For the first time in nearly a decade, teen acts hold down the top two positions on The Billboard 200. Taylor Swift, 18, opens at #1 with her sophomore album, Fearless. David Archuleta, 17, bows at #2 with his eponymous debut album. This is the first time that teen acts have held the top two spots since January 1999, when Britney Spears, then 17, bowed at #1 with her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, the same week that *NSYNC peaked at #2 with its eponymous debut. Two members of that boy band were teenagers at the time: Justin Timberlake, 17, and Lance Bass, 19.
Swift delivered first-week sales of 592,000 copies. That's the fourth biggest opening sales tally of 2008, topped only by Lil' Wayne, AC/DC and Coldplay. That makes this the biggest first-week tally of 2008 by a female artist and also the biggest by a country artist. The last album by a female artist to debut this big was Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains, which opened in December with sales of 629,000. The last country album to open as big was Rascal Flatts' Me And My Gang, which started with sales of 722,000 in April 2006. (Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden opened with sales of 711,000, but the Grammys are slotting that album in the Pop Field, rather than Country, which sounds right.)
Swift is the first female country artist to debut at #1 since Carrie Underwood rang the bell with Carnival Ride in October 2007. Swift is only the second country teen artist ever to land a #1 album on The Billboard 200. LeAnn Rimes rang the bell twice in 1997.
More than 129,000 copies of Fearless were sold digitally, which makes it this week's #1 Digital Album. This is the biggest digital sales week ever for an album by a female artist or for a country album.
Archuleta opened with sales of 183,000. This is the biggest first-week tally for a debut album by an Idol finalist since Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks bowed with sales of 298,000 in December 2006. Last year's winner, Jordin Sparks, debuted at #10 with sales of 119,000 for her eponymous album. Last year's runner-up, Blake Lewis, opened at #10 with sales of 98,000 for Audio Day Dream. (Sparks' album has sold the most of these three. Its stands stand at 953,000.)
Both Swift and Archuleta celebrate birthdays next month. Swift turns 19 on Dec. 13. Archuleta turns 18 on Dec. 28. That means neither had been born was Ronald Reagan was President, Lucille Ball was alive or the Berlin Wall was intact. Yikes!
In non-teen, non-Idol news, AC/DC's Black Ice this week pulls ahead of Metallica's Death Magnetic (which has been out six weeks longer) as the year's #1 hard rock album. Black Ice is #5 for the year-to-date. Death Magnetic is #7. If Black Ice keeps up its pace, it will become the first mainstream hard rock album to wind up in the year-end top five in Nielsen/SoundScan history.
Beyonce's "If I Were A Boy" returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. The song sold 170,000 downloads this week. It has sold 654,000 downloads in its first four weeks. Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce will debut next week. (See item below.)
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 592,000. This is Swift's third top 10 album. Her debut, Taylor Swift, peaked at #5 in January. Beautiful Eyes, a Wal-Mart exclusive that was designed to fill the gap between her first and second albums, debuted at #9 in July. Fearless sold 15 times more copies in its first week than Swift's debut did. Taylor Swift opened (at #19) in October 2006 with first-week sales of 39,000. Eleven songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "White Horse," which enters at #5.
2. David Archuleta, David Archuleta, 183,000. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Crush," which moves up to #14. After 14 weeks, "Crush" has sold 992,000 downloads. That's nearly as many as Season 7 winner David Cook's "The Time Of My Life" has sold (1,000,000) in 26 weeks.
3. Various Artists, NOW 29, 172,000. This is the 26th regular NOW installment to debut in the top three. Only NOW 1, NOW 3 and NOW 26 fell short. This first-week tally, however, is a far cry from the franchise's glory days. This is the third regular NOW volume in a row to start with sales of fewer than 200,000 copies. It's the first time in the franchise's history that three regular volumes in a row have started below 200K.
4. T-Pain, Thr33 Ringz, 167,000. This is the rapper's second album in a row to debut in the top five. This represents a slight drop from his last album, Epiphany, which opened at #1 in June 2007 with first-week sales of 171,000. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Can't Believe It" (featuring Lil' Wayne), which dips to #34.
6. AC/DC, Black Ice, 105,000. The album dips from #2 to #6 in its fourth week. It has sold 1,320,000 copies to date. How does this compare to previous Wal-Mart exclusives? Glad you asked. After four weeks, Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden had sold 1,452,000 copies; Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits had sold 860,000. (Eagles define mass appeal.)
7. Various Artists, High School Musical 3 soundtrack, 94,000. The album drops from #3 to #7 in its fourth week. It finally surpasses the first-week sales tally (615,000) of HSM2. The movie grossed $5.9 million at the box-office this week, bringing its four-week total to $84.4 million. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Now Or Never," which falls to #118.
8. Enya, And Winter Came, 92,000. This is Enya's fourth top 10 album, following The Memory Of Trees, A Day Without Rain and Amarantine. This is the first holiday album to make the top 10 this holiday season. (By comparison, last year at this point, Josh Groban's Noel was #2 on his way to a five-week run at #1.) And Winter Came is #1 on this week's Holiday Albums chart. One song from the album is listed on Hot Digital Songs (see item below).
9. Christina Aguilera, Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade Of Hits, 73,000. This Target exclusive is Aguilera's fourth top 10 album, following Christina Aguilera, Stripped and Back To Basics. This is the latest in a long line of top 10 albums to refer to the artist's first 10 years of stardom. Others include Motley Crue's Decade Of Decadence '81-'91, Janet Jackson's Design Of A Decade 1986/1996 and Celine Dion's All The Way...A Decade Of Song. "Keeps Getting' Better" moves up to #17 on Hot Digital Songs.
10. T.I., Paper Trail, 62,000. The album drops from #7 to #10 in its seventh week. It holds at #10 on the year-to-date chart. Four songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna), which holds at #2. T.I.'s smash "Whatever You Like" appears on two top 10 albums this week. It's also featured on Now 29.
Six albums fall out of the top 10 this week. Hinder's Take It To The Limit drops from #4 to #16, Pink's Funhouse dips from #5 to #11, John Legend's Evolver drops from #6 to #12, Andrea Bocelli's Incanto drops from #8 to #14, Brad Paisley's Play falls from #9 to #22 and Rascal Flatts' Greatest Hits-Vol. 1 drops from #10 to #15.
Seal's Soul opens at #13. It's his second-highest charting album, topped only by Seal IV, which reached #3 in 2003. David Foster produced this collection of soul covers. Foster's own album, Hit Man, bows at #46. The album was recorded live in Las Vegas in May and features such chart-topping artists as Michael Buble, Celine Dion, Kenny G and Josh Groban. This is Foster's highest-charting album as an artist. It edges out The Christmas Album, which hit #48 in 1993.
Best Of Now: 10th Anniversary opens at #32. The first Now volume entered the Nielsen/SoundScan chart on Nov. 1, 1998. All 29 regular Now volumes have reached the top 10. The last 28 have made the top five. The best-seller is Now 5, which has sold 4,789,000 copies. The album featured #1 Hot 100 hits by *NSYNC, Janet and Sisqo.
Ups & Downs: George Strait's Troubadour vaults from #83 to #37 in the wake of its being named Album of the Year on the Country Music Assn. Awards. Sales surged 203%, more than any other non-debuting album. The album, which bowed at #1 in April, has sold 625,000 copies in its first 33 weeks. On the down side, Shiny Toy Guns' Season Of Poison falls from #47 to #145 in its second week. Sales fell off by 61%, the steepest drop in the top 200.
Two of the greatest vocalists who ever lived enter the album chart this week. Aretha Franklin bows at #103 with This Christmas. Luciano Pavarotti bows at #164 with Duets. Franklin first hit the pop chart in 1962. Pavarotti first charted in 1979. Franklin has never had a #1 album (!), though she did climb as high as #2 twice, with I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You in 1967 and Aretha: Lady Soul in 1968. Pavarotti climbed as high as #4 with the The 3 Tenors In Concert 1994.
Hilary Duff's Best Of Hilary Duff bows at #125. This is Duff's second hits package. Her last release, 2005's Most Wanted, was also a greatest hits set. Duff has now had as many hits compilations as she has pop studio albums. Duff needs to get off her, well, duff.
It's That Time Of Year: Josh Groban's Noel is #1 on the Catalog Albums chart for the second week. The album sold 57,000 copies this week and would have held at #11 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. Noel is #2 on this week's Holiday Albums chart, behind Enya's And Winter Came. Holiday albums account for more than one-fifth of this week's 200 best-selling albums (counting catalog). (The precise number is 44.) In addition, Christmas songs are starting to hit Hot Digital Songs. Enya's "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" debuts at #94. Mariah Carey's zippy "All I Want For Christmas Is You" re-enters at #126. Carey's song has sold 941,000 downloads to date and will surely top the 1 million mark this season.
Queen Celine: Celine Dion's 1998 album These Are Special Times this week becomes the first holiday album by a female artist to top the 5 million mark in Nielsen/SoundScan history. It has sold 5,006,000 copies. It just barely beat out Mariah Carey's 1994 release Merry Christmas, which has sold 4,918,000 copies. But both of these ladies were beaten to the punch by Barbra Streisand, whose A Christmas Album has been certified for sales of 5,000,000 by the Recording Industry Assn. of America. The album was released in 1967, nearly 24 years before Nielsen/SoundScan set up shop.
Heads Up: Beyonce and Nickelback, both of whom debuted at #1 with their last albums, will vie for top debut honors on next week's chart. Beyonce will release the 2-CD I Am...Sasha Fierce. Nickelback has Dark Horse, the long-awaited follow-up to the three-year-old All The Right Reasons. David Cook, the reigning American Idol, will bow with his eponymous debut album. Mudvayne, which debuted at #2 with its last album, Lost And Found, is due with The New Game. Il Divo, which has had three top 10 albums since 2005, returns with The Promise. Also expected: Rod Stewart's 2-CD set, Best Of Rod Stewart; Slim's Love's Crazy, Juanes' La Vida Es Un Ratico En Vivo, Blake Shelton's Startin' Fires, Dido's Safe Trip Home and Ricardo Arjona's Quinto Piso.
Forty-five years ago this week, on Nov. 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Before that year was out, two spoken-word tribute albums to the slain President had reached the Billboard chart. One of these, That Was The Week That Was, entered the top five on Feb. 8, 1964--the same week as another iconic release, Meet The Beatles! By the end of 1965, a total of 10 JFK tribute albums had charted. One featured Kennedy's complete 1961 Inaugural Address on Side 1 and speeches by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Side 2. JFK and FDR are the only U.S. Presidents who have appeared on the Billboard chart. I hope others do in the future but not, let's fervently hope, under the same circumstances.
Shameless Plug: Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. To help set the mood, I'm going to count down the 25 biggest turkeys in Nielsen/SoundScan history. These are the 25 lowest-selling #1 albums from May 1991, when the company began tracking sales for Billboard, through the end of 2006. And no, they're not all turkeys. (How could you call a Bruce Springsteen album a turkey? Or albums by Prince or Madonna?) But of the 365 albums that topped the chart from May 25, 1991 through Dec. 31, 2006, these are the 25 that have sold the fewest total copies. Look for my latest Chart Watch Extra on Friday.