Chart Watch

Week Ending March 16, 2008: Rick Ross–The Least-Known Two-Time Chart-Topper?

Chart Watch

Rick Ross' sophomore album, Trilla, enters Nielsen/SoundScan's list of the nation's best-selling albums at #1--just as his debut, Port Of Miami, did two years ago. Ross is only the fifth rap artist to open at #1 with both of his first two albums. He follows DMX, who debuted at #1 with his first five albums; Snoop Doggy Dogg, who started on top with his first three; and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Eminem-led D12, which opened at #1 with their first two releases.

And yet, many in the broad pop audience hardly know who Ross is. The 31-year old rapper may be among the least well-known two-time chart-toppers in pop history. The main reason for that is that Ross, a Miami native, has yet to have a major crossover hit. His debut album spawned two Hot 100 hits--"Hustlin'" and "Push It"--but neither made the Top 40. Ross may be on the verge of a crossover breakthrough. "The Boss," a collaboration with T-Pain, jumps from #84 to #43 on Hot Digital Tracks. A second track from the album, "Luxury Tax," opens at #65 on that chart.

Ross' generic stage name may be another reason for his relative anonymity. Reviewing Trilla for the Los Angeles Times, Jeff Weiss dryly observed that that Rick Ross is "a nickname more fitting for a West Palm Beach dentist."  In choosing a stage name, Ross (real name: William Roberts) didn't show the same degree of theatrical flair as Earl Simmons, Calvin Broadus and Cornell Haynes. Those are, of course, the real names of DMX, Snoop Dogg and Nelly.

Incidentally, Rick Ross isn't the first artist named Ross to have a single titled "The Boss." Diana Ross had a (terrific) top 20 hit in 1979 with an Ashford & Simpson song with that title.

You may wonder why I didn't include Nelly in my opening paragraph. The rapper reached #1 with his first three albums (discounting a compilation album), but his first album, Country Grammar, didn't debut at #1. Also, in the case of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, I'm discounting a mini-album (Creepin On Ah Come Up) and a re-release of an early album from back when the group was billed as Bone Enterprise.

Two other rap albums debut in the top 10 this week. Snoop Dogg's latest, Ego Trippin', opens at #3. Fat Joe's The Elephant In The Room bows at #6.

Usher's "Love In This Club" holds at #1 on the Top Digital Tracks chart for the third straight week. Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," which debuted at #2 last week following American Idol contestant Jason Castro's performance of the song, falls to #9.

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

1. Rick Ross, Trilla, 198,000. The opening week sales tally for Ross' second album is about 11,000 copies higher than that achieved by his debut, Port Of Miami. These days, any increase is good news.

2. Various Artists, Now 27, 169,000. There's good news and bad news. Good news first: Now 27 enters the charts two notches higher than Now 26, which debuted at #4 in November. But the bad news is truly bad: This is the lowest opening sales tally for a regular Now volume since the very first edition in 1998, which started with sales of 48,000. Four Now volumes opened with sales of more than 500,000 copies. The most recent (and, most likely, the last) was Now 16 in August 2004.

3. Snoop Dogg, Ego Trippin', 137,000. This is Snoop's highest-charting album in nearly nine years. As mentioned above, Snoop's first three albums hit #1 from 1993-1998. His fourth release, No Limit Top Dogg, peaked at #2 in 1999--kept out of the top spot by a red-hot Ricky Martin. This is Snoop's best showing since that album. The lead single, the broadly appealing "Sensual Seduction," reached #7 on the Hot 100 three weeks ago.

4. Jack Johnson, Sleep Through The Static, 55,000. This is the #1 album so far in 2008, with sales of 871,000. More than a quarter of that total--232,000 copies--has been in digital downloads of the album. Johnson is the dominant artist in this realm. He is the only artist with more than one title among the top 30 albums of all time on the digital download chart. He has three: In Between Dreams at #7, Sleep Through The Static at #10 and Curious George at #25.

5. Alan Jackson, Good Time, 53,000. Sales of Jackson's album drop by 55% compared to its chart-topping total last week. That's the steepest decline of any album in the top 30.

6. Fat Joe, The Elephant In The Room, 46,000. By reaching #6, this pulls into a tie with 2005's All Or Nothing as the highest-charting album of Fat Joe's 12-year career. The rapper has had two other top 10 albums, Don Cartagena (Cartagena is his surname) in 1998 and True Story (with the group Terror Squad) in 2004.

7. Sara Bareilles, Little Voice, 40,000. This is the album's third appearance at #7 in the past four weeks. "Love Song" ranks in the top five on Hot Digital Tracks for the 14th straight week.

8. Janet Jackson, Discipline, 38,000. Jackson falls from #3 to #8, two weeks after debuting at #1. "Feedback" slips from #10 to #23 on Hot Digital Tracks.

9. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War), 35,000. Badu falls from #6 to #9, two weeks after debuting at #2. She just can't get past Janet Jackson, who was also one point ahead of her two weeks ago.

10. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Best Of Both Worlds Concert, 34,000. This is the soundtrack from the Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour movie, which was #1 at the box-office the first weekend of February. That would make this the #1 movie soundtrack, though Nielsen/SoundScan's soundtracks chart oddly gives that distinction to Alvin & The Chipmunks (which is #15 on the big chart.) This is the third Montana/Cyrus album to be released in the past nine months, following the Hannah Montana 2 TV soundtrack, which has logged 38 consecutive weeks in the top 30, and Hannah Montana 2: Non-Stop Dance Party. This franchise has been rather lucrative for Disney--which is sort of like saying Disneyland sells a lot of frozen fruit bars in August.

Five albums drop out of the top 10. Taylor Swift's Taylor Swift falls from #9 to #12, Alicia Keys' As I Am drops from #8 to #13, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black falls from #10 to #14, Flogging Molly's Float sinks from #4 to #19, and the Black Crowes' Warpaint plummets from #5 to #34. Sales of the Crowes' album declined by 63% compared to last week, the steepest decline of any album in top 200. With Keys and Winehouse slipping, no albums by 2008 Grammy winners or performers are still listed in the top 10. I guess the post-Grammy glow doesn't last forever--except in the winners' hearts, of course.

Michael Jackson's Thriller 25 sold 48,000 copies last week, which would have put it #6 on the big chart. (As I've explained, Nielsen/SoundScan and Billboard magazine list older "catalog albums" on a separate chart.) This is the fifth straight week that Thriller 25 would have ranked in the top 10 on the big chart. And this is the third straight week that Michael and Janet would have appeared in the top 10 simultaneously. Siblings have appeared in the top 10 simultaneously before. Andy Gibb and his brothers, the Bee Gees, were in the top 10 together for nine straight weeks in 1978--Andy with Shadow Dancing and the Bee Gees with Saturday Night Fever. Leaving behind the realm of shoulda-woulda-coulda for cold, hard facts, Thriller 25 is the #7 best-selling album so far in 2008. It's the first album to top the catalog  album chart for five straight weeks since Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits a year ago.

The Now '80s compilation opens at #11. Fourteen of the 20 tracks reached #1 on Billboard's Hot 100. All but one reached the top 10. (The sole exception is Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," which was probably included because of his recent surprise Grammy win for Album of the Year.) This is vying to become the fourth ancillary album from the long-running Now franchise to reach the top 10. The first and third Now Christmas albums made the top 10, as did Now #1's.

OneRepublic's Dreaming Out Loud jumps from #45 to #20, with a sales increase of 52%. The album's second single, "Stop And Stare," jumps to #11 on Hot Digital Tracks. It's very hard to follow a monster hit like "Apologize," which is the third most downloaded track of all time. (Just ask Daniel Powter, Gnarls Barkley and James Blunt, to name a few, all of whom came up short with their follow-ups to ubiquitous singles.)

Randy Jackson's Music Club, Volume 1 opens at #50 with sales of 13,000. That's not so hot, considering that Jackson appears before an audience of 30 million people twice a week. The first single, "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" by fellow American Idol judge Paula Abdul, jumps to #18 on Hot Digital Tracks. (Based on the number of times Jackson and Abdul mentioned the track on this week's show, maybe the title should be "Plug It Like There's No Tomorrow.")

Beatles 4Ever: American Idol's current focus on the Beatles is boosting the group's albums. Love leaps from #190 to #121, with a sales increase of 57% compared to last week. That's the biggest increase of any non-debuting album in the top 200. And the hit-studded 1 jumps to #5 on the catalog album chart, where it may give Thriller 25 a run for its money. 1 has sold 11,157,000 copies since its release in 2000, which makes it the best-selling album released in this decade. For the entire Nielsen/SoundScan era, which dates to 1991, it ranks #8.

Heads Up: Next week, look for debuts by Danity Kane, whose 2006 debut album opened at #1; Gnarls Barkley, whose 2006 album St. Elsewhere made the top five; and Flo Rida, whose "Low" is the most downloaded track in pop history. Also due next week: French-Israeli star Yael Naim.

Happy Easter: Fred Astaire and Judy Garland sang "Easter Parade" in the 1948 movie of the same name. (Think of them as the Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks of their day--and then some.) But the Irving Berlin song originated in the 1933 Broadway musical As Thousands Cheer. That makes this the song's 75th anniversary. Will today's hits age as well? Discuss amongst yourselves.

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