Chart Watch

Week Ending July 19, 2009: Daughtry Makes “Idol” History

Chart Watch

Daughtry's sophomore album, Leave This Town, enters The Billboard 200 at #1. This makes the band's leader, Chris Daughtry, the first American Idol alumnus to land back-to-back #1 albums. Daughtry rang the bell for two weeks in early 2007. Kelly Clarkson is the only other Idol alum to notch two #1 albums, and hers weren't consecutive. She topped the chart with her first and fourth albums. This obviously makes Chris Daughtry the first Idol alum who didn't win the competition to land two #1 albums. (Clay Aiken is the only other non-winner to land a #1 album, though Adam Lambert is likely to join this little club.)

Leave This Town is Daughtry's first album to debut in the top spot. Daughtry bowed at #2 in November 2006. It first hit #1 in its ninth week. Daughtry has sold 4,494,000 copies. Of the thousands of albums that have been released in the nearly three years since Daughtry, only one other (Josh Groban's Noel) has reached the 4 million mark in sales. (Taylor Swift, which has also topped the 4 million mark, was released a month before Daughtry.)

Leave This Town sold 269,000 copies in its first week, a little less than Daughtry, which had first-week sales of 304,000. (The softening of music sales in the past three years easily accounts for the difference.) It's common for debut albums by Idol alums to open with big numbers. The real test is how their second albums open. Only one sophomore album by an Idol album started with a bigger tally than Daughtry managed this week. Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride debuted with sales of 527,000 in October 2007. (Kelly Clarkson's sophomore album, Breakaway, opened with sales of 250,000 in December 2004. Clay Aiken's A Thousand Different Ways started with 211,000 in September 2006.)

The total for Daughtry's album includes nearly 63,000 digital copies. That makes it the week's #1 Digital Album. Daughtry was also #1 on this chart in its first week of release, though with a much smaller total (12,000), which dramatizes the growth in this field in the past three years.

Michael Jackson has six of the 10 best-selling albums in the U.S. for the second week in a row. Number Ones sold 192,000 copies and would have slipped from #1 to #2 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to make the big chart. The Essential Michael Jackson sold 125,000 and would have inched up from #4 to #3. Thriller sold 114,000 and would have slipped from #3 to #4. Off The Wall sold 68,000 and would have slipped from #6 to #8. Bad sold 61,000 and would have slipped from #8 to #9. Dangerous sold 55,000 and would have dipped from #9 to #10.

Jackson's incredible showing the past two weeks breaks a record that had stood for 43 years, since April 1966 when Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass put four albums in the top 10. It's not the first time that these two artists have tangled. In October 1979, Alpert's instrumental smash "Rise" booted Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" out of the #1 spot on the Hot 100. There is, of course, another Alpert/Jackson tie-in: Janet Jackson was featured on Alpert's "Diamonds," a top five hit in 1987.

Number Ones has sold 1,104,000 copies in the U.S. in 2009, which puts it #4 for the year-to-date. Where will it rank on the year-end chart? Place your bets.

Jackson has sold nearly 3 million albums in less than a month. Four weeks ago, on the last chart before Jackson's death, the pop icon ranked #47 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the best-selling album artists in its history, with sales of 21,737,000 albums. This week, he ranks #37, with sales of 24,724,000. That's a huge increase in just four weeks' time, on a chart that measures 18 years of sales activity.

A total of 27 songs that feature Jackson are listed on Hot Digital Songs, down from 46 last week. Jackson had a staggering 50 of the top 200 three weeks ago. (The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" tops that chart for the sixth straight week. The smash sold 219,000 downloads this week. This is the 16th week in a row that the Peas have headed that chart with a song that sold at least 200K in paid downloads.)

While Jackson no longer has the best-selling album in the U.S., he is on top in Japan and the U.K., which are the world's #2 and #3 music markets. King Of Pop (Japan Edition) jumps from #3 to #1 in Japan. This is the second time in a little more than two months that a retrospective by or featuring a deceased American pop star has hit the top spot in Japan. Carpenters' 40/40 The Best Selection rang the bell there in May. Jackson has five of the top 10 albums in the U.K. (counting a Jackson 5 collection). The Essential Michael Jackson is #1 there for the third straight week.

I'll have more on the simmering catalog chart controversy at the end of this week's column, but first let's look at the rest of this week's action.

Taylor Swift's Fearless logs its 30th week in the top 10, which ties Carrie Underwood's 2005 album Some Hearts for the recent country record. The last country album to have a longer run in the top 10 was Shania Twain's Come On Over, which logged 53 weeks in the top 10 from 1997 to 1999. Fearless has sold 3,537,000 copies, a real achievement given the state of the economy and music sales in particular. Fearless also returns to #1 on the Country Albums chart for the first time in nearly four months. This is its 19th week atop that list.

Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, returns to the top 10 with his new group, The Dead Weather. The group's album Horehound enters The Billboard 200 at #6. This is White's sixth top 10 album, following three albums with the Stripes and two with the Raconteurs. It's very unusual for an artist to reach the top 10 as often with side projects as with his primary group. The Dead Weather also features Alison Mosshart of the Kills; Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age; and Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs and the Greenhornes.

You've heard the expression, "Slow but steady wins the race?" That's certainly true of Kings of Leon's Only By The Night. The album returns to the top 10 this week for the first time since it debuted at #5 in September. The album dropped as low as #78 in December, before beginning a remarkable rebound. It has ranked in the top 20 for all but one of the last 13 weeks. The album is about two weeks away from topping the 1 million mark in sales. (It currently stands at 959,000.) These guys will have earned those platinum records.

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

1. Daughtry, Leave This Town, 269,000. This new entry is Daughtry's second #1 album in a row. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "No Surprise," which vaults from #59 to #24.

2. Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night, 103,000. The album dips from #1 to #2 in its second week. "Pretty Wings" inches up from #105 to #103 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana 3 soundtrack, 73,000. The album dips from #2 to #3 in its second week. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "He Could Be The One," which drops from #2 to #6.

4. Various Artists, NOW 31, 69,000. The former #1 album dips from #3 to #4 in its third week.

5. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 54,000. The former #1 album holds at #5 for the third week. This is its sixth week in the top five. Two songs from the album are listed in the top five on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Gotta Feeling," which holds at #1.

6. The Dead Weather, Horehound, 51,000This new entry is Jack White's sixth top 10 album, following the White Stripes' Elephant, Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump and the Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers and Consolers Of The Lonely.

7. Joe, Signature, 49,000. This new entry is Joe's fourth top 10 album and his second in less than a year. It follows My Name Is Joe and Ain't Nothing Like Me, both of which peaked at #2, and Joe Thomas, New Man, which hit #8 in September.

8. Twista, Category F5, 45,000. This new entry is the rapper's fourth album in a row to debut in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "On Top" (featuring Akon), which debuts at #80.

9. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 37,000. The former #1 album dips from #8 to #9. This is its 30th week in the top 10 (see item above). Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which jumps from #12 to #4.

10. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 33,000. The album jumps from #14 to #10 in its 43rd week on the chart. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody," which leaps from #28 to #10. The song topped the 1 million mark in paid downloads last week.

Five albums fall out of the top 10 this week. All Time Low's Nothing Personal tumbles from #4 to #26, Brad Paisley's American Saturday Night drops from #6 to #12, Rob Thomas' Cradlesong dives from #7 to #17, Eminem's Relapse drops from #9 to #13, and Jonas Brothers' Lines, Vines And Trying Times slips from #10 to #14.

The soundtrack to Harry Potter And the Half-Blood Prince opens at #29. The movie has grossed $159.7 million in its first five days of release. This is the highest-charting of the six Harry Potter soundtracks (all of which have made the top 100). The old record was set by Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, which peaked at #43 in July 2007.

Song Scorecard: Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The inspirational ballad is her second song to reach this threshold, following the sassy "See You Again." "The Climb" is the flagship hit from Hannah Montana: The Movie...Sara Bareilles' 2008 smash "Love Song" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads. "Love Song" reached #4 on the Hot 100 and received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. "I wrote it in 45 minutes," Bareilles told journalist Paul Zollo for his annual round-up of the Song of the Year finalists. "I'm usually a very slow writer. But this was cathartic and passionate."

The Catalog Question: Billboard's long-time policy against listing catalog albums on The Billboard 200 has stirred controversy. The idea behind the policy was that new product needs chart exposure more than albums from the past, the vast majority of which are proven hits. You can't argue with that. But the policy's negative effects are starting to outweigh its good intentions. The charts should always highlight meaningful achievements. They shouldn't muddy the waters so that the achievements are harder to see or understand. But that's precisely what is happening.

There is evidence that catalog albums are becoming more of a potential chart force. From the beginning of 1994 through the end of 2007, only one catalog album (excluding holiday releases) sold well enough to qualify for the top 10 on The Billboard 200. That was the Grease soundtrack, which would have placed at #10 in April 1998 (when the film was re-released). But since early 2008, this has happened three times: with the 25th anniversary re-issue of Michael Jackson's Thriller in February 2008, with the deluxe re-issue of Pearl Jam's Ten in March 2009 and with a plethora of Jackson titles in the wake of his death. These are the kinds of success stories the magazine's flagship chart should trumpet, not obscure.

The next time a vintage soundtrack or an anniversary edition of a classic album sells well enough to appear in the top 10, I hope it gets its due. What a great story! The next time a superstar's death spurs a catalog album of theirs into the top 10, let's see it. What a fitting tribute! In either case, if the album squeezes out a lesser-selling new release, so be it. (After all, the album being squeezed out will only fall to #11. It won't be banished to chart Siberia, which is pretty much what happens to catalog albums when they are denied a place on The Billboard 200.

Catalog albums are relegated to a separate chart which isn't as deep as The Billboard 200 (just 50 entries are currently listed in the magazine), receives just one-sixth as much space and has a far lower profile. That's too bad. It seems especially odd at a time when the music business is struggling. Ten times so far this year this year, the #1 album on The Billboard 200 didn't sell even 100,000 copies. So, for the top 10 to exclude legitimate hit product--albums that are actually selling--seems inexplicable.

I have suggested a possible solution:  Billboard could continue to exclude catalog from The Billboard 200, but make an exception for albums that sold well enough to make the top 10. Billboard's definition of catalog already includes two exceptions. (Albums are considered catalog once they are 18 months old except if they are still ranked in the top 100 and except if they include a track that is still active at a key radio format.) What's one more exception?

Billboard has said that they're studying the matter. I'm still hopeful that they'll come around.

Heads Up: Demi Lovato is expected to have next week's top debut with her sophomore album, Here We Go Again. The title song vaults from #49 to #8 on Hot Digital Songs. Lovato's debut album, Don't Forget, opened at #2 in September. Jordin Sparks, whose eponymous 2007 debut overcame a tepid start to become a solid hit, will also return to action next week with her sophomore album, Battlefield. The title song leaps from #37 to #19 on Hot Digital Songs. Also due: Our Lady Peace's Burn Burn and Sugar Ray's Music For Cougars.

Outa-Site: Billboard has revamped and relaunched its website, www.billboard.com. Visitors to the site can access charts back to the 1950s; read the latest artist, record and touring news; stream and purchase music; and, basically, endlessly amuse themselves. Key features include Soundtrack Of My Life, in which fans can discover what songs were No. 1 during memorable moments in their lives, and The Chart Game, which challenges fans based on their knowledge of the current music scene. The new listening and purchasing experience was made possible through a strategic alliance with Lala, the digital music website with a catalog of more than 7 million songs. Today, Billboard.com has an exclusive Q&A video with Daughtry (how timely is that?).

Shameless Plug: Linkin Park this week edges past Nelly as the best-selling artist that has emerged in this decade. Linkin Park has sold 21,223,000 albums, compared to 21,215,000 for Nelly. I just posted a Chart Watch Extra in which I count down the top 20 artists who emerged in this decade. I won't divulge who's on it, but the list includes six rock acts, five pop stars, four three country acts and two R&B divas. I think you'll be surprised at some of the artists who made it--and who didn't.

 

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