Chart Watch

Week Ending Aug. 3, 2008: Rihanna, Queen Of The Download

Chart Watch

Rihanna's "Disturbia" jumps to #1 on Hot Digital Songs, ending a six-week run in the top spot by Katy Perry's cheeky "I Kissed A Girl." This is Rihanna's fifth #1 on the digital chart, which is more than any other artist has amassed since the chart was introduced in October 2004 (which is when downloading took off). Rihanna, 20, first topped the chart in 2005 with "Pon De Replay" and has returned to the top spot with "SOS," "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z), "Take A Bow" and now this hit.

Rihanna is also the only artist with eight songs on Nielsen/SoundScan's running, all-time list of the top 200 songs with the most paid downloads. Fergie, Nickelback and Chris Brown are tied for second place with five each.

Rihanna is listed on that chart with "Umbrella," "Don't Stop The Music," "SOS," "Take A Bow," "Pon De Replay," "Shut Up And Drive," "Unfaithful," and "Hate That I Love You" (featuring Ne-Yo). These eight hits have sold a combined total of 13,155,000 downloads. Fergie's five hits, all from The Dutchess, have sold a combined total of 11,830,000 downloads.

One reason for Rihanna's success is her adaptability. She can move from a sexy R&B smash like "Umbrella" to a creamy pop confection like "Hate That I Love You"; from a striking and soulful kiss-off like "Take A Bow" to the hard-charging dance/pop of "Disturbia."

The week's other big story is Sugarland becoming the first country duo to reach #1 in the 52-year history of Billboard's weekly album chart.

We've all become accustomed to hit albums being re-released with bonus tracks, putting pressure on the act's biggest fans to buy the album again to get the new material. We've seen it, most recently, with Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad and its "Reloaded" edition. Sugarland took the opposite approach. The duo released a "Deluxe Fan Edition" of its new album last week and followed it this week with the regular version. (The special edition included five extra songs, an expanded booklet and access to download an exclusive music video and "behind-the-scenes" footage. It was priced $2-$3 more than the regular version.)

Did the strategy work? You might say so. Love On The Inside debuted at #2 last week and this week moves up to the top spot. With the striking success of this experiment, expect to see more albums released with a pricier expanded edition issued first, followed a week later by the no-frills regular album.

Billboard's Geoff Mayfield thinks highly of the Sugarland model. Writing in his Over The Counter column this week, he observed, "Applause to the act and to Universal Music Nashville for putting the extra content out front, instead of releasing the enhanced package months after thousands of fans already purchased the standard offering."

Mayfield also noted that this isn't the first time that a deluxe edition of an album has preceded the regular edition by a week. U2 did this twice, albeit with retrospectives, not a new studio album. In November 1998, the band released a two-CD set, The Best Of 1980-1990/The B-Sides and followed it one week later with the basic, single-disk The Best Of 1980-1990. Four years later, the band did the same thing, releasing the two-CD set The Best Of 1990-2000 & B-Sides one week before issuing the single-disk The Best Of 1990-2000.

Love On The Inside switches places with Miley Cyrus' Break Out. It's the first time that two albums have debuted in the top two positions one week and exchanged positions the following week since Tim McGraw's Let It Go and the NOW 24 compilation flip-flopped in April 2007. There, the country album got off to a faster start and was overtaken in week two by a pop-minded collection-the opposite of what happened this time.

Brooks & Dunn's 2005 album Hillbilly Deluxe had held the record for highest-charting album by a country duo. It peaked at #3. Two other country duos, Big & Rich and Montgomery Gentry, have had top 10 albums in recent years. Van Zant climbed as high as #21 in 2005. Country duos from the era before Nielsen/SoundScan began monitoring U.S. album sales in 1991 were underrepresented on the pop album chart. Even as popular a country duo as The Judds never climbed above #51. The Bellamy Brothers, who had a #1 pop single in 1976 with "Let Your Love Flow," topped out at #69 on the album chart.

Double Platinum: Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III this week becomes the first album to top the 2 million threshold in 2008 sales activity. This is the 31st week of the year, a little late in the year to see the first album hitting the 2 million mark. But at least it's better than last year, when we were 38 weeks into the year before Daughtry's eponymous debut album finally became the first album to top the 2 million mark in 2007 sales. A little ray of good news for the beleaguered music industry!

Jonas Item of The Week: Jonas Brothers' "Tonight" enters Hot Digital Songs at #2. It's the third track from the trio's upcoming A Little Bit Longer album to debut at #2 in the past six weeks, following "Burnin' Up" and "Pushing Me Away." The album hits the chart two weeks from now. I am on record saying that if it doesn't debut at #1, I will eat my hat. I think my hat is safe.

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

1. Sugarland, Love On The Inside, 171,000. Sugarland went from total obscurity to the #1 spot in 3-1/2 years. The act's first album, Twice The Speed Of Life, peaked at #16 in its 25th week on the chart in July 2005. Its sophomore album, Enjoy The Ride, debuted and peaked at #4 in November 2006. Two songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "All I Want To Do" at #29.

2. Miley Cyrus, Breakout, 163,000. This is Cyrus' first album that isn't listed on Nielsen/SoundScan's chart of best-selling Children's Albums, recognition on their part that she is now in the pop mainstream. Our little girl is growing up! Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "7 Things" at #10.

3. Various Artists, Mamma Mia!, 138,000. The soundtrack holds at #3 for the third straight week. This is the best chart showing by a movie soundtrack since Juno logged four weeks in the top three in January and February. More than 20,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by Meryl Streep's "Mamma Mia" at #58. The feel-good movie has grossed $87.5 million in its first three weeks.

4. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 96,000. This is the 16th consecutive week that the album has shown a sales increase compared to the previous week. This remarkable streak is due to the radio smash "All Summer Long." The album holds at #4, its highest ranking since October 21.

5. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 79,000. The album holds at #5 in its eighth consecutive week in the top five. It's the first rap album to spend its first eight weeks in the top five since 50 Cent's The Massacre did it in 2005. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "A Milli" this week finally supplants "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major) as Lil Wayne's highest-ranking entry on that chart, at #22.

6. Third Day, Revelation, 75,000. This new entry is the veteran Christian rock group's highest-charting album to date. It tops Wherever You Are, which debuted and peaked at #8 in November 2005. (I bet one reason that Christian rock sells so well is that its fans believe it's a sin to illegally download. It might have something to do with the commandment "Thou shalt not steal.")

7. Coldplay, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, 70,000. The album dips a notch to #7 in its seventh week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Viva La Vida" at #7.

8. Kidz Bop Kids, Kidz Bop 14, 58,000. This new entry is the eighth consecutive album in the Kidz Bop series (excluding ancillary releases) to debut in the top 10. As you can see, the album cover features a credit for "special guest" Sean Kingston, who performs a special version of his recent hit "Take You There."

9. Various Artists, Camp Rock, 58,000. The album dips a notch to #8 in its seventh week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "This Is Me" by Demi Lovato & Joe Jonas at #42. (This week's top 10 provides a helpful road map for a kid getting into pop music. Start out with Kidz Bop, graduate to Camp Rock, then Miley, then maybe Kid Rock and then they're on their own.)

10. Nas, untitled, 41,000. The album drops from #8 to #10 in its third week in the top 10. The rapper's most recent album, Hip Hop Is Dead, also had three weeks in the top 10 in 2006-2007. Nas' "Hero" drops to #168 on Hot Digital Songs.

Two albums drop out of the top 10 this week. NOW 28 dips from #9 to #11. Taylor Swift's Beautiful Eyes EP, a Wal-Mart exclusive, drops from #10 to #16.

Scars On Broadway's Scars On Broadway opens at #17. It's the second side project by members of System of a Down to reach the top 20. Scars On Broadway features two System members-guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan. Serj Tankian, System's lead singer, opened at #4 in October with his solo debut, Elect The Dead. System landed three #1 albums from 2001 to 2005.

Rick Springfield's Venus In Overdrive bows at #28. It's Springfield's first album to crack the top 30 since Tao in 1985. Springfield, who had back-to-back top 10 albums in 1981-'82, was known as a teen idol, a TV soap opera hunk and a talented power-pop musician--unfortunately in that order. The buzz for the new album put Springfield's biggest hit, "Jessie's Girl," back on the Hot Digital Songs chart at #185. The Grammy-winning smash has sold 619,000 downloads.

Alice Cooper's Along Came A Spider opens at #53. It's his best showing since Hey Stoopid in 1991. Slash and Ozzy Osbourne appear on the album. Cooper had five straight top 10 albums from 1972-1975. Like Elton John, David Bowie, and KISS, he emphasized theatricality in a T-shirt and jeans era  in pop music.

ABBA's Gold-Greatest Hits holds at #1 on the Catalog Album chart for the third straight week. It sold 24,000 copies this week and would have ranked #17 on the big chart if older, catalog albums could compete there. Two ABBA classics are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Dancing Queen" at #106.

Ups & Downs: M.I.A.'s Kala jumps from #151 to #62, with an 88% increase in sales-a bigger increase than any other non-debuting album in the top 200. On the down side, Candlebox's Into The Sun falls from #32 to #127 and U2's digital-only Live From Paris: Hippodrome De Vincennes, Pairs, 4th July, 1987 tumbles from #54 to #168. Sales of both albums declined by 64%, the biggest percentage drop in the top 200.

Heads Up: Lloyd and Hawthorne Heights made the top three with their last albums. Does either have a shot at #1 this time? We'll find out next week. Lloyd's Lessons In Love is his follow-up to Street Love, which debuted at #2 in March 2007. Hawthorne Heights' Fragile Future is the band's follow-up to If Only You Were Lonely, which bowed at #3 in March 2006. Also due: Randy Newman's Harps And Angels, Trapt's Only Through The Pain and the standard edition of Conor Oberst's eponymous set.

Shameless Plug: On Friday, look for my first Chart Watch Extra. I'll count down the 10 most downloaded "golden oldies"--that term now referring to any song released before 2000. Hey, time marches on.

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