Chart Watch

Week Ending July 13, 2008: Mamma Mia! ABBA Soundtrack Cracks Top 10

Chart Watch

Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III logs its third week at #1 on the Billboard album chart. It's the first rap album to top the chart for as many as three weeks since 50 Cent's The Massacre in 2005, which had six weeks in the lead. Tha Carter III is only the third album to log three weeks on top in 2008, following Alicia Keys' As I Am (which had one additional week at #1 when it debuted in November 2007) and Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static.


The week's other big story is that the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! debuts at #7. This is the first time that an album of ABBA music has made the top 10 (though the songs on the soundtrack aren't performed by the famed quartet but by the stars of the film, which opens this Friday). ABBA's highest-charting album was The Album, which peaked at #14 in 1978.

ABBA was among the biggest acts in the world in the 1970s, but it never seemed to hit the top tier of stardom in the U.S. It amassed four top 20 albums and four top 10 singles--not bad, but far from the Beatlesque numbers the group racked up in other countries. The quartet's last album of new music was The Visitors, which charted in early 1982. The group broke up that same year, but its music has lived on. In fact, ABBA is one of those rare groups that has probably sold more albums (in the U.S. anyway) since it broke up than it did while it was a current act. ABBA's best-selling album is Gold--Greatest Hits. The two-CD collection has sold 4,377,000 copies since its release in 1993, making it one of the top 200 albums of the Nielsen/SoundScan era. (It streaks from #18 to #6 on this week's Catalog Albums chart.)

Mamma Mia! is the week's #1 movie soundtrack, replacing another female-leaning title, Sex And The City. This is the second time in less than a year that the top-ranked movie soundtrack has consisted of cover versions of one group's material. Across The Universe, which was the top movie soundtrack for four weeks last fall, was devoted to the music of The Beatles.

Mamma Mia! premiered in London in 1999. It opened on Broadway in October 2001, just a month after 9/11. Like the madcap comedy The Producers, the buoyant Mamma Mia! provided the perfect antidote to the prevailing sense of sorrow. The show is still going strong on Broadway and in countless other venues around the world. (The Mamma Mia! original cast album peaked at #169 in 2001. Cast albums just don't sell as well as soundtracks.)

ABBA's music is so insanely catchy that even people who don't think of themselves as fans seem to know all the tunes. Rachel Abramowitz wrote of this phenomenon in her Hollywood Brief column in today's Los Angeles Times. She attended a screening of the film and the next morning found herself singing and dancing around the breakfast table. "I didn't know I knew any ABBA songs (I've never actually bought an album), but there they were--'SOS,' 'Dancing Queen' and 'Mamma Mia'--bouncing around in my subconscious."

ABBA's hit single, "Mamma Mia," cracked the top 40 in June 1976. The song's title didn't carry an exclamation point. The caffeinated punctuation was added to the title of the stage show to reflect the exuberance of the group's music.

ABBA is by far the most famous act ever to come out of Sweden, but other Swedish acts have climbed higher on the album chart. Ace Of Base reached #1 with its 1993 debut, The Sign. Even Roxette climbed higher than ABBA. The group's 1991 sophomore album, Joyride, hit #12.


Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the fourth straight week. The song has sold 1,562,000 downloads. That's more than 10 times the number of people (146,000) who have purchased Perry's album, One Of The Boys. (Record companies make about 10 times as much money for a full album as they do for an individual song download, so it just about evens out). "I Kissed A Girl" is the first song to spend four consecutive weeks atop Hot Digital Songs since "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, which had 13 straight weeks at #1 from December into February. 

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

1. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 125,000. This is the best-selling album so far this year. If it manages to hold onto its lead, this will be only the third time in Nielsen/SoundScan history that a rap album has been the year's #1 seller. Eminem's The Eminem Show was the best-selling album of 2002. 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin' was #1 for 2003. Five songs from Lil Wayne's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major) at #11. "Lollipop" is already one of the top 20 songs of all time in paid downloads (it's #19 on that list).


2. Coldplay, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, 113,000. Coldplay logs its second week at #2, following two weeks at #1. The group's last album, X&Y, had three weeks at #1 and then fell to #3. (That's just about a draw.) Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Viva La Vida" at #4.


3. Various Artists, Camp Rock soundtrack, 88,000. The TV soundtrack logs its fourth consecutive week at #3. If you're going to get stuck anywhere on the chart, #3 isn't a bad place. You don't grab the headlines, but you quietly pile up sales. Camp Rock is up to 562,000 copies sold. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by the Demi Lovato/Joe Jonas duet "This Is Me" at #20. 


4. Beck, Modern Guilt, 84,000. This new entry is Beck's second album to reach the top five, following Guero, which debuted (and peaked) at #2 in 2005. It's also his fourth consecutive studio album to reach the top 10. Sea Change, from 2002, and The Information, from 2006, are his other two top 10 entries. More than one-third of Beck's sales total (31,000 copies) is in paid digital downloads, which makes this the week's #1 Digital album. "Gamma Ray" enters Hot Digital Songs at #165.


5. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 61,000. Kid returns to the top five for the first time since October on the strength of his multi-format hit "All Summer Long." The song is still not available as a download, which explains why it doesn't appear on Hot Digital Songs. (The album is also not available as a download. You like the song, you gotta buy the CD). The album debuted at #1 in October, dropped as low as #82 in March and has climbed all the way back to the top five. This guy is the real "Comeback Kid."


6. Various Artists, NOW 28, 48,000. The compilation holds at #6 its sixth week in the top 10. It has outlasted the latest album by Disturbed, which was released the same week. Disturbed's Indestructible falls from #10 to #13 this week. NOW 28 has sold 571,000 copies, 39,000 more than Indestructible.

7. Various Artists, Mamma Mia! soundtrack, 48,000. This has been a good year for movie soundtracks. At least one has appeared in the top 10 in 18 of the first 28 weeks of 2008, thanks to Juno, Step Up 2: The Streets, Once, Best Of Both Worlds Concert, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Sex And The City and now Mamma Mia!.

8. Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad, 47,000. The album has logged four weeks in the top 10 since the release of a Reloaded edition-compared to just two weeks in the top 10 for the original edition. The album inches up from #9 last week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Disturbia" at #6.


9. G-Unit, T.O.S. (Terminate On Sight), 36,000. The rap trio's long-awaited sophomore album drops from #4 to #9 in its second week. G-Unit favors aggressive titles. The trio's 2003 debut album was titled Beg For Mercy. Other titles considered for the new album were Shoot To Kill and Lock & Load. They all get the point across.


10. John Mayer, Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles, 34,000. Mayer's latest album slips from #5 to #10 in its second week. His remake of Tom Petty's 1989 hit "Free Fallin'" drops from #20 to #26 on Hot Digital Songs. The studio version of "Waiting On The World To Change," sung live here, falls from #132 to #156.

Two former #1 albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Usher's Here I Stand falls from #8 to #11, and Disturbed's Indestructible drops from #10 to #13. Usher's 2004 blockbuster Confessions spent its first 23 weeks in the top 10-and later returned to boost its total to a commanding 41 weeks. Here I Stand spent its first six weeks in the top 10.

Two Men With The Blues by country legend Willie Nelson and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis debuts at #20. This is Nelson's highest-charting album since Always On My Mind hit #2 in 1982, and the highest ranking ever for Marsalis. This is Nelson's 62nd album to make the Billboard chart, of which 18 have been collaborations with other artists. Nelson's most frequent collaborator is the late Waylon Jennings (seven charted albums), followed by Kris Kristofferson (four) and the late Johnny Cash (three). In addition to spanning genres, the Nelson/Marsalis pairing bridges generations. Marsalis was born in 1961, the year that Nelson first made it big as songwriter with such classic hits as Patsy Cline's "Crazy," Faron Young's "Hello Walls" and Billy Walker's "Funny How Time Slips Away."


A 30thanniversary reissue of Billy Joel's The Stranger opens at #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. We're almost to the 31st anniversary of the release of this monster album (it came out in September 1977), but let's not quibble. The 2-CD set sold 16,000 copies this week and would have ranked #28 on the big chart if older, catalog albums could compete there. This is the second "anniversary edition" of a pop classic to top the catalog chart so far this year, following Michael Jackson's Thriller 25, which led the list for 10 weeks. The Stranger turned Joel from a second-tier performer into a superstar. The album spent three months in the top five and spawned four top 30 singles. The album didn't quite make #1. It got stuck at #2 for six weeks behind the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But Joel got his revenge. In February 1979, "Just The Way You Are," the biggest hit from The Stranger, upset Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," the signature hit from Saturday Night Fever, and won Grammys for both Record and Song of the Year. You don't mess with a New Yorker.

After more than 10 years of moderate success on the Billboard chart, Los Temerarios lands its highest-charting album as Si Tu Te Vas debuts at #26. The ranchera duo first hit the chart in February 1998. Its highest-charting album until this was its previous release, Recuerdos Del Alma, which opened (and peaked) at #59 in October.

Ups & Downs: Maroon 5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long jumps from #98 to #25 in its 60th week. That represents a sales gain of 157%, greater than any other album in this week's top 200. This is the album's highest ranking since September. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by the Maroon 5/Rihanna collaboration "If I Never See Your Face Again" at #28. The resurgence is linked to the release of a deluxe edition of the album. Albums by such artists as Fergie and Rihanna have also been boosted by expanded editions. You keep buying 'em, labels will keep churning 'em out. Capitalism at work! Alkaline Trio's Agony & Irony drops from #13 to #51. That's a sales drop of 72%, a steeper decline than any other album in the top 200. (I guess this is the "agony" part.) 

Heads Up: An untitled album by Nas heads the list of hot albums due on next week's chart. It's vying to become the rapper's fourth #1 album, following It Was Written in 1996, I Am... in 1999 and Hip Hop Is Dead in 2006. Another rapper, David Banner, will be going for his third top 10 album with The Greatest Story Ever Told. Also due: John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love And Freedom, Randy Travis' Around The Bend, Delta Goodrem's Delta and Ace Young's Ace Young.



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