The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Valleys Of Neptune enters The Billboard 200 at #4, putting the rock legend back in the top five nearly 40 years after he died at the tragically young age of 27. No other artist has cracked the top five this long after his death. Elvis Presley is in second place. His Elvis: 2nd To None debuted at #3 in October 2003, a little more than 26 years after his death.
Hendrix is the second music legend to make the top five posthumously in the past two weeks. Johnny Cash bowed at #3 two weeks ago with American VI: Ain't No Grave. But Cash died less than seven years ago. It's more remarkable for an artist who died four decades ago to make significant chart waves.
Valleys Of Neptune is, incredibly, Hendrix's 34th posthumous album to make The Billboard 200.
Hendrix was a star for just three years, from June 1967, when he played the Monterey International Pop Festival, to September 1970, when he died in London of a drug overdose. The guitar hero had four top five albums in his lifetime. This is his third top five album since his death. It follows The Cry Of Love, which hit #3 in 1971, and Crash Landing, which reached #5 in 1975.
Four of Hendrix's catalog albums re-enter The Billboard 200 this week. 1967's Are You Experienced? bows at #44, followed by 1968's Electric Ladyland at #60, the 1997 compilation First Rays Of The New Rising Sun at #63 and 1968's Axis: Bold As Love at #67.
Experienced? first cracked The Billboard 200 on Aug. 26, 1967. It was only the 10th highest new entry of the week (!), opening at an unimpressive #190. The album took 59 weeks to reach its #5 peak in October 1968. This week's debut of Valleys Of Neptune gives Hendrix a nearly 41-1/2 year span of top five albums.
Ludacris lands his fourth #1 album with Battle Of The Sexes. It follows Chicken*N*Beer, The Red Light District and Release Therapy. This is the first rap album to top the chart since Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 nearly six months ago. It's Ludacris' seventh top five album in a row, discounting a 2005 collabo with DTP, Ludacris Presents...Disturbing Tha Peace.
Two songs from Ludacris' album are listed in the top 20 on Hot Digital Songs. Ludacris is also featured on two big hits by other artists. He's helping out on Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart," which holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs, and Justin Bieber's "Baby," which hold at #7. "Break Your Heart" sold 202,000 copies this week, bringing its three-week total to 506,000.
Gorillaz's Plastic Beach debuts at #2 in both the U.S. and the U.K. The album sold 112,000 copies in the U.S. More than half of those copies (62,000) were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. In the U.K., the album debuts behind Boyzone's Brother.
Lady Antebellum's Need You Now dips from #1 to #3 on The Billboard 200, but holds at #1 for the seventh straight week on Top Country Albums. This is the longest run at #1 for an album by a group since Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden had seven weeks on top in 2007. Setting aside Eagles, which was a pop-rock powerhouse before it became a country favorite, this is the longest run at #1 for an album by a core country group since Dixie Chicks' Taking The Long Way had nine weeks on top in 2006-2007.
Next week, in addition to holding at #1 on Top Country Albums, Need You Now may well return to #1 on The Billboard 200. It would be the first album to have three separate runs in the top spot since Taylor Swift's Fearless. Country sells and sells and sells.
Broken Bells' Broken Bells enters The Billboard 200 at #7. This is a project by James Mercer of The Shins and Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, best known as one-half of Gnarls Barkley. Both of those acts had top five albums. The Shins' Wincing The Night Away debuted at #2 in January 2007. Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere peaked at #4 in July 2006.
Lady Gaga's The Fame dips from #7 to #8. This is its 38th week in the top 10, the longest run in the top 10 for the debut album by a female artist since Britney Spears' 1999 album ...Baby One More Time held tight for 50 weeks.
Song Scorecard: "Blame It" by Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's Foxx's first 2 million seller as a lead artist, though he was featured on Kanye West's 2005 smash "Gold Digger," which has sold 2,793,000 copies.
Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" tops the 5 million mark in paid downloads this week. Of the five songs that have sold 5 million digital copies, this low-key, folkie ballad is only one that isn't squarely in the pop/dance/hip-hop center of contemporary pop music. Mraz's song took 107 weeks to reach 5 million, longer than any of the other songs to have reached this mark. That's fitting in a way: The genial ballad, which Mraz has called his "happy hippie song," is in no rush. "I'm Yours" was a Grammy finalist for Song of the Year a year ago.
Shameless Plug: This week marks the 65th anniversary of Billboard's first pop album chart. To mark the occasion, I have prepared a Chart Watch Extra revealing the top three albums in just about every category you can think of. The blog stars such all-time legends as The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley as well as such less obvious, but still category-leading, names as Usher, M.C. Hammer and James Horner. Check it out on Friday.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Ludacris, Battle Of The Sexes, 137,000. This new entry is the rapper's fourth album to reach #1. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, including "How Low," which dips from #13 to #14, and "My Chick Bad" (featuring Nicki Minaj), which jumps from #30 to #18.
2. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach, 112,000. This new entry is the animated band's second top 10 album in a row. 2005's Demon Days reached #6. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Stylo" (featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack), which vaults from #188 to #81.
3. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now, 105,000. The album drops to #3 after a total of three weeks on top. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Need You Now" dips from #5 to #6. "American Honey" jumps from #49 to #38.
4. Jimi Hendrix, Valleys Of Neptune, 95,000. This new entry is Hendrix's eighth top 10 album. The tally includes 18,000 digital sales, which shows that Hendrix's appeal is multi-generational, encompassing both old codgers who love those shiny disks and young moderns who do everything digitally.
5. Gary Allan, Get Off On The Pain, 65,000. This new entry is the country singer's fourth top five album in a row. Allan climbed as high as #3 with 2005's Tough All Over and 2007's Living Hard.
6. Sade, Soldier Of Love, 52,000. The former #1 album drops from #2 to #6 in its fifth week. "Soldier Of Love" from #151 to #188 on Hot Digital Songs.
7. Broken Bells, Broken Bells, 49,000. This new entry is the second top 10 album for both James Mercer of The Shins and Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, best known as one-half of Gnarls Barkley. More than half of these albums (27,000) were sold digitally. "October" enters Hot Digital Songs at #148.
8. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 47,000. The album dips from #7 to #8 in its 72nd week. Six songs from the expanded edition of the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, including "Telephone" (featuring Beyonce), which jumps from #14 to #11, and "Bad Romance," which holds at #17.
9. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 43,000. The former #1 album dips from #8 to #9 in its 40th week. This is its 27th week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, including "Imma Be," which dips from #3 to #5, and "I Gotta Feeling," which holds at #20.
Alice In Wonderland was #1 at the box-office for the second straight weekend. The Almost Alice soundtrack is the top-selling soundtrack for the second week, though it drops from #5 to #13 on The Billboard 200.
Four other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Danny Gokey's My Best Days drops from #4 to #16, Lifehouse's Smoke & Mirrors plummets from #6 to #34, Raheem DeVaughn's The Love & War Masterpeace drops from #9 to #24 and Easton Corbin's Easton Corbin drops from #10 to #21.
Three Contemporary Christian albums are listed in this week's top 40. Passion's Passion Awakening debuts at #15, Chris Tomlin's See The Morning vaults from #82 to #38 and Demon Hunter's The World Is A Thorn debuts at #39. Tomlin's album, which was released in 2006, is this week's #1 Catalog Album, displacing Michael Jackson's Number Ones. See The Morning is only the third non-holiday album to top the Catalog chart since Jackson's death last June. It follows Number Ones and the Beatles' Abbey Road.
The soundtrack to Crazy Heart vaults from #30 to #18, its highest ranking to date. It's this week's #2 soundtrack. Ryan Bingham's recording of "The Weary Kind," which won an Oscar for Best Original Song, jumps from #137 to #99 on Hot Digital Songs.
Ry Cooder, who has been riding the charts since 1972, lands the highest-charting album of his career with a collaboration with the Chieftains, another act that dates back to the '70s. Their album, San Patricio, debuts at #38. Cooder's previous highest- charting album (either solo or with the all-star group Little Village) was Borderline, which hit #43 in 1981.
The original cast album from Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical Love Never Dies debuts at #82. The show had its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in London on March 9. It's scheduled to open in New York on Nov. 11. The show continues the story of Webber's 1987 blockbuster The Phantom Of The Opera, which spawned the best-selling original cast album in Nielsen/SoundScan history. The album has sold 4,949,000 copies since May 1991, when the company began tracking sales for Billboard. Webber has been a chart presence for nearly 40 years, since the arrival of Jesus Christ Superstar (which he wrote with Tim Rice) in November 1970.
The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death topped the 5 million sales mark a week ago. The album was released just two weeks after the rapper was shot to death in March 1997.
The Hit Man: Taylor Swift's "Today Was A Fairytale" from Valentine's Day is just the latest in a long line of songs that were introduced in Garry Marshall movies to reach the top 10 on the Hot 100. Others include Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" from Beaches; Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" and Go West's "King Of Wishful Thinking" from Pretty Woman; Marc Anthony's "You Sang To Me" from Runaway Bride; and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" from The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. And if you want to go way back, you can add Pratt & McClain's "Happy Days," from the long-running TV show that Marshall created. That's seven top 10 hits, a track record that a lot of top artists would envy.
Battle Weary: Ludacris' Battle Of The Sexes is the second album with a title starting with the word "Battle" to top the Billboard 200 in less than four months. It follows John Mayer's Battle Studies. These aren't the first albums that were ready for "Battle." Rage Against The Machine's The Battle Of Los Angeles topped the chart in 1999. Five For Fighting's The Battle For Everything cracked the top 20 in 2004.
Heads Up: Marvin Sapp's Here I Am is expected to be next week's top new entry. The gospel album is expected to sell in the range of 70,000 copies, which would probably put it in the top five. Also due: Flobots' Survival Story, the White Stripes' live set Under Great White Northern Lights, Drive-By Truckers' The Big To-Do and Dropkick Murphys' Live On Lansdowne, Boston MA.