If you had told me at any point after, say, 1992 that New Kids On The Block would one day have another top five album, I would have assumed you were either a die-hard fan, the group's publicist or quite possibly delusional. But that's just what happens this week as The Block opens at #2. It's the group's first top five album since Step By Step topped the chart in June 1990.
Comebacks are always unpredictable, but it's especially hard for one-time teen idols to re-emerge. Their fans have grown up and may be a tad embarrassed by their youthful infatuations. This has hurt a long line of former teen idols, from Bobby Rydell to Bobby Sherman. Among the many others who have found it hard to overcome the stigma of being a former teen star: Fabian, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy and, most recently, Rick Springfield.
New Kids' nostalgic, mid-tempo ballad "Summertime" was an ideal lead single from this album. It has solid 505,000 downloads in the past 17 weeks. And three weeks ago, a Greatest Hits album got off to a solid start, opening at #22. It may have helped set up this album by reminding people how many hits the group had back in its heyday (nine straight top 10 singles from 1988 to 1990). The group is set to begin a 48-date arena tour of the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 18 in Toronto.
New Kids first cracked the top five on the album chart in July 1989 with their second album, Hangin' Tough. This gives them a nearly 20 year span of top five albums, remarkable for one-time teen sensations.
This is New Kids' first studio album since 1994, when, in a rather desperate bid to change their image they briefly identified themselves as NKOTB. When that album barely cracked the top 40, the members went their separate ways. So New Kids had no presence during the "boy band" boom of the late '90s and the early part of this decade, when Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC were on fire. New Kids were the previous decade's boy band, which is something of negligible commercial value.
But now, they're the boy band from two decades ago, which is a different story. They're so far out, they're back in! (Backstreet Boys, alas, are now the previous decade's boy band, which explains why their 2007 album, Unbreakable, has sold just 183,000 copies. At their peak, they sold that many copies in a day.)
There's some precedent for former teen acts returning to the spotlight 15 to 20 years after their initial hurrah. Ricky Nelson hit #6 with "Garden Party" in 1972, 15 years after "I'm Walking." Paul Anka topped the chart with "(You're) Having My Baby" in 1974, 17 years after "Diana." Frankie Avalon had a scene-stealing cameo in Grease in 1978, 19 years after "Venus." Donny Osmond hit #2 with "Soldier Of Love" in 1989, 18 years after "Go Away Little Girl."
I'm not convinced that this strong debut necessarily means that New Kids are "back," but for them to have even another season in the spotlight is more than anyone foresaw.
Rapper Young Jeezy blocked New Kids from debuting at #1. New Kids also butted heads with rappers when they were on top in 1989-1990. New Kids' last #1 album, Step By Step, interrupted Hammer's five-month hold on the top spot with Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em.
Two legends who have been hitting the album chart since the Kennedy administration return this week. Brian Wilson debuts at #21 with That Lucky Old Sun. It's the pop composer's second album in a row to make a strong showing. Smile debuted (and peaked) at #13 in October 2004. Wilson led the Beach Boys to 15 top 20 albums, spanning more than 40 years, from Surfin' U.S.A. In 1963 To The Very Best Of The Beach Boys: Sounds Of Summer in 2003. The late Nina Simone bows at #3 on the Catalog Albums chart with How It Feels To Be Free. Simone's 1961 breakthrough album, Nina At Newport, hit #23. The vocalist died of cancer in 2003.
Two popular contemporary Christian acts enter the chart inside the top 10. Underoath debuts at #8. Chris Tomlin opens at #9. Underoath, a six-man rock group from Florida, has cracked the top 10 before, but this represents a first for Tomlin, a 36-year old singer/songwriter from Texas.
Pink's "So What" jumps to #1 on Hot Digital Songs, with 197,000 paid downloads. It's Pink's first #1 on this chart. Artists Stand Up To Cancer's "Just Stand Up!" vaults from #82 to #7. Babyface co-wrote and co-produced the song, which features a dozen of the hottest female singers in the business. "Just Stand Up!" joins a long line of all-star charity singles, including Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?," USA for Africa's "We Are The World" and Voices That Care's "Voices That Care," all of which made the top 20 on the Hot 100 between 1985 and 1991.
Rihanna dominates the year-to-date Hot Digital Songs chart. The red-hot performer has three songs in the top 20 (more than any other artist): "Don't Stop The Music" at #11, "Take A Bow" at #13 and "Disturbia" at #18. Chris Brown and OneRepublic each have two songs in the top 20.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Young Jeezy, The Recession, 260,000. This is the rapper's second album in a row to debut at #1. The Inspiration started on top in December 2006 with first-week sales of 352,000. (His 2005 debut album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, bowed at #2.) Nearly 29,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Put On" (featuring Kanye West) at #27. (Incidentally, this is the second #1 album in a row with a downbeat album title. It follows Slipknot's All Hope Is Gone.)
2. New Kids On The Block, The Block, 95,000. This album sold more than five times as many copies as the group's Greatest Hits did when it debuted three weeks ago at #22. Two songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Summertime" at #140. The follow-up, "Single" (featuring Ne-Yo), debuts at #147. Ne-Yo was not quite six years old (and probably a New Kids fan) when the group landed its first top 10 hit, "Please Don't Go Girl," in October 1988.
3. The Game, LAX, 89,000. The Game slips to #3 after debuting at #2 last week. The rapper's previous album, Doctor's Advocate, debuted at #1 but then plummeted to #13. So this is already The Game's longest-running top five album since his 2005 breakthrough album The Documentary, which spent nine weeks in the top five. "My Life" (featuring Lil Wayne) dips to #21 on Hot Digital Songs.
4. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 79,000. The long-running hit dips from #3 to #4 in its 48th week on the chart. This is the album's 13th week in the top 10. It had three weeks in the top 10 when it was released in 2007 and has spent the last 10 weeks there, boosted by the smash "All Summer Long." Of the current top 10 inhabitants, Kid and Lil Wayne are tied for the most total weeks in the top 10.
5. Slipknot, All Hope Is Gone, 75,000. The metal-edged hard rock band slips from #1 to #5 in its second week. Sales dropped by 69%, a steeper decline on a percentage basis than any other album in the top 200. "Psychosocial" dips to #95 on Hot Digital Songs.
6. Jonas Brothers, A Little Bit Longer, 57,000. The brothers slip from #4 to #6 in their fourth week in the top 10. They continue to be the only act with two albums in the top 20 for the year-to-date. This album is #15; Jonas Brothers is #19. Three songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Burnin' Up" at #23.
7. Various Artists, Mamma Mia! soundtrack, 56,000. The soundtrack slips from #5 to #7 in its ninth week in the top 10. Mamma Mia! and Juno are the only movie soundtracks to log nine weeks in the top 10 so far this year. Mamma Mia! has already topped Juno as the year's best-selling movie soundtrack. For the third week in a row, no songs from the album are listed on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart. The movie is selling the album. The movie ranked among the top 10 box-office hits for the eighth week. It has grossed $136.4 million.
8. Underoath, Lost In The Sound Of Separation, 56,000. This is the Christian rock group's second album to debut in the top10. The group debuted (and peaked) at #2 in June 2006 with Define The Great Line, which posted first-week sales of 98,000. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.
9. Chris Tomlin, Hello Love, 52,000. This is the contemporary Christian singer-songwriter's first top 10 album. Tomlin has made a steady climb to the top 10. Not To Us peaked at #161 in 2002. Arriving reached #39 in 2004. See The Morning hit #15 in 2006. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.
10. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 47,000. The album slips from #6 to #10 in its 13th week in the top 10. It's the first rap album to log 13 or more weeks in the top 10 since 50 Cent's The Massacre, which had 14 total weeks in the top 10 in 2005. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Got Money" (featuring T-Pain) at #25. That song title is, well, right on the money. This is the 14th consecutive week that five or more songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.
Four albums fall out of the top 10 this week. NOW Country drops from #7 to #15. Sugarland's Love On The Inside slips from #8 to #11. Solange's Sol-Angel & The Hadley St. Dreams drops from #9 to #28. Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends dips from #10 to #12.
Donnie Klang's Just A Rolling Stone opens at #19. Klang was featured on the MTV reality TV series Making The Band 4. This is a sub-par entry. Making The Band's previous contestants are O-Town, Da Band, Danity Kane and Day26, all of whom debuted in the top five with their first albums.
Terrence Howard's Shine Through It opens at #31. This is the first album by the actor, who has appeared in many films, including Hustle & Flow, for which he received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. Howard is the third Best Actor nominee in this decade to pursue a recording career, following Jamie Foxx (who had a #1 album with Unpredictable after he won an Oscar for Ray) and Will Smith (who had top 10 albums both before and after receiving his first Oscar nomination for Ali). I'm not sure what it means that all three of these men are African Americans. Perhaps it shows the influence of trailblazers like Sammy Davis Jr., who epitomized the term, "all-around entertainer."
Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog debuts at #39. This iTunes exclusive is the soundtrack to a made-for-the-Web musical starring TV veteran Neil Patrick Harris. So let me get this straight: I'm writing an Internet blog about a Web musical that has a digital-only soundtrack. I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
ABBA's Gold-Greatest Hits tops the Catalog Albums chart for the eighth week in a row. The collection sold 13,000 copies this week and would have ranked #35 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. Mamma Mia! has been a tremendous boost to this 1993 album. On July 6, just before the movie was released, Gold-Greatest Hits ranked #199 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the 200 best-selling albums in its history. This week, it is #183.
Ups & Downs: Two albums experienced sales increases of 70%, more than any other albums in the top 200. They are New Kids On The Block's Greatest Hits, which rebounds from #54 to #30 in its fourth week, and Adele's 19, which vaults from #120 to #60 in its 13th week. Adele's "Chasing Pavements" re-enters Hot Digital Songs at #105.
Heads Up: Metallica's Death Magnetic won't be in stores until Friday, which will give the competition a three-day head-start in piling up sales. No matter. Metallica is still expected to debut at #1 next week. (Three songs from the album are already listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Cyanide" at #22.) Death Magnetic will be the band's fifth #1 album. Two other former chart-toppers are also expected to enter the chart next week. LL Cool J is due with Exit 13. Natalie Cole will bow with Still Unforgettable. Also due: Jessica Simpson's first country album, Do You Know; Kardinal Offishall's eponymous debut (featuring the smash "Dangerous"); and Gym Class Heroes' The Quilt.