For the second week in a row, Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static and Michael Jackson's Thriller 25 are the top two albums in the U.S. Or are they?
But Jackson is nowhere to be found on the list of Top Current Albums that is published each week (as The Billboard 200) in Billboard magazine. The top 10 from that chart is reprinted in countless newspapers and websites around the world, including this one. The reason for the omission, as I explained last week, is that Nielsen/SoundScan and Billboard exclude catalog titles-defined as albums that are 18 months old or older-from the main chart. (Continuously running "current" hits are exempted.)
The idea is to make more room on the chart for new albums, which need every break they can get. This week, the rule resulted in 31 older albums being removed from Top Current Albums and shifted over to Top Catalog Albums. Just four of these 31 titles would have ranked in the top 100: Thriller 25, which would have ranked #2; Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits, #63; Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits, #64, and Bob Marley & the Wailers' Legend, #84.
The idea of clearing catalog product out to give new titles a break makes a certain amount of sense. But having a top 10 that forever has to carry an asterisk is a high price to pay. Billboard and Nielsen/SoundScan should consider revising their policy so that the top 10, at least, is presented without any modification. They could even present the top 100 exactly as is. This week, as noted, they're opening up only four spots in the top 100 by having this policy. Most of the catalog titles--including such perennial best-sellers as Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon, AC/DC's Back In Black and Metallica's Metallica--rank in the second hundred.
In his Over The Counter column, Billboard's Geoff Mayfield reports that Thriller 25 is only the second album to be denied a top 10 spot on Top Current Albums by the catalog-exclusion rule since the Comprehensive chart bowed in late 2003. Il Divo's The Christmas Collection would have placed #10 on the main chart in December 2006 if it had been allowed to compete. Even so, two albums denied a hard-earned spot in the top 10 is two too many.
I know that Michael Jackson, a proud and highly competitive man, is never content to finish second. But he should bear in mind that his album, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year 24 years ago, sold more copies in each of the last two weeks than this year's freshly-minted Album of the Year champ, Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters. River ranked #5 last week and this week dives to #16.
This will be a memorable week for Johnson, who also makes the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time. Johnson was born in 1975, when Jackson was roughly at the midpoint between his initial Jackson 5 smashes and his solo superstardom with Off The Wall.
On Hot Digital Tracks, "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain holds at #1 for a record 13th consecutive week. It is now just 129,000 copies behind "Crank That Soulja Boy" as the most downloaded track of all time. It will probably take two more weeks to top it. The Soulja Boy Tell 'Em track just keeps adding to its total. It sold 30,000 downloads this week.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.Various Artists, Step Up 2: The Streets soundtrack, 43,000. This is the week's top soundtrack, replacing Juno, which held that distinction for seven weeks. The movie was #4 at the box-office in its second weekend, bringing its total take to $41.2 million. The album from the initial Step Up movie was the top movie soundtrack for two weeks in August 2006.
Three albums drop out of the top 10. Sheryl Crow's Detours dips from #8 to #11, Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters drops from #5 to #16, and Grammy Nominees 2008 drops from #4 to #17.
In addition to albums by Kidz Bop Kids and Chris Cagle, four other albums debut in the top 100. Jim Jones' Harlem's American Gangster opens at #19, Secondhand Serenade's A Twist In My Story arrives at #44, K-Paz De La Sierra's En Vivo Desde El Autitorio Nacional opens at #80 and Mike Doughty's Golden Delicious bows at #87. Jones' mixtape album had a limited release last year, but has been remixed, remastered and augmented with new tracks for this wide release.
Janet Jackson hit #1 with five consecutive studio albums from Control in 1986 through All For You in 2001. But she peaked at #2 with her last two releases, Damita Jo and 20 Y.O. Next week we'll see if she can return to her old chart-topping ways with her new album Discipline. Also due next week: Dolly Parton's Backwoods Barbie, Erykah Badu's New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War and Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree.
Alternate Headline for this week's column: Little Ditty 'Bout Jack & Alicia. Around here, I let nothing go to waste.
- Michael Jackson