Chart Watch

Week Ending Jan. 25, 2009: Setting A Hot 100 Record

Chart Watch

Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" vaults from #97 to #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 this week. That sets a new record for the biggest leap into the top spot in the chart's 50-year history. The old record was held by Britney Spears' "Womanizer," which shot from #96 to #1 in October. Clarkson's song also enters the Hot Digital Songs chart at #1, after selling 280,000 downloads in its first week.

"My Life Would Suck Without You," the lead single from Clarkson's upcoming fourth album All I Ever Wanted, is her second #1 on the Hot 100. "A Moment Like This," her American Idol victory song, shot from #52 to #1 in October 2002. (At the time, that was the biggest leap into the top spot in Hot 100 history.) "Suck" is Clarkson's first #1 on Hot Digital Songs. Her 2004 smash "Since U Been Gone" just missed the top spot, though it has sold more than 2 million cumulative downloads.

(Incidentally, Clarkson's use of the word "suck" in the title is cheeky, but not unprecedented. The Rolling Stones titled a 1981 hits compilation Sucking In The Seventies. Primus titled its 1990 breakout album Suck On This. The Murmurs had a Hot 100 hit in 1994 titled "You Suck," which does make the point succinctly.)

Getting The Last Laugh: Until this week, no artist had ever reached the 3 million mark in paid digital downloads with two songs. This week, two pop stars achieve the feat. Rihanna scores with "Disturbia," which comes on the heels of her 2007 smash, "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z). Katy Perry hits the bullseye with "Hot N Cold," her follow-up to "I Kissed A Girl."

Rihanna has been on fire for the past few years, so it's not surprising that she accomplishes this feat. But you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people in the industry who thought Perry would have a second smash. Her initial hit, "I Kissed A Girl," while enormously catchy and appealing, was the kind of novelty-edged tune that suggested she would be a "one hit wonder." (The select committee that finalizes the Grammy nominations in the "Big Four" categories bypassed Perry for Best New Artist, going instead with artists such as Adele and Jazmine Sullivan, who had just a fraction of Perry's success.) It must be deeply satisfying for Perry to prove her skeptics wrong.

Eleven other artists have reached the 3 million mark in paid downloads with one (and only one) song. (Incidentally, the download market is heating up. "Umbrella" took 70 weeks to reach the 3 million mark in paid downloads. "Disturbia" has taken less than half that long--just 32 weeks.)

Perry is working on extending her string to three straight hits. "Thinking Of You" vaults from #108 to #45 in its second week on Hot Digital Songs. (Rihanna's latest, "Rehab," dips from #23 to #27 in its 14th week.)

U2's "Get On Your Boots" is the second highest new entry on Hot Digital Songs. It bows at #21, with sales of 57,000 downloads. The band's upcoming album, No Line On The Horizon, is due March 3. Hits Magazine's always informative website reports that U2 will be the opening act on the Grammy telecast on Feb. 8.

Song Scorecard: Beyonce's "At Last" re-enters Hot Digital Songs at #52 in the wake of her serenading President Obama and his wife Michelle with the song at an Inaugural Ball. (Etta James' classic original version re-enters the chart at #68.) Several other songs associated with the inauguration also made a strong showing. "It's A New Day" by vaults from #198 to #56, Sam Cooke's 1965 classic "A Change Is Gonna Come" bows at #146 and U2's 2000 classic "Beautiful Day" re-enters at #194.

I'm writing more about songs these days because album sales are in the dumper. This is the fourth straight week that the #1 album has sold fewer than 100,000 copies. It's only the second time in Nielsen/SoundScan history that sales of the #1 album fell below 100,000 copies for four straight weeks. The same thing happened a year ago at this time. The slump ended when Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static arrived with first-week sales of 375,000. The savior this year will be Bruce Springsteen, due to enter next week's chart with Working On A Dream. It's vying to become The Boss' ninth #1 album. Springsteen's last album, Magic, spent two weeks on top. Springsteen and the E Street Band will promote the album on Sunday at the Super Bowl.

In the 1970s, when album sales were brisk, the recording industry had a marketing slogan, "Give The Gift Of Music." With today's music biz and economy both in the doldrums, I thought a more urgent slogan was in order, something along the lines of, "Would It Kill You To Buy An Album?" Consider it my humble contribution to help the beleaguered music industry.

Taylor Swift and the Twilight soundtrack both set meaningful chart records this week, but I'll cover them in the top 10 list. As Rowan & Martin used to say, "Let's go to the party." Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.

1. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 63,000. The album logs its eighth week at #1. This is the longest that any album has held the top spot since Usher's Confessions was #1 for nine weeks in 2004. Fearless ties Garth Brooks' The Hits as the longest-running #1 album by a country artist in the last 15 years. (The last country album with a longer run in the top spot was Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All, which spent 17 weeks on top in 1992.) Three songs from Fearless are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which holds at #6.

2. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 51,000. The former #1 album holds at #2 for the second straight week. This is the album's 10th week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," which dips to #8.

3. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 45,000. The album holds at #3 for the second straight week. This is the album's 10th week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which dips to #20.

4. Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak, 39,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #5 to #4 in its eighth week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Heartless" dips to #5. ""Love Lockdown" falls to #18.

5. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 33,000. The former #1 album inches up from #6 to #5. This is the album's 12th straight week in the top 10. That's the longest run in the top 10 for a theatrical movie soundtrack since 8 Mile had 14 weeks in the top 10 in 2002. That monster hit included four tracks by Eminem, including the Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself." Twilight beats two soundtracks that had 11 weeks in the winners' circle, Chicago and Juno. Paramore's "Decode," the big hit from Twilight, dips to #55 on Hot Digital Songs.

6. Keyshia Cole, A Different Me, 31,000. The album rebounds from #9 to #6 in its sixth week. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Britney Spears, Circus, 31,000. The former #1 album holds at #7 for the second straight week. This is the album's eighth week in the top 10. This is Spears' longest-running top 10 album since Britney also had eight weeks in the top 10 in 2001. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Circus," which dips to #9.

8. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 30,000. The album holds at #8 for the fourth straight week. This is the album's sixth week in the top 10. Foxx's previous album, Unpredictable, had nine weeks in the top 10. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

9. The Notorious B.I.G., Notorious soundtrack, 29,000. The album dips from #4 to #9 in its second week. Biggie's Greatest Hits logged just a single week in the top 10 in 2007, making this his longest-running top 10 album since Duets: The Final Chapter had five weeks in the top 10 in 2005-06. Notorious grossed $5.7 million at the box-office this past weekend, bringing its two-week total to $31.8 million. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Hypnotize," which falls to #51.

10. Mariah Carey, The Ballads, 29,000. This new entry is Carey's 14th top 10 album. She scored her first, Mariah Carey, in August 1990. The collection of love songs was perfectly timed for Valentine's Day. It beat out a similar collection by Frank Sinatra (see item below). The Ballads is Carey's third compilation with a specific theme, following #1's (1998) and The Remixes (2003). One song from the album is listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Hero," Carey's 1993 smash, bows at #195.

David Cook's David Cook drops out of the top 10 for the third time. The album falls from #10 to #14. I wouldn't be surprised if it returned to the top 10 yet again.

Now 29, which holds at #11 for the second week, tops the 1 million in sales this week. Only three regular Now installments have fallen short of the 1 million mark. As of this week, Now 13 stands at 994,000, Now 27 is at 874,000 and Now 28 is at 995,000. Now 29 did a little better than its two immediate predecessors because it was released in time for the lucrative holiday shopping season.

Two indie cult favorites are off to strong starts. Andrew Bird's Nobel Beast opens at #12. Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion debuts at #13. Bird's only previous charted album was Armchair Apocrypha, which hit #76. Both Bird and Animal Collective enjoyed strong digital sales. More than half of Bird's total this week came from the digital realm. That's also the case with Bon Iver's Blood Bank, which debuts at #16. The Bon Iver EP sold 18,000 downloads this week, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Its total sales for the week, digital and CD combined, are 23,000.

Frank Sinatra's Seduction: Sinatra Sings Of Love bows at #23. The album is the legend's follow-up to Nothing But The Best, which debuted at #2 last year. Sinatra is the only artist in chart history to land at least one top 20 album in seven straight decades. After reaching #1 in the '40s, '50s and '60s, he climbed as high as #13 in the 1970s (with 1973's Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back), #17 in the '80s (with 1980's Trilogy: Past, Present, Future), #2 in the '90s (with 1993's Duets) and #2 in this decade (with Nothing But The Best). Will anyone ever top this record? Don't hold your breath.

Fornication "Fun Facts": Reel Big Fish's Fame, Fortune And Fornication bows at #177. This is the best-selling album ever to have the word "Fornication" in its title. Unless, of course, you count Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1999 hit, Californication.

ABBA's Gold--Greatest Hits tops the Catalog Albums chart for the 11th week. The collection sold 8,000 copies this week and would have ranked #61 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there.

Ups & Downs: The Another Cinderella Story soundtrack re-enters the chart at #116. Its sales increased 128% over last week's tally, the biggest increase of any non-debuting title. The biggest dropper is Derek Trucks Band's Already Free, which tumbles from #19 to #80 in its second week. Sales plunged 62%, the biggest decrease in the top 200.

Heads Up: Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream isn't the only album set to enter the chart next week. Also due: Hoobastank's FOR(N)EVER, Franz Ferdinand's Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, Paul McCartney's live EP Amoeba's Secret (making its CD bow), Kylie Minogue's remix album Boombox, Renee Olstead's Skylark  and the latest editions of three franchises, Grammy Nominees 2009, WOW Gospel 2009 and Radio Disney Jams 11.

Shameless Plug: Next Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that took the life of songwriter Buddy Holly. Holly, who was just 22 when he died, holds a unique distinction. He had the shortest lifespan of any artist who has been voted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. A surprising number of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners have had short lifespans. On Friday, I'll count down all 22 solo artists who have been voted this recognition who died before turning 50. It's a diverse and compelling list of music legends, from Bob Marley to Patsy Cline. It was fun to do, but sad to contemplate. What a tragedy to lose so many gifted artists so young. Check it out on Friday.


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