For just the second time since Michael Jackson died in June, his compilation Number Ones is not the best-selling album in the U.S. That distinction belongs instead to George Strait's Twang. (Daughtry's Leave This Town logged a week as the sales leader last month.)
My reference to Strait as the "king of country" in this week's headline is more than just an attempt to play off Jackson's familiar "king of pop" title. Strait really is at the front of the country pack. Twang is his 16th top 10 album on The Billboard 200, which is more than any other country artist in history. It's his 23rd #1 album on Top Country Albums, which is again more than any other artist. Strait is also the leader when it comes to picking up hardware from the Country Music Assn. He has amassed 22 CMA Awards.
Twang is Strait's fifth album to top The Billboard 200, a total topped by only one country artist-Garth Brooks, who has had eight #1 albums. Kenny Chesney is tied with Strait with five #1 albums. Strait was already a country superstar when these other guys were still hustling to get record deals.
Twang is Strait's second studio album in a row to top The Billboard 200. Troubadour rang the bell in April 2008. This is the first time in Strait's 27-year career that he has had back-to-back #1 studio sets. The country star's other #1 albums are Carrying Your Love With Me, 50 Greatest Hits and Somewhere Down In Texas.
Neil Diamond debuts at #2 with the CD/DVD combo, Hot August Night/NYC. This means that both of this week's top two albums on The Billboard 200 are by acts that are pushing or past 60. Strait is 57. Diamond is 68. Strait and Diamond have been fixtures on the chart for a combined total of 68 years. These are the 16th top 10 albums for both artists.
Hot August Night/NYC is Diamond's 10th top five album; his third in the past four years, following 12 Songs and Home Before Dark. The album, a Wal-Mart exclusive, was released on Friday, the same day that CBS-TV aired a prime-time special with the same title. This is Diamond's highest-charting live album to date, surpassing the original Hot August Night, which reached #5 in 1972. It's Diamond's third chart album with a variation of that title. Hot August Night II hit #59 in 1988. ("Hot August Night" is the opening phrase of Diamond's rousing, gospel-edged "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show," a top 30 hit in 1969.)
Michael Jackson's Number Ones sold 80,000 copies this week and would have slipped from #1 to #2 if catalog albums were eligible to compete on The Billboard 200. It is now just 23,000 copies behind Taylor Swift's Fearless as the best-selling album of 2009. The Essential Michael Jackson sold 43,000 copies and would have dipped from #3 to #5. Thriller sold 34,000 and would have dropped from #4 to #13. This marks the first time since he died that Jackson hasn't had three of the week's top five best-selling albums in the U.S. But this is the eighth straight week that he has had two of the five best-sellers, still a remarkable achievement.
Thriller this week pulls ahead of the Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 on Nielsen/SoundScan's recap of the best-selling albums in its history. Thriller has sold 5,366,000 copies since May 25, 1991, compared to 5,356,000 for the Eagles' compilation. The Recording Industry Assn. of America, which goes back much further than 1991, continues to list the Eagles' album as its all-time best-seller, at 29 million, with Thriller a beat behind at 28 million. Expect movement there soon.
The Essential Michael Jackson is #1 in the U.K. for the seventh straight week. This is the longest run on top in that country since Leona Lewis' Spirit logged a total of eight weeks at #1 from November 2007 to November 2008.
Taylor Swift's Fearless logs its 34th week in the top 10. That equals the mark Mariah Carey set in 2005 with her comeback smash The Emancipation Of Mimi. These are the longest-running top 10 albums since Usher's 2004 blockbuster Confessions, which logged 41 weeks in the top 10.
Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" logs its 70th week on the Hot 100 this week, setting a new record for the longest run in the chart's 51-year history. The old record was held by LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live," which held on for 69 weeks in 1997-1998. Oddly, neither of these longevity champs reached #1. "I'm Yours" peaked at #6, while "How Do I Live" logged four weeks at #2. Both songs were Grammy finalists for Song of the Year. Mraz wrote his song. Diane Warren wrote the Rimes smash.
The Black Eyed Peas also set a Hot 100 record this week for the longest continuous run at #1 on that chart. This is the Peas' 20thconsecutive week on top, breaking Usher's record of 19 weeks, set in 2004. Both artists had back-to-back #1 hits, which is how they were able to amass these big totals. The Peas scored with "Boom Boom Pow" (12 weeks) and "I Gotta Feeling" (eight). Usher led the chart with "Yeah!" (12 weeks) and "Burn" (seven).
While "I Gotta Feelin'" holds at #1 on the Hot 100, it slips to #2 on Hot Digital Songs. This ends the group's 19-week streak at #1 on that chart. But I have good news for Peas' fans: "I Gotta Feelin'" this week becomes the group's fourth hit to reach the 2 million mark in paid downloads, following "Let's Get It Started," "My Humps" and "Boom Boom Pow." The Peas are the first group ever to amass four 2 million-selling downloads. The Fray and the All-American Rejects have each accumulated three.
Miley Cyrus ends the Peas' long hold on the #1 spot on Hot Digital Songs by debuting in the top spot with "Party In The U.S.A." The song sold 226,000 downloads. This is the first time Cyrus has topped the Hot Digital Songs chart. "Party In The U.S.A." enters the Hot 100 at #2. A few other "U.S.A." songs have made the top 10 on that chart over the years, namely the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." (#3 in 1963), Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." (#9 in 1985) and John Cougar Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To 60's Rock)" (#2 in 1986). (Coincidentally, there's another "U.S.A." song out now. Justin Moore's "Small Town USA" jumps from #91 to #69 on Hot Digital Songs.)
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. George Strait, Twang, 155,000. This new entry is Strait's fifth #1 album. This is the slimmest total with which Strait has topped the chart. More than 16,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. "Living For The Night" enters Hot Digital Songs at #130.
2. Neil Diamond, Hot August Night/NYC, 57,000. This new entry is Diamond's fourth live album to reach the top 10, following Neil Diamond/Gold, Hot August Night and Love At The Greek.
3. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 45,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #4 to #3 in its 10th week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Gotta Feeling," which dips to #2.
4. Cobra Starship, Hot Mess, 42,000. This new entry is the New Jersey band's third album; its first to reach the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Good Girls Go Bad" (featuring Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester), which dips from #4 to #6.
5. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 42,000. The long-running hit holds at #5 for the second week in a row. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody," which dips from #3 to #5.
9. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 37,000. The former #1 album holds at #9 for the fifth straight week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which dips from #5 to #7.
Sugarland's Live On The Inside plummets from #1 to #11. That's the biggest second-week tumble from the top spot since Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank dove from #1 to #11 in April 2007. It surpasses Fabolous' Loso's Way, which fell from #1 to #10 just last week. Two other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Gloriana's Gloriana falls from #3 to #20. Kidz Bop Kids drops from #8 to #21.
"Run This Town" by the all-star team of Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West enters Hot Digital Songs at #3. It sold 169,000 downloads in its first week. On the Hot 100, it vaults from #66 to #3. Jay-Z and Rihanna previous teamed on 2007's mega-hit "Umbrella." Jay-Z and West both participated in 2008's rap summit, "Swagga Like Us."
Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" this week becomes the sixth song in digital history to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads. The smash won a Grammy in February as Song of the Year and was nominated for Record of the Year. It shoulda won that one, too, but it was buried in a mini-sweep for Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. The Album of the Year victory for that pair's Raising Sand made perfect sense. The win for "Please Read The Letter" as Record of the Year? Not so much.
Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. The ultra-mellow ballad, released in May 2007, was Caillat's first hit...Linkin Park's "New Divide" tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's the band's sixth song to hit this mark. Linkin Park's best-selling downloads are "What I've Done" (2,498,000) and "Shadow Of The Day" (1,544,000).
Last week I mentioned that Drake's top 10 hit "Best I Ever Had," which name-drops "the Andy Griffith theme song," topped the 1 million mark in paid downloads. This is the second time in less than a year that Andy Griffith has played a role in a big hit. He was featured in Brad Paisley's video for "Waitin' On A Woman," which was a #1 country hit last September. The clip was named Music Video of the Year at the Country Music Assn. Awards. Griffith, 82, had a top 10 hit of his own long before Drake and Paisley were born. The future TV icon's comedy record, "What It Was, Was Football," hit #9 in January 1954.
R.I.P.: Les Paul & Mary Ford recorded two of the biggest hits of the 1950s: the stylish and richly melodic "How High The Moon" (#1 for nine weeks in 1951) and the tender "Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You)" (#1 for 11 weeks in 1953). But Paul's contributions to music went far beyond those hits. He is credited with developing an early solid-body electric guitar as well as such other innovations as multi-track recording, overdubbing and the eight-track tape recorder. Paul died from complications of pneumonia last week. He was 94.
Heads Up: Reba McEntire's Keep On Loving You, her first studio album since the chart-topping Reba Duets, is due on next week's chart. Also due: Sean Paul's Imperial Blaze, Ledisi's Turn Me Loose, Cascada's Evacuate The Dancefloor and Third Eye Blind's Ursa Major.