Chart Watch

Week Ending April 27, 2008: What’s So Funny About A #3 Debut?

Chart Watch

Flight Of The Conchords' first full-length album debuts at #3 on Nielsen/SoundScan's list of the nation's best-sellers. It's the highest ranking for a comedy album since Steve Martin's A Wild And Crazy Guy logged six weeks at #2 in late 1978 and early 1979. It's also the highest-debuting comedy album ever, topping Dane Cook's Retaliation, which debuted (and peaked) at #4 in August 2005.

Flight Of The Conchords consists of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, who portray a folk duo transplanted from New Zealand to New York. The album is based on a popular HBO series, now in its second season. The album's music/comedy blend recalls an earlier TV spin-off-Bob & Doug McKenzie's Great White North. On that album, which went top 10 in 1982, SCTV cast members Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas portrayed the hapless Canadians.

Flight... received a Grammy in February for its six-track EP, The Distant Future, which was voted Best Comedy Album. The duo beat a field of standout stand-ups, which consisted of George Lopez, Lisa Lampanelli, Steven Wright and Harry Shearer. I think the Grammy people can send next year's award for Best Comedy Album off to the engravers right now. If Flight of the Conchords can win with an EP that peaked at #116, they're probably unbeatable with a full-length album that debuts at #3.

Mariah Carey's E=MC2 holds at #1 for the second straight week. After just two weeks, it's the #3 album for the year to date. It trails Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static and a carryover from last year, Alicia Keys' As I Am.

E=MC2 is the first album to spend two weeks on top since Sleep Through The Static, which logged its first three weeks at #1. The last seven occupants of the #1 spot--Janet Jackson, Alan Jackson, Rick Ross, Danity Kane, Day26, George Strait and Leona Lewis--were all cast out after a single week.

E=MC2 is Carey's first album to spend two straight weeks at #1 since 1995's Daydream. Her 2005 album The Emancipation Of Mimi had two weeks on top, but they were non-consecutive. The comeback hit debuted at #1, but then was booted from the top spot by Rob Thomas' solo debut ...Something To Be. It wasn't until its eighth week that Mimi clawed its way back to #1.

Carey's album has sold 646,000 copies in its first two weeks. The last album to have sold more copies after two weeks was Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains, which had sold 835,000 at the same point. Of course, albums released right before Christmas tend to sell better than spring releases.

Leona Lewis' soulful and elegant "Bleeding Love" makes history as the first song to top the 200,000 mark in paid digital downloads for four weeks. It surpasses two smash collaborations that topped 200K three times--"Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z and "4 Minutes" by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake. Lewis' smash sold 236,000 downloads this week, its fattest weekly total to date. The resurgence follows Lewis' performance of the song on American Idol last Wednesday.

But this isn't just about Lewis. The paid digital download trend is clearly kicking into high gear. This is the sixth consecutive week that the #1 song on the Hot Digital Songs chart has registered sales of more than 200,000 downloads--a new record. Until this streak, the longest stretch in which the #1 digital download topped 200K was three weeks. Here's more perspective: Until June 2006, no song had ever rung up a weekly total of 200K paid downloads. ("Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean was the first.) Now, it's a common occurrence. Good news at last! (Does the RIAA know about this?)

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

1. Mariah Carey, E=MC2, 182,000. Carey's second-week tally is higher than the first-week sums for such recent albums as Janet Jackson's Discipline (181,000) and George Strait's Troubadour (166,000). (Now I'm off their Christmas card lists.) "Touch My Body" dips from #6 to #8 on Hot Digital Songs. "Bye Bye" falls from #11 to #22.

2. Leona Lewis, Spirit, 96,000. Lewis holds at #2 for the second week, after debuting at #1 two weeks ago. In addition to "Bleeding Love," which logs its third week at #1 on Hot Digital Songs, Lewis has a second entry on the chart, "Better In Time," which dips from #74 to #80.

3. Flight of the Conchords, Flight Of The Conchords, 52,000. After just one week, this is already the second best-selling comedy album of 2008, trailing only Dane Cook's Rough Around The Edges: Live From Madison Square Garden. Flight of the Conchords have a budding hit single, "Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros," which debuts at #106 on Hot Digital Songs. (A title like that could short-circuit your Spell Check.)

4. Ashlee Simpson, Bittersweet World, 47,000. This is Simpson's third straight album to debut in the top five, though this opening sales tally represents a sharp drop-off from her previous two releases. Autobiography opened at #1 in 2004 with sales of 398,000 (a tally more than eight times her current figure). I Am Me bowed at #1 the following year with sales of 220,000. The market has tapered off since those days, but so too has Simpson's career momentum. "Little Miss Obsessive" debuts at #51 on Hot Digital Songs. "Boys" bows at #107.

5. Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold, 36,000. This is the Minneapolis art-hip-hop duo's sixth studio album, and its first to make the top 10. The act's previous best mark was registered by You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having, which reached #66 in 2005. This is the latest in a long line of albums with coarse but clever titles to make the top 10, including Van Halen's OU812 and Blink-182's Take Off Your Pants And Jacket.

6. Various Artists, Now 27, 32,000. This brings the compilation's sales to 584,000. Not bad. Still, even after seven weeks of release, the album has sold fewer copies than Now 7 did in its opening week in August 2001. Looking back on it, that was a good time. The World Trade Center was still standing, we were not at war and CDs were still flying out of the stores.

7. Various Artists, Juno soundtrack, 31,000. This is the #1 movie soundtrack for the first time in 10 weeks. This brings the album's total sales to 674,000. Counting just its 2008 activity, it's #4 for the year to date.

8. George Strait, Troubadour, 29,000. The country superstar has the highest-ranking of three country albums in this week's top 10. This means he has regained the #1 spot on the country album chart from last week's interlopers, Lady Antebellum.

9. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, 27,000. Swift's album is in its 79th week on the chart. That's a little more than a year and a half-a big chunk of Swift's life, considering she's only 18. Four songs from the enhanced version of the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "I'm Only Me When I'm With You" jumps from #111 to #87, joining the long-running "Our Song" (#26), "Picture To Burn" (#32) and "Teardrops On My Guitar" (#56).

10. Phil Vassar, Prayer Of A Common Man, 28,000.  This is the country star's second album to open at #10. His Greatest Hits Volume 1 achieved the same feat in May 2006. This pretty much guarantees that there will be a Greatest Hits Volume 2. Vassar's previous highest-charting studio album was American Child, which reached #44 in 2002.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus' The Best Of Both Worlds Concert dives from #3 to #11, Lady Antebellum's Lady Antebellum drops from #4 to #16, the Alvin And The Chipmunks soundtrack falls from #7 to #12, and R.E.M.'s Accelerate slips from #9 to #17. As if falling out of the top 10 isn't bad enough, after this week's photo flap, Miley may be grounded.

Story Of The Year's Black Swan opens at #18. This is the rock group's highest-charting album to date. Its previous album, In The Wake Of Determination, opened and peaked at #19 in October 2005. Pop duo The Weepies enters The Billboard 200 for the first time as Hideaway bows at #31.

Hardly Idle: Daughtry's debut album, Daughtry, tops the 4 million mark this week, with sales to date of 4,007,000. Only two albums by American Idol contestants have sold more--Carrie Underwood's 2005 debut Some Hearts (current sales: 6,392,000) and Kelly Clarkson's 2004 sophomore album, Breakaway (5,983,000). The difference, of course, is that both of those artists won the competition. Daughtry finished fourth in Season 5. Taylor Hicks, who won that season, has sold 701,000 copies of his eponymous debut--roughly one-sixth of what Daughtry has sold. Daughtry has achieved these sales on the back of a seemingly never-ending string of hits, including "It's Not Over," "Home," "Feels Like Tonight" and "What About Now."

Love Sells: The Beatles' Love vaults from #198 to #103 in its 70th week on the chart. That's a sales jump of 79%, greater than any other non-debuting album this week. Good show, lads.

Let Go Of Me, Already: Last week, Thrice's The Alchemy Index, Vol. 3 & 4: Air & Earth debuted at #17, one rung ahead of Rush's Snake & Arrows: Live. The two albums are still back-to-back, but they've reversed positions-and plummeted down the chart. Thrice is now #111 (a 74% sales drop, the steepest of the week). Rush is #110 (a 73% sales drop, the week's second steepest).

Catalog Report: Michael Jackson's Thriller 25 tops the Catalog Album chart for the ninth week. It sold 13,000 copies this week and would have ranked #36 if older, catalog albums were allowed to compete on the main chart.

Heads Up: Madonna's Hard Candy will enter the chart next week. Will she dethrone Mariah Carey and enter at #1? Sure. Will she topple Carey's first-week total of 463,000? You'll just have to check back and see. Also due: Portishead's Third, the English duo's first studio album since 1997; Carly Simon's This Kind Of Love; and the eponymous debut album by Mudcrutch, Tom Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band.

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