Chart Watch

Week Ending July 26, 2009: The Phantom #1 Is Back On Top

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson's Number Ones is the best-selling album in the U.S. for the fourth time in the past five weeks. This is the first time that an album by a deceased performer has been the best-seller this long since the Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death was #1 for four weeks in March and April 1997. It's the first time that a greatest hits album has ranked as the nation's best-seller for four or more weeks since the Beatles' 1 was on top for eight weeks in 2000-2001. It's the first time that a Jackson album has been out front this long since Dangerous was #1 for four weeks in December 1991-January 1992.

Only one other album--Taylor Swift's Fearless--has been the best-seller in the U.S. for four or more weeks so far this year. Fearless is #1 for the year-to-date. Number Ones is currently #4 on that tally.

Now, from reading all this you would probably conclude that Number Ones is #1 on The Billboard 200. Alas, no. Billboard doesn't include catalog albums on its flagship chart. The lucky beneficiary of that rule is Demi Lovato, whose sophomore album, Here We Go Again, opens at #1 despite selling 46,000 fewer copies this week than Number Ones.

Lovato, who played the female lead in Camp Rock, is the third Disney ingénue to land a #1 album in her own right. She follows Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus. Duff played the lead in Lizzie McGuire. Cyrus, of course, plays Hannah Montana. (Chart-toppers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were one-time cast members of the revived Mickey Mouse Club, but that's not quite the same thing.)

Lovato is one of four teenagers listed in the top 10 on The Billboard 200. Lovato and Hannah Montana are both 16. Jordin Sparks and Taylor Swift are both 19. Lovato's album got off to a faster start than her debut album did in September. Don't Forget opened at #2 with first-week sales of 89,000.

But I'm not done with Michael Jackson. The fallen superstar has three of the 10 best-selling albums this week, down from six the past two weeks. This is the fifth consecutive week that Jackson has had at least three of the country's 10 best-selling albums, a remarkable achievement. Number Ones sold 154,000 copies and would have moved back from #2 to #1 if catalog albums were eligible to make The Billboard 200. The Essential Michael Jackson sold 76,000 copies and would have dipped from #3 to #4. Thriller sold 73,000 copies and would have fallen from #4 to #5.

In addition, Jackson is featured on 20 of the top 200 songs on Hot Digital Songs. For the second time in the five weeks since his death, his top-selling download is "Thriller." (It was "Man In The Mirror" the other three weeks.) And The Essential Michael Jackson is #1 in the U.K. for the fourth straight week. This ties Lady GaGa's The Fame for the longest-run at #1 in the U.K. so far this year.

I've pretty much spoken my piece about Billboard's policy of barring catalog albums from The Billboard 200, but I will add this one last nugget. Even though Number Ones has been the best-selling album in the U.S. for four of the last five weeks, it will go down in history as having peaked at a so-so #13 on The Billboard 200. (That's the highest position it reached when it was released in 2003.) Likewise, even though The Essential Michael Jackson was the second best-selling album in U.S. in the week after Jackson's death, it will go down as having peaked at a tepid #96 (its highest ranking when it was released in 2005.) The peak positions on Billboard's flagship chart don't give a full and accurate picture of the popularity of these albums.

Incidentally, if today's rules and standards about catalog albums had been in place in 1972, Roberta Flack's First Take, which topped the chart for five weeks that spring, wouldn't have been allowed back on The Billboard 200. The album rode the chart from January to June 1970. It came back to life after director Clint Eastwood used its key track, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," in his November 1971 film Play Misty For Me. The album re-entered the chart in March 1972 and hit #1 six weeks later. If today's rules had been in place then, First Take would have been denied a return ticket to the big chart and would have become the first catalog album to outsell the #1 current album. Instead, Number Ones earned that distinction.

Jordin Sparks' sophomore album, Battlefield, enters The Billboard 200 at #7, with first-week sales of 48,000. Sparks' debut album, Jordin Sparks, opened at #10 in November 2007 with first-week sales of 119,000. Sparks is the third American Idol winner to reach the top 10 with a sophomore album. She follows Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Three other Idol winners, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia and Taylor Hicks, fell short of the top 10 with their second albums. David Cook has yet to release his sophomore album.

Jordin Sparks, you may recall, got off to a slower-than-expected start two years ago. (My headline that week, "Jordin Not Setting Off Sparks," was on-the-mark, if not very nice.) But the album slowly but surely gathered momentum, on the backs of three million-selling singles. As of this week, it has sold a very respectable 1,020,000 copies.

The Black Eyed Peas are #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the 17th week in a row. "I Gotta Feeling" sold 223,000 downloads this week, bringing its seven-week total to 1,547,000. "I Gotta Feeling" was immediately preceded in the top spot by "Boom Boom Pow," which has sold 3,617,000 downloads. The two songs have sold a combined total of 5,164,000 downloads. That's more than six times as many copies as the group's album, The E.N.D., has sold (779,000).

Lady GaGa, unknown a year ago, is the only act with two songs on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the top 10 songs with the most paid downloads. "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis) is #2, with 4,388,000 paid downloads. "Poker Face" is #8, with 3,764,000. Flo Rida is the only other act with two songs in the all-time top 15. He has "Low" (featuring T-Pain) at #1 and "Right Round" at #12.

Bad News Alert: I told you last week that there have already been 10 weeks so far this year in which the #1 album on The Billboard 200 has sold fewer than 100,000 copies. You may wonder how that compares to past years. Don't ask. We've already broken the record for the worst year ever. The old record was set in 2007, when the #1 album sold fewer than 100,000 copies seven times in the entire calendar year. The third worst year was last year, when this happened four times. From 1993 through 2006, there were only six weeks when the #1 album sold fewer than 100,000 copies. Gulp.

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

1. Demi Lovato, Here We Go Again, 108,000. This new entry is Lovato's second top five album. Nearly 26,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Here We Go Again," which jumps from #8 to #6.

2. Daughtry, Leave This Town, 101,000. The album dips from #1 to #2 in its second week. "No Surprise" dips from #24 to #26 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night, 72,000. The former #1 album dips from #2 to #3 in its third week. "Pretty Wings" inches up from #103 to #102 on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Various Artists, NOW 31, 58,000. The former #1 album holds at #4 in its fourth week. It has sold 397,000 copies, up a bit from where NOW 30 stood (377,000) in April, when it was in its fourth week.

5. Hannah Montana, Hannah Montana 3 soundtrack, 54,000. The album dips from #3 to #5 in its third week. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "He Could Be The One," which drops from #6 to #18.

6. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 52,000. The former #1 album dips from #5 to #6. This is its seventh week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs for the seventh straight week (see item above).

7. Jordin Sparks, Battlefield, 48,000. This new entry is Sparks' second top 10 album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Battlefield," which jumps from #19 to #7.

8. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 39,000. The album jumps from #10 to #8 in its 44th week. This is its third week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody," which leaps from #10 to #2.

9. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 37,000. The former #1 album holds at #9 in its 37th week. This is its 31st week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which dips from #4 to #5. Also, see item below.

10. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 28,000. The album rebounds from #11 to #10 in its 39th week. This is the album's 21st week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lovegame," which dips from #9 to #11.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Dead Weather's Horehound falls from #6 to #23. Joe's Signature dives from #7 to #26. Twista's Category F5 drops from #8 to #19.

Our Lady Peace's Burn Burn debuts at #41. (It opens at #3 in the band's native Canada.) The veteran rockers reached the top 10 in the U.S. with their 2002 album Gravity.

Taylor Swift's Fearless logs its 20th week at #1 on Top Country Albums. Swift's previous album, Taylor Swift, topped the chart for 24 weeks. Swift is only the fifth artist in the chart's 45-year history to have two albums that each held the top spot for 20 or more weeks. She follows Kenny Rogers, Alabama, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.

Song Scorecard: Jeremih's "Birthday Sex" tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. According to a story I heard on American Top 40, the song was originally going to be called "Birthday Text." I don't think it would have been nearly as big with that title. Texting is popular, but it still has a ways to go to overtake sex.

In addition, three songs that were released last year topped the 1 million mark in 2009 sales this week. These are Katy Perry's "Waking Up In Vegas," the Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name" and the Veronicas' "Untouched."

Heads Up: Fabolous' Loso's Way is expected to be next week's #1 album. The rapper has amassed four top 10 albums since 2001. Also due:  Ashley Tisdale's Guilty Pleasure, the second album by the singer/actress who gained fame playing High School Musical's female antagonist. And: Kristinia DeBarge's Exposed, the debut album by the daughter of James DeBarge, who was a member of the popular '80s group, DeBarge.

 

Useless Information: Demi Lovato's Here We Go Again has the same title (minus an exclamation point) as a Kingston Trio album that topped the chart for eight weeks in 1959-1960. Lovato's album is the second #1 so far this year to have the same title as a #1 album from the past. Chrisette Michele was #1 in May with Epiphany, the same title as a T-Pain chart-topper from 2007.

 

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