Chart Watch

Week Ending Jan. 11, 2009: Eat Your Heart Out, Loretta Lynn

Chart Watch

Taylor Swift's Fearless becomes the first album by a female artist in country music history to log six weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200. It pulls ahead of three albums that each had five weeks on top. Working backwards, they are Shania Twain's 2002 album, Up!; Linda Ronstadt's 1977 crossover smash, Simple Dreams; and comedienne Dorothy Shay's 1947 novelty hit, Dorothy Shay (The Park Avenue Hillbillie) Sings. (The Twain and Ronstadt albums also made #1 on the country chart. There was no country album chart in the 1940s, but Shay's "Feudin' And Fightin'" reached the top five on both the pop and country song charts.)

It's commonplace these days for female country stars to land #1 pop albums, but it didn't used to be. Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette, to name three country legends, never made the top 20. Lynn didn't crack the top 40 until 2004, when she scored with Van Lear Rose (which was produced by Jack White of the White Stripes). Cline and Wynette also had just one top 40 album each. Kitty Wells, one of the first great female country stars, never appeared on the pop album chart (which dates to 1945) at all. But all of these women, and many more, paved the way for Swift.

Fearless is the first album by any artist to spend six weeks at #1 since 50 Cent's The Massacre in the spring of 2006. It's the first album by a female artist to achieve the feat since Norah Jones' Feels Like Home in 2003. It's the longest run at #1 for a country album since Garth Brooks' The Hits had eight weeks on top in 1994-95.

Fearless holds at #1 on The Billboard 200 with sales of just 72,000. Only four albums in Nielsen/SoundScan history (which dates to 1991) have held the #1 spot with lower weekly sales totals. Alicia Keys' As I Am held the top spot with a lower total three times in 2008. The Dreamgirls soundtrack was #1 with a lower total twice in 2007. Albums that were #1 for one week with lower totals are Daughtry's Daughtry and the Juno soundtrack.

The current retail doldrums really shouldn't take the luster off Swift's historic accomplishment. It's fair to compare weeks at #1 from different eras, whether sales at the time were torrid or tepid, because the albums were competing against other albums in the same climate. Fearless may not have sold many copies this week, but it outsold the 199 other albums on The Billboard chart.

Swift also makes news this week as the first country artist to top the 2 million mark in paid downloads with three different songs. "Our Song" hits the milestone this week. It follows "Love Story," which reached the 2 million mark last week, and "Teardrops On My Guitar," which hit the threshold last month. The only other country artist to reach the 2 million mark is Carrie Underwood, who has done it just once, with her 2006 hit "Before He Cheats." (Two other songs reach the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week: Britney Spears' comeback smash "Womanizer" and Metro Station's ultra-tight "Shake It.")

Here's a surprising development: Sales of five albums in the top 10 are running ahead of where the artists' last albums were at the same point. This stands to reason with both Swift, who was a newcomer when her debut album was released, and Britney Spears, who is currently experiencing a big comeback. But it's potentially more meaningful in three other cases. Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce has sold 1,585,000 copies in its first eight weeks. Her last album, B'Day, had sold 1,040,000 copies at the same point. Nickelback's Dark Horse has sold 1,282,000 copies in its first eight weeks. The band's previous album, All The Right Reasons, had sold 1,139,000 at the same point. Keyshia Cole's A Different Me has sold 539,000 copies in its first four weeks. Her last album, Just Like You, had sold 473,000 copies at that point.

Of course, not everyone in the top 10 is selling better than they did last time. Albums by Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Akon are running behind where their previous albums were at the same point.

African American artists hold down five of the top 10 positions on The Billboard 200, not unprecedented by any means, but worth noting.

"Just Dance" by Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the third straight week. It sold 213,000 downloads this week, bringing its total to 2,249,000.  The song is in its 28th week on Hot Digital Songs. Only one other song has appeared at #1 this late in its chart run. That would be The Fray's 2006 hit "How To Save A Life." (Lady GaGa is Joanne Stefani Germanotta, who will turn 23 in March.) Lady GaGa's album, The Fame, vaults from #26 to #14 on The Billboard 200. Two other songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Poker Face" jumps to #48. "Starstruck" bows at #195.

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

1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 72,000. The album holds at #1 for a sixth week. Fearless still has a long way to go to become the country album with the longest run at #1. Garth Brooks' Ropin' The Wind holds that record. It was #1 for 18 weeks in 1991-'92.

Five songs from Fearless are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which holds at #3.

2. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 53,000. The album rebounds from #5 to #2 in its eighth week in the top 10.This is the second week at #2 for Dark Horse, which debuted in the runner-up spot in November before falling to #7.  This is the first time that Dark Horse has finished ahead of Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce, which debuted at #1 the same week that Dark Horse bowed at #2. Three songs from Dark Horse are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which climbs to #15.

3. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak, 50,000. West must have freaked out three weeks ago when his album slipped to #11 after just three weeks in the top 10. But the album has gotten a second wind and has now spent three additional weeks in the top 10. (This is its second straight week at #3.) This total of six weeks already matches the top 10 stay of West's previous album, Graduation. West is the only artist with two songs in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs. "Heartless" climbs to #2. "Love Lockdown" rebounds to #10.

4. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 49,000. The former #1 album drops from #2 to #4. With Sasha Fierce, Beyonce has had a far more successful experience establishing an alter ego than Garth Brooks did a decade ago. Garth Brooks In...The Life Of Chris Gaines spent just 18 weeks in the top 200 in 1999. Three songs from Beyonce's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," which dips to #5.

5. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 43,000. The former #1 album dips from #4 to #5. This is the album's 10thconsecutive week in the top 10. This matches the mark set last year by Mamma Mia!, which became the best-selling soundtrack of 2008. Twilight sold more than 16,000 copies digitally this week, which puts it at #1 on the Digital Albums chart for the third straight week (and fourth week overall). Paramore's "Decode," the hit from Twilight, dips to #40 on Hot Digital Songs.

6. Britney Spears, Circus, 40,000. The former #1 album holds at #6 for the second week. This is the album's sixth week in the top 10. Circus has already spent twice as many weeks in the top 10 as Spears' last two major albums combined. Blackout had two weeks in the top 10 in 2007. Greatest Hits: My Prerogative had one week in 2004. Two songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Circus," which holds at #7.

7. Keyshia Cole, A Different Me, 37,000. The album holds at #7 for the third week, three weeks after debuting at #2. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 34,000. The album holds at #8 for the second week in its fourth week in the top 10. The album's doing OK, but it's no match for Foxx's previous album, Unpredictable, which spent its first five weeks at #1 or #2. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Various Artists, Now 29, 30,000. The compilation holds at #9 for the second week in its ninth straight week in the top 10.

10. Akon, Freedom, 27,000. The album inches up from #11 to #10 to return to the top 10. It debuted at #7 five weeks ago but then tumbled out of the winners circle, falling as far as #31 three weeks ago. Three songs from the album are listed in the top 40 on Hot Digital Songs. "Right Now (Na Na Na)" inches up to #14, "I'm So Paid" (featuring Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy) jumps to #26 and "Beautiful" (featuring Colby O'Donis and Kardinal Offishall) leaps to #36.

The All Wrapped Up holiday CD slips from #10 to #29. The Target exclusive surged from #88 to #10 last week after the chain slashed the price to clear out holiday merchandise. This got me to thinking: Do you suppose sales would surge if CD prices came down sharply on all titles? Just a thought.

The latest installments of two compilation franchises are the only albums to debut in the top half of The Billboard 200. Total Club Hits 2 opens at #16. Ultra Dance 10 bows at #46. Both albums were helmed by top remixer/producer/DJs. DJ Skribble did the honors on Total Club Hits 2. Jason Nevins was the driving force behind Ultra Dance 10. Total Club Hits 2, which has already surpassed the #30 debut (and peak) of the initial Total Club Hits compilation in June, includes "clean versions" of three recent dance hits: "Sexy Can I" by Ray J and Yung Berg, Three 6 Mafia's "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body) and "Lookin Boy" by Hot Stylz and Yung Joc.

Our President: "My President" by Young Jeezy featuring Nas reenters Hot Digital Songs on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President. A few other songs on the chart may strike a chord with our new President over the coming months: "I Hate This Part" (cutting the budget), "See You In My Nightmares" (morning briefings), "One Step At A Time" and, eventually (let's hope), "Better In Time."

Catalog Report: I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith returns to #1 on Top Catalog Albums for an 11th week. The Time/Life collection sold 12,000 copies this week and would have ranked #38 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there.

Ups & Downs: Joey & Rory's Life Of A Song re-enters The Billboard 200 at #124, with a sales jump of 19% compared to last week. That's the week's biggest percentage gain. The biggest percentage drop was Disney's Fairy Tale Holiday collection, which fell by 79%, resulting in a fall from #34 to #117.

You, Tina: Twenty-five years ago this week, Tina Turner launched one of the most dramatic comebacks in pop music history when her cover version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" entered the Hot 100 at #72. It was her first solo hit, following a string of 20 Hot 100 hits she had recorded with her ex-husband, Ike Turner, extending from 1960 to 1975. "Let's Stay Together" wasn't a smash (it peaked at #26), but it set the stage for a far bigger hit, "What's Love Got To Do With It," which hit #1 and won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. The song provided the title for a 1993 movie about Turner's tumultuous life and inspiring comeback. Turner's story has given hope to countless other veteran acts who have fallen out of favor. The message: If you have talent, drive and luck (and a dedicated manager), you can make it all the way back.

Heads Up: The soundtrack to The Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious is expected to debut next week. Biggie's "Hypnotize," a #1 hit on the Hot 100 in 1997, enters Hot Digital Songs at #146. The song sold 14,000 downloads this week, pushing its total over the half-million mark. Also due next week: Derek Trucks Band's Already Free, Heather Headley's Audience Of One and Now That's What I Call Motown!, which is the first label-specific Now installment. The timing couldn't be better, coming just as Motown kicks off its 50th anniversary year...Due to chart in two weeks are Mariah Carey's Ballads compilation and a new album by country star Gretchen Wilson...Due to chart in three weeks: Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream and a new album by rapper Mike Jones.

 

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