Chart Watch

Week Ending Nov. 1, 2009: This Really Is It

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson's Michael Jackson's This Is It enters The Billboard 200 at #1, with first-week sales of 373,000 copies. This is the biggest weekly sales tally for a Jackson album since HIStory: Past, Present And Future-Book I rang up first-week sales of 391,000 in June 1995. This Is It outpaced the impressive tallies that Number Ones rang up in the weeks after Jackson's death. That greatest hits set posted sales of 339,000 and 349,000 in the first two weeks of July. So, Jackson is still setting records: No other artist has topped the 300,000 weekly sales mark twice this year, much less three times.

Jackson is the first artist to top The Billboard 200 posthumously since The Notorious B.I.G., who scored in March 2007 with Greatest Hits. This Is It posted the biggest posthumous weekly sales tally since an earlier Biggie album, Duets: The Final Chapter, which sold 438,000 copies in one week in December 2005.

This Is It reaches #1 by displacing another theatrical movie soundtrack, The Twilight Saga: New Moon. This marks the first time that theatrical movie soundtracks have topped the chart in back-to-back weeks since July 1998, when Armageddon replaced City Of Angels in the top slot.

This Is It is the first soundtrack to a concert movie to reach #1 since U2's Rattle And Hum logged six weeks on top in 1988. Two recent soundtracks from concert movies reached #3: Miley Cyrus' Best Of Both Worlds Concert and Jonas Brothers' Music From The 3D Concert Experience.

There's bound to be some debate over whether This Is It should be called a soundtrack. The album features studio (and a few demo) versions of the songs heard in the movie. The copy on the album cover is "the music that inspired the movie." The movie credits refer to it a "companion album" rather than a soundtrack. Nonetheless, Nielsen/SoundScan includes the album on its soundtrack chart. I, too, think it should be considered a soundtrack. The album has the same title and artwork as the movie poster and ads. It's not a soundtrack in the classic sense, but it's the closest thing to one that's available. If there were a chart for Top Movie Companion Albums, that would be the place for it. In the absense of that, we can call it a soundtrack.

Jackson long wanted to be a movie star, a sort of modern-day Fred Astaire. In death, he got at least part of his wish: a #1 box-office hit. This Is It topped the box-office in its opening weekend with a domestic gross of more than $23 million. Jackson is only the sixth music star in the last 25 years to star in a movie that came in #1 at the box-office and also spawned a #1 soundtrack (on which the star was featured). The others are Prince, with 1984's Purple Rain; Whitney Houston, with 1995's Waiting To Exhale; Will Smith, with 1997's Men In Black; Eminem, with 2002's 8 Mile; and Miley Cyrus, with this year's Hannah Montana: The Movie.

This Is It is Jackson's sixth #1 album, following Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible. Of course, Jackson would have had a seventh #1 album if catalog albums were eligible to compete on The Billboard 200. Number Ones logged six weeks as the country's best-selling album this summer.

Number Ones continues as the #1 catalog album for the 17th week. (The album sold 32,000 copies this week and would have slipped from #11 to #13 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to compete there.) This is the first time that an act has had the #1 current album and the #1 catalog album simultaneously since AC/DC scored a year ago with the then-current Black Ice and the catalog title Back In Black.

Jackson first topped The Billboard 200 in February 1983 with Thriller. This gives him a 26 year and nine month span of #1 albums. This puts him at #15 on the all-time list of artists with the longest spans of #1 albums. (Here's a link to a Chart Watch Extra from last month on this theme.)

Jackson also makes news on the digital song front. His 1984 smash "Thriller" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week, boosted by its annual Halloween resurgence. "Thriller" is only the second song released prior to 1990 to reach this sales level, following Journey's 1981 opus "Don't Stop Believin.'" "Thriller" featured the late Vincent Price, who was 71 when he recorded his vocal rap. The actor made, by one count, 105 movies, but he may be best known today for this voice-over role. The job has certainly given him more return on his time investment than another 1982 gig: an appearance on Trapper John, M.D.

This Is It also enters the Japanese chart at #1. Jackson headed that chart in July with King Of Pop.  The album debuts at #3 in the U.K., where the planned tour was set to open in July.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time that Jackson's name has appeared in the title of one of his works. The full title of his best-selling, Grammy-winning 1984 video release was Making Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Pop Quiz: Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and Sting are all in the top 10 this week. They have all had many top 10 albums through the years, both solo and with their old groups (The Jackson 5, Faces and The Police, respectively). Of these three artists, who has had the most total top 10 albums on The Billboard 200? I show the grand tallies for all three artists in the top 10 list.

Creed's Full Circle, the band's first studio album in nearly eight years, debuts at #2. Creed was among the biggest bands in the world before it went on hiatus. Its last two albums before the break, Human Clay and Weathered, both debuted at #1. (Weathered had first-week sales of 887,000, a little more than eight times the first-week number posted by Full Circle. The decline is due partly to a sharply reduced album market and party to an overly-long hiatus that loosened the band's grip on its fans.

Taylor Swift's Fearless jumps from #7 to #3, in the wake of the release of an expanded edition with six new tracks. (Sales of regular and deluxe editions are combined.) This is the album's 42nd week in the top 10, the longest run by any album since Santana's Supernatural had 44 weeks in the top 10 in 1999-2000. Fearless sold 109,000 copies this week, which pushes it within 4,000 copies of Michael Jackson's Number Ones as the best-selling album of 2009. Fearless has sold 2,029,000 copies so far this year. Number Ones has sold 2,033,000. Which album will come out on top for the year in this super-tight race? Stay tuned.

Fearless tops the Country Albums chart for the 26th week. That's the longest run at #1 since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts had 27 weeks on top from 2005 to 2007. Also, Swift's "Love Story" tops the 4 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's only the ninth song in digital history to reach that level, and the first country crossover smash to do so.

Rod Stewart's Soulbook opens at #4. It's Stewart's sixth album of covers to debut in the top five since 2002. Will Soulbook be the first in a series, along the lines of his four-volume The Great American Songbook series? Or will it be a one-shot, akin to 2006's Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time? Time (and the charts) will tell. (This is the first time in Stewart's four-decade career that he has made the top 10 with six consecutive studio albums. His previous record was four, which he established when his first four albums for Warner Bros. made the top 10 from 1975 to 1979.)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Night Castle opens at #5. This is, incredibly, the classical/rock ensemble's first appearance in the top 10 (or even the top 20). It's the act's first non-Christmas-themed release since Beethoven's Last Night, which was released in April 2000. The orchestra's "Christmas trilogy" (Christmas Eve And Other Stories, The Christmas Attic and The Lost Christmas Eve) has sold a combined total of 6,389,000 albums.

Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 logs its eighth week in the top 10. This is Jay-Z's longest run in the top 10 since his 1998 smash Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life logged 14 weeks in the  top 10. (Which of course means The Blueprint 3 has remained in the top 10 longer than either The Blueprint or The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse.)

Owl City's "Fireflies" is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second week in a row. The song sold 173,000 digital copies this week, upping its total to 1,051,000.

Is it just me, or does the cover of This Is It look vaguely familiar? It's more than a little like the cover of Diana Ross' 1976 soundtrack to Mahogany. Ross, of course, was credited with introducing the Jackson 5. She later teamed with Jackson in the 1978 movie The Wiz. Jackson also wrote and produced her 1982 smash "Muscles," her next-to-last top 10 hit.

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

1. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson's This Is It, 373,000. This new entry is Jackson's 14th top 10 album (counting six albums with the Jackson 5). Ten songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Thriller," which vaults from #45 to #20.

2. Creed, Full Circle, 110,000. This new entry is Creed's third top 10 album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Away In Silence," which debuts at #118.

3. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 109,000. The former #1 album jumps from #7 to #3 in its 51st week. This is its 42nd week in the top 10. Ten songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Jump Then Fall," which debuts at #2.

4. Rod Stewart, Soulbook, 84,000. This new entry is Stewart's 15th top 10 album (counting one album with Faces). (Quiz Answer: Stewart has had more total top 10 albums than Michael Jackson or Sting.)

5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Castle, 83,000. This new entry is the instrumental ensemble's first top 10 album. More than 31,000 copies of the two-disk set were bought digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album.

6. Sting, If On A Winter's Night..., 80,000. This new entry is Sting's 13th top 10 album (counting four albums with The Police). The secular, new-age-style holiday album is the highest-charting holiday album since 2007.

7. Michael Buble, Crazy Love, 71,000. The former #1 album drops from #3 to #7 in its fourth week. "Haven't Met You Yet" drops from #74 to #107 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Various Artists, The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack, 69,000. The album drops from #1 to #8 in its second week. That's the steepest drop from #1 for a theatrical movie soundtrack since Private Parts dove from #1 to #11 in 1997.

9. Tim McGraw, Southern Voice, 59,000. The album drops from #2 to #9 in its second week. "Southern Voice" drops from #68 to #116 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 41,000. The album drops from #4 to #10 in its eighth week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Empire State Of Mind" (with Alicia Keys), which rebounds from #11 to #5.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Miley Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives drops from #5 to #12, The Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. drops from #5 to #13, Owl City's Ocean Eyes falls from #8 to #19, Barbra Streisand's Love Is The Answer drops from #9 to #25 and Joss Stone's Colour Me Free! plummets from #10 to #59.

Jack Johnson's En Concert, the balladeer's first live album, debuts at #11. Johnson's last four albums opened in the top three...Tech N9ne's K.O.D. bows at #14. It's the rapper's second top 20 album in a row...The Swell Season's debut album, Strict Joy, opens at #15.  The duo consists of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who wrote and performed the music for the 2007 movie Once. The Once soundtrack peaked at #7 in March 2008 in the wake of the Oscar telecast, where "Falling Slowly" was named Best Original Song.

Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's Cyrus' third song to reach this level, following "See You Again" and "The Climb." "Party In The U.S.A." was #1 on Hot Digital Songs for six weeks, though it has yet to top the Hot 100. That's the longest any song has been #1 on Digital Songs without topping the big chart. It breaks the old record of five weeks set by Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" in 2004-05 and Rihanna's "Pon De Replay" in 2005. Both of those songs peaked at #2 on the Hot 100, as, apparently, has "Party In The U.S.A." (The Hot 100 is based on a combination of digital sales and radio airplay. Reaching #1 on this flagship chart requires perfect timing and a certain amount of luck.)

You Can Dance: Abba's Gold-Greatest Hits this week tops the 5 million mark in sales. The compilation, first released in September 1993, has been boosted twice by the phenomenal success of Mamma Mia! The stage musical opened on Broadway in October 2001. The film premiered in July 2008. (You might think this has to be the biggest album ever by a Swedish act. You would be wrong. That title belongs to Ace of Base, whose The Sign has sold 6,502,000 copies. The 1993 album spawned three top five hits on the Hot 100, "All That She Wants," "The Sign" and "Don't Turn Around.")

Heads Up: Carrie Underwood's Play On is expected to debut at #1 next week. The country star's Carnival Ride opened at #1 in October 2007. Glee: The Music, Volume 1 and Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas will vie to be the second highest debut. Also due:  NOW 32, Weezer's Ratitude, Slayer's World Painted Blood, Foo Fighters' Greatest Hits, Nirvana's Live At Reading, Straight No Chaser's Christmas Cheers, Amerie's In Love And War and the multi-artist Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: Live.

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