Usher's Here I Stand opens at #1, with sales of 443,000. It's the biggest opening by a male artist so far this year, topping Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static, which bowed in February with sales of 375,000. The last male artists to post bigger first-week numbers were Kanye West and 50 Cent, who scored in their heavily-publicized face-off in September. West's Graduation opened with sales of 957,000. 50 Cent's Curtis bowed with 691,000.
Here I Stand ranks behind only Mariah Carey's E=MC2 (463,000) for the biggest sales week so far in 2008. The difference is that Carey's tally improved on her previous best opening total (of 404,000), posted by The Emancipation Of Mimi in April 2005. Usher's total is less than half of that posted by his previous best opening, Confessions, which bowed in March 2004 with first-week sales of 1,096,000.
The market has declined markedly since 2004, so Usher's diminished opening is to be expected. The really striking part--which becomes more impressive as the weeks go by--is that Carey defied the trends to post a bigger opening than she had the last time out.
Another probable factor in Usher's smaller opening number this time is that he took a four-year break after Confessions. During that time, Chris Brown arrived on the scene with a pair of smash albums. Brown was 16 when he debuted in 2005, the same age that Usher was when he started out in 1994.
Confessions has sold 9,548,000 copies, which makes it the #20 album of the Nielsen/SoundScan era (which dates to 1991). Significantly, it's the #1 best-selling album released after 2002. Will we ever again see a 9.5 million selling album? I'd like to say yes, but it would take a significant turnaround in consumer buying patterns, as they say in the industry. (They actually talk like that.)
"Love In This Club," the lead single from the new album, has sold 1,665,000 downloads in its first 14 weeks.
Usher, 29, one of the top soul men of his generation, is joined in the top 10 by Al Green, 62, one of the top soul men of all time. Green's Lay It Down debuts at #9, becoming the soul legend's highest-charting album in more than 35 years--since I'm Still In Love With You peaked at #4 in December 1972. Green has had two other top 10 albums: Let's Stay Together (#8 in April 1972) and Call Me (#10 in June 1973).
Incidentally, remember all the ribbing 50 Cent took in September when he lost that first-week sales bout with West? He lost face, which artists never want to do--especially in the hyper-macho world of rap. But it's time for some perspective. In the eight months since the duel, a grand total of two albums have opened with equal or better numbers than 50 Cent posted that week. Alicia Keys' As I Am started with sales of 742,000. Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden opened with sales of 711,000. That's it. 50 Cent, there's no need to feel bad about that opening number. You done good.
Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" jumps to #1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, with 219,000 paid downloads. It's the band's first #1 on this chart. "Clocks," which has sold 1,066,000 downloads, was released in February 2003, 20 months before the chart originated.
David Cook and David Archuletta have been in the music business for all of two weeks and they're already experiencing the downside of chart success. You'll recall that last week, Cook had 17 songs on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart, while Archie had 12. This week, most of them fell off. Cook has four songs remaining (topped by "Time Of My Life" at #4), while Archie has three (topped by "In This Moment" at #111). I wish both men more chart ups than downs over the years, though it may be good that they're learning early that you can't really have one without the other.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Usher, Here I Stand, 443,000. While this opening week number is less than half of Usher's most recent album, Confessions, it's more than twice that of 8701, his hit album right before Confessions. So you can look at it through whichever prism you choose. Five songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Love In This Club" jumps from #12 to #10, "Love In This Club, Part II" jumps from #43 to #35, "Moving Mountains" debuts at #42, "Best Thing" opens at #116 and "What's Your Name" bows at #145.
2. Various Artists, Sex And The City soundtrack, 66,000. This new entry is the highest-charting soundtrack to a theatrical movie that was based on a prime-time TV series (got all that?) since Mission: Impossible 2 opened at #2 in May 2000. Sex, which led the box-office last weekend with a gross of $55.7 million, is the chickiest of chick flicks, while M:I 2 was a male-driven, explosion-filled exercise. The Sex soundtrack features a mostly female roster of names including Jennifer Hudson, Nina Simone, Fergie and India.Arie. M:I 2 was powered by hits by Metallica and Limp Bizkit.
3. 3 Doors Down, 3 Doors Down, 63,000. Last week's #1 drops to #3 in its second week. This is a more graceful decline than the band made last time out. A week after debuting at #1, Seventeen Days plummeted to #6. "It's Not My Time" holds at #17 on Hot Digital Songs.
4. Bun-B, II Thrill, 40,000. The rapper falls from #2 to #4 in his second week in the top 10. The album features 20 guest stars, including Sean Kingston, Lil' Wayne, Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco and Juvenile. Smart man, Bun-B. If all those artists (plus their friends, relatives, managers and agents) buy a copy, you're well on your way to a top 10 album.
5. Leona Lewis, Spirit, 39,000. Lewis inches back up to #5 in her eighth week in the top 10. The album is #7 for the year-to-date. Both John Denver and Earth, Wind & Fire had top 10 albums in 1976 called Spirit. It was a good title then. It's a good title now. "Bleeding Love" slips from #5 to #7 on Hot Digital Songs.
6. Frank Sinatra, Nothing But The Best, 37,000. Sinatra drops two notches in his third week in the top 10. This is Sinatra's 22nd greatest hits set or compilation to make the charts. His first, This Is Sinatra!, was released in 1956. That's what happens when you're a legend for more than half a century.
8. Mariah Carey, E=MC2, 36,000. Carey drops another notch to #8 in her seventh week in the top 10. Carey's album has sold 968,000 copies. For the year-to-date, it's second only to Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static. "Touch My Body" jumps from #38 to #37 on Hot Digital Songs. "Bye Bye" jumps from #46 to #38.
9. Al Green's Lay It Down, 34,000. In addition to landing his first Top 10 album in nearly 35 years (see above item), Green is also featured on a second album in the top 10--the Sex And The City soundtrack. He teams with Joss Stone to perform the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?," which he first recorded on his Let's Stay Together album in 1972.
Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Madonna's Hard Candy slips from #9 to #11, Neil Diamond's Home Before Dark drops from #10 to #15 and Julianne Hough's Julianne Hough falls from #3 to #16.
Fergie's The Dutchess vaults from #104 to #28 in its 89th week on the chart. The surge is linked to the release of a deluxe edition of the album containing four new tracks, including "Labels Or Love," her contribution to the Sex And The City soundtrack. Another long-running hit, Taylor Swift's Taylor Swift, holds at #12 in its 84th week on the chart-and its 30th consecutive week in the top 20. It's worth noting that neither of these albums ever topped the chart--The Dutchess peaked at #2, Taylor Swift at #5--which reminds us once again that reaching #1 is not the be-all and end-all.
Wisin y Yandel's Los Extraterrestres: Otra Dimension vaults from #185 to #31 in its 29th week on the chart. The album's sales jumped by 265%, the greatest increase of any non-debuting album. The album entered the chart at #14 in November. The Latin reggae duo from Puerto Rico reached #30 in 2005 with Pa'l Mundo. Juan Luna is "Wisin" and Llandel Malave is "Yandel." But then you knew that.
The new Broadway cast album to Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific opens at #59. The original 1949 Broadway cast album was #1 for 69 weeks, longer than any other album in the history of Billboard's album chart. The 1958 movie soundtrack logged 31 weeks at #1. Only one other Broadway musical--Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music--generated both a #1 cast album and a #1 movie soundtrack. South Pacific features "Some Enchanted Evening," "There Is Nothin' Like A Dame," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair" and "Carefully Taught," which was one of the first mainstream popular works to attack bigotry. (Remember, the show first appeared in 1949, five years before Brown v. The Board of Education and 14 years before Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.)
Underoath's Survive, Kaleidoscope opens at #80, a sharp drop-off from the Christian hard rock group's last album, Define The Great Line, which opened at #2 in June 2006. The Christian rock genre had better luck on the catalog chart where Time/Life's I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith is #1 for the sixth week. The three-CD set sold 14,000 copies this week and would have ranked #29 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were allowed to compete there.
Foxboro Hot Tubs' Stop, Drop And Roll!!! drops from #21 to #103 in its second week. The album's sales fell off by 65%, the steepest decline of any album in the top 200. Sorry, guys.
An Elite Club: Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah" this week becomes the fourth song to top the 3 million mark in paid digital downloads. It follows "Crank That Soulja Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, which reached the plateau on Jan. 6; "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T Pain, which hit the mark on Feb. 17; and "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring OneRepublic, which rang the bell on Feb. 24. It's noteworthy that this roster of mega-hits includes two funky rap hits and two pretty ballads. Styles change, but people will always want to dance and people will always fall in love. Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" is on track to top the 3 million mark in paid downloads in about a month. Its current tally is 2,957,000. Three other songs are currently above 2,800,000 and may join the 3 million club in coming months: Kanye West's "Stronger," "SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland and "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z.
Heads Up: Will Usher have a second week at #1, as Mariah Carey did in April? Or will he fall behind Disturbed's Indestructible, which is expected to be next week's top debut? (The hard rock group opened at #1 with its last two albums, Believe and Ten Thousand Fists.) Also due to enter next week's chart: Ashanti's The Declaration, Weezer's Weezer (a.k.a., The Red Album), Jewel's Perfectly Clear, Gavin Rossdale's Wanderlust, Radiohead's The Best Of, Aimee Mann's Smilers and the Now 28 compilation.