Chart Watch (NEW)

Week Ending April 8, 2012. Albums: MDNA Takes A TMBL

Chart Watch

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Madonna's MDNA tumbles from #1 to #8 in its second week on The Billboard 200. Sales plummeted by 87%, from 359K to just 48K.  That's the largest second-week decline for an album that debuted at #1 since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. It surpasses two albums from last year: Lady Gaga's Born This Way (which dove by 84% in June) and Mac Miller's Blue Slide Park (which dropped off by 83% in November).

Sales of Michael Buble's Christmas plummeted by 96% the week after Christmas, but it was in its 10th week at that point. And the drop was inevitable. Once Christmas is over, it's over. Gaga's first week was inflated by an infamous 99-cent promotion. And Miller isn't exactly an icon and an international superstar.

So what's the story with Madonna?

Madonna's opening-week sales tally included about 185K copies that were bundled with the purchase of tickets to her upcoming tour. It's impossible to know how many of those fans would have bought the album if it hadn't been bundled with the concert ticket. Some would have, to be sure. But others wanted to see the show and didn't much care about the new album. It's the same story with many other veteran artists, from the Rolling Stones to Barry Manilow.

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Since there's a complication with the opening week number, let's put it aside and instead compare the second-week tallies on Madonna's eight studio albums of the Nielsen SoundScan era. The second week tally for MDNA (48K) is by far Madonna's lowest since 1991. Her previous worst was 1994's Bedtime Stories, which sold 86K copies in its second week. Here are the second-week tallies on Madonna's last eight studio albums, shown from best to worst: 1998's Ray Of Light (224K), 2000's Music (212K), 2005's Confessions On A Dance Floor (210K), 1992's Erotica (100K), 2008's Hard Candy (94K), 2003's American Life (91K), 1994's Bedtime Stories (86K) and 2012's MDNA (48K).

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This is the third time in less than a year that a chart achievement has come under scrutiny in the industry and in the music press. As noted, Lady Gaga's Born This Way sold 1,108,000 copies in its first week in May 2011, boosted by an AmazonMP3 promotion at what then seemed to be the rock-bottom price of 99 cents. (The next week, with the sale over, sales tumbled by 84% to 174K.) Last month, several albums surged when they were offered for just 25 cents at Google Play and AmazonMP3. Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits made the most dramatic jump, to #3. (It plummeted to #152 the very next week, as sales fell from 85K to just 3K). I think if I were an artist I'd nix the gimmicky promotions. They work in the short term and cause the artists embarrassment in the long term.

Part of the problem is that Madonna's "Give Me All Your Lovin'" has been only a medium-sized hit. It spent just one week in the top 10. By contrast, "4 Minutes," the first single from Madonna's last studio album, Hard Candy, logged 11 weeks in the top 10. Madonna could really use a hit song all her own. Her last two top 10 hits were collabos with artists who were hotter at the time than she was: Justin Timberlake on "4 Minutes" and Nicki Minaj on "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (which also features M.I.A.) Madonna's last top 10 hit (or top 40 hit, for that matter) that wasn't a collabo was 2005's "Hung Up." That's not an eternity, but it's a long time.

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Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded enters The Billboard 200 at #1 this week, 14 months after her debut album, Pink Friday, rose to #1. This makes Minaj the first female hip-hop artist to amass two #1 albums on The Billboard 200. Three female hip-hop stars have each notched one #1 album:  Lauryn Hill (1998's The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill), Foxy Brown (1999's Chyna Doll) and Eve (1999's Ruff Ryders' First Lady).

Minaj's album sold 92K digital copies, which constitutes a record for a female hip-hop artist. It's #1 on Top Digital Albums.

The album also debuts at #1 in the U.K. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is the first album by a female hip-hop artist to reach #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K.

For all that, first-week sales for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded were a little disappointing.

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Pink Friday sold 375K copies in its first week in November 2010, which showed how much buzz there was surrounding Minaj. In the past 18 months, she has become a big star. She has amassed seven top 10 hits on the Hot 100, counting featured credits on hits by Trey Songz, Drake, Big Sean, David Guetta and Madonna. So you might expect her new album to debut with sales greater than 375K (maybe even approaching the 631K that her frequent collaborator Drake sold in November with his sophomore album, Take Care.) You might expect it, but you'd be wrong: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded sold 253K copies this week.

What's the deal? Pink Friday was released just before "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving), when fans are out in force shopping for Christmas presents. Also, it was released the same week as Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (which sold 496K that week). West's release probably boosted traffic for hip-hop fans.

Even so, it seems to me that Minaj should have sold more this week, especially since the album's first single, "Starships," is heading into its eighth week in the top 10 on the Hot100. It's possible that the title led some fans to think that this was merely an expanded edition of Pink Friday, rather than a new release. But hip-hop fans are plugged-in, so that seems like a weak explanation. It's hard to figure.

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Pink Friday has been on the chart continuously since it debuted. (This week it jumps from #102 to #84.) The album has sold 1,815,000 copies. Only two albums by female hip-hop artists have sold as well. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill leads the pack with sales of 7,106,000. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's 2002 album Under Construction is in second place, with sales of 2,125,000.

Adele's 21 rebounds to #2 in its 59th week on The Billboard 200. This album has now shared top 10 space with two Nicki Minaj albums. Pink Friday was still in the top 10 (at #9) when 21 debuted at #1 in February 2011. Look for 21 to return to #1 next week. It would be the album's 24th week on top.

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Shameless Plug: Most of you already knew that 21 was the best-selling album of the first quarter. But did you know it sold more copies in the first quarter than it did in the fourth quarter of last year (when sales traditionally peak)? Or that it was the oldest album to wind up as the best-selling album of the first quarter since No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom came out on top for the first quarter of 1997? You did if you read my Chart Watch Extra in which I looked at first quarter highlights. If you missed it, here's a link.

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Rascal Flatts' Changed debuts at #3. It's the band's eighth top 10 album. The album enters Top Country Albums at #1, dislodging Lionel Richie's Tuskegee (on which Rascal Flatts sings on "Dancing On The Ceiling.") This is the band's seventh #1 country album.

Rascal Flatts has sold 21,714,000 albums, a total topped by only two country groups or duos in Nielsen SoundScan history. Dixie Chicks have sold 27,008,000 albums. Brooks & Dunn has sold 23,459,000. Alabama is in fourth place, with sales of 19,088,000. But there's something you need to keep in mind. Alabama debuted in 1980, while all of these other acts debuted since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. If Nielsen SoundScan's tracking went back to 1980, I have no doubt that Alabama would be the best-selling country group or duo. Alabama sold truckloads of albums in the 1980s.

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The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond drops from #5 to #7 in its third week. It's #1 on Top Soundtracks for the third week. The movie was #1 at the box-office for the third straight weekend. It's the first movie to do that since The Twilight Saga—Breaking Dawn, Part One last fall.

Movie soundtracks are having a good year, after years of being upstaged by TV soundtracks. In 13 of the 14 weeks of 2012, a soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie has ranked #1 on Top Soundtracks (imagine that!). The only time a TV soundtrack took the lead was in the week ending Feb. 5, when The Fresh Beat Band: Music From The Hit TV Show came out on top.

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"We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monae returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. Will it hold at #1 on the Hot 100 for a sixth week? You'll find out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs. The song also sets two digital records. What are they? All will be revealed later today.

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

1. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, 253,000. This new entry is Minaj's second top 10 (and second #1) album. Twelve songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Starships," which dips from #4 to #5.

2. Adele, 21, 153,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #3 to #2. This is its 59th week in the top 10. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Set Fire To The Rain," which drops from #20 to #26.

3. Rascal Flatts, Changed, 130,000. This new entry is the country trio's eighth top 10 album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Banjo," which jumps from #85 to #65.

4. Lionel Richie, Tuskegee, 95,000. The album drops from #2 to #4 in its second week. A TV special based on the album airs Friday, which should keep the album in the top five next week.

5. One Direction, Up All Night, 92,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #6 to #5 its fourth week.  It has been in the top 10 the entire time. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "What Makes You Beautiful," which jumps from #5 to #4.

6. Of Monsters & Men, My Head is an Animal, 55,000. This new entry is the Icelandic band's debut album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Little Talks" jumps from #123 to #115. "Mountain Sound" debuts at #144.

7. Various Artists, The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond, soundtrack, 50,000. The former #1 album drops from #5 to #7 in its third week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. Taylor Swift's "Eyes Open" drops from #13 to #20. "Safe & Sound" by Swift featuring The Civil Wars drops from #18 to #33.

8. Madonna, MDNA, 48,000. The former #1 album dives to #8 in its second week. "Give Me All Your Luvin" (featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.) drops from #83 to #162.

9. Marvin Sapp, I Win, 44,000. This new entry is the gospel star's second top 10 album. Here I Am hit #2 in March 2010.

10. Shinedown, Amaryllis, 36,000. The album drops from #4 to #10 in its second week. Sales to date: 142K.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Katy Perry's Teenage Dream drops from #7 to #26, The Used's Vulnerable plummets from #8 to #57, Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball drops from #9 to #19 and Now 41 drops from #10 to #14.

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Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls debuts at #16. This is the band's first full-length album. This debut reflects just digital sales. The CD is due next week.

Adele's 2008 album 19 jumps from #20 to #17 in its 129th week on the chart. The album returns to the #1 spot on Top Catalog Albums. This is its 35th week on top. If two talented but troubled singers hadn't died tragically, 19 would have spent an additional 11 weeks at #1 on the catalog chart. 19 yielded the top spot to Amy Winehouse's Back In Black for four weeks and to Whitney Houston's Whitney: The Greatest Hits for seven.

Wilson Phillips' Dedicated debuts at #29. The album consists of classics by the Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas. The members of Wilson Phillips are daughters of key members of those 1960s groups. Wilson Phillips first charted in 1990….Dr. John's Locked Down bows at #33. Dan Auerbach, guitarist with the Black Keys, produced the album. Dr. John first charted in 1971...Ian Anderson's Thick As A Brick 2 bows at #55. Anderson fronted Jethro Tull, which took Thick As A Brick to #1 in June 1972…Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard drops from #66 to #78. The album tops the 12 million mark in U.S. sales this week. It's the sixth album (and the first soundtrack) to reach that sales plateau since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991.

Adele's Live At The Royal Albert Hall is #1 on Top Music Videos for the 19th straight week. That's the longest continuous run since Backstreet Boys' Backstreet Boys held the top spot for its first 19 weeks in 1999. Adele's DVD sold 16K copies this week, bringing its total to 793K.

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Coming Attractions: Monica's New Life is expected to be next week's top new entry, with sales in the 57K range. That will probably put it right around #4. Bonnie Raitt's Slipstream is expected to sell around 45K, which will probably put it around #6. Hoodie Allen's All American is expected to sell around 35K, good enough for #8. Look for top 15 debuts byTrip Lee's Good Life, Prince Royce's Phase II and Counting Crows' Underwater Sunshine. Also due: Halestorm's The Strange Case Of....

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