Chart Watch

Week Ending Jan. 24, 2010: Hope For Haiti Makes History

Chart Watch

Hope For Haiti Now makes history this week on two fronts. It's the first album ever to reach #1 on The Billboard 200 solely through digital sales. And it's the first album from a charity concert or telethon ever to reach the top. (It surpasses The Concert For Bangla Desh, George Harrison's 1971 album which single-handedly created the charity album genre. It logged six weeks at #2.)

Until this week, the #1 album with the highest percentage of digital sales was Ke$ha's Animal, which debuted two weeks ago with digital sales accounting for 76% of its weekly total. That record didn't last long, a sign of just how fast the music industry is changing.

Hope For Haiti Now: A Global Telethon For Earthquake Relief sold 171,000 digital copies between Friday night, when the telethon aired, and Sunday night, the close of the tracking period. Only one album has ever sold more digital copies in one week. That was Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, which sold 288,000 digital copies in its first week in June 2008.

Hope For Haiti Now is the third charity album to reach #1, following two collections of studio tracks: 1985's We Are The World, which raised money for the USA for Africa organization, and 2001's God Bless America, which raised money for the Twin Towers Fund. (Shameless Plug: I've made a list of all charity albums that have made the top 40. It will run as a Chart Watch Extra sometime this week.)

George Clooney and MTV Networks organized the Hope For Haiti telethon, which resulted in this album. This is the second time that Clooney has been associated with a #1 album. He starred in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which spawned a chart-topping soundtrack in March 2002. (Incidentally, Clooney's aunt, the legendary pop and jazz singer Rosemary Clooney, never had a #1 album. She came close in 1952, when Hollywood's Best, an album she recorded with bandleader Harry James, hit #3.)

Hope For Haiti Now has climbed far higher than such past albums from telethons as America: A Tribute To Heroes, which peaked at #27 in 2001. The advent of digital has made a big difference in this regard. In the old days, it would take a few months to get a physical album into the marketplace. By that time, the momentum had cooled. With digital, fans can be downloading the album while the telethon is still fresh in their minds.

(Let's use America: A Tribute To Heroes as an example. The telethon aired on Sept. 21, 2001. The album was finally released on Dec. 4. And that was a rush-job.)

More than 83 million people tuned in for at least a portion of the Hope For Haiti Now telethon. The telethon had an average audience of more than 24 million viewers. Compared to those numbers, the 171,000 who paid to download the album may seem like a drop in the bucket. But there's always a big difference between watching something on TV for free and paying to own it.

Eight songs from Hope For Haiti Now are listed on this week's top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart. The three most popular are Jay-Z's "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)" (with Bono, The Edge and Rihanna), which debuts at #8; Justin Timberlake's "Hallelujah" (with Matt Morris), which opens at #24; and Sheryl Crow's "Lean On Me" (with Kid Rock and Keith Urban), which opens at #79.

The Fine Print: Beyonce's "Halo" sold 25,000 copies this week to rebound to #76, but only 11,000 of those copies were the Haiti-specific version she sang on the telethon...Jeff Buckley's 1995 version of "Hallelujah" also re-enters the chart at #174. It has sold 1,048,000 downloads to date.

Taylor Swift tops the Hot Digital Songs chart for the first time as "Today Was A Fairytale" debuts at #1. It sold 325,000 copies in its first week. That's the second biggest weekly tally ever for a country crossover hit. The biggest? Swift's "Love Story," which sold 360,000 copies during Christmas week 2008.

"Today Was A Fairytale" is the first single from the Valentine's Day soundtrack, which is due Feb. 9. Swift appears in the romantic comedy, which is slated to open on Feb. 12. The movie stars Julia Roberts, heading an all-star cast. (Swift has another song, "Jump Then Fall," on the soundtrack.)

Ke$ha's "TiK ToK," which slips to #2 on Hot Digital Songs, tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song took just 18 weeks to top the 3 million mark. That's the second fastest that an act's initial Hot 100 single has reached 3 million in digital sales. The champ is Flo Rida's "Low" (featuring T-Pain), which hit the mark in its 17th week.

Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream becomes the first album to spend its first nine weeks in the top two spots on The Billboard 200 since Usher's Confessions in 2004. You might assume that Confessions sold far more copies in those nine weeks than I Dreamed A Dream did. After all, Usher's blockbuster was nearly six years ago, before the bottom fell out of the music industry. But Boyle is surprisingly close behind. After nine weeks, Confessions had sold 3,575,000 copies. After nine weeks, I Dreamed A Dream has sold 3,357,000. The only problem for Boyle: Her album was boosted by holiday gift-giving, while Usher's was driven by a string of smash singles. And Christmas comes around just once a year, while Usher had a new chart-topping hit every couple of months.

Lady Gaga's The Fame jumps from #4 to #3. This is the album's 31st week in the top 10. That's the longest run by a debut album since Norah Jones' Come Away With Me logged 36 weeks in the top 10 in 2003. The two artists couldn't be more different, but that's the fun of the music business. ("Paparazzi" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's Lady Gaga's fourth song to hit this threshold.)

The 2010 Grammy Nominees CD opens at #5. This marks the ninth time that an installment in this series has reached the top 10. The series bowed in 1995. The best seller to date was the 2000 edition, which has sold 873,000 copies. The poorest seller was last year's volume, which has sold 215,000 copies. This year's edition includes all five nominees for Record of the Year. Incidentally, if you haven't read my annual Grammy predictions yet, here's a link.

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

1. Various Artists. Hope For Haiti Now, 171,000. This new entry is the first digital-only album to reach #1. Eight songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by Jay-Z's "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)" (with Bono, The Edge and Rihanna), which debuts at #8.

2. Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream, 86,000. The former #1 album holds at #2 for the third straight week. It's the first album to spend its first nine weeks at #1 or #2 since Usher's Confessions. (See item above.)

3. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 62,000. The album rebounds from #4 to #3. This is its 31st week in the top 10. Six songs from the expanded version of the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Bad Romance," which drops from #2 to #6.

4. Spoon, Tranference, 53,000. This new entry is the band's second straight top 10 album. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga debuted at #10 in July 2007. Digital sales account for slightly more than half of this week's tally (27,000 copies).

5. Various Artists, 2010 Grammy Nominees, 49,000. This new entry marks the ninth time that the annual Grammy Nominees CD has made the top 10. This is the 14th consecutive year that the franchise has made the top 15.

6. Vampire Weekend, Contra, 43,000. The album drops from #1 to #6 in its second week. "Horchata" drops from #90 to #135 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Alicia Keys, The Element Of Freedom, 40,000. The album drops from #5 to #7. This is its sixth week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart," which drops from #57 to #71.

8. Ke$ha, Animal, 35,000. The former #1 album drops from #3 to #8 in its third week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "TiK ToK," which dips to #2 after five weeks at #1.

9. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 35,000. The former #1 album inches up from #10 to #9 in its 33rd week. This is its 20th week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Imma Be," which jumps from #13 to #7.

10. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 32,000. The former #1 album drops from #8 to #10 in its 63rd week. This is its 54th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which holds at #44.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster EP drops from #6 to #11, Mary J. Blige's Stronger Witheach Tear drops from #7 to #14 and Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel drops from #9 to #12. The latter album is the #1 theatrical movie soundtrack for the fourth straight week.

Motion City Soundtrack's My Dinosaur Life debuts at #15. This is the rock band's highest-charting album to date. Even If It Kills Me debuted and peaked at #16 in September 2007...Michael Jackson's Number Ones dips from #31 to #32. It's the #1 catalog album for the 22nd time in the past 31 weeks.

The Crazy Heart soundtrack bows at #38. The soundtrack features the Golden Globe winning "The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)," which was written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett. Will this song go on to win the Oscar? It's too early to say. Last year's Golden Globe winner, Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler" from the movie of the same name, wasn't even nominated for the Oscar.

Avatar made headlines last week for passing Titanic as the all-time worldwide box-office champ. (It will probably surpass Titanic as the all-time domestic box-office leader within two weeks.) The Avatar soundtrack isn't keeping pace. The album dips from #47 to #48 in its sixth week.

Avatar was #1 at the box-office for the sixth weekend. That's the longest run by any movie since Titanic topped the box-office for 15 weekends in 1998. But even that isn't the modern-era record. E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial) was #1 for 16 weekends in 1982. (That's the record since January 1982, which is the start date for the indispensable site.)

Song Scorecard: The Pussycat Dolls' 2006 hit "Buttons" (featuring Big Snoop Dogg) tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's the group's third song to reach this threshold, following "Don't Cha" (featuring Busta Rhymes) (2,226,000) and "When I Grow Up" (2,180,000). No other all-female group in digital history has amassed three 2 million sellers.

Heads Up: Lady Antebellum's sophomore album, Need You Now, is expected to debut at #1 next week, with a sales tally in the range of 325,000 copies.  Also due on next week's chart: Corinne Bailey Rae's The Sea, Magnetic Fields' Realism, Kidz Bop 17 and a raft of albums timed for Valentine's Day gift-giving. These include Celtic Woman's Straight From The Heart, Barry Manilow's The Greatest Love Songs Of All Time and the Now That's What I Call Love compilation.

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