Chart Watch

Week Ending July 5, 2009: All Michael, All The Time

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson has three of the five best-selling albums in the U.S. for the second week in a row. Number Ones sold 339,000 copies this week and would have held at #1 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to compete on that chart. (The 2003 compilation sold a little more than twice as many copies this week as NOW 31, the album that holds the #1 spot.) Thriller sold 187,000 copies and would have jumped from #3 to #2 if catalog albums were invited to the party. The Essential Michael Jackson sold 125,000 copies and would have dropped from #2 to #5. (Billboard excludes catalog albums from the big chart on the theory that new albums need the spotlight the chart provides more than past hits do.)

Jackson's catalog of solo albums sold 800,000 copies this week, up from 422,000 copies last week. (This was the first full week following Jackson's death on June 25. Last week's total reflected just four days of sales.) Billboard reports that 82% of the Jackson albums sold this week were CDs (vs. digital downloads). Last week, 43% of the Jackson albums sold were CDs. I think this shows that on a special album, people want the CD as a keepsake. (What a retro concept!)

Jackson's total song download sales this week, including hits with his brothers, stand at 2.2 million downloads, down just a little from 2.6 million last week. A total of 47 songs that feature Jackson are listed on the Hot Digital Songs chart. (This is down just a bit from last week's eye-popping total of 50.)

Number Ones racked up the biggest weekly sales total in Nielsen/SoundScan history for a catalog album (excluding Christmas albums). Jackson also held the old record, which he set in February 2008, when Thriller 25 sold 166,000 copies in its first week. Number Ones also posted the biggest one-week sales tally for an album by a deceased performer since the Notorious B.I.G.'s Duets: The Final Chapter debuted in December 2005 with first-week sales of 438,000.

Number Ones has sold 564,000 copies so far this year, which puts it at #18 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the best-selling albums of 2009. If it keeps going like this, it could topple Taylor Swift's Fearless as the #1 album for the year-to-date. (Fearless has sold 1,352,000 copies since Jan. 1.) This will (in all likelihood) be only the third time in Nielsen/SoundScan history that an album by a deceased performer has ranked among the year's top 10. 2Pac's All Eyez On Me was the #6 album of 1996 (he died on Sept. 13 of that year). The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death was the #6 album of 1997 (he died on March 9 of that year).

Number Ones holds at #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. (Catalog albums are albums that are more than 18 months old, have fallen below #100 on The Billboard 200 and don't have a current radio single.) Jackson owns the entire top 10 this week, counting a Jackson 5 album. The Essential Michael Jackson holds at #1 on the Digital Albums chart. The collection sold 53,000 digital copies this week.

This is the third time that Thriller has posted sales of 100,000 or more units in a week in the Nielsen/SoundScan era (which dates to 1991). As noted above, the album sold 166,000 copies when a 25th anniversary edition was released in February 2008. It sold 101,000 last week, in the aftermath of Jackson's death. Thriller is the only the second catalog album (again, excluding Christmas albums) to top the 100,000 sales mark more than once since 1992. It follows the Grease soundtrack, a 1978 blockbuster that came back strong in the mid-1990s. The John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John tune-fest topped the 100,000 sales mark twice in December 1996 and again in April 1998, when the movie was re-released theatrically.

Jackson has five songs in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs this week: "Man In The Mirror" at #2, "Billie Jean" at #4, "Thriller" at #5, "The Way You Make Me Feel" at #7 and "Beat It" at #10. Later today, I'll post a Chart Watch Extra in which I count down Jackson's 40 most songs with the most cumulative paid downloads. The list shows which of Jackson's songs have best stood the test of time-and which haven't.

Pop Quiz: To get you in the mood, here's a good (but seriously tough) Jackson trivia question. What do these three songs have in common: "Rock With You," "Human Nature" and "Man In The Mirror." Answer below.

Jackson is selling around the world. In the U.K., The Essential Michael Jackson moves up to #1, dethroning Number Ones (which drops to #3). In Japan, King Of Pop vaults from #43 to #6.

In a Chart Watch Extra (here's the link), I told you that Michael Jackson has had 17 #1 hits on the Hot 100 (combining Jackson 5 and solo records). Let me add that he has also had five #2 hits. Twice, he peaked at #2 behind hits that went on to be Billboard's #1 single of the year. That was the fate of the J5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" (which got stuck behind Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World," the top hit of 1971) and his own "Rockin' Robin" (which ran up against Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," the top hit of 1972). The J5's "Mama's Pearl" peaked at #2 behind the Osmonds' "One Bad Apple," which was created in the mold of the early J5 hits. His other #2 hits were the J5's "Dancing Machine" and his duet with Paul McCartney, "The Girl Is Mine."

Quiz Answer: Those were the first "outside songs" (songs that Jackson didn't write) to be released as singles from his three most famous albums, Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad. (I told you it was tough!)

In non-Jackson news (there actually is such a thing!), the Black Eyed Peas this week becomes the first act to hold the #1 spot on Hot Digital Songs for 14 consecutive weeks since the inception of the chart in 2004. The Peas surpass Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, who held tight for 13 straight weeks in 2007-2008 with "Low." The Peas, of course, needed two records to break Flo Rida's record. "Boom Boom Pow" was #1 for 10 weeks, followed immediately by "I Gotta Feelin,'" which sits tight in its fourth week at #1. The song sold 215,000 downloads this week, bringing its four-week total to 899,000.

Lady GaGa has two reasons to celebrate this week. Her debut album, The Fame, logs its 20th week in the top 10, and it becomes only the fourth album to sell 1 million copies in 2009. (It sold an additional 150,000 copies in late 2008.) Lady GaGa got to the 1 million mark before the much-heralded U2 album, which has sold 944,000 copies. Lady GaGa is the only artist to have three songs sell more than 1 million copies each in 2009.

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

1. Various Artists, NOW 31, 169,000. This is the 14th NOW volume to reach #1. The first-week sales tally marks an improvement over NOW 30, which debuted in March with sales of 146,000.

2. Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night, 130,000. This new entry is Paisley's second album to debut at #2, following 2005's Time Well Wasted. It's his fifth top 10 album. "Then" jumps to #67 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Rob Thomas, Cradlesong, 122,000. This new entry is Thomas' fourth career album to debut in the top three. Thomas' 2005 solo debut, ...Something To Be, bowed at #1. Matchbox Twenty debuted at #3 with 2000's Mad Season and 2007's Exile On Mainstream. "Her Diamonds" jumps to #30 on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Wilco, Wilco (The Album), 99,000.This new entry is the band's second album in a row to debut at #4, following 2007's  Sky Blue Sky. It's the band's third top 10 album.

5. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 70,000. The album drops from #1 to #5 in its fourth week. The Peas have two of the top three songs on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Gotta Feeling" at #1.

6. Jeremih, Jeremih, 59,000. This new entry is Jeremih's debut album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Birthday Sex," which jumps to #17.

7. Killswitch Engage, Engage, 58,000. This new entry is the hard rock group's highest-charting album. The band's previous highest-charted entry was The End Of Heartache, which reached #21 in 2004.

8. Jonas Brothers, Lines, Vines And Trying Times, 42,000. The former #1 album drops from #2 to #8 in its third week. "Paranoid" falls to #111 on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Eminem, Relapse, 39,000. The former #1 album drops from #5 to #9 in its seventh week. "We Made You" drops to #151 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 36,000. The album dips from #8 to #10. This is its 20th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lovegame," which rebounds to #12.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Regina Spektor's Far tumbles from #3 to #26, Dave Matthews Band's Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King drops from #4 to #15, Dream Theater's Black Clouds & Silver Linings plummets from #6 to #46, the Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen soundtrack slips from #7 to #13, Ginuwine's A Man's Thoughts drops from #9 to #35, and Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana's Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack dips from #10 to #12. Despite the drop, the Cyrus album regains its status as the #1 soundtrack.

Moby's Wait For Me opens at #22. Moby first charted a little more than 10 years ago with Play...Ace Hood's Ruthless bows at #23. It's Ace Hood's second top 40 album in eight months. DJ Khaled Presents Ace Hood Gutta bowed at #36 in November...Maino's If Tomorrow Comes... bows at #25. It's Maino's first chart entry.

Three veteran artists return to the chart wars. Levon Helm's Electric Dirt opens at #36. It's the highest-charting album of Helm's solo career, topping Dirt Farmer, which reached #102 in 2007. After much success with The Band, Helm first charted as a solo artist in 1977 with Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars...Paul Simon opens at #60 with This Better Be Good. After gaining fame with Simon & Garfunkel, Simon first charted as a solo artist in 1972 with Paul Simon....Tanya Tucker's My Turn opens at #183. Tucker first charted in 1974 (at age 15) with Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone).

What's in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs besides Michael Jackson and the Black Eyed Peas? Good question. Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning" jumps from #10 to #6, Linkin Park's "New Divide" jumps from #11 to #8, and Colbie Caillat's "Falling For You" debuts at #9.

Song Scorecard: Fall Out Boy's 2005 hit "Sugar, We're Goin' Down," tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's the group's first 2-million seller.

Heads Up: Maxwell returns to the chart wars next week after a nearly eight-year hiatus with BLACK summers' night. Maxwell's last album, Now, debuted at #1 in 2001. The second-highest new entry will be the Hannah Montana 3 TV soundtrack. The first two Hannah TV soundtracks both debuted at #1. Also due: All Time Low's Hopeless, Vicente Fernandez's Necesity De Ti, Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto: Vegas, Son Volt's American Central Dust and the Jayhawks' Music From The North Country.

Casey's Coast To Coast: Best wishes to Casey Kasem, who signed off for the last time on his "American Top 40" spin-off programs, "American Top 20" and "American Top 10," on July 4. That's a date with some significance: Kasem and his business partner Don Bustany created the franchise on July 4, 1970. "Hosting various versions of my countdown program has kept me extremely busy, and I loved every minute of it," Kasem said in a statement. Ryan Seacrest does an excellent job each week hosting "AT40," but I think even Ryan would concede it will always be Casey's show.

Last week, Jackson became only the 13th artist in Billboard chart history to have the best-selling album in the U.S. posthumously. The 10 artists who achieved this feat before him range from Glenn Miller to 2Pac; from Janis Joplin to Selena. This was such a diverse and interesting group of music legends, I wrote a Chart Watch Extra about it. If you missed it, here's a link.


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