Chart Watch

Week Ending Nov. 22, 2009: Mayer Zooms As Boyle Looms

Chart Watch

John Mayer has a lot to be thankful for this week. He can be glad that his new album Battle Studies debuts at #1 with a healthy sales total (286,000 copies). And he can especially be thankful that that the album didn't go head-to-head with Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream, which is expected to debut at #1 next week with first-week sales in the range of 600,000 copies. It could top Eminem's Relapse for the biggest sales week by any album in 2009. Relapse opened with sales of 608,000 in May.

Battle Studies is Mayer's third consecutive studio album to debut in the top two with first-week sales of 275,000 or more. Heavier Things bowed at #1 in September 2003 with sales of 317,000. Continuum debuted (and peaked) at #2 in September 2006 with sales of 300,000.

It's getting harder for even big stars to maintain past sales levels, as we see this week with disappointing first-week sales numbers by Norah Jones and 50 Cent. Jones' The Fall opens at #3 with first-week sales of 180,000, less than half of what she sold in her first week with her previous album, Not Too Late. 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct bows at #5 with first-week sales of 160,000, less than one-fourth of what he sold in his first week with his last album, Curtis. Both of these artists are just two albums removed from albums that sold more than 1 million copies in their first week.

So here's the million-dollar question. Why is Mayer holding his ground, sales-wise, while these other titans have fallen off from their previous sales patterns? I think there are a few reasons. It may help that Mayer has never hit those stratospheric sales heights. Success on a massive scale tends to trigger a backlash. Also, Mayer released a live album, Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles, and a movie song, "Say," in the period between studio albums, which helped keep his fan connection alive. He has also done a great job of staying connected to his fans via new media. He tweets!

Battle Studies sold 129,000 digital copies, which is nearly half of its overall tally. It's #1 on the Digital Albums chart. That's no surprise. Mayer's 2006 album, Continuum, has sold 435,000 digital copies. Only four albums have ever sold more in the digital realm.

One final note: At the 45th annual Grammy Awards in February 2003, Jones beat Mayer for Best New Artist. I guess you could say Mayer evens the score this week.

Justin Bieber, who is just 15, debuts at #6 with My World. The seven-song EP follows two other recent EPs into the top 10: Drake's So Far Gone and Miley Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives. (Bieber also has seven songs on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart.)

Bieber is one of the youngest male solo artists ever to land a top 10 album. Stevie Wonder was just 13 in 1963 when he landed his first top 10 album, Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius. Aaron Carter was also 13 in 2001 when cracked the top 10 for the first time with Aaron's Party (Come Get It). Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson were each 14 in 1972 when they broke into the top 10 as solo artists with Portrait Of Donny and Ben, respectively. Mario was also 15 in 2002 when he scored with Mario.

Until this week, catalog albums were barred from The Billboard 200. But after months of controversy and deliberation, Billboard decided to change its policy and allow all albums, current and catalog alike, to compete on its flagship album chart. As a result, 45 catalog albums invade the chart this week. Holiday albums lead the way. Casting Crowns' Peace On Earth re-enters the chart at #15. This is higher than the album peaked (at #24) when it was released in 2008. Taylor Swift's The Holiday Collection re-enters at #20. This is higher than it peaked (at #46) when it was released in 2007.

Michael Jackson, whose posthumous success made the need for the change glaringly apparent, has four of these 45 new chart entries. Number Ones re-enters the chart at #37. The album peaked at #13 when it was released in 2003 and would have topped the chart for six weeks over the summer if catalog albums had been allowed to compete then. The Essential Michael Jackson re-enters at #70. This beats the album's initial peak of #96 when it was released in 2005. The album would have hit #2 on the Billboard 200 in the week after Jackson's death in June if catalog albums had been eligible.

Other artists with multiple catalog albums invading the Billboard 200 this week are Michael Buble, also with four; the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, with three each; and Casting Crowns, with two.

Keep in mind that the number of catalog albums that sold enough copies to qualify for the Billboard 200 this week is inflated because of the season. Twenty-nine of these 45 albums are holiday albums. Once we get past the holidays, the number of chart-worthy catalog albums will decrease. Twenty-eight of the top 200 albums for the year-to-date are catalog albums. That figure is more in line with what we can expect in terms of catalog albums on the big chart going forward.

If this is news to you, here's a link to a Chart Watch Extra in which I explain the policy change and the need for it.

Taylor Swift's Fearless logs its 45th week in the top 10. That's the longest run in the top 10 since Britney Spears' debut album, ...Baby One More Time, hung tight for 50 weeks in 1999-2000. Swift was just nine when that album came out. What do you want to bet she owned it?

Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" jumps to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. The song sold 209,000 digital copies. It's Gaga's third #1 on this chart in less than a year, following "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis) and "Poker Face." Look for Gaga's The Fame album to streak up the chart in the wake of the release of The Fame Monster deluxe edition. A separate Monster EP, featuring just the new songs, is expected to debut in the top 10.

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

1. John Mayer, Battle Studies, 286,000. This new entry is Mayer's fifth top 10 album. It's his third studio set in a row to make the top two. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Half Of My Heart," which debuts at #12.

2. Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas, 185,000. The album holds at #2 in its third week. It's the biggest Christmas album since Josh Groban's Noel.

3. Norah Jones, The Fall, 180,000. This new entry is Jones' fourth album in a row to reach the top five, but it breaks her string of three #1 albums. "Chasing Pirates" enters Hot Digital Songs at #100.

4. Casting Crowns, Until The Whole World Hears, 167,000. This new entry is the Christian music group's third top 10 album. (Peace On Earth could soon become their fourth.)

5. 50 Cent, Before I Self Destruct, 160,000. This new entry is 50 Cent's fifth album in a row to reach the top five, but it breaks his string of four albums to bow at #1 or #2.  Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Baby By Me" (featuring Ne-Yo), which dips from #26 to #29.

6. Justin Bieber, My World, 137,000. This new entry is the teen sensation's debut. Seven songs from the EP are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "One Time," which holds at #18.

7. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson's This Is It, 96,000. The former #1 album drops from #4 to #7 in its fourth week. It's #1 on the soundtrack chart for the fourth week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Thriller," which drops from #118 to #146.

8. Various Artists, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 93,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #10 to #8. This is the soundtrack's fifth straight week in the top 10. Death Cab for Cutie's "Meet Me On The Equinox" re-enters Hot Digital Songs at #154.

9. Carrie Underwood, Play On, 86,000. The former #1 album drops from #3 to #9 in its third week. It's #1 on the country chart for the third straight week. "Cowboy Casanova" drops from #14 to #21 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 84,000. The former #1 album drops from #6 to #10 in its 54th week. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which drops from #22 to #28.

Bon Jovi's The Circle, which debuted at #1 last week, tumbles to #19. (Talk about being "shot through the heart.") This is the steepest drop from the top spot since Incubus' Light Grenades plummeted from #1 to #37 in December 2006.

Four other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. NOW 32 drops from #6 to #14, Michael Buble's Crazy Love drops from #7 to #17, Flyleaf's Memento Mori nosedives from #8 to #40, and Glee: The Music, Volume 1 drops from #9 to #18.

Kris Allen's Kris Allen debuts at #11 with first-week sales of 80,000. It's the first debut album by an American Idol winner not to debut in the top 10. This is also the lowest first-week sales tally for an Idol winner's debut. (Jordin Sparks set both records two years ago when Jordin Sparks debuted at #10 with sales of 119,000).

Incidentally, Kris Allen is the fourth consecutive debut album by an Idol winner to carry an eponymous title, following albums by Taylor Hicks, Sparks and David Cook. The first four Idol winners had actual titles on their debut albums. (Imagine that!). Those were Kelly Clarkson's Thankful, Ruben Studdard's Soulful, Fantasia's Free Yourself and Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts. C'mon Idols. Express yourselves.

Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment is expected to debut at #2 or #3 next week with sales in the range of 225,000, in the wake of the singer's restrained and understated performance on the American Music Awards. This will be the first time that an album by an Idol also-ran has debuted with a bigger sales tally than that season's winner since Daughtry's Daughtry opened with a slightly bigger tally than Taylor Hicks three years ago.

Dave Grohl is in the unusual position of having current albums in the marketplace by his current group, his old group and a "super-group" side project. The side project is Them Crooked Vultures' Them Crooked Vultures, which debuts at #12. The trio also includes John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Grohl's current group, Foo Fighters, drops to #43 with Greatest Hits, which hit #11 two weeks ago. His old group, Nirvana, drops off the chart this week with Live At Reading, which peaked at #37 two weeks ago.

Leona Lewis' Echo debuts at #13, becoming the singer's second top 20 album in a row. Spirit debuted at #1 in April 2008. The album gets off to a stronger start in Lewis' native U.K., where it debuts at #1. Spirit topped the U.K. chart for eight weeks. "Happy," the lead single from Echo, jumps from #38 to #15 on Hot Digital Songs.

Paul McCartney's Good Evening New York City debuts at #16. This is McCartney's seventh live album to make the chart (not counting an abridged version of Tripping The Live Fantastic). McCartney recorded the 2-CD + DVD package in July when he was the first act to play New York's Citi Field. The venue is on the site of the old Shea Stadium, where the Beatles played in 1965 and 1966.

OneRepublic's Waking Up debuts at #21. The group's 2007 album Dreaming Out Loud peaked at #14. "All The Right Moves," the lead single from the new album, jumps from #52 to #32 on Hot Digital Songs.

Janet Jackson's Number Ones bows at #22, 15 spots ahead of brother Michael Jackson's Number Ones. It was somewhat audacious for Janet to call her greatest hits album Number Ones since that title is so closely associated with her brother. The cover designs are also similar, with a black and white photo accompanied by red lettering. The similarities invite comparisons between the two collections. So, let's compare them.

The biggest difference between the two collections is that Michael's is just a single disk, with 18 songs, while Janet's is a double disk, with 34 songs. Michael's album includes 12 of his 13 #1 hits on the Hot 100. (It omits "Say Say Say," his 1983 chart-topper with Paul McCartney). Janet's includes all 10 of her #1 Hot 100 hits.

So whose collection is more hit-studded? Fifteen of the 18 tracks on Michael's album made the top 10 on the Hot 100. That's 83%. With Janet, 27 of the 34 tracks made the top 10. That's 79%. Advantage: Michael. Still, it's impressive that Michael's kid sister blossomed into a superstar who could compete so closely with one of the biggest stars in recording history.

That said, Janet won't be happy with a #22 chart ranking. Unless the album rallies (which it may in the wake of Janet's show-opening medley on the AMAs on Sunday night), it will break a string of 10 straight top 10 albums. But, as I've said before, in this iPod era, greatest hits albums don't mean as much as they used to.

Song Scorecard: Shinedown's "Second Chance" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week. The rock ballad took 56 weeks to get there, but it got there. As of this week, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" has sold 1 million digital copies just in 2009.

The Zac Brown Band's The Foundation this week becomes the 16th album to sell 1 million copies in 2009. The album also sold 192,000 copies in 2008.

Heads Up: In addition to Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream, Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment and Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster EP (see items above), Rihanna's Rated R will probably land in the top 10 next week. Also due to debut: Shakira's She Wolf, Jay Sean's All Or Nothing, Angie Stone's Unexpected, Beyonce's I Am Yours: An Intimate Performance At Wynn Las Vegas, Birdman's Pricele$$, Boyz II Men's Love and Tom Waits' Glitter And Doom Live.

Shameless Plug: I'll have a preview of the Grammy nominations on Monday. (It will be filed in the And The Winner Is folder.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

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