The two women were received differently from the outset. Streisand's debut album won a Grammy for Album of the Year. By the time she was 27, Streisand had also won an Emmy and an Oscar, representing a rare degree of affirmation by the show business establishment. Madonna, by contrast, had a hard time at the outset even being taken seriously in the music industry. She didn't win a Grammy until 1992, and then only in a lower-profile video category. She didn't have a really good night at the Grammys until 1999, when she won three awards, including Best Pop Album and Best Dance Recording.
For all their differences, the two women also have a lot in common. A friend summed it up by saying they've both got gumption (though he didn't use the word "gumption"). In both cases, their cultural significance was apparent early on. Streisand made the cover of TIME in April 1964, two weeks before her 22nd birthday. Madonna was on TIME's cover in May 1985, a few months before she turned 27.
Madonna famously bowed before Streisand when the veteran diva made a surprise cameo appearance in a "Coffee Talk" sketch on Saturday Night Live in February 1992. (You can watch the video at the end of this week's blog.) Less famously, but significantly, when Billboard ran a special issue saluting Streisand in December 1983, Warner Bros. made a point of taking the back-cover ad to promote Madonna. The Madonna ad was headlined "A Star Is Born"--the title of Streisand's 1976 movie musical. That week, Madonna's "Holiday"--her first Hot 100 single--was in its first week in the top 40. For such a newcomer to invite any comparisons to the top female star of a generation took a lot of nerve.
Madonna has not equaled Streisand's success in films, despite a critically-hailed performance in Desperately Seeking Susan and a Golden Globe-winning turn in Evita. Nor has Madonna equaled Streisand's success on Broadway in Funny Girl. They've had about equal success in TV, though comparing Streisand's classy, Emmy-winning specials with Madonna's dozens of trend-setting music videos is a bit like comparing apples and bustiers.
While it may be hard to believe, especially given the erotic photo on the cover of Hard Candy, Madonna will turn 50 on Aug. 16. When Streisand was the same age, she was basking in the success of her lavish, four-disk career retrospective Just For The Record. Since then, Streisand has had two #1 albums, Back To Broadway and Higher Ground, but for the most part, she has seemed content to let her recording career wind down. Having recently signed a major deal with Live Nation, Madonna seems likely to remain active as a recording act.
Hard Candy is Madonna's fourth consecutive studio album to reach #1, the longest such streak of her career. It follows Music, American Life and Confessions On A Dance Floor. At her white-hot heyday in the '80s, Madonna reached #1 with three successive studio albums, Like A Virgin, True Blue and Like A Prayer. It's striking that Madonna has had more #1 albums since 2000 than she did in the '80s. (And it's curious that she had none at all in the '90s.)
Hard Candy is the third consecutive #1 album by a female solo artist, following Leona Lewis' Spirit and Mariah Carey's E=MC2. This is the first time that three female solo artists have made #1 in succession since Monica, Beyonce and Ashanti scored in June and July 2003. This is also the second time in the past three weeks that female solo artists have locked up the top three spots on the pop album chart. (Men, we're getting whooped here.)
Hard Candy opens with sales of 280,000. That's the third highest weekly sales total of 2008, following E=MC2 (463,000) and Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static (375,000).
Lewis' "Bleeding Love" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for a fourth week, with 217,000 paid digital downloads. This is the fifth time that the smash has topped 200,000 in weekly sales, which extends the record that Lewis set last week. And this is the seventh week in a row that the #1 title on this chart has topped 200K, which is also a new record. I see growth in this field!
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
Seven albums fall out of the top 10 this week. Flight Of The Conchords' eponymous full-length debut album drops from #3 to #17, Ashlee Simpson's Bittersweet World drops from #4 to #31, Atmosphere's When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold falls from #5 to #41, the Juno soundtrack falls from #7 to #13, George Strait's Troubadour drops from #8 to #18, Taylor Swift's eponymous debut album falls from #9 to #11, and Phil Vassar's Prayer Of A Common Man plummets from #10 to #51. Sales of Simpson's album dropped by 64%--the steepest decline of any album in the top 200.
Two other albums debut in the top 15. Steve Winwood's 9 Lives opens at #13. It's his best showing since Roll With It reached #1 in 1988. Carly Simon's This Kind Of Love bows at #15. It's Simon's highest ranking for an album of new material since Boys In The Trees went top 10 in 1978. (An album of standards, Moonlight Serenade, hit #7 in 2005; an album geared toward children, Into White, reached #13 last year.)
Pocketful of Cash: Natasha Bedingfield's Pocketful Of Sunshine vaults from #97 to #24, with a sales gain of 199%. That's the biggest percentage increase for any non-debuting album. The title track jumps from #11 to #4 on Hot Digital Songs.
While being the second female artist to cross the 50,000,000 plateau is bound to take some of the luster off the achievement, it really shouldn't. And Dion is ahead of Carey in one key respect. Dion is the only woman with three albums in the top 50 of the Nielsen/SoundScan era (Falling Into You at #10, Let's Talk About Love at #22 and All The Way...A Decade Of Song at #44). Carey has just one in the top 50 (Daydream at #46).
Only two artists in Nielsen/SoundScan history have sold more albums than Carey and Dion-Garth Brooks, whose current total is 67,847,000 and the Beatles (56,247,000). All four of these artists first hit the chart before Nielsen/SoundScan set up shop in May 1991, so these totals don't take into account their entire histories. The Nielsen/SoundScan data doesn't include the first four months of Dion's chart history, the first 11 months of Carey's, the first two years of Brooks' and the first 27 years and four months of the Beatles'--during which time I have it on good authority that the group sold a fair number of records!
Catalog Report: I Can Only Imagine: Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith returns to #1 on the Catalog Albums chart, with sales of 21,000. It would have ranked #22 if older, catalog albums competed on the main chart.
Heads Up: Neil Diamond, who has (amazingly) never had a #1 album, is expected to debut in the top spot next week with his latest, Home Before Dark. Also due: Toby Keith's double-CD 35 Biggest Hits, Josh Groban's Awake Live and Clay Aiken's On My Way Here. Keith has had three #1 albums, Groban has had two and Aiken has had one.
Great Minds: Madonna's previous album was titled Confessions On A Dance Floor. In 1997, Michael Jackson released an album of remixes titled Blood On The Dance Floor. (Do you suppose the pop icons compared notes on possible album titles when they went to the Oscars together in 1991?)