Chart Watch

Week Ending March 7, 2010: Cruz Controls Hot 100

Chart Watch

"Break Your Heart" by Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris vaults from #53 to #1 in its second week on Billboard's Hot 100, which sets a new record for the biggest move to #1 by an act with its first chart single. The old record was held by Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This," which shot from #52 to #1 in October 2002.

Cruz is a British singer-songwriter-producer who has worked with such acts as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, the Pussycat Dolls and Ke$ha. "Break Your Heart" logged three weeks at #1 in the U.K. in September and October. It's the second transatlantic #1 by a new act in the past few months, following Owl City's "Fireflies."

This is the third time that Ludacris has been featured on a #1 Hot 100 hit. He was also featured on Usher's "Yeah!" (which also featured Lil Jon) and Fergie's "Glamorous." The rap superstar and movie actor has also had two #1 hits as a lead artist. He scored in 2003 with "Stand Up" (featuring Shawnna) and in 2006 with "Money Maker" (featuring Pharrell).

"Break Your Heart" also vaults from #50 to #1 on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart. It sold 273,000 copies in its first full week of availability. It sold 31,000 copies last week, in approximately three days on the market, reports Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard's Director of Charts.

The music industry will be closely watching Blake Shelton's six-song EP Hillbilly Bone, which enters The Billboard 200 at #3. It's unusual for an established star to release an EP. These "mini-albums" are generally warm-ups for upcoming debut albums (Justin Bieber's My World and Drake's So Far Gone), interim releases by acts with a young following (Miley Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives) or collections of bonus songs that were added to expanded versions of albums (Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster).

Hillbilly Bone is none of these things: It's an experiment in releasing a smaller number of songs at a lighter price point (the EP was widely available in its first week for between $4.99 and $6.99). Shelton's EP is the first release in Warner Music's new "six pak" concept, in which select acts release six-song EPs in close intervals. Current plans call for Shelton to release one or maybe even two more EPs before the end of the year.

The music industry is trying to figure out how to counter a declining interest in full-length albums. Fans like to buy individual songs, but the industry's business model is predicated on album sales. So the idea behind the Shelton EP is to find a middle-ground that works for both parties.

It's too early to know if this experiment will work, but Hillbilly Bone is already Shelton's highest-charting title on The Billboard 200. It surpasses The Dreamer (#8 in 2003) and Pure B.S. (#8 in 2007). Hillbilly Bone sold 71,000 copies in its first week, which is Shelton's best sales week since The Dreamer debuted with sales of 77,000.

EPs can be highly successful. Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives has sold 1,306,000 copies since its release in August. That's not far behind the sales of her previous full-length album, Breakout, which has sold 1,536,000 copies. Bieber's My World has sold 998,000 copies, Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster has sold 854,000 and Drake's So Far Gone has sold 401,000.

Only four other EPs in the past decade have topped the 800K mark in sales. They are: The Cheetah Girls TV soundtrack, which has sold 1,751,000 copies; Joss Stone's The Soul Sessions (972,000); Michael Buble's Let It Snow! (857,000) and 3 Doors Down's Another 700 Miles (800,000).

Hillbilly Bone is one of three country titles in the top five on this week's Billboard 200. Lady Antebellum's Need You Now returns to #1 for a third week. Danny Gokey's My Best Days opens at #4.

Need You Now is the first country album to spend its first six weeks at #1 or #2 since Shania Twain's Up! did it in November and December 2002. The title song has been listed in the top five on Hot Digital Songs for six weeks. This week, it tops the 2.5 million mark in paid downloads.

Danny Gokey is the third contestant from American Idol's Season 8 cast to land in the top 15, following Kris Allen (who hit #11) and Adam Lambert (who reached #3). While Gokey debuted higher on the chart than Allen did, Allen sold more copies in his first week (80,000, compared to 65,000 for Gokey). The reason? Album sales are heavier in November, when Allen debuted, than they are in March.

This is the first season in which three or more contestants reached the top 15 with their debut albums since Season 5, when six cast members scored. (In fact, they all reached the top 10.) They were Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Elliott Yamin, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington. In only one other season did three contestants make the top 15 with their debut albums. In Season 2, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Josh Gracin all reached that level of success.

Almost Alice, a companion album/soundtrack to the Tim Burton movie Alice In Wonderland, bows at #5. The movie, starring Johnny Depp, was #1 at the box-office this past weekend. The album features such hot pop/rock acts as Avril Lavigne, All American Rejects and Shinedown. The soundtrack to Walt Disney's original 1951 animated movie Alice In Wonderland cracked the top 10 in September 1951.

Danny Elfman's album of original score for the new Alice In Wonderland debuts at #89. Elfman has a long history of scoring films, only to watch as pop artists grab greater chart glory. In 1989, he had the score album from Batman, while Prince had the chart-topping soundtrack with an album that featured the hits "Batdance" and "Partyman."

Lady Gaga's The Fame logs its 37th week in the top 10, which is the longest run in the top 10 for the debut album by a female artist since Avril Lavigne's 2002 album Let Go. This week "Telephone" (featuring Beyonce) becomes the hottest digital song from Lady Gaga's album. (I'm glad these two artists came together. Maybe now they can finally get a little exposure and publicity.)

Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" tops the 4 million mark in paid downloads in its 24th week. Only one other song in digital history has reached the 4 million mark this quickly. That's the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," which rang the bell in just 23 weeks. (I have a little more to say about Ke$ha at the end of the column.)

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

1. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now, 126,000. The album returns to #1 for a third week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital songs, topped by "Need You Now," which dips from #3 to #5.

2. Sade, Soldier Of Love, 79,000. The album slips to #2 after three weeks at #1. "Soldier Of Love" drops from #112 to #151 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Blake Shelton, Hillbilly Bone, 71,000. This new entry is Shelton's third top 10 entry. It's the highest-charting EP since Miley Cyrus' The Times Of My Life hit #2 in September. "Hillbilly Bone" (featuring Trace Adkins) jumps from #84 to #66 on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Danny Gokey, My Best Days, 65,000. This new entry is the debut album by the singer who finished third on Season 8 of American Idol. "My Best Days Are Ahead Of Me" enters Hot Digital Songs at #63.

5. Various Artists, Almost Alice soundtrack, 58,000. This new entry is the week's #1 soundtrack. More than half of the copies (32,000) were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Avril Lavigne's "Alice," which is heard over the end titles, vaults from #107 to #39 on Hot Digital Songs.

6. Lifehouse, Smoke & Mirrors, 54,000. This new entry is the rock band's fourth top 10 album. Nearly half of the copies (27,000) were sold digitally, making this the week's #2 digital album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Halfway Gone," which jumps from #66 to #58.

7. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 49,000. The album slips from #5 to #7 in its 71st week. This is its 37th week in the top 10. Six songs from the expanded edition of the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, including "Telephone" (featuring Beyonce), which holds at #14, and "Bad Romance," which drops from #11 to #17.

8. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 46,000. The former #1 album drops from #4 to #8 in its 39th week. This is its 26th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Imma Be," which dips from #1 to #3.

9. Raheem DeVaughn, The Love & War Masterpeace, 45,000. This new entry DeVaughn's second top 10 album in a row. Love Behind The Melody debuted at #5 in January 2008. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Easton Corbin, Easton Corbin, 43,000. This new entry is the country singer's debut album. "A Little More Country Than That" jumps from #114 to #79 on Hot Digital Songs.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Johnny Cash's American VI: Ain't No Grave slips from #3 to #21, Lil Wayne's Rebirth drops from #6 to #12, Ke$ha's Animal drops from #7 to #13, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream drops from #8 to #18, Taylor Swift's Fearless drops from #9 to #17, and Justin Bieber's My World drops from #10 to #15.

Jason Derulo's debut album, Jason Derulo, debuts at #11. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, including "In My Head" at #8 and "Ridin' Solo" at #19...DJ Khaled's Victory bows at #14. It's the rapper's fourth straight top 15 album.

The Crazy Heart soundtrack dips from #25 to #30, but should turn around next week in the wake of the film's two Oscar wins. Ryan Bingham's recording of "The Weary Kind," which was voted Best Original Song, enters Hot Digital Songs at #137. Bingham and T-Bone Burnett, who co-wrote the song, have both appeared on The Billboard 200 as artists. Burnett scored in 1983 with Proof Through The Night. Bingham made it in June with Roadhouse Sun.

Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back bows at #26. Gabriel first charted in December 1973 as part of Genesis. He first charted on his own in March 1977...Michael Jackson's Number Ones drops from #53 to #58. It's #1 on the Catalog Albums chart for the 28th week.

Song Scorecard: "Empire State Of Mind" this week tops "No One" as Alicia Keys' biggest hit to date. The soulful valentine to the Big Apple, a collaboration with Jay-Z, has sold 3,297,000 digital copies. "No One" has sold 3,283,000. The success of "Empire State Of Mind" seems to have blunted the impact of Keys' songs from her album, The Element Of Freedom. "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart," the biggest hit from Keys' album, has sold 471,000 copies. But Keys will likely be rewarded at the Grammys next year. I expect "Empire State Of Mind" to be in the running for Record and Song of the Year. It would be perfect timing if the show was back in New York next year, though it will probably remain in Los Angeles.

Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song was featured in a TV spot for Samsung 3-D TVs that aired repeatedly on Oscar night. This is Train's biggest digital seller to date. Its 2001 smash "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)" has sold 1,193,000 copies.

Nickelback's 2006 hit "Far Away" and Sean Kingston's 2007 smash "Beautiful Girls" also top the 2 million mark. This is Nickelback's fourth song to reach 2 million, following "Rockstar," "Photograph" and "Gotta Be Somebody." It's Kingston's second, following "Fire Burning."

Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 smash "Sweet Home Alabama" this week becomes the fifth pre-1990 song to reach the 2 million mark in paid downloads. The song was given a big boost when it was featured in the 2002 Reese Witherspoon movie of the same name and another when it was sampled in Kid Rock's 2008 smash "All Summer Long."

Heads Up: Ludacris is expected to land his fourth #1 album next week with Battle Of The Sexes, which is projected to sell north of 120,000 copies. The rap star fell short of the top spot last time out when Theater Of The Mind debuted and peaked at #5 in November 2008. Gorillaz's Plastic Beach and Jimi Hendrix's Valleys Of Neptune will probably start with sales in the range of 100,000. Also due: Gary Allan's Get Off On The Pain, Broken Bells' Broken Bells and Serj Tankian's Elect The Dead Symphony.

Fun With Punctuation Marks: Ke$ha is at the forefront of a trend toward punctuation marks embedded in artist's names. Other current examples include 3OH!3 and P!nk. Think of the possibilities if this gimmick had been around in decades past: L!za M!nnell!, Ki$$, M+ma Cass, Pete B*st, Col. T%m Parker. (Some of these may require explanation: Liza is known for her breathless enthusiasm; KISS for being a money machine; Mama Cass for being plus-sized; Pete Best, who left the Beatles on the cusp of their breakthrough, for being an asterisk; and Col. Parker, Elvis' manager, for taking a percentage.)

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