Chart Watch

Week Ending March 22, 2009: Winning Despite The Odds

Chart Watch

Though album sales are down in general, there are still success stories out there. This week, let's zero in on three of them to see what lessons they may hold. The Twilight rebounds from #14 to #3 on the Billboard 200, after the release of a new deluxe edition, which includes five bonus tracks and a DVD with interviews and music videos. (The sales tallies for the standard and deluxe editions are combined.) The release of the Twilight DVD, which reportedly sold 3 million copies on its first day of release, also revived interest in the soundtrack. This is the album's 13th week in the top 10. That's the longest run in the top 10 for a theatrical movie soundtrack since the Eminem--dominated 8 Mile had 14 weeks in the top 10 in 2002. Twilight has remained in the top 20 for its entire 20-week chart run. It's been the #1 movie soundtrack for 17 of those weeks. This week, its sales top 1.5 million copies. Why it's a hit: Stephenie Meyer's series of books have a strong, cult-like following. The movie was a big hit, with domestic gross of $191 million. And the album has a clear focus (on rock), rather than containing a hodge-podge of musical styles.

Taylor Swift's Fearless last week became the first album to spend its first 18 weeks in the top five since Mariah Carey's 2005 comeback smash The Emancipation Of Mimi. This week, it slips to #6. Fearless has sold nearly 2.9 million copies in just 19 weeks, more than such long-running smash albums as Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus, Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride and Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad have in their entire runs. Why it's a hit: Swift is on fire. Her first album, Taylor Swift, last week became the first non-holiday album to top the 4 million mark since Daughtry's Daughtry. Swift appeals to both the country audience and to young pop fans, including some who may be graduating from Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers to somewhat more adult fare. The big hit from the album, "Love Story," is the only country hit ever to reach the 3 million mark in paid downloads.

Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce tops the 2 million mark in sales this week. The album took 18 weeks to reach this threshold, which is right in line with Beyonce's two previous solo studio albums. 2003's Dangerously In Love took 22 weeks to top the 2 million mark. 2006's B'Day rang the bell in 17 weeks. I Am...Sasha Fierce has been a fixture in the top 10 for 17 of its 18 chart weeks. Why it's a hit: Beyonce had the album out in time for the holidays. Nearly three-fourths of the copies (1,459,000, to be exact) were sold last year. The key to the success of the album has been a non-stop series of hits. The lead single, "If I Was A Boy," sold 654,000 downloads before the album was even released. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" was the most downloaded song from the album for the first 17 weeks of the album's life. This week, it finally yields that distinction to "Halo." Beyonce also made a strong impression as an actress in Cadillac Records, which added to her credibility. She's overexposed, to be sure, but you can't deny her talent.

Fearless and Twilight have also been big hits as digital albums. Fearless has sold 331,000 downloads, more than any country album in history. Twilight has sold 318,000 downloads, a total topped by only one soundtrack in history (Juno). I Am...Sasha Fierce has been less, well, fierce in the digital universe. It has sold 139,000 downloads.

Flo Rida's "Right Round" tops Hot Digital Songs for the sixth straight week. It sold another 224,000 downloads, bringing its total to date to 2,251,000. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I have changed the artist billing from Flo Rida featuring Ke$ha. In this, I am following Billboard's lead. They gave Ke$ha featured billing on the Hot 100 for two weeks, but have since rescinded it and now credit the record solely to Flo Rida. (Ke$ha should have pushed to get a few more lines in the song.)

Time Well Spent: Jason Mraz told journalist Paul Zollo that he wrote "I'm Yours" in about 15 minutes. That was the most productive 15 minutes of Mraz's life. The amiable tune this week logs its 43rd week in the top 40 on Hot Digital Songs. It has sold 3,724,000 downloads, which puts it at #4 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of songs with the most paid downloads. It trails "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (4,814,000), "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring OneRepublic (4,184,000) and "Crank That Soldier Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em (4,110,000). Surprisingly, "I'm Yours" never reached #1 on Hot Digital Songs. It peaked at #3 in September behind Pink's "So What" and T.I.'s "Whatever You Like." Both of those were big digital (and radio) hits, but "I'm Yours" has sold more copies. And, unlike those two other hits, it's still in the top 40. "It came from a very happy place, which is reflected in the bounce of the rhythm," Mraz told Zollo when the song was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year. "I think of it as my happy hippie song."

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

1. Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted, 90,000. This is only the second album by an Idol alumnus to spend its first two weeks at #1. The first? Clay Aiken's Measure Of A Man. (Daughtry's Daughtry also had two weeks at #1, but they were its ninth and 15 weeks on the chart.) Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "My Life Would Suck Without You," which dips to #7.

2. U2, No Line On The Horizon, 76,000. The former #1 album inches up from #3 to #2 in its third week. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 74,000. The album rebounds from #14 to #3. This is the album's highest ranking since it debuted at #1 in November. The biggest hit from the album, Paramore's "Decode," rebounds to #91 on Hot Digital Songs. It has sold 695,000 downloads to date. (The Twilight score album by composer Carter Burwell re-enters the chart at #82. It has sold 115,000 copies to date, which is good for an instrumental score album.)

4. The-Dream, Love Vs. Money, 56,000. The album dips from #2 to #4 in its second week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Rockin' That Thang," which drops to #36.

5. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 50,000. The album rebounds from #6 to #5. This is its fifth week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed in the top 100 on the 200-deep Hot Digital Songs chart. The biggest current hit from the album is "Poker Face," which sounds like vintage Madonna (with a little Fergie thrown in for good measure). The song holds at #2 for the fourth straight week.

6. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 47,000. The album slips from #5 to #6. This is its 19th week in the top 10, which is already more than Swift's debut album, Taylor Swift, managed. That blockbuster logged 17 weeks in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which dips to #21.

7. Nickelback, Dark Horse, 34,000. The album holds at #7. This is its 17th week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Gotta Be Somebody," which dips to #57.

8. Gorilla Zoe, Don't Feed Da Animals, 31,000. This new entry is the rapper's first top 10 album. But it sold fewer copies than Welcome To The Zoo sold (35,000) when it debuted at #18 in September 2007. (Note the theme running through the album titles.) "Lost" jumps to #102 on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce, 27,000. The album dips from #8 to #9. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Halo," which jumps to #25. These four songs ("Halo," "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," "Diva" and "If I Were A Boy") have sold an eye-popping combined total of 5,458,000 downloads.

10. Jamie Foxx, Intuition, 24,000. The album dips from #9 to #10. This is its 13th week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Blame It" (featuring T-Pain), which jumps to #10.

Two albums drop out of the top 10 after just one week in the winners circle. J. Holiday's Round 2 falls from #4 to #20. Chris Cornell's Scream plummets from #10 to #65. Now, that's something to scream about.

Twiztid's W.I.C.K.E.D. bows at #11. The rap duo first hit the chart nearly 10 years ago with Mostasteless. This is its highest-charting album to date, surpassing Freek Show, which hit #51 in 2000.

The Decemberists' The Hazards Of Love bows at #14. This is the highest-charting album to date for the folk-rockers from Portland, Ore. (The group's last album, 2006's The Crane Wife, peaked at #35.) In its first week, The Hazards Of Love was only available on iTunes or on 180-gram vinyl in select indie stores.  It sold 19,000 copies in its first week, nearly 18,000 of them digitally, which made it this week's #1 Digital Album. It's the third time so far this year that the #1 Digital Album hasn't appeared in that week's overall top 10. It also happened in January with the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack and in February with Bon Iver Band's Blood Bank EP. Both ranked #16 on the big chart those weeks. The Hazards Of Love should gain ground next week, reflecting its availability in all standard physical and digital formats.

Static-X's Cult Of Static opens at #16. This is the Los Angeles-based rock group's third top 20 album, following Machine and Shadow Zone.

Randy Travis' I Told You So: The Ultimate Hits Of Randy Travis debuts at #21, one week after the country veteran made twin appearances mentoring and performing on American Idol. This is Travis' third-highest charting album, following Around The Bend, which debuted at #14 in July 2008 and 1987's Always & Forever, which reached #19. Travis' first six albums were released before the advent of Nielsen/SoundScan, which has done a much better job of reflecting the true popularity of country (and rap, for that matter) than Billboard's old chart system did. If Nielsen/SoundScan had been in place in 1987, I have no doubt that Always & Forever would have at least made the top 10. Always & Forever topped the country chart for 43 weeks, a total topped by only one album in the chart's 45-year history: Shania Twain's 1997 blockbuster Come On Over, which logged 50 weeks at #1.

Marianne Faithfull's Easy Come, Easy Go debuts at #182. Faithfull first hit the album chart in June 1965.

Follow-up: In September, I told you that Darius Rucker's "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" was the first hit by an African American artist to hit #1 on Hot Country Songs since Charley Pride's "Night Games" in 1983. Last week, Rucker returned to #1 on the country chart with his follow-up, "It Won't Be Like This For Long." This makes Rucker (the former lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish) the first African American artist to have two consecutive #1 country hits since Pride scored in 1982-'83 with "You're So Good When You're Bad" and "Why Baby Why."

I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith logs its 12th week at #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. The album sold 12,000 copies and would have ranked #39 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. The one-week sales tally isn't too impressive, but over time these small sums add up. This compilation has sold 1,092,000 copies so far, with no end in sight.

Heads Up: The soundtrack to Miley Cyrus' big-screen release Hannah Montana: The Movie and Now 30 are expected to vie for #1 on next week's chart. Both of the Hannah TV soundtracks reached #1. But remember: last year's soundtrack to the theatrical release High School Musical 3: Senior Year stalled at #2. Both of the HSM TV soundtracks likewise reached #1, but there are no guarantees in the chart game. And Now 30 will give Cyrus a run for her money. All but two of the previous 29 regular volumes in this series have sold at least 1 million copies. Also due: Martina McBride's Shine, Keri Hilson's In A Perfect World, Mastodon's Crack The Skye, Eric Church's Carolina, Papa Roach's Metamorphosis, Yanni's Yanni Voices, Blue October's Approaching Normal and John Rich's Son Of A Preacher Man.


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