Chart Watch

Week Ending Dec. 5, 2009: She’s This Year’s Josh Groban

Chart Watch

Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream sold 527,000 copies this week, on top of the 701,000 copies it sold last week. It's the first album to top the 500,000 sales mark in each of its first two weeks since 50 Cent's The Massacre in March 2005. It's the first album to top the 500K mark more than once (ever during its run, not just in its first two weeks) since Josh Groban's Noel, which topped 500K in four straight weeks in December 2007. (Incidentally, Noel rebounds from #26 to #14 this week.)

After just two weeks, I Dreamed A Dream has sold 1,224,000 copies in the U.S. It's the first album to reach the 1 million mark in just two weeks since AC/DC's Black Ice 13 months ago. That hard rock smash sold 1,055,000 copies in its first two weeks. I Dreamed A Dream is the first album to reach the 1.2 million mark in its first two weeks since Lil Wayne's rap smash Tha Carter III, which sold 1,316,000 in its first two weeks in June 2008. These three albums could hardly be more different, which is a good sign. It means that vastly different audiences are finding something they like.

Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas also tops the 1 million mark in sales this week, though his album has taken five weeks to reach that plateau. The album is #2 on The Billboard 200 for the fourth straight week. I still expect it to reach #1. A mostly Spanish language version of the album, Mi Navidad, enters the chart at #181.

The Bocelli and Boyle albums both sold more than 400,000 copies this week. This is the first time that both of the top two albums have sold 400,000 copies in one week since December 2007, when Noel and Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains both sold north of 600,000.

I Dreamed A Dream is already #10 for the year-to-date. My Christmas is #13. I Dreamed A Dream also holds at #1 in the U.K. for the second week.

The Fine Print: A reasonably smart fifth grader can add the two weekly sales tallies in the first graph and tell us that Boyle's album has sold 1,228,000 copies. So why do I say, in the second graph, that it has sold 1,224,000 copies? Good question. Nielsen/SoundScan's weekly tallies include sales in Christian bookstores, as measured by Christian SoundScan, but its "release to date" and "year to date" tallies don't. (I don't make the rules, I just report the results.)

There was a famous expression in the 1960s, "Never trust anyone over 30." What would people back then have made of this week's Billboard 200? Three of the top four albums are by artists over 40. Bocelli is 51, Boyle is 48 and R. Kelly, who debuts at #4 with Untitled, is 42.

Untitled is R. Kelly's first album since his acquittal on child-pornography charges last year, which guarantees that it's going to be closely watched. So, how's it doing? By debuting at #4, the album becomes the R&B star's 11th top 10 album. That's the good news. The bad news is that it breaks a string of eight consecutive studio albums that debuted at #1 or #2. (That tally counts two collaborations with Jay-Z). Untitled entered the chart lower than any R. Kelly studio release since 12 Play debuted at #23 in November 1993.

12 Play ultimately reached #2, so unless Untitled moves up in a subsequent week (which is very hard to do, especially at this time of year), it will go down as R. Kelly's lowest-charting studio release since Born Into The 90's (with Public Announcement), which peaked at  #42 in 1992.

What does receiving a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year do to an album? Let's take a look. (Keep in mind that there are always multiple factors, including singles and TV appearances, at play.) Taylor Swift's Fearless leaps from #8 to #3, Lady Gaga's The Fame inches up from #6 to #5, Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. holds at #23, Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce drops from #41 to #51 and Dave Matthews Band's  Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King leaps from #181 to #125. Conclusion: It seems to be a plus (Beyonce's drop notwithstanding), but the show in January is what really drives sales.

Both of Taylor Swift's studio albums now rank among the top 200 albums of the Nielsen/SoundScan era (which dates to 1991). Fearless is #182. Taylor Swift is #199. Given how hard it is for albums nowadays to make this list, this is quite an accomplishment.

Fearless also tops the country chart for the 28th week. This matches LeAnn Rimes' 1996 album, Blue. Rimes was just 13 when that album was released in July 1996. Swift was 18 when Fearless was released in November 2008. In the 45-year history of the country album chart, only one female artist has had an album log more than 28 weeks at #1. That's Shania Twain, who has had two. The Woman In Me topped the chart for 29 weeks in 1995-1996. Come On Over logged 50 weeks on top from 1997 through 2000.

Lady Gaga's The Fame inches up to #3 on the year-to-date chart. It trails only Fearless and Michael Jackson's Number Ones. Gaga's "Bad Romance" is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the third straight week. The song sold 189,000 downloads this week, bringing its six-week total to 996,000. I think it's Gaga's best and most distinctive single yet.

Michael Jackson has four of the top 20 albums for the year-to-date. Number Ones is #2, Thriller is #12, The Essential Michael Jackson is #16 and Michael Jackson's This Is It is #20. If this holds up through the end of the year, Jackson will surpass Garth Brooks' achievement of having three of the top 20 albums of 1992. Stay tuned.

To My Readers: I'm going to run my year-end chart wrap-up one week from today as a Chart Watch Extra. There will still be three chart weeks to go in 2009 at that point, but Yahoo!'s editorial board has convinced me that that Dec. 16 is just about when the general reader wants to look back on the year. Then, on Jan. 6, just hours after the final chart of 2009 hits the Nielsen/SoundScan site,  I'll update all the tallies, make any other necessary adjustments, and re-run my year-end opus in the Music section. That way, you serious chart geeks (and you know who you are) will have the final numbers on the very day they become available.

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

1. Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream, 527,000. The album logs its second week at #1. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Dreamed A Dream," which drops from #33 to #82.

2. Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas, 428,000. The album logs its fourth straight week at #2. The album sold 20,000 digital copies, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. "What Child Is This" debuts at #63 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 127,000. The former #1 album jumps from #8 to #3 in its 56th week. This is its 47th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which drops from #29 to #36.

4 .R. Kelly, Untitled, 114,000. This new entry is R. Kelly's 11th top 10 album, but it's his first studio album to debut south of the top two since 1993 (see item above).

5. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 84,000. The album inches up from #6 to #5 in its 58th week. This is its 24th week in the top 10. (The tally combines sales of the standard and expanded versions.) Seven songs from expanded The Fame Monster edition are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Bad Romance," which is #1 for the third week.

6. Carrie Underwood, Play On, 81,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #9 to #6 in its fifth week. "Cowboy Casanova" dips from #24 to #28 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Norah Jones, The Fall, 80,000. The album rebounds from #10 to #7 in its third week. (John Mayer's Battle Studies, which debuted higher than The Fall two weeks ago, has fallen behind it the last two weeks. This week it slips from #13 to #17.)

8. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson's This Is It, 75,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #11 to #8 in its sixth week. This is its fifth week in the top 10. It's #1 on the soundtrack chart for the sixth week.

9. Various Artists, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 72,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #12 to #9 in its eighth week. This is its sixth week in the top 10.

10. Michael Buble, Crazy Love, 72,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #18 to #10 in its ninth week. Buble promoted it like "Crazy" last week, with appearances on Regis & Kelly, Rachael Ray and an Oprah re-run. This is its seventh week in the top 10. "Haven't Met You Yet" jumps from #85 to #54 on Hot Digital Songs.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment drops from #3 to #22, Rihanna's Rated R drops from #4 to #16, Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster EP drops from #5 to #13, and Miley Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives EP drops from #7 to #18.

Alvin & the Chipmunks' The Squeakquel soundtrack bows at #28, giving the animated rodents a 50-year span of top 30 albums. David Seville and the Chipmunks first hit The Billboard 200 in November 1959 with Let's All Sing With The Chipmunks, which reached #4. How long ago was that? Dwight Eisenhower was President and Barack Obama wasn't even born yet. This is the Chipmunks' second movie soundtrack. The Alvin And The Chipmunks soundtrack peaked at #5 in April 2008 (when the DVD was released).

Allison Iraheta's Just Like You debuts at #35. The talented teen rocker is the third contestant from Season 8 of American Idol to hit the chart. Kris Allen's Kris Allen debuted at #11 two weeks ago. Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment bowed at #3 last week...Juvenile's Cocky & Confident opens at #49. This represents a huge drop from Juvenile's previous release, Reality Check, which bowed at #1 in March 2006. (Memo to Juvenile: It's good to be confident, but I'm not sure this is the right time to be cocky.)

This week's Billboard 200 includes 61 Christmas albums. One of them, Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas, recently became only the third album in the Nielsen/SoundScan era to top the 5 million mark in total sales. (It currently stands at 5,021,000). The other two are Kenny G's Miracles-The Holiday Album (7,213,000) and Celine Dion's These Are Special Times (5,100,000).

Thirty-one Christmas songs are listed on this week's top 200 Digital Songs chart. The highest ranking is Mariah Carey's 1994 perennial "All I Want For Christmas Is You." The peppy tune was first recorded in 1989 by Vince Vance & the Valiants. The rest of this week's top five holiday songs: the Glee cast's version of Wham!'s 1985 hit "Last Christmas," Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 1996 hit "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" (first released by Savatage in 1995), Taylor Swift's 2007 version of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" and Andrea Bocelli's "What Child Is This."

Josh Groban's Noel replaces another holiday album, Casting Crowns' Peace On Earth, as this week's #1 catalog album. This is the ninth total week that Noel has been the top catalog album. Incidentally, the new system of having catalog albums compete with current albums on The Billboard 200 is working out very well. This is the 24th consecutive week that at least one catalog album has ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the country, which sheds light on why the policy change was needed.

Song Scorecard: Jason Derulo's "Whatcha Say" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song reached #1 on the Hot 100 last month. Black Eyed Peas land their third million-seller of 2009 with "Meet Me Halfway." Two other 2009 releases top the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week: Kesha's "Tik Tok" and David Guetta's "Sexy Chick" (featuring Akon).

Heads Up: Chris Brown will shoot for his third straight top five album with Graffiti, due on next week's chart. It's his first album since his nice-guy image took a hit last February. Also due: Timbaland's Shock Value 2, Snoop Dogg's Malice In Wonderland, Glee: The Music, Volume 2, 30 Seconds To Mars' This Is War, Gucci Mane's The State vs. Radric Davis, Jimmy Buffett's Buffett Hotel, Seal's Hits, Clipse's Til The Casket Drops, B.G.'s Too Hood 2 Be Hollywood, Creed's Live and Puddle Of Mudd's Volume 4: Songs In The Key Of Love And Hate.

Useless Information: R. Kelly's current release isn't the first album to be titled Untitled. The Rembrandts released their Untitled in 1992, as a follow-up to their eponymous debut. It didn't chart, but it eventually sold a healthy 93,000 copies. Korn debuted at #2 in August 2007 with their Untitled. And Nas hit #1 in July 2008 with an album that was often called Untitled, but was actually untitled.

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