Chart Watch

Week Ending April 5, 2009: A Prince Beats A King (Of Pop)

Chart Watch

Who would you say has amassed more top 10 albums, Prince or his one-time arch-rival, Michael Jackson? As of this week, the answer is Prince, and that's true even when you give Michael credit for albums he recorded with his brothers. LotusFlow3r, which enters The Billboard 200 at #2, is Prince's 14th top 10 album. Jackson has notched 13--seven on his own and six with the Jackson 5, later known as the Jacksons. Though Prince and Jackson have been considered rivals since the early '80s, Prince owes a big debt to Jackson's trailblazing. 1999 was released five weeks before Thriller, but it hit the top 10 only after Thriller had clocked a few months at #1--and, significantly, only after Jackson's mega-hits "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" broke down MTV's resistance to playing videos by black artists. 1999 ultimately logged 11 weeks in the top 10, no match for Thriller's 78 weeks, but enough to establish Prince as a star. Prince's follow-up, Purple Rain did far better than it would have had Thriller not paved the way. Purple Rain logged 24 consecutive weeks at #1, spawned five hit singles and brought Prince an Oscar and three Grammys.

LotusFlow3r, a Target exclusive, sold 168,000 copies this week. It fell less than 4,000 units short of debuting at #1. Keith Urban's Defying Gravity took the top spot with first-week sales of 172,000. This was the closest margin between the #1 and #2 albums since August, when Slipknot's All Hope Is Gone led The Game's LAX by less than 2,000 units. (It was so close that Hits magazine, which has its own charts, called it the other way, putting Prince at #1.) Two factors helped boost sales of the new album--the bargain price ($11.98) and the fact that Prince's erratic recording career has been on an upswing in recent years. This is his fourth studio album in a row to debut in the top three. It follows Musicology, 3121 and Planet Earth. LotusFlow3r consists of two disks of Prince music and one disk by Prince's latest discovery, Bria Valente. It's Prince's third 3-disk release, but his first to reach the top 10. Prince's earlier 3-disk sets were The Hits/The B-Sides, which reached #19 in 1993, and Emancipation, which hit #11 in 1996. As a postscript, Prince has long used artistic license in coming up with the titles for his albums, inventing such words as Lovesexy and Newpower (as in Newpower Soul). But LotusFlow3r ranks with Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic as his most creative yet.

Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" vaults from #39 to #1 on this week's Hot 100. It's the group's first #1 hit, surpassing "Don't Phunk With My Heart" and "My Humps," both of which peaked at #3. Fergie, the most famous Pea, has had three #1 Hot 100 hits on her own, "London Bridge," "Glamorous" (featuring Ludacris) and "Big Girls Don't Cry." "Boom Boom Pow" sold 465,000 downloads in its first week to enter Hot Digital Songs at #1. That's the third fattest weekly digital tally ever, trailing Flo Rida's "Right Round," which sold 636,000 downloads in its first week in February, and Flo Rida's earlier hit "Low" (featuring T-Pain), which sold 467,000 downloads in the week after Christmas 2007. Black Eyed Peas were one of the first acts to hit it big in the downloading universe. The group's 2004 hit "Let's Get It Started" was the first song to sell 500,000 downloads. The Peas have three songs on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the top 200 songs with the most paid downloads. As of this week, "My Humps" has sold 2,164,000 downloads, "Let's Get It Started" has sold 1,948,000 and "Pump It" has sold 1,390,000. (The group's earlier "Where Is The Love?" (featuring Justin Timberlake) has sold 954,000 downloads.)

Diana Krall's Quiet Nights bows at #3, becoming the highest-charting album by a female jazz vocalist since the album chart became a weekly feature in 1956. The old record was shared by three albums that peaked at #4: Krall's 2004 release The Girl In The Other Room and a pair of Nancy Wilson albums from 1964, Yesterday's Love Songs/Today's Blues and How Glad I Am, both of which combined elements of jazz, pop and R&B. (Natalie Cole's Unforgettable With Love and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, both of which reached #1, were generally classified as pop.) In case you're wondering, the great Ella Fitzgerald climbed as high as #11 with two albums, Ella Fitzgerald sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book and Mack The Knife-Ella In Berlin. Other female jazz (or jazz-leaning) vocalists to reach the top 15 include Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, Rosemary Clooney and Ernestine Anderson. Krall's current album is her second to ring up first-week sales of 100,000 copies or more. The Girl In The Other Room started with sales of 144,000. The title of Krall's current album is based on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars," a standard of the 1960s. Tony Bennett was the first major artist to record the song. He included the song on his 1963 album I Wanna Be Around. The song most famously appeared on Getz/Gilberto, the Grammy-winning 1964 album by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.

Flo Rida is the king of song downloads, but you'd never know it from his album sales. His second album, R.O.O.T.S., enters the chart at #8 this week, with first-week sales of 55,000. That's a drop-off from the rapper's 2008 debut album, Mail On Sunday, which sold 86,000 copies in its first week. Mail On Sunday has sold just 381,000 copies during its entire run (compared to 4,849,000 downloads, as of this week, for the album's big hit, "Low"). In the same way, R.O.O.T.S. is dwarfed by the popularity of the hit "Right Round," which has sold 2,601,000 downloads. They used to call performers like this "singles artists."

U2's No Line On The Horizon drops from #6 to #12. The album has sold 780,000 copies in its first five weeks. That's less than the 840,000 copies that the band's last studio album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, sold in its first week in November 2004. (After five weeks, Dismantle had sold 2,061,000 copies.) But sales are down across-the-board. So let's look at this another way. No Line is the second best selling album so far in 2009 (behind Taylor Swift's Fearless, which has sold 865,000 copies since January 1). That makes No Line the best-selling album that was released in 2009. It's well ahead of the 2009 release in second place, Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream, which has sold 502,000 copies. So is the U2 album a hit or a miss? It wasn't strong enough to overcome a down market (and "the biggest band in the world" ought to be able to do that) but it's selling better than just about anything else out there.

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

1. Keith Urban, Defying Gravity, 172,000. This new entry is Urban's first #1 album. His last two studio albums, Be Here and Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing, both peaked at #3. (Love, Pain... had stronger first-week sales: 270,000. It helped that it was released six weeks before Christmas in 2006.) More than 37,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "If Ever I Could Love," which bows at #98.

2. Prince, LotusFlow3r, 168,000. This new entry is the third "exclusive" album to reach the top two since Billboard and Nielsen/SoundScan opened the chart to such albums in November 2007. It follows Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden and AC/DC's Black Ice, a pair of Wal-Mart exclusives which debuted at #1. No songs from Prince's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Diana Krall, Quiet Nights, 104,000. This new entry is Krall's fourth studio album in arrow to reach the top 10, following The Look Of Love, The Girl In The Other Room and From This Moment On. Krall's husband, Elvis Costello, has had just one top 10 album, 1979's Armed Forces. (In the interest of marital harmony, I'll add that Costello has had more top 30 albums--eight.) No songs from Krall's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Various Artists, Now 30, 87,000. The compilation dips from #1 to #4 in its second week. After two weeks, the album has sold 234,000 copies. That's the lowest tally for a regular Now volume after two weeks since Now 1, which sold 99,000 copies in its first two weeks in November 1998.

5. Miley Cyrus, Hannah: The Movie soundtrack, 87,000. The album dips from #2 to #5 in its second week. The movie opens Friday. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "The Climb," which dips to #5.

6. UGK, UGK 4 Life, 76,000. This new entry comes 16 months after the death of Chad Butler (better known as Pimp C). Butler was one-half of the rap duo, along with Bernard Freeman (Bun-B). UGK's last album, Underground Kingz, opened at #1 in August 2007. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 73,000. The former #1 album drops from #3 to #7. This is the album's 15th week in the top 10. Twilight is the first theatrical movie soundtrack to amass 15 weeks in the top 10 since City Of Angels, which stayed in the top 10 for 20 weeks in 1998. (That album spawned Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" and Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited.") Paramore's "Decode" drops to #92 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Flo Rida, R.O.O.T.S., 55,000. This new entry is the rapper's second straight album to debut in the top 10. Mail On Sunday bowed at #4 in March 2008. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Right Round," which dips to #3.

9. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 51,000. The album dips from #7 to #9. This is its seventh week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Poker Face," which dips to #2. "Poker Face" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The smash took 20 weeks to reach this threshold. Lady GaGa's first hit, "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis), took 27 weeks to top the 2 million mark.

10. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 42,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #12 to #10. Fearless was named Album of the Year on the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast, which aired Sunday night. This is the album's 20th week in the top 10. Fearless is the first country album to spend 20 weeks in the top 10 since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts spent 25 weeks there in 2005-2006. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which inches up to #26.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Keri Hilson's In A Perfect World drops from #4 to #11, Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted falls from #5 to #14, U2's No Line On The Horizon falls from #6 to #12, Papa Roach's Metamorphosis dives from #8 to #34, Jim Jones' Pray IV Reign drops from #9 to #40 and Martina McBride's Shine falls from #10 to #36.

Chris Botti lands the highest-charting album of his career as Chris Botti In Boston opens at #13. The trumpeter's previous "personal best" was To Love Again: The Duets, which hit #18 in 2005. Sting, Steven Tyler and Yo-Yo Ma join Botti on this album, which is being boosted by a much-repeated PBS special...Three other albums debut in the top 20, but the artists all fall short of their past achievements. Rodney Atkins' It's America bows at #15. Atkins' last album, If You're Going Through Hell, opened at #3 in July 2006... Bow Wow's New Jack City Pt. II opens at #16. Bow Wow made the top 10 with his last four solo albums...Gavin DeGraw's Free bows at #19. His last album, Gavin DeGraw, debuted at #7 in May 2008.

Song Scorecard: Britney Spears' "Circus" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song took 18 weeks to reach that mark, compared to just 14 weeks for Spears' previous smash, "Womanizer." Two older songs also topped the 2 million mark: Fergie's first solo release "London Bridge," from 2006, and "Sexy Can I," the 2008 hit by Ray J featuring Yung Berg.

Pearl Jam's Ten holds at #1 on Catalog Albums for the second week. The album sold 19,000 copies and would have ranked #28 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. The album just missed #1 when it was first released in 1991. It logged four weeks at #2 behind Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All. If you missed my latest Chart Watch Extra listing 32 notable albums that peaked at #2, here's a link.

Heads Up: Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable is likely to enter next week's chart at #1. The country group's last three studio albums have topped the chart. Also due next week: Jason Aldean's Wide Open, Jadakiss' The Last KissNeil Young's Fork In The Road, Billy Ray Cyrus' Back To Tennessee, Mims' Guilt, Ray Charles' Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection, MercyMe's 10, Third Day's Live Revelations and Smokie Norful's Live.

Think music's getting cheesy these days?  You could be on to something. Nielsen/SoundScan recently added the Cracker Barrel chain as a "non-traditional data provider."


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