Chart Watch

Week Ending Dec. 5, 2010: The “Gift” That Keeps On Giving

Chart Watch

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Susan Boyle's The Gift returns to #1 for the third time in its four-week run. This represents sweet vindication for Boyle, whose first-week sales tally a few weeks ago was pooh-poohed by some because it wasn't up to the blockbuster level of her 2009 debut, I Dreamed A Dream. It also suffered by comparison because it was released just two weeks after Taylor Swift's Speak Now. But Boyle's album has held its ground nicely. It has sold 250K or more copies in each of its first four weeks. The album is already #9 for the year-to-date. This will be the second year in a row that Boyle has ranked in the top 10 on Nielsen/SoundScan's year-end chart. I Dreamed A Dream was the #2 seller of 2009.

The Gift is the first album by a female solo artist to log three weeks at #1 since I Dreamed A Dream. And it's expected to stay on top next week, giving it a fourth week in the lead. Swift's Speak Now has spent two weeks on top. Ke$ha's Animal, Katy Perry's Teenage Dream and Sara Bareilles' Kaleidoscope Heart each had a single frame at #1.

This fan support may ease the disappointment Boyle must have felt last week when she was passed over for a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Given her massive sales, that felt like a diss. I suspect that Boyle's reality TV background (she was the runner-up on Britain's Got Talent) hurt her. After all these years, only one American Idol contestant (Carrie Underwood) has been nominated for Best New Artist. Even such worthy artists as Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry and David Cook were left off the final ballot.

[Related: Susan Boyle achieves dream, sings for pope]

The Gift has already proven that Boyle is no one-hit-wonder. If the album had been released just a week or two earlier, its impact would have been felt before the Grammy panel selected the final Best New Artist nominees. (I suspect they voted just before The Gift dropped.) Timing is everything, as they say.

Tomorrow, Billboard will release its full menu of year-end charts. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but it's pretty obvious that I Dreamed A Dream will be their #1 album of the year. Boyle's album sold 3,840,000 copies during Billboard's chart year, which extended from Dec. 5, 2009 through Nov. 27. (That corresponds to Nielsen/SoundScan's charts for the weeks ending Nov. 22, 2009 through Nov. 14.) Boyle's album sold 81% of that total in the last six weeks of 2009. But it gets the Billboard crown for 2010 because of the magazine's November to November eligibility period (which is necessitated by the time needed to produce its massive year-end issue).

This is the fourth time in the past five years that a female solo artist has had Billboard's #1 album of the year. Taylor Swift's Fearless was cited last year. Alicia Keys' As I Am came out on top in 2008. Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts scored for 2006. This marks a major change from the way it used to be. From 1956 to 1985, no female solo artist had the #1 album of the year. In 1986, Whitney Houston's blockbuster debut became the first album by a female solo artist to come out on top.

To mark Boyle's achievement, I scrolled back through Billboard's #1 albums of the year all the way back to 1956, which was the year the magazine launched its weekly album chart. I suppose I could have just scrolled back to 1980 or 1970 and called it a day. But then I heard Katy Perry sing, "Let's go all the way tonight," and I took it as a sign that I was meant to go all the way back to the beginning. And so I did. The piece went up on Monday. If you missed it, here's a link.

Taylor Swift's Speak Now jumps from #4 to #2 in its sixth week. It moves up to #3 on Nielsen/SoundScan's year-to-date chart. This will be the third year in a row that Swift has appeared in their year-end top three. No other artist since 1992 (the first full year that Nielsen/SoundScan tracked sales for Billboard) has ever placed in the year-end top three for three years running.

[Related: Taylor Swift plans her 21st birthday party]

There are two Glee albums in the top five this week. Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album jumps from #10 to #4. Glee, The Music: Season Two: Volume 4 bows at #5. It's the eighth Glee album or EP to reach the top 10. No previous TV series has spawned more than five top 10 albums (during the run of the show). (If you combine the sales of these two Glee albums, they still don't add up to Boyle's impressive total this week.)

The Black Eyed Peas' The Beginning debuts at #6. This is a little low for the Peas. Monkey Business opened at #2 in 2005. The E.N.D. bowed at #1 in 2009. The group's current single, "The End (Dirty Bit)," is basically "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" with a light hip-hop flavor. It's nice, but it's not as bold and distinctive as "Boom Boom Pow," the first single from The E.N.D. And while it's a hit, it's not the mega-hit that "Boom Boom Pow" was. The week The E.N.D. debuted at #1, "Boom Boom Pow" was in its 11thweek at #1 on the Hot 100 (with another week still to come).

(Incidentally, this is the second time the Peas have released back-to-back albums with titles that seem thematically linked. They followed their breakthrough album Elephunk with Monkey Business.)

There are five female solo artists in the top 10, plus two Glee albums and a Black Eyed Peas album. Do you think women bought the bulk of the albums this week?

Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy slips from #1 to #7 in its second week. That's the biggest tumble from the top spot since Toby Keith's Bullets In The Gun dropped from #1 to #9 in October. West's last two albums also spent just a single frame at #1. 808s & Heartbreak dropped to #4 in its second week. Graduation dipped to #2. West's tally for this week includes 47K digital copies, which put it at #1 on the Digital Albums chart for the second week.

Katy Perry's "Firework" tops Hot Digital Songs for the second straight week. It sold 212K copies this week, bringing its eight-week total to 1,031,000. It's Perry's sixth million-seller. Bruno Mars has two songs in the top 10. "Grenade" jumps from #6 to #3 (173K). "Just The Way You Are" dips from #8 to #9 (97K). The Glee Cast's cover of Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" debuts at #8 (98K). It's the 12th Glee song to make the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs. (The original version vaults from #40 to #11.)

Here's the rest of the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs. The Black Eyed Peas' "The Time (Dirty Bit)" jumps from #4 to #2 (198K). P!nk's "Raise Your Glass" drops from #2 to #4 (147K). Rihanna featuring Drake's "What's My Name?" holds at #5 (143K). Ke$ha's "We R Who We R" drops from #3 to #6 (134K). Cee Lo Green's "F*** You (Forget You)" jumps from #10 to #7 (110K). Trey Songz featuring Nicki Minaj's "Bottoms Up" jumps from #11 to #10 (93K).

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Coldplay's "Christmas Lights" enters Hot Digital Songs at #12, displacing Mariah Carey's perennial "All I Want For Christmas Is You" as the week's top holiday song. Last week, I posted a list of the 30 best-selling holiday songs of the digital era. I just updated it to incorporate this week's sales numbers into all the tallies. If you missed it, or want to get  the very latest info, here's a link.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death. Yesterday, I posted a piece on his chart and sales achievements. I also just updated that piece to incorporate this week's sales numbers. If you missed it, here's a link.

Three chart-topping artists are listed in the top 10 on another kind of chart-Publishers Weekly's list of the nation's top 10 nonfiction books. Jay-Z's Decoded is #2, Keith Richards' Life is #4, Barbra Streisand's My Passion For Design is #10. Nice going, artists. Now get back in the studio.

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

 

1. Susan Boyle, The Gift, 272,000. The album returns to #1 for the third time in its four week run. The album has sold 1,134,000 copies.

2.  Taylor Swift, Speak Now, 182,000. The former #1 album jumps from #4 to #2 in its sixth week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Back To December" drops from #39 to #52. "Mine" drops from #51 to #81.

3. Jackie Evancho, O Holy Night, 145,000. The EP/DVD combo rebounds from #5 to #3 in its third week. The title has sold 517,000 copies.

4. Various Artists, Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album, 129,000. The album jumps from #10 to #4, a new high, in its third week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "O Holy Night," which jumps from #125 to #110.

5. Various Artists, Glee, The Music, Season Two: Volume 4, 128,000. This new entry is the eighth Glee album or EP to reach the top 10. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life)," which debuts at #19.

6. The Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning, 119,000. This new entry is the Peas' third top 10 album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "The Time (Dirty Bit)" jumps from #4 to #2. "Love You Long Time" debuts at #143.

7. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 108,000. The former #1 album drops from #1 to #7 in its second week. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Runaway" (featuring Pusha T), which drops from #34 to #51.

8. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday, 103,000. The album drops from #2 to #8 in its second week. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Right Thru Me," which dips from #38 to #42.

9. Josh Groban, Illuminations, 78,000. The album rebounds from #12 to #9 in its third week. Groban has a second album in the top 20. Noel, from 2007, rebounds from #27 to #18.

10. Rihanna, Loud, 77,000. The album drops from #6 to #10 in its third week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "What's Your Name?" (featuring Drake) holds at #5. "Only Girl (In The World)" drops from #7 to #16.

 

Three albums drop out of the top 10 in their second week on the chart. Justin Bieber's My Worlds Acoustic drops from #7 to #11. My Chemical Romance's Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys plummets from #8 to #60. Ne-Yo's Libra Scale drops from #9 to #34. Ne-Yo's last album, Year Of The Gentleman, spent its first six weeks in the top 10.

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Andrea Bocelli's 2009 album My Christmas vaults from #32 to #14. It's #1 on this week's Catalog Albums chart...Jazmine Sullivan's second album, Love Me Back, bows at #17. Sullivan's debut album, Fearless, debuted at #6 in 2008. What do these two artists have in common? Practically nothing. But both artists were nominated for the Grammys as Best New Artist.

The Burlesque soundtrack drops from #18 to #23. It's the #1 soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie for the second week in a row. The movie stars Cher and Christina Aguilera, who both rose to fame when they were still in their teens. Cher was 19 when she first topped the Hot 100 with Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe". Aguilera was 18 when she first topped the chart with "Genie In A Bottle." Aguilera won a Grammy as Best New Artist of 1999. Sonny & Cher were nominated as Best New Artist of 1965, but lost to Tom Jones. Cher didn't finally win her first Grammy until her 1999 smash "Believe" took Best Dance Recording. (Yes, that was the same year that Aguilera won her first Grammy.)

Chrisette Michele's third album, Let Freedom Reign, bows at #25. Michele's Epiphany debuted at #1 in 2009...Tim McGraw's Number One Hits debuts at #27...Eric Benet's Lost In Time bows at #33. The R&B artist's last album, Love & Life, hit #11 in 2008.

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Ron Isley's Mr. I bows at #50. This is Isley's first solo album to crack The Billboard 200. He previously charted with 30 Isley Brothers albums and one collabo with Burt Bacharach. Isley and his brothers amassed nine top 10 albums from 1973 to 2006. He stepped up to featured billing with the group in 2001.

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El DeBarge's Second Chance bows at #57. DeBarge was the Bruno Mars of the '80s, a singer who oozed sincerity on such romantic hits as "All This Love." Counting hits he recorded with the family group DeBarge, DeBarge had five top 20 hits on the Hot 100 between 1983 and 1986. DeBarge's career and personal life subsequently went into a tailspin. He served time in federal prison in 2008 and 2009 on a drug-related conviction. He seems to have gotten his life and career back on track. Welcome back, El.

Rick Warren's The Purpose Of Christmas debuts at #74. Warren is a prominent evangelical Christian pastor and author. This package consists of a DVD with an audio message from Warren and a CD with songs by such stars as Steven Curtis Chapman, Sarah McLachlan, Martina McBride, Vince Gill and Amy Grant.

The soundtrack to Tangled jumps from #135 to #126 in its second week. The movie was #1 at the box-office over the weekend.

Owl City's 2009 smash "Fireflies" tops the 4 million mark in paid downloads this week... Kings of Leon's "Sex On Fire" tops the 2 million mark. The band's Grammy-winning "Use Somebody" is up to 3,457,000...Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie" tops the 1 million mark.

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Ludacris' "How Low" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads. It's the rapper's first 2 million seller as a lead artist, though he has reached that level with four hits as a featured artist. He was featured on Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart" (3,137,000), Usher's "Yeah!" (2,867,000), Fergie's "Glamorous" (2,837,000) and Justin Bieber's "Baby" (2,556,000).

What album from the 1970s has sold the most copies in the modern era? That's an easy question. Pink Floyd's 1973 classic The Dark Side Of The Moon has sold 9 million copies (as of this week) since Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. This tally doesn't count the album's first 18 years of sales. Pink Floyd's opus is the 27th best-selling album of the Nielsen/SoundScan era. Only two other albums from the 1970s are listed in the top 100: James Taylor's Greatest Hits (1976) at #66 and the Grease soundtrack (1978) at #98.

Take That's Progress holds at #1 in the U.K. for the third straight week. The album has sold more than 900K copies, which is very good considering the population of the U.K. is about 62 million. An album would have to sell 4.5 million in the U.S. to be an equivalent success. No album has sold that many copies in the U.S. in a calendar year since 2005.

Coming Attractions: T.I.'s No Mercy is expected to be next week's top new entry with sales in the range of 140,000. Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy soundtrack and Charlie Wilson's Just Charlie will probably start out in the 50K-60K range. Also due: Deadmau5's 4X4=12, Hinder's The All American Nightmare, Natasha Bedingfield's Strip Me, Duffy's EndlesslyPlain White T's' Wonders Of The Younger, Redman's Redman Presents Reggie and Flyleaf's Remember To Live.

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