Chart Watch

Week Ending May 3, 2009: Age Is Just A Number

Chart Watch

There's a 51-year age difference between the artists at #1 and #2 on The Billboard 200 this week. Bob Dylan, 67, debuts at #1 with his latest album, Together Through Life. Miley Cyrus, 16, holds at #2 with her soundtrack to Hannah Montana: The Movie. With this week's debut, Dylan regains the title of the oldest living artist ever to land a #1 album. The rock icon, who turns 68 on May 24, takes the crown back from Neil Diamond, who was 67 when he debuted at #1 a year ago with Home Before Dark.  Dylan was just 22 when he first hit the chart in September 1963 with The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. He was 24 years younger than the president at the time, John F. Kennedy. Now, Dylan is 20 years older than President Barack Obama. One of Dylan's most prized songs is "Forever Young," but I guess this shows that nobody stays young forever.

Dylan first established the record of the oldest living artist to land a #1 album in September 2006, when, at 65, he opened at #1 with Modern Times. Only three other solo artists have had #1 albums past the age of 60- Louis Armstrong, who was 62 in 1964 when he topped the chart with Hello, Dolly!; Barry Manilow, who was 62 in 2006 when he topped the chart with The Greatest Songs Of The Fifties; and Rod Stewart, who was 61 in 2006 when he rang the bell with Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time. (Two pop legends were even older when they recorded their final albums, but the albums weren't released until after their deaths. Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company hit #1 in 2005, eight months after the R&B legend died at 73. Johnny Cash's American V: A Hundred Highways hit #1 in 2006, nearly three years after the country giant died at 71.)

There's no question that the pop scene is more receptive to older artists than it used to be. From 1966, when Frank Sinatra, then 50, landed his last #1 album, Strangers In The Night, until 1993, when Barbra Streisand, then 51, scored with Back To Broadway, not one artist over the age of 50 topped the chart. But in the last 16 years, it's become commonplace. Baby boomers are staying connected to the pop scene much longer than their parents ever did. Also, older fans are proving to be the most reliable album buyers. They came of age buying albums and are proving to be the demo most committed to maintaining the habit.

Together Through Life is Dylan's fifth #1 album, following Planet Waves (with The Band), Blood On The Tracks, Desire and Modern Times. Dylan was at his commercial peak from 1965 to 1976, when every studio album he released made the top 10. He hit his commercial nadir from 1986 to 1993, when four of his studio albums didn't even make the top 50. But things turned around for him in 1997, when he debuted at #10 with Time Out Of Mind. The album, which was his first to crack the top 10 since 1979, went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Dylan has made the top five with all three of his subsequent studio albums.

Together Through Life sold 125,000 copies, the lowest tally for an album in its first week at #1 since Alan Jackson's Good Time debuted in the top spot in March 2008 with sales of 119,000. Dylan's album also debuts at #1 in the U.K. this week. It's his first British #1 since New Morning in late 1970. (New Morning peaked at #7 in the U.S.)

When Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack was released, Billboard made a determination that it was a pop album and didn't place it on its country chart. Last week, the magazine reversed that decision. "About half of the album's tracks are stylistically appropriate for the country genre and therefore meet the minimum requirements to chart," Wade Jessen, senior chart manager, explains in the current issue. As for the unusual reversal, Jessen comments, "A title's content is always subject for review." Two songs from the album are current country hits: Cyrus' "The Climb" and her dad Billy Ray Cyrus' "Back To Tennessee." The album also features Rascal Flatts' 2004 country smash "Bless The Broken Road." This is the album's second week at #1 on the country chart. (If it had been considered country from the start, this would be its fourth week at #1.) This is of course Cyrus' first #1 country album. Her dad topped the country chart with his first two albums, Some Gave All and It Won't Be The Last. (That title now seems somewhat prophetic.)

Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the fifth straight week. The smash sold 212,000 downloads this week, bringing its five-week total to 1,501,000. Key Pea will.i.am, who is name-checked in "Boom Boom Pow," has more reasons to celebrate. The musician and actor co-stars in the week's #1 movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which grossed $85.1 million. This is the fourth week in a row that a top recording artist has starred or co-starred in the week's #1 movie. Miley Cyrus headlines Hannah Montana: The Movie, which was #1 three weeks ago. Zac Efron stars in 17 Again, which was #1 two weeks ago. And Beyonce stars in Obsessed, last week's #1 movie.

Song Scorecard: Nickelback's 2006 smash "Rockstar" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. It was the fifth single released from the band's monster album All The Right Reasons, and it has become the biggest of them all....The Fray's "You Found Me" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads. It's the group's third 2-million-selling download, following "Over My Head (Cable Car)" and "How To Save A Life." Only one other group or duo, the All-American Rejects, has amassed three 2-million-selling downloads.

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

1. Bob Dylan, Together Through Life, 125,000. This new entry is Dylan's second studio album in a row to debut at #1. Modern Times bowed at #1 in September 2006 with first-week sales of 192,000. More than 18,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. No songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs.

2. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack, 86,000. The former #1 album holds at #2. This is its sixth week in the top five. Hannah is the fourth best-selling album so far in 2009, trailing Taylor Swift's Fearless, U2's No Line On The Horizon and the Twilight soundtrack. The movie grossed $4.2 million this week, bringing its four-week total to $70.9 million. Six songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "The Climb," which dips to #7.

3. Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable, 53,000. The former #1 album inches up from #4 to #3. This is its fourth week in the top five. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Here Comes Goodbye," which dips to #60.

4. Rick Ross, Deeper Than Rap, 51,000. The former #1 album drops to #4 in its second week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Maybach Music 2," which drops to #109.

5. Lady GaGa, The Fame, 40,000. The album rebounds from #7 to #5. This is its 11th week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Poker Face," which holds at #2. Lady GaGa has had a song in the top five on Hot Digital Songs every week but one since before Thanksgiving.

6. Various Artists, Twilight soundtrack, 35,000. The former #1 album holds at #6 for the second week. This is the album's 19th week in the top 10. That's the longest run for a theatrical movie soundtrack since City Of Angels logged 20 weeks in 1998. Paramore's "Decode" slips to #146 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Various Artists, NOW 30, 33,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #9 to #7. This is its sixth week in the top 10.

8. Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know, 30,000. This new entry is the debut album by a group that features current Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and former members Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice. Heaven & Hell took its name from the title of a 1980 Black Sabbath album. By debuting at #8, this matches the peak position of Black Sabbath's highest-charting album, Master Of Reality. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 29,000. The former #1 album inches up from #11 to #9. This is its 23rd week in the top 10. That's the longest run in the top 10 for a country album since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts had 25 weeks in the top 10 in 2005-2006. This continues to be the only album that has sold 1 million copies so far in 2009. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Story," which holds at #31.

10. Playing For Change, Songs Around The World, 26,000. This Starbucks-boosted album, which enters the World Music chart at #1, focuses on the theme of international brotherhood. It features a new version of the Ben E. King classic "Stand By Me" which has become a You Tube sensation. It also features a new version of Bob Marley's classic "One Love." (See item below.)

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Depeche Mode's Sounds Of The Universe dives from #3 to #18, Asher Roth's Asleep In The Bread Aisle falls from #5 to #14, Day26's Forever In A Day slips from #8 to #21 and Jadakiss' The Last Kiss falls from #10 to #20.

Hip-hopper Mike Jones bows at #12 with The Voice. His last full-length album, Who Is Mike Jones?, debuted at #3 in April 2005.

Bob Marley & the Wailers' 1984 compilation Legend jumps to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. The album sold 11,000 copies this week and would have ranked #48 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This album is Exhibit A in making the case that catalog albums can slowly but surely rack up enormous sales. Legend has sold 9,949,000 copies since Nielsen/SoundScan took over tracking for Billboard in 1991. (It doubtless sold millions more between 1984 and 1991.) This is the album's 109th appearance at #1 on the catalog chart since the chart, in its present form, began in 1991. That's slightly more than twice as long as any other album has spent at #1 in this 18-year period. Creed's 1997 debut album, My Own Prison, is in second place. It topped the chart for 54 weeks. This is the first time that Legend has appeared at #1 since January 2008. It was boosted by the use of Marley's classic song "One Love" in the Songs Around The World album (see the top 10 list).

Small World: A Carpenters 40th anniversary compilation appears in the top 10 on the pop album chart for the second week in a row. In Japan. Sometimes, it seems, foreign audiences are more loyal to American artists than American audiences are. Six Carpenters albums (including the hit compilations Yesterday Once More and Love Songs) have made the U.S. chart since Karen died in 1983, but Karen and Richard haven't had a top 10 album in their home country since 1974.

Look for the original cast album from Billy Elliot, The Musical to take off in the wake of the show's record-tying haul of 15 Tony nominations. The show is nominated for Best Musical, along with Shrek The Musical, Next To Normal and Rock Of Ages. Elton John, the composer of Billy Elliot, received a Tony nomination for Best Original Score. It's the pop legend's third nomination in that category. He was a finalist for 1998's The Lion King and won for 2000's Aida. He is vying with another chart-topping icon, Dolly Parton, who is nominated for her score for 9 To 5: The Musical. The awards will be presented on June 7.

Heads Up: Ciara's Fantasy Ride and Chrisette Michele's Epiphany are in tight contest to debut at #1 on next week's chart. Ciara's last album, Ciara: The Evolution, opened at #1 in December 2006. This is a breakthrough album for Michele, whose last release, I Am, debuted and peaked at #29 in June 2007. Also due: Elliott Yamin's Fight For Love, Paul Potts' Passione, Jewel's Lullaby, Yusuf Islam's Roadsinger and Ben Harper & Relentless7's White Lies For Dark Times. Islam first reached the top 10 in April 1971, back when he was known as Cat Stevens.

 

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