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Week Ending July 3, 2011. Albums: Watching Three Women

Chart Watch

This week, let's zero in on albums by three high-profile female singers. Beyonce's 4 becomes the superstar's fourth consecutive studio album to debut at #1. Adele's 21 becomes the first album to spend its first 19 weeks inside the top three since Backstreet Boys' Millennium did it in 1999. And Lady Gaga's Born This Way drops out of the top 10 after just five weeks. That's one of the briefest initial runs in the top 10 of any of the albums that have sold 1 million copies in one week.

Beyonce's album sold 310,000 copies in its first week. That tally may look a little skinny, but it trails the first-week totals of only two 2011 albums: Gaga's discount-aided Born This Way (1,108,000) and Adele's Grammy front-runner 21 (352K). B is ahead of Britney Spears' Femme Fatale (276K) and Chris Brown's F.A.M.E. (270K). That said, it's a little behind B's past studio albums: Dangerously In Love (317K in 2003), B'Day (541K in 2006) and I Am...Sasha Fierce (482K in 2008).

The slower start for the new album partly reflects the fact that its first single, "Run The World (Girls)," stalled at #29, which is a dud by Beyonce's standards. The first singles from each of her previous albums made the top five. They were, respectively, the #1 smash "Crazy In Love" (featuring Jay-Z), the #4 hit "Déjà vu" (also featuring Jay-Z) and the #3 hit "If I Were A Boy." The second single from the new album, the striking ballad "Best Thing I Never Had,"  vaults from #58 to #29 on this week's Hot 100, already matching the peak of "Run The World (Girls)."

Beyonce is just the third artist to enter The Billboard 200 at #1 with his or her first four albums. She follows rapper DMX, who did it with his first five albums between 1998 and 2003, and Britney Spears, who did it with her first four between 1999 and 2003.

Beyonce's album replaces Jill Scott's The Light Of The Sun at #1. This marks the first time that African American women have had back-to-back #1 albums since the summer of 2003, when Monica's After The Storm, Beyonce's Dangerously In Love and Ashanti's Chapter II were successive #1 albums.

4 also enters the U.K. chart at #1 this week. It's Beyonce's first album to reach #1 there since Dangerously In Love.

Adele's 21 rebounds from #3 to #2 in its 19th week. It's the first album to spend its first 19 weeks inside the top three since Backstreet Boys' Millennium did it in 1999. Both albums scored on the strength of monster hits: "Rolling In The Deep" and "I Want It That Way," respectively. Will Adele blow past Backstreet's record next week? Stay tuned.

Lady Gaga's Born This Way drops from #8 to #12 in its sixth week. It had one of the briefest initial runs in the top 10 of any of the albums that have sold 1 million copies in one week. *NSYNC's Celebrity is the only other album in the "1 million club" to drop out of the top 10 after just five weeks. Backstreet Boys' Black & Blue slipped out after six weeks. In both cases, these were the follow-ups to those boy band's biggest sellers. And we all know that in the world of teen pop, last year's red-hot phenom is just so last year.

Of course, Gaga's album may return to the top 10, but it's surprising that is has slipped out this quickly. Let's compare it to the last album that sold 1 million copies in a week: Taylor Swift's Speak Now. Speak Now spent its first 15 weeks in the top 10. People will endlessly debate whether the 99 cent promotion for Born This Way helped or hurt. I would say it helped in the short term and may have hurt in the long term.

Jill Scott landed a #1 album last week even though she has yet to crack the top 40 on the Hot 100 at any point in her career. Her highest-charting single, "A Long Walk," reached #43 in 2001. Billboard's Keith Caulfield notes that she just the fourth female artist to land a #1 album (since 1956) who has never landed a top 40 hit on the Hot 100. The others: Judy Garland, India.Arie and Susan Boyle. Garland never cracked the Hot 100, which originated in 1958 (though she had seven top 40 hits from 1940 to 1945). India.Arie's highest-charting single, "Video," peaked at #47. Boyle's highest-charting single, "I Dreamed A Dream," reached #62.

In non-diva news (and there actually is some this week!), Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party rebounds from #10 to #6. It regains the #1 spot on Top Country Albums. This is its 11th week on top of that chart, which is the longest run by a male solo country artist since Kenny Chesney's When The Sun Goes Down led the way for 14 weeks in 2004.

New releases by two American Idol winners debut in the top 10 this week. David Cook's long-awaited sophomore album This Loud Morning bows at #7. Scotty McCreery's hastily-assembled EP American Idol Season 10 Highlights, a Walmart exclusive, bows at #10. Cook was the Season 7 winner. McCreery won Season 10. Cook's eponymous debut album opened and peaked at #3 in November 2008. It has sold 1,325,000 copies. No subsequent Idol contestant has cracked the 1 million mark with any album.

Six Months: Last week, I posted lists of the top albums and songs for the first half of the year. I did so even though we only had 25 weeks of sales results in hand, to get the info to you in timely fashion. Now that 26 weeks of results are in, I've updated all the tallies in both reports. The biggest change is that Katy Perry's Teenage Dream pushed ahead of Rihanna's Loud to take the #10 spot on the album list. If you missed them, or are curious about the changes, here are links to lists of the year's top albums and songs for the first six months.

Shameless Plug: Eminem's Recovery this week becomes the first album to top the 1 million in digital sales. On Thursday, I'll have a Chart Watch Extra in which I look at this and other milestone events in digital album history.

Useless Information: This marks the second time that an album titled 4 has reached #1. Foreigner's 4 was #1 for 10 weeks in 1981. Two other albums in this week's top five, Adele's 21 and Selena Gomez & the Scene's When The Sun Goes Down, also recycle the titles of old #1 albums. Omarion topped the chart with an album titled 21 in 2006. Kenny Chesney hit #1 with the aforementioned When The Sun Goes Down in 2004.

"Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock jumps to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. Will it also jump to #1 on the Hot 100, will Pitbull hang on for a second week or will Katy Perry leapfrog ahead of them both? Check back later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

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

1. Beyonce, 4, 310,000. This new entry is Beyonce's fourth consecutive studio album to debut at #1. The tally includes 70,000 digital copies, which makes it #1 on Top Digital Albums. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Best Thing I Never Had," which vaults from #72 to #26.

2. Adele, 21, 92,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #3 to #2 in its 19th week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Rolling In The Deep," which holds at #5 for the third week.

3. Big Sean, Finally Famous: The Album, 87,000. This new entry is the rapper's first full-length album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "My Last" (featuring Chris Brown), which jumps from #80 to #72.

4. Selena Gomez & the Scene, When The Sun Goes Down, 78,000. This new entry is Gomez's third top 10 album, following Kiss And Tell (#9 in 2009) and A Year Without Rain (#4 in 2010). Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Who Says" drops from #15 to #19. "Love You Like A Love Song" jumps from #47 to #39.

5. Jill Scott, The Light Of The Sun, 55,000. The former #1 album drops to #5 in its second week. The album has sold 190K copies in its first two weeks.

6. Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party, 48,000. The album rebounds from #10 to #6 in its 35th week. It's #1 on Top Country Albums for the 11th week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Dirt Road Anthem," which drops from #8 to #10.

7. David Cook, This Loud Morning, 46,000. This new entry is Cook's second top 10 album. His debut album, David Cook, bowed at #3 in November 2008.

8. Jackie Evancho, Dream With Me, 44,000. The album drops from #4 to #8 in its  third week. It has sold 276K copies in three weeks.

9. Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel, 42,000. The former #1 album drops from #6 to #9 in its third week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Lighters" (featuring Bruno Mars) drops from #21 to #44. "Fastlane" drops from #98 to #178.

10. Scotty McCreery, American Idol Season 10 Highlights, 40,000. This new entry, a Walmart exclusive EP, is McCreery's first top 10. A similarly titled full-length album, an iTunes exclusive, debuted and peaked at #12 last month. "I Love You This Big" drops from #77 to #82 on Hot Digital Albums.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Bon Iver's Bon Iver dives from #2 to #11, Justin Moore's Outlaws Like Me drops from #5 to #13, Pitbull's Planet Pit drops from #7 to #14, Lady Gaga's Born This Way drops from #8 to #12, and "Weird" Al Yankovic's Alpocalypse plummets from #9 to #45.

Rave On Buddy Holly bows at #15. This is an all-star tribute album to rock legend Buddy Holly, who would have turned 75 on Sept. 7. It's not the first Holly tribute album to chart. Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly) reached #119 in 1996. In addition, the soundtrack to the 1978 biopic The Buddy Holly Story, starring Gary Busey, peaked at #86. Holly, one of rock's great songwriters, died in a plane crash in February 1959. He was just 22.

Limp Bizkit's Gold Cobra bows at #16. The band's 2000 album Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water sold more than 1 million copies in its first week. This new album sold a more earthbound 27,000 in its first week... Taking Back Sunday's Taking Back Sunday bows at #17. That's a drop from the band's last three studio albums, all of which made the top 10.

Blake Shelton's Loaded: The Best Of Blake Shelton jumps from #60 to #18 in its 34th week. This is the album's highest ranking to date. It originally peaked at #24. The resurgence is keyed to the highly-rated final episodes of The Voice and a promotion for albums by the show's judges. The same factors lifted Maroon5's Hands All Over, which vaults from #73 to #26, and Christina Aguilera's Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade Of Hits, which re-enters at #46.

Gillian Welch's The Harrow & The Harvest debuts at #20. It's the highest-charting album for the singer/songwriter who first charted in 1998...Curren$y's Weekend At Burnie's debuts at #22. The title is a play on the title of the 1989 movie Weekend At Bernie's.

James Durbin came in fourth on American Idol this season, but Walmart shoppers preferred his EP to that of third-place contestant Haley Reinhart. Durbin's American Idol Season 10 Highlights debuts at #31. Reinhart's bows at #37. Both trail the top two contestants from the season: Scotty McCreery, who debuted at #10, as noted above, and Lauren Alaina, who debuted at #24. The Walmart exclusive EPs are priced at $5.

Adele's 2008 album 19 drops from #16 to #34. It is #1 on Top Catalog Albums for the 17th week. This equals Enya's run with Watermark for the longest run at #1 by a female solo artist since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991.

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was #1 at the box-office over the weekend. The soundtrack jumped from #104 to #43 in its third week. It's the week's #1 soundtrack, dethroning Lemonade Mouth.

AC/DC's Live At River Plate is #1 on Top Music Videos for the fifth time in eight weeks.

Coming Attractions: Lloyd's King Of Hearts is expected to be next week's top new entry. It will probably sell in the 20K-25K range. Also due: We The Kings' Sunshine State Of Mind,  Unearth's Darkness In The Light and Pop Evil's War Of Angels.

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