Josh Groban's Noel holds at #1 for the fourth straight week, with sales of 669,000. This brings the album's total sales to 2,773,000, which puts it ahead of High School Musical 2 as the year's top-seller. The soundtrack's year-to-date sales are 2,704,000. There are still two chart weeks to go in the year, but that extra time will only allow Noel to fatten its lead. It's the first time in the SoundScan era (which dates to 1991) that a holiday album will finish #1 for the year. Before this, only one holiday album has appeared in a year-end top 10. That was in 1994, when Kenny G's Miracles—The Holiday Album ranked #8 for the year. What's more, Groban is just a week away from smashing Kenny G's record for the greatest sales by a seasonal album in a calendar year. Miracles sold 2,987,000 copies in 1994.
Noel debuted on SoundScan's chart on Oct. 14—the latest in the year that the #1 album of the year has first appeared in SoundScan history. The old record was set in 1994, when The Lion King arrived on June 5.
Some of you may have noticed that Billboard's year-end chart, also based on SoundScan information, showed Daughtry's eponymous debut album as the year's top-seller. How can that be? Billboard's survey period for its year-end charts is Dec. 2, 2006 through Nov. 24, 2007. That closing date corresponds to SoundScan's chart for Nov. 11, which means that the last five weeks of chart action (and the two weeks still to come) weren't included in this year's Billboard survey.
This is the eighth consecutive week that Noel has seen its sales increase over the previous week. The album's sales dipped slightly in its second week, but have registered increases ever since. Only two albums in SoundScan history have seen fatter sales weeks this deep into their run. The Titanic soundtrack sold 848,000 copies in its 10th week in February 1998. Mariah Carey's Daydream sold 760,000 in its 12th week in December 1995.
Noel is the second holiday album in the rock era to log four weeks at #1, following Elvis Presley's 1957 release, Elvis' Christmas Album. But it still has a long way to go to match Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas, which, in various configurations, logged a total of 39 weeks at #1 between 1945 and 1957. While we're back in the pre-rock era, I'll point out that Groban is not the first singer with an operatic bent to reach #1 with a holiday album. In 1951, famed tenor Mario Lanza topped the chart with Mario Lanza Sings Christmas Songs. (The album featured several songs that Groban would cover 56 years later, including "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night" and, yes, "The First Noel.")
This is the eighth consecutive week that the #1 album has topped 400,000 in sales—the longest such streak in eight years. In November-December 2000, the #1 album topped 400K for nine straight weeks, thanks to must-have releases by Jay-Z, R. Kelly, the Beatles and Backstreet Boys. The difference, of course, is that 2000 was the peak year for the music industry. This year has been one that the industry would very much like to forget.
Alicia Keys's As I Am holds at #2, with sales of 292,000. This brings its sales to 1,876,000, which puts it at #8 for the year-to-date. It is now the year's top-selling R&B album (surpassing Akon's Konvicted).
The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden holds at #3, with sales of 241,000. This brings its sales to 2,210,000, which puts it at #4 for the year-to-date. It will be the highest that a double-disk album has ranked for the year in the SoundScan era. That record has been held by OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which was #5 for 2003. It will also be the highest that a veteran act (defined as an act that has been around for 20 years or more) has ranked for the year in the SoundScan era. That record has been held by Santana's Supernatural, which was #5 for 2000.
Now 26 holds at #4, with sales of 192,000. Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Song, featuring Johnny Mathis and Olivia Newton-John, vaults from #11 to #5, its highest ranking to date. It's the ensemble's third top five album, following Christmas In The Aire in 1995 and Christmas Extraordinaire in 2001. Newton-John and Mannheim Steamroller collaborated on a previous holiday album, 1998's The Christmas Angel—A Family Story. Along with Mannheim mastermind Chip Davis, she narrated the story on that mostly instrumental album.
High School Musical 2 holds at #6, while Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus dips from #5 to #7. Both TV soundtracks sold 178,000 this week. Three country albums round out the top 10. Taylor Swift's eponymous debut album moves up a notch to #8, while Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride and Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits each slip two rungs to #9 and #10, respectively. Swift is #11 for the year-to-date and will replace Nickelback's All The Right Reasons in the year-to-date top 10 next week. Taylor Swift will most likely be the only "pure" country release in the year-end top 10. The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden is a hard-to-categorize pop/rock/country hybrid.
Blake Lewis' Audio Day Dream falls from #10 to #32. This is a steeper second-week drop than Jordin Sparks made two weeks ago when she slipped from #10 to #18. (Sparks dips a couple of rungs to #26 this week—putting her ahead of her one-time rival.) That's the music business for you: Audio Day Dreams give way to Chart Night Mares. (I have now offended both of this year's Idol finalists.)
The Bow Wow/Omarion collaboration, Face Off, is the week's top entry at #11. Omarion's two previous solo albums, O and 21, both opened at #1. This is the sixth consecutive top 15 album for Bow Wow. Both of these acts have evolved and matured from the way they were first presented to the public. Bow Wow was dubbed Lil Bow Wow on his first two albums. Omarion started out in the group B2K, which peaked in 2002 when its eponymous debut album opened at #2.
Five other albums debut in the top 40. Birdman's 5 Stunna opens at #18, followed by Mario's Go! At #21, Wu-Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams at #25, The Dream's Lovehate at #30 and Beanie Sigel's Solution at #37. Birdman has had two top 10 albums, Fast Money in 2005 and Like Father, Like Son, a collaboration with Lil Wayne, last year.
Year-End Extra: Between now and February, we're going to be inundated with awards, so what's a few more? The envelope, please:
Most provocative album title: Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead.
Least provocative album title: Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Most creative album title: (a tie) Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Big & Rich's Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace.
Least creative album title: Korn's Untitled. Runner-up: Barbra Streisand's Live Concert 2006.
Most cryptic album title: Maroon5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long.
Loopiest album title: Joss Stone's third album, Introducing Joss Stone.
Best homage to a classic album title: Matchbox 20's Exile On Mainstream.
Best use of religious imagery in an album title: The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden. Runners-up: Mims' Music Is My Savior, Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, Kid Rock's Rock & Roll Jesus, Plies' Real Testament, Casting Crowns' Altar & The Door, James Blunt's All The Lost Souls.
Best use of profanity in an album title: Avril Lavigne's Best Damn Thing. Runner-up: Hell Yeah's Hell Yeah.
Best evidence that marketing people still like buzzwords: Garth Brooks' Ultimate Hits, Santana's Ultimate Santana, Chamillionaire's Ultimate Victory.