Chart Watch

Week Ending March 29, 2009: “The Climb” Is Harder Than Expected

Chart Watch

Miley Cyrus' Hannah: The Movie had first-week sales of 139,000 copies, which is less than half of what the two Hannah TV soundtracks rang up in their first weeks (281,000 and 326,000, respectively). The soundtrack to High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which debuted at #2 in October, also sold more than twice as many copies (297,000) in its first week as the Hannah: The Movie soundtrack. The not-so-hot start for the Hannah soundtrack is perplexing because Cyrus' ballad "The Climb" has been in the top five on Hot Digital Songs for its entire four-week run. So what's the hitch? The soundtrack was released two weeks in advance of the movie, which is due in theaters on April 10. (By contrast, the HSM3 soundtrack was released the same week as the movie.) The soundtrack to Cyrus' last theatrical movie, The Best Of Both Worlds Concert, debuted at #10 in March 2008 and peaked at #3 in its sixth week (after the movie had opened).  So it's possible that Hannah: The Movie will move up to #1 in the next couple of weeks. You can't write off an album when the biggest thing it has going for it hasn't rolled out yet. The album features a song by Taylor Swift and two songs each by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus and Steve Rushton.

The Twilight soundtrack holds at #3 for the second straight week. This marks the first time that movie soundtracks have held down two of the top three spots since November when Twilight and HSM3: Senior Year were #1 and #3, respectively. With Taylor Swift's Fearless dropping out of the top 10 (at least for now), Twilight is the best-selling album in the top 10 (it has sold 1,647,000 copies) and also the current top 10 album that has had the longest run in the top 10 (14 weeks). Twilight makes further news this week. It tops Juno as the soundtrack with the most paid downloads in digital history. Twilight has sold 347,000 downloads. Juno has sold 332,000.

Twelve albums debut in the top 20 on The Billboard 200. Is this a sign of new energy on the music scene or an indication that nothing much is sticking these days? I wish it were the former, but I think it's got a lot to do with the latter. Only three albums in the current top 20 have sold more than 1 million copies. Billboard's Keith Caulfield reports that this is the first time in chart history that 12 albums have debuted in the top 20 in one week. The list of new arrivals includes Keri Hilson's In A Perfect World, which opens at #4. It's the first debut album to enter the chart in the top five since David Cook opened at #3 in November. Since American Idol contestants are so well known by the time their debut albums are released, let's exclude David Cook as well as Jennifer Hudson and David Archuleta, whose debut sets both bowed at #2 last fall. In A Perfect World is the first non-Idol-related debut album to start in the top five since Demi Lovato's Don't Forget bowed at #2 in September. Hilson's biggest claim to fame is her featured role on Timbaland's 2007 smash "The Way I Are," which has sold 2,562,000 downloads. Timbaland returns the favor on Hilson's new album. He's featured on the aptly-titled track, "Return The Favor."

Pearl Jam's Ten jumps to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart, thanks to the release of a 2-CD "Legacy Edition." The album sold 60,000 copies and would have ranked #5 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This is the fattest weekly sales total for a non-holiday catalog album since Michael Jackson's Thriller 25 sold 63,000 copies in its second week in February 2008. (The album had sold 166,000 in its first week.) Thriller topped the catalog chart for 11 weeks last year. Another special salute to a classic album, Billy Joel's The Stranger:  30th Anniversary Edition, topped the catalog chart for one week in July with sales of 16,000.

In addition to helping to set the course of rock in the '90s, Ten was a commercial powerhouse. The album has sold 9,662,000 copies since its release in late 1991, which puts it at #19 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running tally of the best-selling albums in its history. Ten logged 35 weeks in the top 10, but didn't quite reach #1. How can it be that such a classic, massive-selling album failed to top the chart? It logged four weeks at #2 behind Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All, the album that gave us "Achy Breaky Heart." Ten is far from the only classic and/or massive selling album that stalled at #2. The Stranger, which I just mentioned, is another one. So is Joni Mitchell's Court And Spark. And Shania Twain's Come On Over. And Def Leppard's Pyromania. On Friday, I'll have a Chart Watch Extra in which I look at albums that you would have sworn hit #1, but which actually stopped at #2. It's a fun list. Circle back here on Friday.

After four straight weeks at #2 on Hot Digital Songs, Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" jumps to #1, dethroning Flo Rida's "Right Round." "Poker Face" sold 206,000 downloads this week. This is Lady GaGa's second #1 of the year on this chart, following "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis), which headed the list for four weeks in December and January. "Just Dance" has sold 3,578,000 downloads, which puts it at #7 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of songs with the most paid downloads in its history.

Justin Timberlake is featured on two songs in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs. The pop star graces Ciara's "Love Sex Magic," which jumps from #26 to #8 and T.I.'s "Dead And Gone," which slips from #6 to #9. Timberlake is about due for an album of his own. FutureSex/LoveSounds was released in September 2006.

Song Scorecard: "Let It Rock" by Kevin Rudolf featuring Lil Wayne tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. This is Lil Wayne's second song to reach that milestone, following his own "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major). The razor-sharp "Let It Rock" is still going strong. It's #31 on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart.

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

1. Various Artists, NOW 30, 146,000. This is the 12th installment in this long-running series to debut at #1. It's the first to do so since NOW 25 in August 2007. That's the good news. The bad news: This is the smallest opening week tally for a regular NOW volume since the first edition arrived in November 1998 with sales of 48,000.  Overall, this series has been a cash cow. All but two of the previous 29 volumes have sold 1 million copies or more.

2. Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack, 139,000. This edges Twilight to become the week's #1 movie soundtrack. Nearly 30,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Seven songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "The Climb," which climbs to #4.

3. Various Artists, Twilight, 102,000. The former #1 album holds at #3 for the second straight week. This is the album's 14th week in the top 10. That's the longest run for a theatrical movie soundtrack since 8 Mile had 14 weeks in the top 10 in 2002-2003. (Carter Burwell's Twilight score album rebounds from #82 to #65, matching its highest ranking to date.) Paramore's "Decode" jumps to #76 on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Keri Hilson, In A Perfect World, 94,000.  Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Turnin Me On" (featuring Lil Wayne) dips to #25. "Knock You Down" (featuring Kanye West) debuts at #52. (The woman is well-connected.)

5. Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted, 52,000. The album dives from #1 to #5 in its third week. "My Life Would Suck Without You" dips to #10 on Hot Digital Songs. "Suck" has sold 1,510,000 downloads.

6. U2, No Line On The Horizon, 51,000. The former #1 album drops from #2 to #6 in its fourth week. By way of comparison, the band's last album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, spent its first five weeks in the top five. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 45,000. The album dips from #5 to #7 in its 22nd week. This is the album's sixth week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. They have sold a combined total of 5,863,000 downloads as of this week.

8. Papa Roach, Metamorphosis, 44,000. This new entry is the hard rock band's first top 10 album since 2002. Papa Roach's 2000 debut Infest reached the top five and brought the band a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Its 2002 follow-up, Lovehatetragedy, debuted at #2. Two songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lifeline," which jumps to #85.

9. Jim Jones, Pray IV Reign, 43,000.  This new entry is the R&B performer's third top 10 solo album, following 2005's Harlem: Diary Of A Summer and 2006's Hustler's P.O.M.E. (Product Of My Environment). As a member of the Diplomats, Jones also made the top 10 in 2003 with Diplomatic Immunity. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Martina McBride, Shine, 41,000. This new entry is the country star's fifth top 10 album. Shine bumps Taylor Swift's Fearless from the #1 spot on the country album chart after 18 weeks on top. McBride has been voted Female Vocalist Of The Year by the Country Music Assn. four times. That puts her in a  tie with Reba McEntire for the most wins ever in that category. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. The-Dream's Love VS Money drops from #4 to #14, Taylor Swift's Fearless drops from #6 to #12, Nickelback's Dark Horse drops from #7 to #18, Gorilla Zoe's Don't Feed Da Animals falls from #8 to #33, Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce falls from #9 to #21, and Jamie Foxx's Intuition drops from #10 to #22.

Three acts break into the top 20 on The Billboard 200 for the first time. Mastodon's Crack The Skye bows at #11. The hard rock group peaked at #32 with 2006's Blood Mountain. Blue October's Approaching Normal opens at #13. The rock band broke through in 2006 with Foiled, which hit #29. Eric Church's Carolina bows at #17. The country singer debuted in 2006 with Sinners Like Me, which reached #29. And three veterans return to the top 20. Slim Thug's Boss Of All Bosses bows at #15. The rapper debuted at #2 with his 2005 debut, Already Platinum. John Rich's Son Of A Preacher Man opens at #16. Rich has landed three top 10 albums as half of the country duo Big & Rich. Yanni's Yanni Voices bows at #20. This is Yanni's fourth top 20 album. The new age keyboardist peaked in 1994 when Live At The Acropolis peaked at #5.

The Decemberists' The Hazards Of Love drops from #14 to #19 in its second week. This is the first week that CDs have been available on the album. It debuted last week on the strength of digital sales and some premium vinyl sales. The album registered a 46% sales increase over last week (28,000 copies, compared to 19,000 last week), but fell backwards because of all the debuts.

NOW That's What I Call Power Ballads! starts at #30. This is the fifth genre-specific NOW volume in the past 18 months. It follows NOW Party Hits!, which debuted at #60 in November 2007; NOW Classic Rock!, which bowed at #20 in June; NOW Country!, which opened at #7 in August and NOW Motown! which arrived at #13 in January.

The Broadway cast recording of Shrek: The Musical bows at #88. It also debuts at #1 on the Broadway cast albums chart, displacing Jersey Boys. Shrek: The Musical was based on the 2001 movie, Shrek. That is definitely the hot trend on Broadway today, for better or worse. Six of this week's 10 best-selling cast albums are from shows that were based on hit movies. At #6, we have The Lion King On Broadway, based on the animated 1994 film; at #7, Mary Poppins, based on the 1964 Julie Andrews classic; at #8, The Little Mermaid, based on the animated 1989 film; at #9, Legally Blonde, based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon hit; and at #10, Billy Elliot, based on the 2000 hit starring Jamie Bell. (Why do I say, "for better or worse?" Because recycling proven hits from another medium isn't exactly the epitome of creativity. But investors like it, because having a pre-sold title hedges their bets.) By the way, the Shrek soundtrack peaked at #28 in 2001. The soundtrack to Shrek 2 hit #8 in 2004.

R.I.P. Maurice Jarre, who composed the scores for such classic films as Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, died this week. The Doctor Zhivago soundtrack logged 71 weeks in the top 10 on The Billboard 200, a total topped by only one soundtrack (The Sound Of Music) since 1963, when separate stereo and mono charts were merged. Also, Dan Seals died. Seals was one-half of England Dan & John Ford Coley, which had a warm and heartfelt #2 hit in 1976 with "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight."

Heads Up: Keith Urban seems to be on track to land his first #1 album next week with Defying Gravity. The country star reached #3 with his last two studio albums, Be Here and Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing. Also due next week: Flo Rida's R.O.O.T.S., Diana Krall's Quiet Nights, Prince's LotusFlow3r, a Target exclusive; Rodney Atkins' It's America, UGK's UGK 4 Life, Bow Wow's New Jack City Pt. II, Donnie McClurkin's We Are All One and Chris Botti's In Boston.


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