Chart Watch

Week Ending Aug. 2, 2009: Not Since “Double Fantasy”

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson's Number Ones is the best-selling album in the U.S. for the fifth time in the past six weeks. This is the longest that an artist who had died has had the nation's top-seller since Double Fantasy, by John Lennon and his widow, Yoko Ono, topped The Billboard 200 for eight weeks from December 1980 to February 1981. In both cases, shock at the untimely passing of a pop legend spurred sales. Lennon was just 40 when he was shot to death outside his apartment building in Manhattan. Jackson was 50 when he died of cardiac arrest at a rented mansion in Los Angeles.

This is the longest that a greatest hits set has been the best-selling album in the U.S. since the Beatles' 1 held the top spot for eight weeks from November 2000 to January 2001. It's the longest that Jackson has had the top-seller since Bad held the top spot for six weeks in September and October 1987.

This is the sixth consecutive week that Jackson has had three of the five best-selling albums in the U.S. Number Ones sold 114,000 copies and would have held at #1 if catalog albums were eligible to compete on The Billboard 200. The Essential Michael Jackson sold 69,000 and would have inched up from #4 to #3. Thriller sold 59,000 and would have held at #5.

Number Ones, which made its final appearance on The Billboard 200 in July 2005, seems increasingly likely to wind up as the #1 album of 2009. The hits compilation has sold 1,373,000 copies so far this year. Only Taylor Swift's Fearless has outsold it. The country crossover hit has sold 1,500,000 copies since Jan. 1. And Number Ones is gaining on Fearless. This is the sixth week in a row that the hit-studded compilation has surpassed 100,000 in sales. Fearless hasn't topped 100,000 in weekly sales since the last week of December.

Jackson has sold 3,788,000 albums in the U.S. since his death, which has enabled him to zoom from #47 to #35 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the best-selling artists in its 18-year history. Number Ones has been his biggest-seller since his death, with sales of 1,256,000 copies in this period. Six weeks ago, on the last charts released before Jackson's death, the compilation ranked #134 for the year-to-date, with 2009 sales of 117,000.

By being the sales leader for five weeks, Number Ones equals a feat set by Roberta Flack's First Take, which topped the chart for five weeks in April and May 1972, even though it was what we would now call a catalog album. (It charted from January to June 1970 and returned to the chart in April 1972 after director Clint Eastwood featured its key track, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in his movie Play Misty For Me.)

This is the sixth week that Thriller has been one of the 10 best-selling albums in the country.  Thriller 25 was one the 10 best-sellers for five weeks last year. The original album logged 78 weeks in the top 10 in 1983-1984. If you were to add these tallies together, you would have a grand (if unofficial) total of 89 weeks in the top 10 (or what would be the top 10 if Billboard allowed catalog albums in the top 10). This would push Thriller ahead of Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A., which had 84 weeks in the top 10 in 1984-1985. Only one other album has had more than 80 weeks in the top 10 since 1963, when separate mono and stereo albums were combined into one comprehensive chart. That's The Sound Of Music soundtrack, which had 109 weeks in the top 10 from 1965 through 1968.

The Essential Michael Jackson is #1 in the U.K. for the fifth straight week. That's the longest run at #1 in the U.K. in 2009. Back in the U.S., Jackson has 16 songs on Top Digital Songs. His top entry is "Billie Jean," which sold 28,000 downloads this week, bringing its total to 1,454,000. This is the first time since Jackson's death that "Billie Jean" has been his top song. "Man In The Mirror" and "Thriller" were his most active songs the other five weeks.

Billboard's policy of not including catalog albums on The Billboard 200 is good news for Fabolous, who lands his first #1 this week with Loso's Way, despite selling 15,000 fewer copies than Number Ones. Loso's Way is the soundtrack to a short (and rather obscure) movie of the same name. That makes it the week's #1 soundtrack. Fabolous' highest-charting album before this was his 2007 release, From Nothin' To Somethin', which debuted at #2 with first-week sales of 159,000. Loso's Way is the 11thalbum to hit #1 so far in 2009 with weekly sales of less than 100,000 copies. Only 11 albums topped the chart with such a modest sales tally in all of 2007 and 2008, combined. Yikes. (By way of comparison, the #1 song on Hot Digital Songs chart has topped 200,000 in weekly paid downloads in all but one week of 2009.) Maybe you should skip the rest of the column and go out and buy an album. (On second thought, finish the column first.)

The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" this week surpasses Flo Rida's "Right Round" to become the #1 song so far in 2009 in terms of paid downloads. "Boom Boom Pow" has sold 3,708,000 downloads. "Right Round" has sold 3,696,000. (Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" is in third place with 3,639,000.) I have more good news for Peas fans. This is the 18th consecutive week that the group has had the #1 song on Hot Digital Songs. They were #1 for 10 weeks with "Boom Boom Pow" and now are in their eighth week on top with "I Gotta Feeling." The latter song sold 215,000 downloads this week, bringing its total to 1,761,000.

A lot of albums these days make a big splash in their first week and quickly tumble down the chart. ("Nothing sticks," is way some put it.) But six of this week's top 20 albums have been fixtures on The Billboard 200 for nine months or more. Three of these, Taylor Swift's Fearless, Lady GaGa's The Fame and Nickelback's Dark Horse, have been high on charts all year long. But the other three have clawed and scratched their way back to the chart's upper rungs. Kings Of Leon's Only By The Night jumps from #8 to #6 in its 45th week. It's within one notch of matching its #5 peak position, set when it debuted in September. Zac Brown Band's The Foundation holds at #11 for the second straight week in its 37th week. This is its highest ranking to date. Darius Rucker's Learn To Live jumps from #22 to #17in its 46th week. This is its highest ranking since its first two weeks on the chart in September. These six albums have sold a combined total of 9,733,000 albums to date. See, some things stick.

Demi Lovato's Here We Go Again drops from #1 to #8 in its second week. This is the biggest fall from the top spot since Chrisette Michele's Epiphany dropped from #1 to #8 in May. Both albums feature titles that were recycled from past #1 albums. Is it just a coincidence that they also suffered big second-week drops? I think so. But just to be on the safe side, artists might want to avoid titling their next album Bookends or No Strings Attached.

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

1. Fabolous, Loso's Way, 99,000. This new entry is the rapper's fifth top 10 album; his fourth to make the top five. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Throw It In The Bag" (featuring The-Dream), which jumps from #98 to #59.

2. Daughtry, Leave This Town, 62,000. The former #1 album holds at #2 for the second week. This is its third week in the top five. "No Surprise" falls from #26 to #35 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night, 55,000. The former #1 album holds at #3 for the second week. This is its fourth week in the top five.

4. Various Artists, NOW 31, 53,000. The former #1 album holds at #4 for the third week. This is its fifth week in the top five.

5. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 49,000. The former #1 album inches back up from #6 to #5. This is its eighth week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs for the eighth straight week.

6. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 47,000. The resurgent smash jumps from #8 to #6 in its 45th week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody," which dips from #2 to #3. (See item below.)

7. Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana 3, 41,000. The album slips from #5 to #7. This is its fourth week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "He Could Be The One," which falls from #18 to #37.

8. Demi Lovato, Here We Go Again, 39,000. The album slips from #1 to #8 in its second week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Here We Go Again," which falls from #6 to #19.

9. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 38,000. The former #1 album holds at #9 for the third week. This is its 32nd week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which dips from #5 to #6. (See item below.)

10. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 27,000. The album holds at #10 for the second week. This is its 22nd week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lovegame," which dips from #11 to #15.

Only one album drops out of the top 10 this week. Jordin Sparks' Battlefield drops from #7 to #21.

Ashley Tisdale's Guilty Pleasure bows at #12. Tisdale's 2007 debut, Headstrong, debuted at #5. Tisdale, 24, gained fame as the female antagonist in High School Musical. Tisdale's album has a title that's close to that of a recent hit album. Barbra Streisand's Guilty Pleasures reached #5 in 2005. (How sad that Tisdale can think of only one guilty pleasure.)

Kristinia DeBarge's debut album, Exposed, bows at #23. This is the second highest-charting album by any member of the large and prolific DeBarge family. The group DeBarge, which included Kristinia's father James DeBarge, reached #19 with 1985's Rhythm Of The Night. "Goodbye," the key song from Kristinia's album, rebounds from #47 to #39 on Hot Digital Songs. It has sold 794,000 downloads to date.

Taylor Swift's Fearless this week surpasses John Mayer's Continuum as the solo album that has sold the most digital copies. Fearless has sold 420,000, compared to 417,000 for Continuum. The only albums that have sold more digital copies are Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (728,000, as of this week) and the Twilight soundtrack (493,000).

Kings of Leon's Only By The Night returns to #1 on Top Digital Albums for the first time since it debuted in September. The album sold 15,000 digital copies this week, bringing its total to 353,000. The album is #7 on Nielsen/SoundScan's all-time list of the albums with the most paid downloads.

Song Scorecard: Avril Lavigne's 2007 hit "Girlfriend" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. Lavigne is the second Canadian act to reach this milestone, following Nickelback, which rang the bell with its 2006 smash "Rockstar." Three other hits by Canadian acts are between 2.5 million and 3 million in paid downloads. Daniel Powter's 2006 smash "Bad Day" has rung up sales of 2,866,000, Finger Eleven's 2007 rocker "Paralyzer" is up to 2,654,000 and Nelly Furtado's 2006 hit "Promiscuous" is up to 2,504,000.

Heads Up: The country duo Sugarland, which hit #1 in its second week with its last album, Love On The Inside, may debut at #1 next week with its Wal-Mart exclusive, Live On The Inside. The eponymous debut album by the country quartet Gloriana is also expected to get off to a fast start. Kidz Bop 16 will probably debut in the top 10 next week. The last nine regular installments in this long-running series have made the top 10.  Also due: K'Jon's I Get Around.

The Fine Print: When I say that it's increasingly likely that Michael Jackson's Number Ones will wind up as the #1 album of 2009, I'm talking about the Nielsen/SoundScan year, which runs on the calendar year, and not the Billboard year, which this year runs from Dec. 6, 2008 through Nov. 28, 2009. Billboard's time frame includes Fearless' entire run except for its potent (592,000-copy) opening week. Which means Fearless may well be Billboard's #1 album of 2009, even if Number Ones is Nielsen/SoundScan's #1 album of 2009.

 

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