1987 video for "Bad."
George Strait enters the chart at #1 with Troubadour. It's Strait's fourth album to reach the top spot, a total topped by only one country artist--Garth Brooks, who has had eight #1 albums. Three other country artists are tied with Strait with four #1 albums: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson. Strait was already a country superstar when these other men were still hustling to get record deals. Strait's breakthrough album, Strait Country, hit the country chart in October 1981. Brooks first hit the country chart in 1989, followed by Jackson in 1990, McGraw in 1994 and Chesney in 1995.
Strait, 55, is the #6 album seller of the Nielsen/SoundScan era, with sales of 39,589,000. His best-seller is the Pure Country soundtrack. The album has sold 4,676,000 copies since its release in 1992.
Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static crosses the 1 million sales threshold this week. It's the first album to reach that sales milestone in 2008--and we're 14 weeks into the year. That's the longest it has taken for an album to be the first to sell 1 million copies in any calendar year in the Nielsen/SoundScan era. The old record was 10 weeks. That was the case in both 1994, when Mariah Carey's Music Box was the first to reach the threshold, and 2006, when Mary J. Blige's The Breakthrough was the first. At the other extreme, three times in the 1990s an album topped the 1 million mark just four weeks into the new year. It happened in 1993, with Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack; in 1995, with Garth Brooks' The Hits; and in 1998, when the Titanic soundtrack and Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love both sailed across the million mark the same week.
"4 Minutes" by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake moves up from #2 to #1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, with sales of 217,000 digital downloads. It's Madonna's second #1 on this chart as a lead artist (following "Hung Up") and Timberlake's second as a supporting artist (following Timbaland's "Give It To Me," which also featured Nelly Furtado). Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" falls from #1 to #4 on this chart. I'll have more to say at the end of the column about Carey's 18 #1 hits on the Hot 100, and how that compares to Elvis Presley's total. If you relish chart history, or just good backstage drama, you may find it of interest.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Panic At The Disco's Pretty.Odd. falls from #2 to #12, Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static drops from #8 to #13, Flo Rida's Mail On Sunday slips from #9 to #15, Sara Bareilles' Little Voice falls from #10 to #17 and the Raconteurs' Consolers Of The Lonely drops from #7 to #18. Panic At The Disco experienced a 74% drop in sales. That's a steeper decline than any other album in the top 200.
Sleep Through The Static topped the 1 million sales mark in nine weeks of release--faster than any previous Jack Johnson album. His previous personal-best was his 2005 album In Between Dreams, which took 14 weeks to reach the million mark. The Curious George soundtrack took 30 weeks. His 2003 album, On And On, took 60 weeks.
"Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain this week surpasses "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" as the song with the most paid downloads in the history of the Top Digital Songs chart. "Low" surpassed "Soulja Boy" several weeks ago on the Digital Tracks chart. It is now the biggest digital song of all time no matter how you slice it. But music fans do seem to prefer to acquire Mr. Rida's artistry on a song-by-song basis. His three current hits, "Low," "Elevator" and "Roll," have sold a combined total of 4,126,000 downloads. After three weeks, his debut album, Mail On Sunday, has sold 148,000 copies.
I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith replaces Michael Jackson's Thriller 25 at #1 on Top Catalog Albums. The Various Artists collection sold 27,000 copies this week, and would have ranked #16 if catalog albums competed on the main chart. The 3-CD set features two artists who have had #1 catalog albums in their own right, Todd Agnew and Point Of Grace.
This is the sixth consecutive week that an album has debuted at #1. That's the longest period of revolving-door #1 albums since early last summer, when an album debuted at #1 for eight straight weeks. It took T.I.'s T.I. Vs. T.I.P. to hold on to the top spot for a second week. Which album will be the first this time around to claw its way to a second week at #1? I'm guessing Mariah Carey's E=MC2. (See next item).
Heads Up: Leona Lewis is expected to debut at #1 next week with Spirit, which features the #1 hit, "Bleeding Love." But its reign will likely be short-lived. Mariah Carey is due the following week. E=MC2 will probably have two weeks on top before yielding to Madonna's Hard Candy. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Also due to enter the chart next week: P.O.D.'s When Angels And Serpents Dance, Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV, Ashes Divide's Keep Telling Myself It's Alright and Marie Digby's Unfold.
Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2006, the veritable Bible of chart statistics, carries a list of the artists with the most #1 hits. The Beatles are on top with 20, followed by Elvis with 18 and Mariah with 17. I have great respect for Whitburn and his work, so I went with it, and merely bumped up Mariah's total to include her new #1. On Thursday, I saw that Billboard was saying that Elvis had just 17 #1 hits.
Whitburn's rationale for counting Elvis' smash as two #1 hits is that, when the record first reached #1 on Best Sellers and Most Played in Juke Boxes, "Hound Dog" was listed first, backed by "Don't Be Cruel." Later, while the record was still #1, Billboard reversed the order. (A legend on the chart indicated that "the leading side (is) on top.") I did a little checking on my own. Between the start of the rock era in January 1955 and the introduction of the definitive Hot 100 chart in August 1958, 14 two-sided hits (in which both A and B sides were enjoying significant action) reached #1 on Best Sellers In Stores. Elvis' smash was the only one in which both sides had a turn as the A side.
I was starting to lean Whitburn's way when I noticed that Elton John's 1997 smash "Candle In The Wind 1997"/"Something About The Way You Look Tonight" experienced a similar fate. "Candle In The Wind 1997" was the lead song for the single's first three weeks at #1, but then "Something..." took the lead for the remaining 11 weeks that the smash held the top spot. But Whitburn counts that as only one #1 record.
In an exchange of emails, Whitburn also pointed out that both "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" were included in Rolling Stone's 2004 critics' poll ranking the Top 500 Songs of All Time. Fair enough. But that was a ranking of songs, not singles. (For what it's worth, both sides of the record have also been voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.)
Whitburn also noted that the Recording Industry Assn. of America has certified "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" quadruple platinum. It's unusual for the RIAA to list both sides of a single in its certifications, but it's not unprecedented. Elvis has three other multi-platinum singles in which both sides are listed: "Heartbreak Hotel"/"I Was The One," "Love Me Tender"/ "Any Way You Want Me" and "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear"/"Loving You."
"Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" is probably the most gargantuan two-sided hit of the rock era. But it's one two-sided #1 hit, not two #1 hits. If the songs had been released separately, I have little doubt that both would have reached #1. But that's conjecture on my part. They weren't released separately. Their points were combined on those two charts 52 years ago and there's no way to separate them. Chart statistics have to be based on hard, provable facts. As much as I respect Whitburn, I'm going to call this one record.
So does this mean there's an error in "The Bible"? Perish the thought! I think it shows that these matters can get complicated and even experts can disagree. If you've read this far, you probably have an opinion on whether "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" should count as one #1 hit, or two. Hit that message board.
(If the Supreme Court had given Bush v. Gore this much due deliberation in 2000, we might have had a different President the last eight years.)