Chart Watch

Week Ending Dec. 21, 2008: Women Flex Chart Muscles

Chart Watch

All that female artists wanted for Christmas, it seems, was near-total chart domination. For the first time in more than 11 years, female solo artists hold down four of the top five spots on The Billboard 200. Taylor Swift's Fearless logs it third week at #1, Keyshia Cole's A Different Me debuts at #2 and former #1 albums by Britney Spears and Beyonce dip to #4 and #5, respectively. Jamie Foxx is the only male artist who could compete with these red-hot "Single Ladies." His Intuition debuts at #3.

Fearless is in a five-way tie for the longest run at #1 so far in 2008. If it holds the top spot next week, it will break the tie and become the only album to top the chart four times in this calendar year. Fearless has sold 1,850,000 copies in just six weeks, which is nearly half of the total (3,780,000) that Swift's smash debut album, Taylor Swift, has sold in 113 weeks.

Fearless is the #4 best-seller for the year-to-date-with one week to go before Nielsen/SoundScan closes the book on 2008. Can it climb higher? It will probably overtake Kid Rock's Rock And Roll Jesus, which is #3 for the year-to-date, and may even scoot past Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends to become the second best-selling album of 2008. Check back here next week for the final results.

A Different Me is Cole's second album in a row to open in the runner-up spot. Her last release, The Way It Is, bowed at #2 in September 2007. (It, too, was blocked from the top spot by a blockbuster country album, Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good.) But the new album started with a heftier sales tally. A Different Me bowed with sales of 322,000 copies, compared to 281,000 for Just Like You. Cole is more successful than her profile in the mainstream media would indicate. 

For you detail geeks (and you know who you are), the last time female solo artists held down four of the top five spots was in November 1997, when Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love, Barbra Streisand's Higher Ground, Erykah Badu's Live and Shania Twain's Come On Over all scored. The only men in the top five that week were Metallica, debuting at #1 with Reload.

Three of this week's top 10 albums-Britney Spears' Circus, Nickelback's Dark Horse and the Twilight soundtrack-will probably top the 1 million mark in total sales next week. This will bring the year's total number of million-selling albums from a dismal 21 to a merely lousy 24. (I'll have the final counts in a Chart Watch Extra next week.)

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

1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 330,000. Fearless is the first country album to log three weeks at #1 since Rascal Flatts' Me And My Gang in the spring of 2006. It's the first country album by a female artist to achieve the feat since Shania Twain's Up! logged five weeks at #1 in late 2002. Two songs from Swift's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which moves up to #7.

2. Keyshia Cole, A Different Me, 322,000. This is Cole's third album to debut in the top 10. The Way It Is debuted (and peaked) at #6 in June 2005. Just Like You debuted (and peaked) at #2 in September 2007. Now here's an oddity. Just one song from the new album ("Trust") is listed on Hot Digital Songs and it's way down at #177. But then, I'd rather have the #2 album and the #177 song than the other way around.

3. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 265,000. This new entry is Foxx's second straight top five album. Unpredictable debuted at #2 in December 2005 (with sales of 598,000) and went on to log three weeks at #1. Foxx was hot as a pistol in 2005. In March, he won an Oscar for Ray; in September he topped the Hot 100 as a featured artist on Kanye West's monster hit "Gold Digger." "Just Like Me" (featuring T.I.) vaults from #115 to #53 in its second week on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Britney Spears, Circus, 196,000. The album drops from #2 to #4 in its third week. Sales dipped by 2% compared to last week. This is the only album in the top 30 that experienced a decline in sales compared to the previous week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Circus," which dips to #3 after two weeks on top.

5. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 195,000. The album drops from #3 to #5 in its fifth week. It has sold 1,248,000 copies, which puts it at #14 for the year-to-date. That's higher than any other non-rap R&B album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," which returns to #1 for a third week. The song sold 149,000 downloads this week, bringing its five-week total to 871,000.

6. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 194,000. The album dips from #4 to #6 in its fifth week. If this album had sold just 1,700 more copies this week, it would have held at #4. Artists, think of that the next time a publicist asks you to do another interview.  Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which holds at #17.

7. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 156,000. The album dips from #5 to #7 in its seventh week. The movie grossed $5.2 million in its fifth week at the box-office. Its total gross to date: $158.5 million. Paramore's "Decode" dips to #31 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Fall Out Boy, Folie A Deux, 150,000. This new entry is the group's third consecutive top 10 album. From Under The Cork Tree debuted (and peaked) at #9 in May 2005; Infinity On High bowed at #1 in February 2007. This is the week's #1 Digital Album, with 39,000 paid downloads. (Infinity On High also topped the Digital Albums chart.) The group has two songs on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Don't Care," which vaults to #26.

9. AC/DC, Black Ice, 143,000. The album dips from #8 to #9 in its ninth week. Black Ice is #5 on the year-to-date chart. It's the top hard rock album for the year-to-date, edging out Metallica's Death Magnetic, which is #7 for the year-to-date.

10. Various Artists, Now 29, 139,000. The compilation drops from #7 to #10 in its sixth week. The album has sold 776,000 copies in its first six weeks.

Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak falls out of the top 10 after just three weeks. It drops from #6 to #11. This surprises me, in part because West has two high-flying singles. "Heartless" holds at #4 on Hot Digital Songs. "Love Lockdown" holds at #6. Each of West's albums has spent fewer weeks in the top 10 than the one that preceded it. The College Dropout logged 11 weeks in the top 10, compared to nine weeks for Late Registration, six for Graduation and three (so far) for 808s & Heartbreak. Two other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. High School Musical 3: Graduation Day falls from #9 to #17, and no longer poses much of a threat to Mamma Mia! winding up as the #1 soundtrack of 2008. David Cook's David Cook drops from #10 to #13.

Anthony Hamilton's The Point Of It All bows at #12. This is the R&B star's third top 20 album. Soulife also hit #12; Ain't Nobody Worryin' reached #19...Plies' Da REAList opens at #14, a drop-off from his last two albums, The Real Testament and Definition Of Real, both of which debuted (and peaked) at #2. All three albums, you'll notice, have "real" in the title. I guess you could say Plies is keeping it "real." "Put It On Ya" (featuring Chris J) opens at #35 on Hot Digital Songs...The All-American Rejects' When The World Comes Down bows at #15. The 2-CD set is the group's second album to make the top 15. Move Along debuted (and peaked) at #6 in July 2005. "Gives You Hell" jumps to #13 on Hot Digital Songs.

Dave Matthews Band's Live At Denver opens at #97. This is the band's 11th live album to hit the chart. Five of these have made the top 10: Live At Red Rocks 8.15.95, Live At Luther College (with Tim Reynolds), Live At Folsom Field Boulder Colorado, The Gorge and Live At Radio City Music Hall (also with Reynolds).

Catalog Report: Josh Groban's Noel tops the Catalog Albums chart for the seventh straight week. The album sold 172,000 copies this week, its biggest frame since the last week of December last year. It would have ranked #7 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This brings total sales of the album to 4,530,000.

Ups & Downs: Brandy's Human drops from #15 to #66 in its second week. Sales dropped off by 64%, the biggest percentage decline of any album in the top 200. The Winter Wonderland collection, which features vintage recordings by Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Jo Stafford, among others, vaults from #120 to #51 in its seventh week. Sales surged by 286%, the biggest increase of any album in the top 200.

Heads Up: The soundtrack to the likely Oscar nominee Revolutionary Road is expected to chart next week.

TV Tip: The Kennedy Center Honors originated in 1978 with the stated intention of honoring great artists from all fields. They might as well have added, "except rock and country musical acts." The program didn't get around to honoring a country musician (Roy Acuff) until 1991. It took another six years, until 1997, for the program to finally embrace a rock musician (Bob Dylan). This year, they'll honor artists from both of these once-ignored genres. George Jones will be the sixth country great to receive the honor. The induction of Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey of The Who will mark the first time that two members of a rock group have been cited. This year's honorees will also include Barbra Streisand (it's about time!), actor Morgan Freeman and dance maven Twyla Tharp. The show is a little static and formulaic, I'll grant you, but it's classy and prestigious. This year's installment airs on Dec. 30. You might want to tune in.

One Week To Go: A week from today, I'll have the final Chart Watch of the year and, later that same day, a Chart Watch Extra counting down the top 10 albums and songs of 2008.

Merry Christmas, everybody.


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