Chart Watch

Week Ending March 2, 2008: Jackson Family Drama–Janet Tops Michael In #1 Albums

Chart Watch

Janet Jackson lands her sixth #1 album with Discipline. This surpasses her brother Michael Jackson, who has amassed five #1 albums. Janet topped the chart with five consecutive studio albums from Control in 1986 to All For You in 2001, but peaked at #2 with her two most recent releases, Damita Jo and 20 Y.O. Michael hit #1 with five albums from Thriller in 1983 to Invincible in 2001. One reason for Janet's lead over Michael in #1 albums is that she is simply more prolific. This is her 10th studio album. In the same period, which dates to the fall of 1982, Michael has released just five new studio sets.

By notching her sixth chart topper, Janet moves into a tie with Madonna for second place on the list of female artists with the most #1 albums. Only Barbra Streisand has had more--eight. Of course, Streisand has been at this a little bit longer. She landed her first #1 album, People, more than 18 months before Janet was born.

Discipline moved 181,000 copies last week, which constitutes Janet's lowest opening week tally for a studio album in the Nielsen/SoundScan era. Discipline sold fewer copies than Janet's last two albums did when they debuted at #2. Damita Jo opened with sales of 381,000, but had the misfortune of going up against Usher's Confessions, which went on to become the year's #1 album. 20 Y.O. opened with sales of 296,000, behind Ludacris' Release Therapy.

Michael's Thriller 25 was released just three weeks before Discipline. It's the first time the Jackson sibs have scheduled key releases so close together. The two stars have long seemed to take pains to avoid competing with each other. (For the record, Discipline sold about 15,000 more copies than Thriller 25 did in its opening week.)

Thriller 25 would have ranked #9 this week if it had been allowed to compete on the pop album chart. (As I explained last week, older "catalog albums" are relegated to a separate chart.) If Thriller 25 had made the big chart, we would have seen a rare instance of siblings appearing in the top 10 simultaneously. That's just another reason that I believe that the top 10 albums should be presented just as they are, with no exclusions. (Hits magazine, to its credit, is listing the Jackson album.)

This policy modification would hardly cause a major disruption. Since January 1994, only four catalog albums have made the top 10 on the comprehensive chart-which combines current and catalog titles. (In other words, only four older albums would have made the top 10 if they'd been allowed to appear on the big chart.) Kenny G's 1994 smash Miracles--The Holiday Album climbed as high as #3 in 1995 and #9 in 1996. The 1978 Grease soundtrack climbed to #10 in the spring of 1998, when the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John movie had a brief theatrical re-release. Il Divo's 2005 hit Christmas Collection reached #10 in 2006. And Thriller 25 was #2 the last two weeks.

So, here's the bottom line. Thriller 25 is the first catalog album since at least 1994 to climb as high as #2 on the comprehensive chart. And the Jackson title is only the second catalog album--following the Kenny G smash--to log three or more weeks in the top 10 on the comprehensive chart. The fact that a 25-year old album has done so well is a great story. And the charts should serve to highlight, and not obscure, great stories.

Janet isn't the only female R&B star and part-time film actress riding high on the charts. Erykah Badu opens at #2 with New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War. Badu acted in The Cider House Rules. Jackson costarred in Poetic Justice and Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. Jackson and Badu are among six female artists in the top 10.

Two weeks after winning the Oscar for Best Song for "Falling Slowly" from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova get their second reward on the pop charts. Once vaults from #31 to #7. It's the first soundtrack containing an Oscar-winning song to reach the top 10 since 8 Mile, which spawned Eminem's smash "Lose Yourself." (In both cases, the musicians who wrote and performed the songs also starred in the films, which is a rarity.) This isn't Hansard's first top 10 soundtrack. In 1991, he was part of the Commitments, which reached #8 with an album from the film of the same name.

On Hot Digital Tracks, Usher debuts at #1 with "Love In This Club." It's his second #1 on this chart, following "Yeah!" in 2004. This ends the record-setting 13-week run at #1 by "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, which slips to #2. But Flo Rida's follow-up, "Elevator" (featuring Timbaland) is moving up fast. This week, it jumps from #10 to #6.

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

1. Janet Jackson, Discipline, 181,000. This is a respectable opening-week tally, but it's less than one-third of Jackson's all-time high, All For You, which opened with 605,000. In the seven years since then, Janet was at the center of controversy with a wardrobe mishap at the 2004 Super Bowl. And the recording industry has suffered an even more serious "malfunction."  "Feedback" is #9 on Hot Digital Tracks.

2. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, 124,000. This is Badu's highest-charting album since her Grammy-winning debut, Baduizm, opened (and peaked) at #2 in March 1997. Badu followed Baduizm with Mama's Gun (#11 in 2000) and World Wide Underground (#3 in 2003).

3. Jack Johnson, Sleep Through The Static, 92,000. This is the fourth week in the top three for Johnson's album, which marks a personal best for him. Johnson's two most recent albums, On And On and the Curious George soundtrack, each had three weeks in the top three. Johnson's album has sold 751,000 copies, more than any other album so far in 2008.

4. Webbie, Savage Life 2, 72,000. The rapper's "Independent," featuring Lil' Phat and Lil' Boosie, jumps to #15 on Hot Digital Tracks. The initial Savage Life opened (and peaked) at #8 in July 2005. Memo to Webbie: It's fine to borrow your own album title for the follow-up. But Savage Life 3 would be pushing it.

5. Alicia Keys, As I Am, 57,000. This album spent its first 15 weeks in the top three, the longest run by any album since Usher's Confessions spent its first 17 weeks there. "No One" drops to #27 on Hot Digital Tracks, ending a 24-week run in the top 20. It's #9 on the all-time list of tracks with the most paid downloads.

6. Miley Cyrus/TV Soundtrack, Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus, 54,000. This leaps from #14 to #6, buoyed by Cyrus' Top 10 track, "See You Again," and the hit movie which captured Cyrus in concert. (By way of comparison, High School Musical 2, which was released seven weeks after Hannah 2, is down to #70.)

7. Once soundtrack, 47,000. Sales of this album jumped 143% compared to last week, the largest percentage increase of any album in the top 100. The Oscar-winning "Falling Slowly" vaults from #103 to #18 on Hot Digital Tracks. Swell Season, an earlier album by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, enters the chart at #194, with sales up 188% compared to last week.

8. Various Artists, Juno soundtrack, 42,000. This is the ninth week in the top 10 for Juno. It's the first movie soundtrack to log nine weeks in the top 10 since Bad Boys II nearly five years ago. Apart from that, the two movies have little in common. Bad Boys II was a sequel to a star-driven Hollywood blockbuster. Juno is a quirky little movie that made it on word-of-mouth.

9. Sara Bareilles, Little Voice, 38,000. Bareilles' "Love Song" dips a notch to #3 on Hot Digital Tracks. The song has ranked in the top five for 12 straight weeks. A TV commercial for the Rhapsody on-line service which features Bareilles singing two of her songs was the kind of promotional opportunity that managers and agents dream about.

10. Amy Winehouse, Back To Black, 38,000. Back In Black slips from #3 to #10 three weeks after Winehouse won five Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year. The album peaked at #2 two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the album that beat Back To Black for Album of the Year-Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters-falls from #16 to #38.

Five albums fall out of the top 10. Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains dips from #9 to #11, Taylor Swift's Taylor Swift dips from #10 to #12, the Step Up 2: The Streets soundtrack drops from #5 to #14, Kidz Bop Kids' Kidz Bop 13 dives from #4 to #22, and Chris Cagle's My Life's Been A Country Song plummets from #8 to #42. (The country song Cagle has in mind must be Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me, I'm Falling.")

Shawty Lo's Units In The City opens at #13. This is the second rap album in the top 15, after Webbie's Savage Life 2, with which it is bundled for sale at Amazon.com. Shawty Lo's "Dey Know" leaps from #86 to #55 on Hot Digital Tracks.

Dolly Parton's Backwoods Barbie opens at #17, becoming the country legend's fifth top 20 album. It follows Here You Come Again, 9 To 5 And Odd Jobs, Trio (with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris) and Slow Dancing With The Moon. Parton first cracked the pop album chart in 1969 with Just The Two Of Us, a collaboration with her late partner, Porter Wagoner. She first cracked the country album chart in 1967 with Hello, I'm Dolly, a title that perfectly captures her friendly and outgoing manner.

Two Disney musical titles are on the move. The original Broadway cast album to The Little Mermaid opens at #26, already topping the peak position of the soundtrack, which reached #32 in 1989. (That album, which contained the Oscar-winning "Under The Sea," should have climbed higher, but that was two years before Nielsen/SoundScan entered the picture.) And the Enchanted soundtrack vaults from #193 to #107 in the wake of the film's three-song Oscar exposure.

Stinker of the Week: Secondhand Serenade's A Twist In My Story drops from #44 to #141, which constitutes a drop of 66% of its sales volume. That's the biggest percentage drop of any album in the top 200.

Think Pink: Thirty-five years ago this week, a new album by a highly regarded, but hardly superstar-caliber, band from England entered Billboard's pop album chart. The band, Pink Floyd, had never so much as cracked the top 40 with six previous albums, so not everyone expected all that much from its latest, The Dark Side Of The Moon. Indeed, Billboard had placed the album fifth in its list of key album reviews the week before, behind such hits of the day as Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies and Three Dog Night's Around The World With Three Dog Night.

Dark Side went on to become one of the most phenomenal hits in recording history. It spent 741 weeks on the chart, smashing Johnny Mathis' old record of 490 weeks for Johnny's Greatest Hits. And it would still be on the charts this week (at #177) were it not for Billboard's aforementioned policy of moving older albums to a separate catalog chart (where it has been listed for 878 weeks). The album is #33 for the SoundScan era, with sales of 8,408,000. And here's the mind-boggling part: that ranking and that sales figure don't in any way count the album's first 18 years of sales activity.

Frankly, that's way better than Around The World With Three Dog Night.

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