Chart Watch

Week Ending Jan. 18, 2009: Soundtracks On A Roll

Chart Watch

Four movie soundtracks are listed in the top 20 on The Billboard 200, topped by Notorious, which debuts at #4. The album is from the new biopic about The Notorious B.I.G. The other soundtracks in the top 20 are Twilight at #6, Mamma Mia! at #15 and Slumdog Millionaire, which vaults from #55 to #16.  Notorious and Slumdog are both among the week's top 10 hits at the box-office.

Soundtracks are especially popular with today's young, hip downloaders (and you know who you are). Soundtracks hold down the top three spots on the Digital Albums chart. Slumdog is #1, followed by Notorious and Twilight.

The Notorious B.I.G. was just 24 when he was killed. That makes him one of the youngest music icons, at age of death, ever to be the subject of a film biography. Buddy Holly, who was the subject of 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, was 22 when he died in a 1959 plane crash. Ritchie Valens, the subject of the 1987 movie La Bamba, was just 17 when he died in that same plane crash.

Notorious is Biggie's fifth album since he was shot to death in March 1997. All have reached the top five. By contrast, the rap icon charted with just one album in his lifetime--his 1994 debut, Ready To Die, which reached #15. Life After Death, released just days after he was killed, logged four weeks at #1. A 1999 follow-up, Born Again, debuted at #1. There have been two more albums in recent years. Duets: The Final Chapter debuted at #3 in December 2005. Greatest Hits bowed at #1 in March 2007. (The subtitle of Biggie's Duets album was absurd. If an artist has a deep fan base, there is no Final Chapter.)

This is the 11th consecutive week that Twilight has appeared in the top 10. It's the first soundtrack to spend that many weeks in the top 10 since Juno a year ago. Mamma Mia! logged 10 weeks in the top 10.

Sales of Slumdog Millionaire surged by 116% compared to last week, the greatest gain of any album in the top 100. More than two-thirds of Slumdog's total sales this week came from the digital sphere. The album sold 14,000 downloads out of 20,000 total sales. Slumdog is the first album to top the Digital Albums chart while ranking lower than #15 on The Billboard 200 since the Music & Lyrics soundtrack nearly two years ago. The fact that the last album to accomplish this feat was also a soundtrack is further evidence that downloaders are especially hip to hot, new soundtrack releases.

Movie soundtracks have been a mainstay on the album chart since the very first chart was published in March 1945. (The soundtrack to the Judy Garland classic Meet Me In St. Louis was #3 that week, on its way to a #2 peak.) Soundtracks have had their ups and downs in recent years, but have been on an upswing since the release of Juno at the end of 2007.

Taylor Swift's Fearless continues to lead The Billboard 200. It becomes the first album to log seven weeks at #1 since Usher's Confessions had nine weeks on top in 2004. It's the first album by a female artist to top the chart this long since Alanis Morissette's Grammy-winning Jagged Little Pill had 12 weeks on top in 1995-96. It's the first country album to survive this long at #1 since Garth Brooks' The Hits had eight weeks on top in 1994-95. Alas, the weekly sales tally for Fearless is weak-just 63,000 copies. Only two albums (the Dreamgirls soundtrack and Alicia Keys' As I Am) have claimed the top spot with a lower weekly tally since Nielsen/SoundScan took over tracking for Billboard in 1991.

"Just Dance" by Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the fourth straight week. It's the first song to top this chart for four weeks in a row since Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl," which had six straight weeks on top. "Just Dance" sold 192,000 downloads this week, bringing its 29-week total to 2,441,000. "Just Dance" is the first song in digital history to rank #1 this late in its chart run. The old record was held by The Fray's "How To Save A Life," which was #1 in its 28th week. Lady GaGa's album, The Fame, dips from #14 to #18 on The Billboard 200.

Song Scorecard: I've got more song news, which I will henceforth gather in this newly named section. Rihanna sets a digital record this week. The versatile stylist becomes the first artist to reach the 2 million threshold in paid downloads with five songs. "Take A Bow" tops the 2 million mark this week, joining "Umbrella," "Disturbia," "Don't Stop The Music" and T.I.'s "Live Your Life" (on which she is featured).

Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" becomes the 13th song to top the 3 million mark in paid downloads. And it's still going strong. The charming ballad is #10 on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart, with 102,000 downloads this week. It will get an added boost at next month's Grammys: It's a finalist for Song of the Year.

"Crank That Soulja Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em becomes only the third song to reach the 4 million mark in paid downloads. (And it's the first of the three that wasn't a collaboration.) It follows "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain and "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring OneRepublic.

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

1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 63,000. The album has been #1 for seven of its first 10 weeks on the chart. That's the best showing since Usher's Confessions was #1 for eight of its first 10 chart weeks. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which dips to #6.

2. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 49,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #4 to #2 in its ninth week in the top 10. That's Beyonce's longest run in the top 10 since her 2003 solo debut, Dangerously In Love, had 13 weeks there.  Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," which holds at #5.

3. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 46,000. The album dips from #2 to #3 in its ninth week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which dips to #18.

4. The Notorious B.I.G., Notorious soundtrack, 43,000. This new entry is the week's #1 soundtrack, ending Twilight's 10-week run. Biggie is the artist on all but two tracks on the album. The others are performed by Jay-Z featuring Santogold and Jadakiss featuring Faith Evans. Four songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Hypnotize," which vaults from #146 to #30. Two other Biggie classics (not on the soundtrack) are also listed on Hot Digital Songs: "Big Poppa" and "Mo Money Mo Problems."

5. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak, 40,000. The former #1 album dips from #3 to #5 in its seventh week in the top 10. That's West's longest run in the top 10 since his 2005 sophomore album, Late Registration, had nine weeks there. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Heartless" dips to #3. "Love Lockdown" dips to #11.

6. Various Artists, Twilight, 36,000. The former #1 album dips from #5 to #6 in its 11th week. Paramore's "Decode" dips to #49 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Britney Spears, Circus, 34,000. The former #1 album dips from #5 to #7 in its seventh week in the top 10. That's Spears' longest run in the top 10 since her 2003 album, In The Zone, had the same number of weeks there. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Circus," which dips to #8.

8. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 31,000. The album holds at #8 for the third straight week. This is the first time the album has finished ahead of Keyshia Cole's A Different Me, which was released the same week. "Just Like Me" (featuring T.I.) dips to #114 on Hot Digital Songs. The song has sold 161,000 downloads in six weeks. As red-hot as T.I. is, that's pretty weak.

9. Keyshia Cole, A Different Me, 31,000. The album dips to #9 after three straight weeks at #7. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. The album's staying power, even without any hits, is surprising.

10. David Cook, David Cook, 31,000. The album rebounds from #18 to #10 in its ninth chart week. Sales jumped by 58% compared to last week, a bigger increase than any other album in the top 10. A special video of Cook was shown on last week's season opener of American Idol. It was good cross-promotion: Cook is the biggest star to emerge from the show since Daughtry in Season 5. Two songs from Cook's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Light On" vaults from #43 to #17. "The Time Of My Life" re-enters at #131.

Akon's Freedom dips from #10 to #12. This is the second time the album has dropped out of the top 10 after a single week. With three hits in the top 40 on Hot Digital Songs, I was sure the album would linger in the top 10 for a while this time. No such luck.

Now That's What I Call Motown!, released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the historic label, enters The Billboard 200 at #13. It's the first label-specific Now installment. It's a tribute to Berry Gordy Jr.'s creation that it's hard to imagine any other label being the focus of a Now! volume. Motown is such an essential part of the popular culture that it's virtually seen as a genre unto itself.

Compilations of Motown hits have been hitting the chart for nearly 45 years. The first was 16 Original Hits, which charted in April 1964. The album did so well that it spawned numerous sequels, six of which reached the chart between 1966 and 1968.  In the years since then, many more Motown collections have charted, including 20/20-Twenty No. 1 Hits From Twenty Years At Motown, from 1980, and 25 #1 Hits From 25 Years, which was released three years later. You may notice that the math here doesn't add up. This is what is known as record-company math.

Two other albums debut in the top 30. Derek Trucks Band's Already Free bows at #19. Heather Headley's Audience Of One opens at #27. Headley was a Grammy finalist for Best New Artist five years ago.

The Boss: Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler," the closing track from his upcoming album Working On A Dream, enters Hot Digital Songs at #135. The album is due on Jan. 27. Springsteen and the E Street Band's Greatest Hits, a Wal-Mart exclusive, is off to a sluggish start. The album, released Jan. 13, enters The Billboard 200 at #86. That's low for an artist of Springsteen's stature, but I have a feeling it may pick up. The band is booked to play half-time at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Last year's half-time headliners, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, zoomed to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart with Greatest Hits in the wake of the broadcast.

Catalog Report: The ongoing success of Mamma Mia! is continuing to boost ABBA's Gold-Greatest Hits, which returns to #1 on this week's Catalog Albums chart. The album sold 10,000 copies and would have ranked #48 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This is the album's 10th week at #1 on the Catalog chart, the longest run for a greatest hits album since Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits had 12 weeks on top in 2007 and early 2008.

Ups & Downs: Mike Black/QB Productions' That's Me re-enters The Billboard 200 at #190 (the same position it reached in November). Sales jumped by 131%, the biggest increase of any non-debuting title. On the down side, Erin McCarley's Love Save The Empty drops from #76 to #168. Sales fell by 61%, the steepest decline in the top 200.

Heads Up: Two compilations of love songs are being released this week, just in time for Valentine's Day. They are expected to be the top new entries on next week's chart. Mariah Carey's The Ballads is her third themed compilation, following #1's (1998) and The Remixes (2003). Frank Sinatra's Seduction: Sinatra Sings Of Love is his follow-up to the #2 album, Nothing But The Best. Also expected: Antony and the Johnson's The Crying Light, Reel Big Fish's Fame, Fortune And Fornication and Jane Monheit's The Lovers, The Dreamers And Me. (The title, of course, is drawn from "The Rainbow Connection," the stand-out song from 1979's The Muppet Movie.)


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