Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, jumps to #1 on this week's Catalog Albums chart, thanks to the release of a 2-CD "Legacy Edition." Ten helped to set the course of rock in the '90s, with such tracks as "Jeremy" and "Alive." In addition, the album was a commercial powerhouse. It has sold 9,662,000 copies since its release in late 1991, which makes it the 19th best-selling album since Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard that same year. Yet, despite amassing an impressive 35 weeks in the top 10, Ten never reached #1. How can it be that such a classic, massive-selling album failed to top the chart? It logged four weeks at #2 in August-September 1992 behind Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All, the album that gave us "Achy Breaky Heart." Ten is far from the only classic and/or hugely popular album that stalled at #2.
Shania Twain's Come On Over is the best-selling album of the Nielsen/SoundScan era, with sales of 15,478,000. The album logged 54 weeks in the top 10. Eight songs from the album reached the Hot 100, including three that went top 10: "You're Still The One," "From This Moment On" and "That Don't Impress Me Much." Yet Come On Over also failed to hit #1. It peaked at #2 in November 1997 behind two different #1 albums, Mase's Harlem World and Barbra Streisand's Higher Ground. How can this be? It just means that there was never a week when Come On Over was the best-selling album in the U.S. But there were many weeks when it was one of the best-sellers, which allowed it to pile up its enormous sales tally.
A total of 407 albums have peaked at #2 since Billboard combined its separate mono and stereo charts in 1963. In most cases, it's not a great injustice that these albums stalled at #2. (Often, they were lucky to get that far!) But some of these #2 albums really seem like they should have made #1--and probably would have if they'd had better luck or timing. Many of these albums had the misfortune of going up against blockbusters that just wouldn't budge. Some, like Come On Over, were blocked by two different albums. (Four unlucky releases peaked at #2 behind three different albums.)
Here are 30 more heavyweight albums that you probably always assumed hit #1. No such luck. Let's take them in reverse chronological order.
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Raising Sand. This album debuted at #2 in October 2007 behind Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride and returned to #2 in February 2009 in the wake of its Grammy victory as Album of the Year. Oddly, it again was kept from the top spot by a female country singer's sophomore album: Taylor Swift's Fearless. Raising Sand is the only album to peak at #2 in non-consecutive years.
Fergie, The Dutchess. Fergie's solo debut album took 51 weeks to finally reach its #2 peak in September 2007. (It was stopped by High School Musical 2.) The album spawned five top five hits, including the #1 smashes "London Bridge," "Glamorous" (featuring Ludacris) and "Big Girls Don't Cry." Fergie had also stalled in the runner-up spot with Black Eyed Peas' highest-charting album. The album, which contained four top 20 hits, Monkey Business debuted at #2 in June 2005 behind Coldplay's X&Y.
Akon, Konvicted. Akon's sophomore album logged four weeks at #2 and spawned such smash hits as "Smack That" (featuring Eminem) and "I Wanna Love You" (featuring Snoop Dogg). This is the first of four albums that peaked at #2 behind three different #1 albums. Konvicted debuted at #2 in November 2006 behind The Game's Doctor's Advocate and returned to the runner-up spot in December behind Omarion's 21. It stayed there in January 2007 behind the Dreamgirls soundtrack.
Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts. Underwood's debut album logged 25 weeks in the top 10 and contained three top 20 hits, including "Before He Cheats" and "Jesus, Take The Wheel." The album debuted at #2 in November 2005 behind Madonna's Confessions On A Dance Floor and returned to the runner-up spot in December behind another superstar release, Eminem's Curtain Call. (Some Hearts has sold more than twice as many copies as Curtain Call and nearly four times as many as Madonna's album.)
Avril Lavigne, Let Go. Lavigne's debut album logged 37 weeks in the top 10 and spawned three top 10 hits, "Complicated," "I'm With You" and "Sk8er Boi." The album first hit #2 in September 2002 behind Dixie Chicks' Home. It returned to the runner-up spot in January 2003 behind Norah Jones' Come Away With Me.
Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory. This smash debut release was the best-selling album of 2001. It's the only #1 album of the year in Nielsen/SoundScan history that didn't reach #1 on the weekly charts. The album logged three weeks at #2 in December 2001-January 2002 behind Creed's giant hit Weathered. In February, Hybrid Theory returned to #2 for a fourth week behind a less formidable hit, Jennifer Lopez's J To Tha Lo! Hybrid amassed 33 weeks in the top 10 and spawned three hits, including the #2 smash "In The End."
*NSYNC, *NSYNC. This debut album logged 30 weeks in the top 10 and spawned three top 15 hits, "I Want You Back," "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You." The album spent three weeks at #2 from September 1998 to January 1999. It peaked behind three different #1 albums, all blockbusters: Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, Garth Brooks' Double Live and Britney Spears' Baby One More Time.
Green Day, Dookie. The alternative band's major-label debut album logged 30 weeks in the top 10 and spawned five airplay hits, including "Basket Case" and "When I Come Around." But it stalled at #2 for two weeks in January 1995 behind Garth Brooks' The Hits. It's tough to get past the hottest act of the decade.
Kenny G, Breathless. This album spent 11 weeks at #2 from January to May 1993 behind just one album: Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack. Kenny G couldn't have been too unhappy, though. One of his recordings, "Even If My Heart Would Break," was featured on both albums. Breathless logged 35 weeks in the top 10 and spawned three chart singles, including the top 20 hit, "Forever In Love."
Madonna, The Immaculate Collection. This was the first greatest hits collection by one of the biggest hit-makers of all time. But the collection stalled at #2 for two weeks in January-February 1991. What could have kept such a hit-studded package out of the #1 spot? Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme. A one hit-wonder (OK, a two-hit wonder) beat out a pop icon.
Wilson Phillips, Wilson Phillips. This debut album by second-generation pop stars logged 52 weeks in the top 10. It spawned five top 15 hits, including three that reached #1: "Hold On," "Release Me" and "You're In Love." But the album didn't quite make #1. It spent 10 weeks at #2 from August to October 1990 behind M.C. Hammer's pop/rap blockbuster, Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em.
Whitesnake, Whitesnake. This top-seller logged 41 weeks in the top 10, including 10 weeks at #2 from June to October 1987. It spawned two smash hits, "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love." The album peaked at #2 behind three different #1 albums; again, all blockbusters: U2's The Joshua Tree, Whitney Houston's Whitney and Michael Jackson's Bad.
Peter Gabriel, So. This album logged three weeks at #2 in July-August 1986 behind the Top Gun soundtrack. But Gabriel may have been more focused on an album that peaked at #3 in one of those weeks, Genesis' Invisible Touch. (Gabriel fronted that band from 1966 to 1975.) So spawned four chart hits, including the #1 "Sledgehammer." One key song from the album, "In Your Eyes," was a hit twice, in 1986 and again in 1989 when it was featured in the movie Say Anything.
Sting, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles. Sting's first solo album spawned four top 20 hits, including "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" and "Fortress Around Your Heart." But the album got stuck at #2 for six weeks in September-October 1985 behind Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms. The irony: Sting sang a prominent backup vocal on "Money For Nothing," the smash that kept the Dire Straits album glued to the top spot.
Def Leppard, Pyromania. This hard rock blockbuster spent 38 weeks in the top 10, including two weeks at #2 in May 1983. It spawned two top 20 hits, "Photograph" and "Rock Of Ages." The problem? It had to go up against Michael Jackson's Thriller, the best selling studio album of all time. The band asked Jackson to "Beat It." He countered, "The Spot Is Mine."
Stray Cats, Built For Speed. The group's rockabilly-flavored debut album logged 15 weeks at #2 from November 1982 to March 1983, more than any other album since 1963 that failed to reach #1. It spent its first 13 weeks in the runner-up spot behind Men At Work's Business As Usual. When that album finally ran its course, Thriller came along and blocked Built For Speed for two additional weeks. The album spawned two top 10 hits, "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut."
Pat Benatar, Crimes Of Passion. Benatar's sophomore spent five weeks at #2 in January-February 1981 behind Double Fantasy, John Lennon's collaboration with Yoko Ono. Double Fantasy was shaping up as a big hit even before Lennon's murder in December 1980, but the wave of sympathy that followed his death kept it locked in the top spot. Crimes Of Passion logged 29 weeks in the top 10 and spawned the top 20 hits "Treat Me Right" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Damn The Torpedoes. This was Petty's breakthrough album. It logged 20 weeks in the top 10 and spawned back-to-back top 20 hits, "Don't Do Me Like That" and "Refugee." But the album got stuck at #2 for seven weeks in February-March 1980 behind Pink Floyd's The Wall.
Billy Joel, The Stranger. The album that made Joel a superstar spawned four top 30 hits, including "Just The Way You Are" and "She's Always A Woman." It logged six weeks at #2 in February-March 1978 behind the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. (Joel got even at the Grammy Awards, where "Just The Way You Are" upset the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" for Record and Song of the Year.)
Boz Scaggs, Silk Degrees. This classic album spawned four hits, including "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle." (And this doesn't even count Rita Coolidge's smash cover version of "We're All Alone.") The album logged five weeks at #2 in September-October 1976 behind two 800-pound gorillas, Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! and Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life.
Joni Mitchell, Court And Spark. Mitchell's most celebrated album spawned the top 30 hits "Help Me" and "Free Man In Paris." It logged four weeks at #2 in March 1974 behind three different #1 albums: Bob Dylan's Planet Waves, Barbra Streisand's The Way We Were and John Denver's Greatest Hits. Planet Waves was Dylan's first #1 album, but I'll bet you anything Court And Spark outsold it.
Ringo Starr, Ringo. By the end of 1971, three of the four former Beatles had landed #1 albums on their own. This 1973 smash was Ringo's bid to join them. It spawned three top five singles, including back-to-back #1 hits, "Photograph" and "You're Sixteen." Alas, the album didn't quite make it. It spent two weeks at #2 in December 1973 behind Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
George Harrison & Friends, Concert For Bangla Desh. This all-star, three-disk set featured contributions from Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Leon Russell, among others. But it took just one man to keep it from #1. That man was Don McLean, whose American Pie finished ahead of Bangla Desh during all six of its weeks at #2 from January to March 1972. Harrison & Friends got even at the Grammy Awards, where Bangla Desh beat Pie for Album of the Year.
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV. The metal megastars have amassed seven #1 albums, but they missed out on the top spot with the album that contained their most famous song, "Stairway To Heaven." The album logged four weeks at #2 in December 1971-January 1972. It peaked behind two different #1 albums, Sly & the Family Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On and Carole King's Music, her follow-up to Tapestry.
Carpenters, Carpenters. This album contained three of the duo's biggest and best hits, "For All We Know," "Rainy Days And Mondays" and "Superstar." The album logged 24 weeks in the top 10, including two weeks at #2 in July 1971. What kept it out of the top spot? Carole King's Tapestry, a cultural touchstone and the biggest album of the era. Karen and Richard had a similar experience when their previous album, Close To You, stalled at #2 behind another baby-boomer classic, Santana's Abraxas.
Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding. Amazingly, Dylan didn't have a #1 album in the 1960s, the decade when he was at the peak of his artistry and influence. He came close with this album, which logged four weeks at #2 in February-March 1968 behind the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and then Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra's Blooming Hits. The Jimi Hendrix Experience covered "All Along The Watchtower," the key song from John Wesley Harding, and featured it on their #1 album Electric Ladyland.
The Doors, The Doors. The rock band's debut album logged 22 weeks in the top 10, including two weeks at #2 in September 1967. The album contained one of the biggest hits of its time, "Light My Fire." Unfortunately, The Doors went up against the biggest album of its time, the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. Franklin's first album for Atlantic Records spawned two top 10 hits, the title song and her landmark recording of Otis Redding's "Respect." Yet it stalled at #2 for three weeks in May-June 1967. What could possibly have kept it out of the top spot? The Monkees' More Of The Monkees. Only on the Billboard charts could the "Pre-Fab Four" triumph over the Queen of Soul.
The Rolling Stones, Aftermath. The Stones appeared to be headed for their second #1 album with this release, which included their recent #1 single "Paint It, Black." But Aftermath peaked at #2 for two weeks in August 1966 behind the Beatles' "Yesterday"...And Today. The iconic groups dueled again 17 months later. The result was the same. The Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request spent six weeks at #2 behind the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour.
Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl. This Broadway cast album logged 22 weeks in the top 10, including three weeks at #2 in June 1964. It was runner-up behind the Hello, Dolly cast album and then Louis Armstrong's album titled Hello, Dolly! Streisand apparently figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. In 1969, she played the lead in the movie version of Hello, Dolly!