Which country artist has had the most #1 albums on The Billboard 200 in this decade? Just last week, the correct answer would have been that it was a tie between Kenny Chesney and Alan Jackson, with four #1 albums each since 2000. But with Lucky Old Sun debuting on top this week, Chesney pulls ahead and lands his fifth #1 album, all in this decade.
Only one country artist, Garth Brooks, has more #1 albums in the entire 63-year history of Billboard's album chart. Brooks landed eight #1 albums from Ropin' The Wind in 1991 through Scarecrow in 2001.
Among all artists, not just country, Chesney is tied for second place for the most #1 albums in this decade. Jay-Z leads the field with nine #1 albums since 2000. R. Kelly is tied with Chesney with five chart-toppers in this decade.
Chesney had four straight #1 studio albums from No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems in 2002 through The Road And The Radio in 2005, but then peaked at #3 in September 2007 with Just Who I Am: Poets And Pirates. That was the week that Kanye West and 50 Cent had their famous chart showdown. The rap titans debuted in the top two spots with Graduation and Curtis, respectively, denying Chesney his usual #1 debut. And how have those three albums fared over the long haul? Graduation is still in front, with total sales of 2,183,000, but Just Who I Am (1,448,000) has pulled ahead of Curtis (1,342,000).
Chesney is also taking aim at another of Brooks' most cherished records. Chesney is a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards, which will be presented on Nov. 12. If Chesney wins, he'll tie Brooks as the only person ever to win the top prize four times. (Chesney is competing with George Strait, a two-time winner in the category; Keith Urban, who won in 2005; Brad Paisley and Sugarland.)
There are a lot of awards, but for a country artist, the CMA Award for Entertainer of the Year is the big one. Chesney won it in 2004, 2006 and 2007. (He lost to Urban in 2005 in the wake of his messy annulment from actress Renee Zellweger. Voters are looking for a good ambassador for country music and the chatter surrounding the annulment temporarily got in the way.)
This is the first time that an album has debuted at #1 when only a deluxe edition, with added content and a higher price, was available. The deluxe edition of Sugarland's Love On The Inside debuted at #2 in July (albeit with a higher sales tally than Chesney managed this week). It jumped to #1 in its second week, after a basic, no frills edition had been released. (Sales of the two editions were combined.) Chesney's no frills edition is due next week. (Sales will again be combined.)
Lucky Old Sun is the second album in seven weeks to use as its title song the 1949 chestnut, "That Lucky Old Sun." Brian Wilson's latest album opens with the song and reprises it three times. Chesney and Willie Nelson sing the song as a duet to close Chesney's album. Frankie Laine introduced the song and took it to #1 in October 1949. Four other artists-Vaughn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and jazz legends Sarah Vaughan and Louis Armstrong-had top 20 hits with it that year (multiple hit versions were common in those days). Ray Charles put the song back in the top 20 on the Hot 100 in 1964.
Britney Spears' "Womanizer" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second straight week. The song sold 201,000 downloads this week, pushing its two-week total to 487,000.
Here's the lowdown on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun, 176,000. This is the second biggest first-week total for a country album so far in 2008. Sugarland's Love On The Inside bowed in July with sales of 314,000. Chesney's total is the fattest by a male country artist since Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits debuted in November with sales of 352,000. Two songs from Chesney's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I'm Alive" (featuring Dave Matthews), which bows at #81.
2. T.I., Paper Trail, 132,000. The album slips to #2 after two weeks on top. After just three weeks, Paper Trail has sold 878,000 copies, which puts it at #18 for the year to date. Only one rap album-Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III-has sold more copies in 2008. Five songs from T.I.'s album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna), which holds at #2 for the second week after one week on top.
3. Ray LaMontagne, Gossip In The Grain, 60,000. This new entry is the roots-rocker's first top 10 album. He hit #28 in 2006 with his sophomore album, Till The Sun Turns Black. More than half of the copies (32,000) were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Are The Best Thing," which bows at #52.
4. Metallica, Death Magnetic, 51,000. The album slips from #2 to #4 in its sixth week in the top five. This is Metallica's longest run in the top five since Load had eight weeks in the winners circle in 1996. Death Magnetic is #8 for the year-to-date. "The Day That Never Comes" drops from #113 to #132 on Hot Digital Songs.
5. Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson, 46,000. The album slips from #4 to #5 in its third week in the top five. The last album by an Oscar-winner-turned-pop-star, Jamie Foxx's Unpredictable, spent seven weeks in the top five in 2005-2006. "Spotlight" dips from #49 to #61 on Hot Digital Songs.
6. Kid Rock, Rock And Roll Jesus, 45,000. The album inches up to #6 in its 19th week in the top 10. It's #3 for the year-to-date. Rock Heroes' cover of "All Summer Long" dips from #22 to #24 on Hot Digital Songs. It has sold 279,000 downloads to date. Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 hit "Sweet Home Alabama," which is heavily featured in the song, dips from #144 to #148. It has sold 488,000 downloads since Kid Rock's album was released in October 2007.
7. Keane, Perfect Symmetry, 43,000. This new entry is Keane's second album in a row to reach the top 10. Under The Iron Sea hit #4 in June 2006. The English trio first charted in 2004 with Hopes And Fears. "Spiralling" enters Hot Digital Songs at #133.
8. Ne-Yo, Year Of The Gentleman, 40,000. The album holds at #8 in its fifth week in the top 10. Ne-Yo is just the latest in a long line of artists to proclaim this the Year Of something. Al Stewart declared 1976 Year Of The Cat. Neil Young & Crazy Horse dubbed 1997 Year Of The Horse. Cold called 2003 Year Of The Spider. DMX dubbed 2006 Year Of The Dog...Again. Ne-Yo has two songs in the top 30 on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Miss Independent," which jumps from #23 to #20.
9. Lucinda Williams, Little Honey, 35,000. This new entry is Williams' first top 10 album in a chart career stretching back more than a decade. She had two previous top 20 albums. World Without Tears reached #18 in 2003. West debuted at #14 in 2007. Williams has won Grammys in three different fields of music (country, folk and rock) which is highly unusual. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.
10. James Taylor, Covers, 31,000. The album holds at #10 for the second week after debuting at #4. This is Taylor's third album of the last 30 years to log three weeks in the top 10. It follows Dad Loves His Work in 1981 and October Road in 2002. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.
Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Rise Against's Appeal To Reason plummets from #3 to #19, Oasis' Dig Out Your Soul nosedives from #5 to #36, Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Tapes, Vol. 8 falls from #6 to #27, and Tim McGraw's Greatest Hits Vol. 3 falls from #9 to #25.
Lil Wayne Watch: Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, the year's #1 album, inches up from #13 to #12. This is the 20th consecutive week that at least five songs from the album have appeared on Hot Digital Songs.
Billy Currington's Little Bit Of Everything bows at #13. It's the country singer's third album, and his second in a row to just miss the top 10. Currington peaked at #11 with his 2005 album, Doin' Somethin' Right.
Jonas Brothers' A Little Bit Longer tops the 1 million mark in sales this week, as it inches up from #16 to #15. The album took just 10 weeks to top the million mark. The trio's eponymous sophomore album took 29 weeks to reach the milestone. As of this week, Jonas Brothers has sold 1,637,000 copies. "Burnin' Up," the biggest hit from A Little Bit Longer, has sold 1,210,000 downloads. That's more than "S.O.S.," the biggest hit from Jonas Brothers, which has sold 1,180,000 downloads.
Ingrid Michaelson's Be OK debuts at #35. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by the title song, which debuts at #51. Be OK is off to a much faster start than Michaelson's previous album, the sleeper hit Girls & Boys, which entered the chart in September 2007-16 months after it was released.
Yo-Yo Ma lands the highest-charting album of his career as his holiday album, Songs Of Joy And Peace, debuts at #41. The classical cellist first charted in 1992. His highest-charting album before this week was Obrigado Brazil, which hit #58 in 2003. Songs Of Joy And Peace is #2 on this week's Holiday Albums chart, behind the Nightmare Revisited collection.
Ups & Downs: Adele's 19 surges from #129 to #46 in its 19th week. The album experienced a sales gain of 145%, more than any other non-debuting title. Adele was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in the week that Gov. Sarah Palin made a cameo appearance, leading to the show's best ratings in 14 years. Adele performed her hit "Chasing Pavements," which re-enters the Hot Digital Songs chart at #82. On the down side, Michelle Williams' Unexpected fell from #42 to #190 in its second week. Sales dropped by 75%, the steepest drop in the top 200. This sort of thing never happened when Williams was in Destiny's Child.
The Boss: Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits topped the 4 million mark seven weeks ago. (As of this week, it's up to 4,021,000.) Springsteen was well on his way to becoming a legend before he landed his first top 20 hit. For a long time, it looked like Springsteen would be one of those album artists for whom a greatest hits set wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. But pop radio started to warm up to him with "Hungry Heart" in November 1980 and it fully embraced him with 1984's Born In The U.S.A., which became only the second album (following Michael Jackson's Thriller) to spawn seven top 10 hits. By 1995, when Greatest Hits was released, he had amassed 15 top 20 hits. Greatest Hits is Springsteen's best-selling album of the Nielsen/SoundScan era, which began in 1991, though the 1984 blockbuster Born In The U.S.A. remains his all-time best-seller.
R.I.P. What's the best Motown record of all time? You could spend hours debating that one. But one record that would high on just about everybody's list would be Four Tops' 1966 smash "Reach Out I'll Be There." Levi Stubbs, whose deep, gruff vocal gave that recording much of its power and passion, died this week. This week also saw the death of Dee Warwick, who had the first charted version of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (which became a 1968 smash for Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations). Warwick was part of one of the most musical of all families. Dionne Warwick was her sister; Cissy Houston was her aunt; Whitney Houston was her cousin. Now those are good genes.
Catalog Report: AC/DC's 1980 classic Back In Black returns to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. The album sold 9,000 copies this week and would have ranked #52 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there.
Heads Up: AC/DC's Black Ice, the hard rock band's first album in more than eight years, is expected to debut at #1 next week with a huge tally. The album, a Wal-Mart exclusive, may even surpass the first-week sales tally (711,000) registered in November by another Wal-Mart exclusive, Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden. Black Ice will compete with High School Musical 3: Graduation Day, the first HSM installment to be released theatrically. The soundtracks to two earlier Disney Channel stanzas both reached #1. Three songs from HSM3 are already listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Now Or Never" at #123. Lee Ann Womack, whose last three studio albums have reached the top 20, will surely keep her streak alive with Call Me Crazy. Also due: Mary Mary's The Sound, country singer Craig Morgan's That's Why, Calle 13's Los De Atras Vienen Conmigo, Hector El Father's Juicio Final and the latest by the Mexican group Grupo Montez De Durango. (High school Spanish is finally paying off.)
Happy Halloween: You can tell Halloween is coming from a couple of moves on the Hot Digital Songs chart. Michael Jackson's "Thriller," featuring a spooky spoken part by screen star Vincent Price, jumps from #142 to #103. And Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt Kickers' "Monster Mash," a #1 hit way back in 1962, debuts at #151.