Chart Watch

Week Ending Feb. 17, 2008: The Grammy Effect–Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching

Chart Watch

Amy Winehouse and Herbie Hancock lead the annual parade of Grammy winners and performers who surge on Nielsen/SoundScan's list of the best-selling albums in the U.S.

Winehouse's Back To Black leaps from #24 to #2, surpassing its initial peak at #6 last June and July. Hancock's River: The Joni Letters vaults from #159 to #5, surpassing its initial peak at #118 last September. Hancock's weekly sales jumped more than tenfold over last week's tally. Winehouse's weekly sales nearly quintupled compared to last week.

Yet, the #1 album is by an artist whose name wasn't even uttered on the Grammy telecast--Jack Johnson. The balladeer's Sleep Through The Static not only holds at #1 for the second week in a row, it edges past Alicia Keys' As I Am to become the best-selling album so far in 2008.

The deluxe edition of Michael Jackson's Thriller would have opened at #2 if it had been allowed to compete on the pop album chart, but Nielsen/SoundScan and Billboard magazine have a rule that any title that is 18 months or older, including reissues of older albums, must instead appear on Top Pop Catalog Albums. Thriller debuts at #1 on that list with sales of 166,000--about 14,000 units behind Johnson's tally. Jackson's total is more than nine times the sales of the #2 catalog title--Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits.

This is Jackson's best sales week since Invincible sold 190,000 copies in the week before Christmas 2001. Since then, of course, Jackson was tried and acquitted on child molestation charges and mostly kept a low profile. A series of compilations have sold disappointingly. Number Ones, a hit-studded 2003 release, didn't even make the top 10, which must have been a humbling experience for a proud man and a once-dominant artist, who debuted at #1 with four albums between 1987 and 2001-Bad, Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible.

River: The Joni Letters is the first album in the 50 year history of the Grammys to be awarded Album of the Year before it cracked the top 100. Only two other albums have won that award before they reached the top 15. Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged initially peaked at #69 in July 1994. The week after its Album of the Year victory, it re-entered the chart at #48, which became its peak position. Bonnie Raitt's Nick Of Time initially peaked at #22 in June 1989. After it won the big award, it soared to #1 for three weeks.

Both Hancock and Winehouse made Grammy history on Feb. 10. River: The Joni Letters was the first jazz album to be named Album of the Year since the 1964 Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto collaboration, Getz/Gilberto. Winehouse was the first female Brit to win five Grammys in one year. Her haul included Record and Song of the Year for her smash "Rehab"-which jumps back into the top 10 on this week's Hot Digital Tracks chart.

The inexhaustible "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain continues at #1 on Hot Digital Tracks for a record 12th week. It's about two weeks away from topping "Crank That Soulja Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em as the most downloaded song of all time. Or at least the one with the most paid downloads. (Apparently some young pranksters are downloading songs without paying the piper. I'm sure none of you know anything about that.)

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

1. Jack Johnson, Sleep Through The Static, 180,000. This is Johnson's first album to hold at #1 for a second week. His Curious George soundtrack spent one week on top in 2006. As I breathlessly reported last week, this is the 750th #1 album since Billboard's sales chart became a regular weekly feature in March 1956. If you missed last week's column, here's a link. Check it out. It's not everyday I'm able to work the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Marilyn Manson in to the same sentence.

2. Amy Winehouse, Back To Black, 115,000. This album is in its 49th week on the chart, making it the third oldest title in the top 30--behind smash debuts by Taylor Swift and Daughtry. The album spent 12 weeks in the top 10 last year and wound up as the #19 album of 2007.

3. Alicia Keys, As I Am, 109,000. This album is in its 14th consecutive week in the top three. As Billboard's Geoff Mayfield has reported in his always informative Over The Counter column, As I Am was the first album to spend its first nine weeks in the top three since Usher's 2004 blockbuster, Confessions, which spent its first 17 weeks in that high-rent district. And Keys just keeps closing in on Usher's winning streak. (Of course, her sales are lower, a sign of the times. At the 14 week mark, Usher had sold 4,456,000 copies, compared to 3,096,000 for Keys.)

4. Various Artists, Grammy Nominees 2008, 72,000. This is the fourth time in the last five years that the annual Grammy Nominees CD has reached #4 or better. The 2004 and 2005 editions also reached #4. Last year's installment hit #3. The 2006 edition, for some mysterious reason, stalled at #14.

5. Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters, 54,000. This is now the highest-charting album of Hancock's more than four decade career. That title was jointly held by Head Hunters and Thrust, both of which reached #13 in 1974. The collection of jazz interpretations of Joni Mitchell songs features contributions from such stars as Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Leonard Cohen and Mitchell herself.

6. Various Artists, Juno soundtrack, 53,000. The film reached the $125 million mark at the box-office last weekend. This is the seventh straight week in the top 10 for the soundtrack. The Hairspray soundtrack had eight weeks in the top 10 last summer, a figure that Juno is expected to match next week--and then top. Juno has a little promotional opportunity coming up on Sunday--the Oscars.

7. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, 52,000. Swift's album tops the 2.5 million mark this week, its 69th week on the chart. "Teardrops On My Guitar" and "Our Song" both continue in the top 25 on Hot Digital Tracks.

8. Sheryl Crow, Detours, 52,000. This is Crow's fourth consecutive albums to peak at #2. (Roadblock might have been a more apt title.) Crow's "Love Is Free" drops from #39 to #73 on Hot Digital Tracks.

9. Mary J. Blige, Growing Pains, 49,000. This is Blige's ninth week in the top 10. "Just Fine" jumps from #89 to #76 on Hot Digital Tracks. Though never a crossover smash, it manages to hang in there week after week.

10. Various Artists, Step Up 2: The Streets soundtrack, 45,000. The movie opened at #3 on the box-office tally, with a gross of $22.1 million. The soundtrack to the initial Step Up soundtrack peaked at #6 in 2006. This is the first time that two movie soundtracks have been in the top 10 simultaneously since January 2007, when Dreamgirls and Jump In both scored. (And no, I'm not counting the Miley Cyrus album, which was in the top 10 the last four weeks, as a movie soundtrack, even though there is a movie.)

Three albums drop out of the top 10 to make way for Winehouse, Hancock and Step Up 2. The aforementioned Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus dips from #9 to #11, Lenny Kravitz's It Is Time For A Love Revolution drops from #4 to #17, and k.d. lang's Watershed drops from #8 to #20.

Simple Plan's Simple Plan is the week's top new entry at #14, with sales of 39,000 copies. The group's breakthrough album, No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls, reached #35 in 2003. The follow-up, Still Not Getting Any..., opened (and peaked) at #3 in 2004 (with sales of 139,000). (Memo to Simple Plan: After coming up with two highly charged album titles like that, how could you put out an eponymous album? It's like you're not even trying. We know you can do better.)

Wow Gospel 2008 debuts at #34. It's the sixth consecutive Wow Gospel album to make the top 40. The series was launched in 1998. You may be surprised to learn (I was) that Wow Gospel, a soul gospel series, consistently charts higher than Wow Hits, which focuses on Contemporary Christian material. It has done so the last six years. One reason may be the calendar. Wow Gospel comes out about this time every year. Wow Hits comes out in the more competitive fall season.

Two other albums debut in the top 100. Widespread Panic's Free Somehow opens at #78. It's the veteran rock group's ninth album to make the top 100. (Only two of the nine have made the top 50: Bombs & Butterflies reached #50 in 1997. Earth To America hit #48 in 2006.) Natalie Grant's Relentless opens at #81. The Christian singer-songwriter had a hit Christmas album in 2006, Believe.

Thriller Redux: Michael Jackson's Thriller united pop, R&B, dance, rock and adult contemporary audiences like few, if any, albums before or since. It brought Jackson to a level of fan hysteria not seen since Elvis Presley in the 1950s and the Beatles in the 1960s. (That fame and adulation came with a price.)

The album logged 78 weeks in the top 10 in 1983-'84, which, at the time, placed it second only to The Sound Of Music soundtrack, which spent 109 weeks in the top 10. (Jackson's tally was soon eclipsed by Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A., which logged 84 weeks in the top 10, and tied by Def Leppard's Hysteria.) Thriller was the first album in pop history to spawn seven top 10 singles, a feat that has been matched only by Born In The U.S.A. and Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814.

A wish: May you all win your Oscar pools this weekend.

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