Chart Watch

Week Ending July 12, 2009: Records Fall As Jackson Surge Intensifies

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson continues to shatter sales records that have stood for decades. He has six of the 10 best-selling albums in the U.S. this week. This breaks a record that has stood since April 1966, when Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass placed four albums in the top 10. Two weeks ago, Jackson had the three best-selling albums in the country. That toppled a mark set in May 1964 when the Beatles held three of the top four spots.

Jackson's catalog of solo albums sold 1.1 million copies this past week, up from nearly 800,000 last week. The increase is due to two factors: fans watching last week's memorial service and stores receiving fresh shipments of Jackson product. Jackson sold a staggering 2.3 million solo albums in 2-1/2 weeks.

Jackson's 2003 compilation Number Ones sold 349,000 copies this week and would have topped The Billboard 200 for the third week if catalog albums were eligible to compete on that chart. This marks the first time that a deceased performer has had the top-selling album in the U.S. for three weeks since Elvis Presley's Elv1s 30 #1 Hits scored in September and October 2002. It's the first time that Jackson has had the top-selling album this long since Dangerous was #1 for four weeks in December 1991 and January 1992.

Jackson's other albums that rank among this week's 10 best-sellers are Thriller, which sold 264,000 copies and would have dipped from #2 to #3 if catalog albums were eligible to make the big chart; The Essential Michael Jackson, which sold 148,000 copies and would have inched up from #5 to #4; Off The Wall, which sold 107,000 copies and would have jumped from #11 to #6; Bad, which sold 97,000 copies and would have vaulted from #25 to #8; and Dangerous, which sold 67,000 copies and would have leaped from #21 to #9.

Jackson's phenomenal posthumous success is prompting Billboard to review its policy of not listing catalog albums on the big chart. In his column this week, Keith Caulfield, Billboard's Senior Chart Manager, acknowledges, "since Jackson's top sellers are absent from The Billboard 200--long considered the albums chart of record in the United States--it gives one pause.

"Perhaps this is an opportunity to ponder what the Billboard 200 would be like if it included catalog albums...Billboard prides itself on providing the most accurate charts possible to the industry, consumers and fans, and if we were to consider altering our chart rules, we would do so with a measured approach and much thought. We must be open to new ideas and change as we move forward."

I was pleased to read that. I stated my opinion two weeks ago that, at the very least, the top 10 on The Billboard 200, which is disseminated around the world, should consist of the 10 best-selling albums in the country, whether they're current or catalog. I'm glad they're reviewing the matter. You don't make significant rule changes lightly, but sometimes, events force a decision. I'd say that having six of the 10 best-selling albums in the U.S. not appear in the top 10 on the most authoritative chart in the music business constitutes a sign.

Number Ones is the first album to top the 300,000 sales mark two weeks running since Metallica's Death Magnetic in September. Number Ones has sold 912,000 copies so far in 2009. It's already #8 for the year-to-date. I expect the collection to wind up as the #1 album of 2009.

While the single-disk Number Ones is Jackson's top-selling album overall (combining physical and digital sales) for the third week, the two-disk The Essential Michael Jackson is his top-seller for the third week in the digital realm. The album sold 44,000 downloads this week.

A total of 46 songs featuring Jackson are listed on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart, down just a hair from last week's 47. (There were 50 two weeks ago.) Jackson's top-selling download for the second straight week is "Man In The Mirror" (which dips to #3). Jackson's superb 1988 single received a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year. It should have won, as it is a far more vital work than the trifle that took the prize, Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy."

Jackson is also setting records around the world. He has six of the top 10 albums in the U.K. (counting a Jackson 5 collection). The Essential Michael Jackson is #1 there for the second week. In Japan, a compilation titled King Of Pop jumps from #6 to #3.

This all has a strong sense of déjà vu for me. I wrote a chart column for Billboard in 1983-84 when Jackson was setting new records nearly every week. I never imagined it would happen again, and certainly not under these sad circumstances.

The Jackson surge is giving the music business a much-needed lift. The 10thbest-selling album in the U.S. this week, All Time Low's Nothing Personal, sold nearly 63,000 copies. That's more than the #1 album sold in two different weeks in January and February. The question everybody is asking is: What does this mean? I think it means that if there's a special album that people want as a keepsake, they'll spring for the CD. Otherwise, for everyday use, a download will often do.

In a larger sense, what's happening here is that people are focusing on Jackson's music for the first time in many years, and remembering how much they liked it. It really is a remarkable body of work (as this Chart Watch Extra attests.) Sadly, it took Jackson's death for many people to look past all the controversies--large and small, troubling and trivial--that turned people off.

The Black Eyed Peas head the Hot Digital Songs chart for the 15th consecutive week. The group's current hit, "I Gotta Feeling," is #1 for the fifth week in a row. The song sold 205,000 downloads this week, which brings its total to 1,104,000. The group's earlier smash, "Boom Boom Pow," headed the list for 10 weeks. "I Gotta Feeling" is one of four songs that topped the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. The others are Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning," Plain White T's "1, 2, 3, 4" and "Knock You Down" by Keri Hilson featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo.

I wouldn't recommend that an artist take an eight-year layoff between albums, but sometimes it works out. Maxwell debuts at #1 on The Billboard 200 with BLACKsummers'night, his first album since Now debuted in the top spot in August 2001. The new album sold 316,000 copies this week, even more than the 296,000 which Now sold in its first week. The man clearly has a stable fan base. Also, Maxwell may have been boosted by the fact that R&B fans were drawn to music stores and websites to pick up Michael Jackson albums.

I have good news and bad news for Hannah Montana fans. The good news is that there are two Hannah soundtracks in the top 15. The third TV soundtrack debuts at #2, while the recent movie soundtrack holds at #12. (This is the second time in 16 months that Hannah has had both the week's top movie soundtrack and the top TV soundtrack.) The bad news: Hannah Montana 3 sold less than half as many copies in its first week as the first two Hannah TV soundtracks did. And it failed to match their #1 debuts. The likely problem: Too many Hannah albums! The movie soundtrack and the new TV soundtrack were released just 15 weeks apart. Memo to Disney: Hannah has been very good to you. Don't kill the goose that laid the multi-platinum egg!

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

1. Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night, 316,000. This new entry is Maxwell's third album in a row to debut in the top three, following 1998's Embrya and 2001's Now. Those albums debuted with first-week sales of 149,000 and 296,000, respectively.

2. Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana 3 soundtrack, 137,000. This new entry sold less than half as many copies in its first week as the first two Hannah TV soundtracks did. Eight songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "He Could Be The One," which debuts at #2.

3. Various Artists, NOW 31, 101,000. The album slips from #1 to #3 in its second week. The album has sold 270,000 copies in its first two weeks, more than NOW 30 had sold at the same point (234,000).

4. All Time Low, Nothing Personal, 63,000. This new entry represents an all-time high for All Time Low. Its last album, So Wrong, It's Right, debuted (and peaked) at #62 in 2007. Four songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Weightless," which jumps to #132.

5. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 63,000. The former #1 album holds at #5 in its fifth week. Two songs from the album are listed in the top five on Hot Digital Songs.

6. Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night, 44,000. The album slips from #2 to #6 in its second week. This is the #1 country album for the second straight week. "Then" slips to #77 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Rob Thomas, Cradlesong, 41,000. The album slips from #3 to #7 in its second week. "Her Diamonds" slips to #48 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 36,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #11 to #8. This is its 29th week in the top 10. This is the #1 album for the year-to-date. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which jumps to #12.

9. Eminem, Relapse, 34,000. The former #1 album holds at #9 in its eighth week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Beautiful," which inches up to #120.

10. Jonas Brothers, Lines, Vines And Trying Times, 34,000. The former #1 album slips from #8 to #10 in its fourth week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Paranoid," which dips to #133.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Wilco's Wilco (The Album) drops from #4 to #11, Jeremih's Jeremih drops from #6 to #15, Killswitch Engage's Killswitch Engage falls from #7 to #21, and Lady GaGa's The Fame drops from #10 to #13.

LMFAO's Party Rock bows at #33. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I'm In Miami Trick," which jumps to #102. I'm in L.A. Trick and I hear it all the time.

Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" this week tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads. Clarkson is the first American Idol alumnus to reach this threshold with two songs. In January, she topped the 2 million mark with her 2004 smash "Since U Been Gone." Three other American Idol alums have each reached the 2 million download plateau once. Carrie Underwood scored with her 2006 smash "Before He Cheats." Daughtry made it with its 2006 hit "It's Not Over." And Jordin Sparks scored with "No Air," her 2008 collaboration with Chris Brown.

Mariah Carey's "Obsessed" enters Hot Digital Songs at #6. The song sold 119,000 downloads. It's the first single from Carey's forthcoming album, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel. "Touch My Body," the lead single from Carey's last album, E=MC2, opened at #1 on Hot Digital Songs in March 2008 with first-week sales of 286,000 downloads.

Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" enters Hot Digital Songs at #157, one week after the Motown legend sang the song at Michael Jackson's memorial service. The melancholy ballad first appeared on the flip side of Wonder's 1971 hit, "We Can Work It Out." That was, of course, a remake of the Beatles' 1966 smash. And as you also know, Jackson would come to own the Lennon/McCartney copyrights. See, it all ties together.

Duke Ellington's The Best of Duke Ellington enters The Billboard 200 at #186. The legendary composer and bandleader first hit The Billboard 200 in 1957 with Ellington At Newport (as in the Newport Jazz Festival). But he and his Famous Orchestra landed their first hit songs in the late 1920s. His biggest hits include "Take The 'A' Train," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Never No Lament)" and "I'm Beginning To See The Light." Ellington, who was the "Duke" in Stevie Wonder's 1977 smash "Sir Duke," died in May 1974. He was 75.

Heads Up: Daughtry's sophomore album Leave This Town is expected to debut at #1 next week. The band's 2006 album, Daughtry, logged two weeks on top. The Dead Weather, a new band featuring Jack White of the White Stripes and Alison Mosshart of the Kills, will also make a high debut with Horehound.  Joe and Twista have each amassed four top 10 albums and are expected to add to their tallies with Signature and Category F5, respectively. Also due: Celtic Thunder's Take Me Home and Sick Puppies' Tri-Polar.


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