Chart Watch

Week Ending April 12, 2009: Breaking Records With Rascal Flatts

Chart Watch

If I asked you to name the only group or duo to amass four #1 albums in this decade, I bet most of you would think of a rock powerhouse such as the Dave Matthews Band or Linkin Park. Both would be good guesses, but the correct answer is Rascal Flatts, which this week racks up its fourth #1 album. The country trio first topped The Billboard 200 in 2004 with Feels Like Today and has returned to the top spot with Me And My Gang, Still Feels Good and now Unstoppable. Five rock groups are tied for second place with three #1 albums each since January 2000. The Dave Matthews Band and Linkin Park are among them, as are Staind, System Of A Down and Disturbed. This shows the tremendous growth that country music has made in the past 20 years. Alabama, the hottest country group of the '80s, never climbed above #10 on the weekly "pop" chart. The Statler Brothers, the top country group of the '60s, never even made the top 100. Rascal Flatts sets another record this week, becoming the first country duo or group ever to amass four #1 albums. The trio edges out Dixie Chicks, which has had three. Unstoppable sold 351,000 copies this week. That's the second biggest weekly tally so far in 2009, trailing U2's No Line On The Horizon, which opened with sales of 484,000. But it's significantly less than Rascal Flatts' last album, Still Feels Good, which bowed with sales of 547,000 in September 2007. And it's less than half of the first-week tally (722,000) posted by Me And My Gang in April 2006. (That was the biggest weekly tally for any album in 2006, ahead of albums by Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z.)

Unstoppable debuts at #1 one week after Keith Urban's Defying Gravity opened in the top spot. This marks the first time that country albums have debuted at #1 back-to-back since Reba McEntire's Reba Duets and Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good did the trick in September 2007. (Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride and Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden subsequently equaled the feat, but I'm going to follow the Grammys' lead and classify Eagles' album as pop.)

Four of this week's top 10 albums are country, which is due to the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast 10 days ago. Rascal Flatts and Urban are joined in the top 10 by Jason Aldean, who debuts at #4, and the inexhaustible Taylor Swift, who rebounds to #6. In addition, Miley Cyrus' country-friendly Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack rebounds to #2. The album features two tracks by Rascal Flatts and one by Swift, giving them double presence in this week's top 10. Swift's Fearless tops the 3 million mark this week. It's Swift's second studio album in row to reach this plateau. Her 2006 debut album Taylor Swift has topped the 4 million mark. The last act to have back-to-back studio albums reach the 3 million mark was Alicia Keys, who has hit that level (or better) with all three of her studio sets, Songs In A Minor, The Diary Of Alicia Keys and As I Am.

I'm sure you read that Hannah Montana: The Movie was #1 at the box-office in its opening weekend, with a gross of $32.3 million. The soundtrack has sold 421,000 copies in its first three weeks. That's substantially more than Now 30, the album that kept it from debuting at #1 two weeks ago. In its first three weeks, Now 30 has sold 332,000 copies. Timing is everything.

Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second week. The smash sold 335,000 downloads this week, bringing its two-week total to 804,000. The digital universe has grown tremendously since the songs from the Peas' last album, Monkey Business, were hits in 2005. "Don't Phunk With My Heart" sold 52,000 downloads in its fattest week at #1 on Hot Digital Songs. "My Humps" sold 58,000 in its only week on top. Let's look at this another way: "Don't Phunk With My Heart" took 38 weeks to reach the 800,000 mark in paid downloads, compared to just two weeks for the group's current smash. "My Humps" took 22 weeks.

I told you last week that the race for #1 between Keith Urban and Prince was the closest in nearly eight months. The margin between the top two albums was less than 4,000 copies. Here's another sign of how close it was: Prince actually won the race if you count only CDs. He sold 168,000 CDs, compared to Urban's 134,000. But Prince's album wasn't available digitally, and Urban's was. As Billboard's Keith Caulfield pointed out in his column this week, Urban sold 37,000 digital albums, which pushed him ahead overall.

Song Scorecard: "Dead And Gone," by T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake topped the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. Two earlier T.I. hits, "Whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna), have hit this threshold and have gone on to sell 3 million downloads. This is the second hit on which Timberlake had featured billing to top the 2 million mark. It follows Madonna's 2008 smash "4 Minutes." (As a lead artist, Timberlake topped the 3 million mark with "SexyBack.") Also, the Pussycat Dolls notch their second 2-million-selling download this week with "When I Grow Up." It follows their 2005 hit "Don't Cha" (featuring Busta Rhymes). "Don't Cha" took 3-1/2 years to reach the 2 million mark in paid downloads. "When I Grow Up" did it in 46 weeks.

Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.

1. Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable, 351,000. This new entry is the trio's fifth consecutive studio album to debut in the top five. The winning streak started with Melt in 2002. More than 58,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Here Comes Goodbye" at #49.

2. Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack, 196,000. The album rebounds from #5 to #2 in the wake of the movie's opening. Nine songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "The Climb," which climbs to #3.

3. Jadakiss, The Last Kiss, 135,000. This is the rapper's third solo album in a row to debut in the top five. It follows Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, which bowed at #5 in August 2001, and Kiss Of Death, which opened at #1 in June 2004. Jadakiss also had two top five albums with The Lox and two more with Ruff Ryders. That's seven top five albums since 1998. Why isn't this man a bigger media star? No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Jason Aldean, Wide Open, 109,000. This new entry is Aldean's second album in a row to debut at #4. First-week sales are up compared to the last album. (How often do I get to say that?) Relentless bowed at #4 in June 2007, with sales of 98,000. "She's Country" jumps to #51 on Hot Digital Songs.

5. Various Artists, Now 30, 99,000. The former #1 album slips from #4 to #5. As noted above, the album has sold 332,000 copies in its first three weeks. Sales are running behind recent editions of the franchise. Now 27, released a year ago, had sold 406,000 at the same point.

6. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 82,000. The former #1 album jumps from #10 to #6. This is its 21st week in the top 10. That's the longest stay in the top 10 for a country album since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts logged 25 weeks in the top 10 in 2005-2006. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which rebounds to #24.

7. Keith Urban, Defying Gravity, 72,000. The album slips from #1 to #7. That's the biggest dive after a #1 debut since Nas' untitled album slipped from #1 to #8 in July. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Sweet Thing," which jumps to #76.

8. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 68,000. The former #1 album dips from #7 to #8. This is its 16th week in the top 10. That's the longest stay in the top 10 for a theatrical movie soundtrack since City Of Angels logged 20 weeks in the top 10 in 1998. Twilight has sold 1,788,000 copies. It's the best-selling theatrical movie soundtrack since Chicago, which has sold 2,335,000. Paramore's "Decode" dips to #93 on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Prince/Bria Valente, Lotus Flow3r/MPLSoUND/Elix3r, 66,000. The album slips from #2 to #9. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 56,000. The album slips from #9 to #10. This is its eighth week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Poker Face," which holds at #2.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Diana Krall's Quiet Nights drops from #3 to #11, UGK's UGK 4 Life falls from #6 to #20, Flo Rida's R.O.O.T.S. drops from #8 to #17.

Three albums by gospel or Contemporary Christian music acts enter the chart this week. MercyMe's 10 bows at #18. This is the pop group's fourth top 20 album, following Undone, Coming Up To Breathe and All That Is Within Me. Smokie Norful's Live bows at #55. This represents a new high for the gospel singer/songwriter/organist, who reached #56 in 2006 with Life Changing. Third Day's Live Revelations opens at #144. The Christian rock group has had two top 10 albums, Wherever You Are and last year's Revelation.

Neil Young's Fork In The Road debuts at #19. This is Young's 16th solo album to reach the top 20. Young has been a steady presence on the charts since the Buffalo Springfield's 1967 album Buffalo Springfield (which spawned the classic single, "For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)."  Young charted on his own for the first time in 1969 with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the first of 14 charted albums with his band, Crazy Horse. Young has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame twice--as a solo artist in 1995 and as a member of the Buffalo Springfield two years later.

Billy Ray Cyrus' Back To Tennessee starts at #41.The title track of the new album is also featured on the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack. Cyrus' last album, Home At Last, got off to a better start. It debuted at #20 in July 2007...MIMS is in the same boat. His new Guilt debuts at #53. The rapper's last album, Music Is My Savior, debuted at #4 in April 2007. That album contained the #1 single "This Is Why I'm Hot."...Grateful Dead's To Terrapin: Hartford 1977 debuts at #59. The iconic rock band started at #35 in October with a similar live album from the vaults, Rocking The Cradle, Egypt, 1978.

Ray Charles' Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection, bows at #90. This is the eighth Charles album to chart in which he is dubbed "Genius" in the album title. This wave started with The Genius Of Ray Charles in 1960 and continued with such albums as The Genius Hits The Road, Genius + Soul = Jazz and Genius Loves Company. I normally dislike this kind of self-serving hype, but in Charles' case, I'll make an exception. This great artist who so effortlessly blended elements of R&B, jazz, blues, pop and country, really was a musical genius.

Last fall, James Taylor spent three weeks in the top 10 with a collection of covers titled Covers. This week, he debuts at #121 with a collection of other covers titled Other Covers. (I guess he figures, why knock yourself out coming up with clever titles?)

150 Fun Songs For Kids is this week's #1 Catalog Album. The album has quietly sold 98,000 copies since its release in 2004. The collection sold 18,000 copies this week (nearly all of them digitally) and would have ranked #33 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This is the first children's album to top the catalog chart, unless you want to count kid-friendly soundtracks to The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.

Heads Up: Day26's Forever In A Day is expected to be next week's top new entry. The R&B group's eponymous debut album opened at #1 in March 2008 with first-week sales of 190,000. Also due: Pastor Troy's Feel Me Or Kill Me (not your ordinary sermon topic) and Silversun Pickups' Swoon.


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