Chart Watch

Week Ending Nov. 29, 2009: Women Take Charge

Chart Watch

Way back when, in the dim and distant past, women were referred to as "the weaker sex." It's a new day, baby. Female solo artists account for eight of the top 10 albums on The Billboard 200. Susan Boyle leads the pack as I Dreamed A Dream debuts at #1 with sales of 701,000. That's the biggest one-week sales total of 2009. It beats Eminem's Relapse, which sold 608,000 copies in its first week in May. It's also the biggest first-week sales tally in Nielsen/SoundScan history for a debut album by a female artist. It tops Ashanti, which opened with sales of 503,000 in April 2002.

Two male solo artists (Andrea Bocelli and Adam Lambert) round out the top 10. This means that groups and duos are completely shut out of this week's top 10. (The highest-ranking group or duo is the contemporary Christian group Casting Crowns, which dips to #17 with its Christmas album, Peace On Earth.)

Only one debut album in Nielsen/SoundScan history has sold more copies in its first week. That's Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle, which opened with sales of 803,000 in December 1993. I Dreamed A Dream posted the biggest one-week sales tally for an album by a female artist since Alicia Keys' As I Am debuted with sales of 742,000 in November 2007. It's the biggest tally for an album by a British artist since Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends started with sales of 721,000 in June 2008.

I Dreamed A Dream sold more copies in its first week than several hit albums have sold in their entire runs so far, including Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas, Carrie Underwood's Play On, Keith Urban's Defying Gravity and The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack.

Boyle's album also debuts at #1 in the U.K. The album features a wide range of material, from the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" to the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace"; from the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" to "I Dreamed A Dream," which is from the musical Les Miserables. This rich diversity of source material is also central to the appeal of Glee. The first Glee album includes everything from rap hits by Kanye West and Young M.C. to Broadway songs from Cabaret and Wicked.

This trend to a dizzying range of material owes a lot to the success of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film, Moulin Rouge! The movie's centerpiece "Elephant Love Medley" featured everything from the Four Aces' lush, '50s ballad "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing" to U2's '80s rock classic "Pride (In The Name Of Love)." All of these albums, and others like them, reflect the iPod culture that we're living in. This is a terrific music trend. Fans are being exposed to music outside of their comfort zones.

This week's top two albums, I Dreamed A Dream and Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas, are squarely in the adult contemporary mold. Both artists are right around 50. Boyle is 48. Bocelli is 51.

Boyle, who was runner-up to Diversity on Britain's Got Talent, proves that it's not the end of the world to come in second. So does Adam Lambert, who finished behind Kris Allen on American Idol. The two singers were icons before those talent competitions concluded. Boyle was the plain Jane with the heaven-sent voice; Lambert, the singer who brought glam rock and a hint of danger to prime-time.

Lambert's For Your Entertainment debuts at #3 with first-week sales of 198,000. This surpasses Kris Allen's Kris Allen, which opened at #11 last week with first-week sales of 80,000. This marks the first time that the debut album by the Idol first runner-up has gotten off to a faster start than the debut album by the winner since 2003, when Clay Aiken's Measure Of A Man started with sales of 613,000, compared to a 417,000 start for Ruben Studdard's Soulful.

While Lambert's total is impressive, it falls short of the 280,000 start that greeted David Cook's David Cook in November 2008. Cook received only a fraction of the media hype that Lambert has gotten, but he has quietly sold a lot of albums. David Cook is up to 1,257,000. I expect Cook to be in the running for a Grammy for Best New Artist when the nominations for the 52nd annual Grammy Awards are announced tonight. (If you missed my column previewing the nominations, here's a link.)

Another Idol alum makes big news this week. Carrie Underwood this week surpasses Kelly Clarkson as the Idol alum who has sold the most total albums. Underwood has sold 10,539,000 albums, to 10,428,000 for Clarkson. The rest of the all-time top five Idol alums are Daughtry, which has sold 5,356,000 albums; Clay Aiken (4,910,000); and Ruben Studdard (2,532,000).

Rihanna's Rated R debuts at #4 with first-week sales of 181,000. It's her third album in a row to debut in the top five. Rihanna has had, or been featured on, 11 Hot 100 hits since the release of Good Girl Gone Bad in July 2007. But Rated R sold only 19,000 more copies in its first week than Good Girl Gone Bad did (162,000). Of course, any increase over a previous album's opening tally is good news these days.

Lady Gaga has two entries in this week's top 10. The Fame Monster eight-song album debuts at #5. And the full-length The Fame Monster album (which combines sales of the standard and two-disk deluxe versions of the album) vaults from #34 to #6. This is the album's first appearance in the top 10 since Aug. 2. If Nielsen/SoundScan had combined sales of the full-length album and the eight-song album, Lady Gaga would be #2 this week, with sales of 325,000. Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second straight week. It sold 218,000 copies this week, bringing its five-week total to 807,000.

Taylor Swift's Fearless has set a lot of records, but this may be the most impressive one of all. As of this week, it has sold more copies than Swift's smash 2006 debut album. Fearless has sold 4,510,000 copies. Taylor Swift has sold 4,454,000. Also this week, Fearless logs its 27th week at #1 on the country chart, which ties Carrie Underwood's 2005 blockbuster Some Hearts for the longest run at #1 in this decade by a female artist.

Each of the top 12 albums on this week's chart sold more than 100,000 copies. It's the first time that's been true since last December 21.

Shameless Plug: Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas, which holds at #2 for the third straight week, is virtually certain to become this year's #1 holiday album. On Friday, I'll have a Chart Watch Extra in which I recap the top-selling new holiday albums of each year of the Nielsen/SoundScan era. All the acts you expect (Kenny G, Celine Dion) are in there, along with a few that may surprise you (Hanson, Clay Aiken). Check it out on Friday.

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

1. Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream, 701,000. This new entry posts the biggest one-week sales tally since AC/DC's Black Ice sold 784,000 in its first week in October 2008. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Dreamed A Dream," which bows at #33.

2. Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas, 218,000. The album holds at #2 for the third straight week. This is its fourth week in the top five.

3. Adam Lambert, For Your Entertainment, 198,000. This new entry's sales tally is in between the first-week tally of David Cook (280,000) and David Archuleta (183,000). Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "For Your Entertainment," which leaps from #75 to #35.

4. Rihanna, Rated R, 181,000. This new entry is Rihanna's fourth consecutive top 10 album; her third in a row to make the top five. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Hard," which debuts at #12.

5. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster, 174,000. This new entry gives Lady Gaga two listings in the top 10. The eight-song album is also #1 on Top Digital Albums, with sales of 65,000 digital copies. Seven of the eight songs are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Bad Romance," which holds at #1.

6. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster, 151,000. The full-length album rebounds from #34 to #6 in its 57th week. This is the album's 23rd week in the top 10. Eleven songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Bad Romance," which holds at #1.

7. Miley Cyrus, The Time Of Our Lives, 150,000. The EP, a Wal-Mart exclusive, rebounds from #29 to #7 in its 14thweek, thanks to a $5 sale tag last week. This is its ninth week in the top 10. "Party In The U.S.A." holds at #10 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 125,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #10 to #8 in its 55th week. This is its 46th week in the top 10. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which dips to #29.

9. Carrie Underwood, Play On, 124,000. The former #1 album holds at #9 in its fourth week. "Cowboy Casanova" dips from #21 to #24 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Norah Jones, The Fall, 110,000. The album slips from #3 to #10 in its second week. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. Jones is very much an album artist.

John Mayer's Battle Studies fell from #1 to #13 in its second week. This is the second week in a row that an album has taken a big tumble from the top spot. Last week, Bon Jovi's The Circle dove from #1 to #19. It's the first time that albums have fallen from #1 to out of the top 10 in back-to-back weeks since December 2006, when it happened three weeks in a row with albums by Incubus, Ciara and Young Jeezy. It gets very competitive at this time of year.

Five other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Casting Crowns' Until The Whole World Hears dives from #4 to #24, 50 Cent's Before I Self-Destruct drops from #5 to #20, Justin Bieber's My World drops from #6 to #14, Michael Jackson's This Is It slips from #7 to #11 (but is the #1 soundtrack for the fifth straight week) and The Twilight Saga: New Moon slips from #8 to #12. The movie of the same name finished #1 at the box-office for the second weekend in a row.

Does it ever seem like Lil Wayne is featured on every other song you hear? It will after you read this item. Shakira's She Wolf bows at #15, becoming the Colombian singer's fourth top 20 album. "Give It Up To Me" (featuring Lil Wayne) jumps to #19 on Hot Digital Songs...Birdman's Pricele$$ opens at #33.  "Money To Blow" (featuring Lil Wayne and Drake) inches up to #40 on Hot Digital Songs...Jay Sean's All Or Nothing debuts at #37. "Down" (featuring Lil Wayne) rebounds to #11 on Hot Digital Songs. Memo to Lil Wayne: At some point, you're going to have to say "no." Many artists have suffered from overexposure.

Two rock veterans who have been around since the '70s debut this week with live albums. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, which first charted in 1977, open at #51 with Live Anthology. Tom Waits, who first charted in 1975, bows at #56 with Glitter And Doom Live. This is Petty's second live album to make the chart. It's Waits' third.

"Party In The U.S.A." this week pulls ahead of "The Climb" to become Miley Cyrus' biggest hit to date. The frisky pop smash has sold 2,525,000 digital copies, to 2,477,000 for the earnest, inspirational ballad. Both songs rank among the year's 10 best-selling digital hits. "Party" is #7. "The Climb" is #8. "Party" logged six weeks as the #1 digital sales hit. No song has ever logged that many weeks as the top digital seller without also hitting #1 on the Hot 100. (I hope that pointing this out doesn't make me a "Party" pooper.)

Song Scorecard: Justin Bieber's "One Time" tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads. It's his first song to reach this level. Britney Spears' "3" and Boys Like Girls' "Love Drunk" also top the 1 million mark.

Heads Up: R. Kelly will take aim at a possible sixth #1 album next week with Untitled. Also due: Allison Iraheta's Just Like You, Juvenile's Cocky & Confident, Enya's The Very Best Of Enya, Alvin & the Chipmunks' The Squeakquel soundtrack, The Bravery's Stir The Blood and the Just Dance 2 compilation.

Useless Information: Rihanna's Rated R isn't the first album to have a title that borrows from the Motion Picture Assn. of America's iconic ratings system. The rap duo Top Authority and the rap trio Fifth Ward Boyz both charted in 1995 with albums titled Rated G. The R&B trio Perfect Gentlemen charted in 1990 with Rated PG. R&B veteran Johnnie Taylor charted in 1977 with Rated Extraordinaire, which was a play on Rated X. (Rihanna and Perfect Gentlemen were doing a play on their initials.)

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