Chart Watch

Week Ending Feb. 1, 2009: That’s Why They Call Him The Boss

Chart Watch

Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream enters The Billboard 200 at #1. It's the New Jersey native's ninth #1 album, which puts him in the all-time top five on the list of artists with most #1 albums. The Beatles lead the pack with 19 chart-toppers, followed by Elvis Presley and Jay-Z, with 10 each, and the Rolling Stones and Springsteen, with nine each. Except for Jay-Z, Springsteen is the most recent arrival on this list. He released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., in January 1973.

By landing his ninth #1 album, Springsteen surges ahead of Barbra Streisand and Garth Brooks, who have each amassed eight #1 albums.

Working On A Dream, which opened with sales of 224,000 copies, is Springsteen's fifth album to debut at #1. Three of the other four started with fatter first-week totals. The Rising bowed with sales of 525,000; Magic with 335,000; and Greatest Hits with 251,000. Of these five albums, only Devils & Dust had a slower first week. It started with 222,000.

Springsteen and the E Street Band played the half-time show at the Super Bowl on Sunday, the last day of the sales tracking period. Given the advance buzz about Springsteen playing the Super Bowl, one might have reasonably expected Dream to open with a bigger number. Still, the full impact of the half-time performance may not be felt until next week.

Working On A Dream did well enough to snap a four-week slump in which the #1 album each week sold fewer than 100,000 copies. There was a similar four-week slump last year, which ended when Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static arrived with sales of 375,000. You may be wondering, "Shouldn't Springsteen have been able to beat Johnson's first-week tally"? That's a tricky question. Obviously, Springsteen is a far bigger name, but you have to bear in mind that Johnson is at a different point in his career arc (he said carefully). Johnson, 33, in his prime. (Sleep was his first regular studio album to hit #1.) Springsteen, 59, is a legend whose biggest sales years are more than 20 years behind him.

That said, Springsteen is holding up well for a veteran artist. This is his fourth #1 album in this decade, which is as many chart-toppers as he had in the 1980s. (He had just one in the 1990s, a 1995 Greatest Hits set).

Working On A Dream is Springsteen's 13th regular studio album to reach the top five. The Boss has made the top five with all but one studio album since he became a star in 1975. The one that fell short was The Ghost Of Tom Joad, which debuted and peaked at #11 in 1995. The downbeat album was inspired by John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes Of Wrath. Springsteen surely knew that the album might imperil his hit streak, but he cared more about following his heart. Which proves that he's an artist and not just a hit-maker.

Springsteen also made that point in 1982 when he followed The River, his first #1 album, with the stark and challenging Nebraska, which stalled at #3. And in 2006 when he released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, which also peaked at #3. The album put a spotlight on folk legend Pete Seeger, which was the point, but it interrupted what would have been a string of four consecutive #1 studio albums for Springsteen.

In 1972, the Carpenters recorded the pretty ballad "I Won't Last A Day Without You." The 2009 equivalent of that sentiment is Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You." The song tops Hot Digital Songs for the second straight week, with 216,000 paid downloads. (If things keep going at this rate in terms of lyrical directness and edginess, how will this sentiment be expressed 37 years from now? Yikes.)

The entire top five on Hot Digital Songs is a replay of last week. The All American Rejects' "Gives You Hell" holds at #2, "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis holds at #3, The Fray's "You Found Me" maintains at #4, and Kanye West's "Heartless" holds at #5.

Song Scorecard: T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's the 16th song to reach this threshold. It's the fifth by a rap artist (as the primary artist on the record) to hit the mark, following "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain; "Crank That (Soulja Boy) by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em; "Stronger" by Kanye West; and "Lollipop" by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major.

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

1. Bruce Springsteen, Working On A Dream, 224,000. This is the first rock album to top the chart since the Twilight soundtrack debuted at #1 in November. More than 44,000 copies of Working On A Dream were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "The Wrestler" re-enters at #101. The title track bows at #114.

2. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 55,000. The album dips to #2 after eight weeks in the top spot. This is the album's 12th straight week in the top five. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Love Story" dips to #8. "White Horse" dips to #50.

3. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 52,000. The former #1 album dips to #3 after two straight weeks at #2. This is the album's 11th straight week in the top five. This is Beyonce's best showing to date. Her 2003 solo debut Dangerously In Love logged 10 weeks in the top five. Her 2006 follow-up B'Day was in the top five for just two weeks. Four songs from the new album are listed in the top 50 on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), which rebounds to #6.

4. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 44,000. The album dips to #4 after two straight weeks at #3. This is the album's 11th straight week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which dips to #22.

5. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak, 33,000. The former #1 album dips from #4 to #5. This is the album's ninth week in the top 10, which ties the mark set by West's 2005 sophomore album, Late Registration. West's only album to have had a longer stay in the top 10 was his 2004 debut The College Dropout, which hung around for 11 weeks. Two songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Heartless" holds at #5. "Love Lockdown" dips to #25.

6. Various Artists, Grammy Nominees 2009, 33,000. This new entry makes this the eighth year that the annual Grammy Nominees CD has made the top 10. This is the 13th consecutive year that the franchise has made the top 15.

7. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 32,000. The album inches to #7 after four straight weeks at #8. This is the album's seventh week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Blame It" (featuring T-Pain) vaults to #56. "Just Like Me" (featuring T.I.) dips to #112.

8. Keyshia Cole, A Different Me, 31,000. The album drops from #6 to #8. This is the album's seventh week in the top 10, a record for the R&B star. Cole's 2005 debut, The Way It Is, spent one week in the top 10. Her 2007 follow-up, Just Like You, had two. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Franz Ferdinand's Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, 31,000. This new entry is the Scottish group's second straight top 10 album, following You Could Have It So Much Better, which debuted and peaked at #8 in October 2005. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Britney Spears, Circus, 28,000. The former #1 album dips from #7 to #9. This is the album's ninth week in the top 10. This is Spears' longest-running top 10 album since her sophomore set, Oops!...I Did It Again, logged 23 weeks in the winners' circle in 2000. Spears is the only artist with two songs in the top 20 on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart. "Circus" dips to #10. "Womanizer" dips to #19. A third Spears song, "If You Seek Amy," jumps to #68.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. The Twilight soundtrack dips from #5 to #12, the Notorious soundtrack drops from #9 to #24, and Mariah Carey's The Ballads free-falls from #10 to #31. We bid them farewell with the title of a recent Carey hit: "Bye Bye."

Creedence Clearwater Revival's Chronicle (The 20 Greatest Hits), first released in 1976, tops the Catalog Albums chart for the first time since that chart was launched in 1991. The album sold 24,000 copies this week and would have ranked #14 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. The album has sold 5,329,000 copies since Nielsen/SoundScan took over tracking for Billboard in 1991 and doubtless sold millions more in the 15 years before that.  The vast majority of this week's sales, nearly 21,000 copies, were sold digitally, thanks to a $4.99 sale price at Apple's on-line store. Chronicle is the week's #2 Digital Album.

The Grammy Nominees CD wasn't the only franchise to make the top 30 this week. Voices: WWE: The Music, Vol. 9 debuts at #11. It's the fourth WWE album to make the top 15. WOW Gospel 2009 opens at #27. This is the seventh year in a row that the annual WOW Gospel installment has reached the top 40.

Two other albums debut in the top 30. Pat Green's What I'm For bows at #18. It's the country singer's fourth album in a row to make the top 30...Hoobastank's FOR(N)EVER opens at #26. This continues the group's slide from the #3 peak of its 2003 album, The Reason. Its 2006 follow-up, Every Man For Himself, reached #12. The band should be glad Springsteen made news this week. Otherwise, this week's headline might have been: "Hoobastank (And So Did This Debut)."

Forty years ago this week, the debut album by a band from England entered The Billboard 200 at #99. The album cracked the top 10 in May. It was the first of 12 top 10 albums by the band, of which seven reached #1. I'm talking, of course, about Led Zeppelin, one of the most popular and influential acts of the past half-century. They were the first hard rock/heavy metal megastars, paving the way for such acts as AC/DC and Metallica. The band first showed its full potential in the winter of 1969 when Led Zeppelin II and the Beatles' Abbey Road monopolized the top two positions on The Billboard 200 for 15 consecutive weeks, trading the lead back and forth. The fact that an upstart band went toe-to-toe with the biggest act in the world for 15 weeks demonstrated how potent the band (and hard rock in general) was, and would continue to be. Led Zeppelin's lead singer, Robert Plant, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of his old band's debut in grand style. On Sunday, he will almost certainly win a Grammy for Album of the Year for Raising Sand, his rootsy collaboration with Alison Krauss. (For more Grammy picks, see my annual predictions piece. Here's a link.)

Heads Up: Sophomore albums by two hot bands are expected to make strong debuts on next week's chart. The Fray's The Fray is the band's follow-up to the sleeper smash How To Save A Life. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' Lonely Road is its follow-up to Don't You Fake It. The top five ranking of The Fray's current song, "You Found Me," suggests that The Fray will get off to a fast start. We'll also see the latest from two country veterans-Dierks Bentley's Feel That Fire and Wynonna's Sing Chapter 1. And for the youngsters: Kidz Bop Kids' Kidz Bop 15.

Shameless Plug: If you missed my latest Chart Watch Extra, you have a second chance to read it, via this link. It's a list of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners who had the shortest lifetimes. All of these artists died before turning 50. (Six of them didn't even make it to 30.) These are artists who made their mark in a hurry.

 

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