Chart Watch

Week Ending Nov. 8, 2009: The Host With The Most

Chart Watch

Carrie Underwood's Play On sold 318,000 copies last week, the biggest weekly sales tally for an album by a female artist so far in 2009. It's the biggest weekly sales tally for a country album since Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable started with sales of 351,000 in April. This ought to give Underwood a little extra confidence when she co-hosts tonight's Country Music Assn. Awards telecast with Brad Paisley.

Play On is Underwood's second album in a row to enter The Billboard 200 at #1. Carnival Ride debuted in the top spot in October 2007. The singer's debut album, Some Hearts, debuted (and peaked) at #2 in November 2005. All three of Underwood's albums have posted first-week sales of 315,000 or higher, which shows that she has a large and steady fan base.

Underwood this week becomes the second American Idol alum to top the 10 million mark in career album sales. Underwood, the show's Season 4 winner, has sold 10,168,000 albums, second only to Kelly Clarkson, the Season 1 champ, who has sold 10,402,000 albums. (Expect Underwood to surpass Clarkson in coming weeks.)

Play On also enters Top Country Albums at #1. It's Underwood's third album in a row to top that tally. Some Hearts logged 27 weeks at #1 on the country chart, a total topped by only two other female solo artists (Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes) in the chart's 45-year history. No album since Some Hearts has logged 27 weeks at #1. Taylor Swift's Fearless spent its 26th week on top last week and would have tied Some Hearts this week had Underwood not swooped in with her new album.

Don't feel too bad for Swift. Fearless this week regains its lead as the album that has sold the most copies in 2009. It has sold 2,099,000 copies so far this year. Michael Jackson's Number Ones has sold 2,065,000. I'm starting to think Swift will prevail in this super-tight race to have the year's best-selling album. Fearless will get a bump from tonight's CMA Awards and from the Grammy nominations next month. Jackson's sales will be divided between Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson's This Is It.

Fearless was the #3 seller of 2008, with sales that year of 2,112,000 (which are obviously not counted in the 2009 tally). Fearless will be only the third album in Nielsen/SoundScan history to finish among the year's top three albums two years running. Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack was the #3 seller of 1992 and the #1 album of 1993. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill was the #3 seller of 1995 and the #1 album of 1996.

Pop Quiz: What was the last country album to wind up as the best-selling album of the year? Answer below.

News Flash: In two weeks, Billboard will start including catalog albums on its flagship Billboard 200 chart. Here's a link to a Chart Watch Extra that gives all the details. This is great news for those of us who look to the charts to be as accurate and definitive as possible.

After two weeks, Michael Jackson's This Is It has sold 569,000 copies, which puts it at #34 for the year-to-date. Jackson has four of the 40 best-selling albums of 2009 to date. Only two other artists have more than one. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, both of whom were born after the end of the Bad tour, each have two.

The first volume of music from Glee and the 32nd regular installment of NOW went head-to-head last week. Glee won, selling 113,000 copies, to 102,000 for NOW. That's the lowest first week sales tally for a regular NOW installment since the first volume, which sold 48,000 copies in its first week in November 1998.

Two holiday albums appear in the top 10 for the first time since December 2007. Andrea Bocelli's My Christmas debuts at #3, becoming the singer's highest-charting album to date. Sting's If On A Winter's Night... slips from #6 to #9 in its second week. My Christmas is the highest-charting holiday album since Josh Groban's Noel logged five weeks on top in late 2007. Grammy-winning producer David Foster produced both the Groban and Bocelli albums (and booked the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform on both albums). Other guests on Bocelli's album include Mary J. Blige, Reba McEntire and Natalie Cole (with whom Foster worked on Unforgettable With Love).

Owl City's "Fireflies" returns to #1 on the Hot 100 for the second time in three weeks. It also holds at #1 on Digital Songs for the third straight week. The song sold 194,000 downloads this week, bringing its 14-week total to 1,247,000.

"Empire State Of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys jumps from #3 to #2 on the Hot 100, its highest ranking to date. The song also tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. The soulful smash is the latest a long line of classic songs about the Big Apple. Billy Joel's 1976 song "New York State Of Mind," which obviously inspired the title of the new song, never made the Hot 100.

Bon Jovi's The Circle won't debut on the U.S. chart until next week, but it charts this week in Japan and U.K., which are the world's #2 and #3 music markets. It's the band's third #1 album in Japan in the past five years, following Have A Nice Day and Lost Highway. No other American act has amassed so many #1 albums in Japan in this period. (Michael Jackson is in second place, with two.) In the U.K., it debuts at #2 (behind Cheryl Cole's 3 Words).

Quiz Answer: Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All was the last country album to wind up as the best-selling album of the year. It sold 4,832,000 copies in 1992. (That was a busy time in Cyrus' life. His daughter, Miley, was born Nov. 23.)

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

1. Carrie Underwood, Play On, 318,000. This new entry is Underwood's second #1 album. Nearly 63,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Cowboy Casanova," which rebounds from #33 to #19.

2. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson's This Is It, 196,000. The album slips from #1 to #2 in its second week. Nine songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Thriller," which drops from its Halloween-week rank of #19 to #74.

3. Andrea Bocelli, My Christmas, 149,000. This new entry is Bocelli's fifth top 10 album. Bocelli is the first opera star to amass five or more top 10 albums since Mario Lanza had 12 top 10 albums from 1951 to 1960. This is the best-selling holiday album so far in 2009.

4. Various Artists, Glee: The Music, Volume 1, 113,000. This new entry is the highest-charting TV soundtrack since Hannah Montana 3 hit #2 in July. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Defying Gravity," which enters at #53.

5. Various Artists, NOW 32, 102,000. This new entry is the 30th regular NOW volume to debut in the top five. (It may also be among the last.)

6. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 70,000. The former #1 album completes a full year on the chart by dropping from #3 to #6. This is the album's 43rd week in the top 10. Nine songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Jump Then Fall," which drops from #2 to #22.

7. Weezer, Raditude, 66,000. This new entry is Weezer's fifth top 10 album. "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" leaps from #177 to #84 on Hot Digital Songs. (Great song title.) (Love the yellow Lab.)

8. Michael Buble, Crazy Love, 59,000. The former #1 album dips from #7 to #8 in its fifth week. Buble's last studio album, Call Me Irresponsible, also logged five weeks in the top 10. "Haven't Met You Yet" jumps from #107 to #104 on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Sting, If On A Winter's Night..., 59,000. The album drops from #6 to #9 in its second week. This is the #2 holiday album for 2009 to date, trailing Andrea Bocelli.

10. Various Artists, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 52,000. The soundtrack drops from #8 to #10 in its fourth week. It's the #5 best-selling soundtrack so far this year, and the movie isn't even out yet. Death Cab For Cutie's "Meet Me On The Equinox" drops off Hot Digital Songs.

Creed's Full Circle, the band's first studio album in eight years, drops from #2 to #14 in its second week. That's got to hurt. Four other albums drop out of the top 10. Rod Stewart's Soulbook drops from #4 to #13, Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Night Castle dives from #5 to #19, Tim McGraw's Southern Voice drops from #9 to #16 and Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 drops from #10 to #15.

Foo Fighters' Greatest Hits opens at #11. The band, led by Dave Grohl, notched five top 10 albums from 1997 to 2007. The band's first album, Foo Fighters, hit the chart in July 1995, just 15 months after Kurt Cobain's death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound spelled the end of Grohl's former band, Nirvana. That's not much time for someone to process shock and sadness; make the decision to keep going; form a new group; and create and record an album. It's to his credit that he was able to get on with his life and his music.

Speaking of Nirvana, that band's Live At Reading debuts at #37. This is the band's third live album, following MTV Unplugged In New York and From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah, both of which debuted at #1.

Slayer's World Painted Blood opens at #12. It's the band's third top 20 album, following 1994's Divine Intervention and 2006's Christ Illusion, both of which made the top 10.

Michael Jackson's Number Ones tops the Catalog Albums chart for the 18th week. The album sold 32,000 copies and would have dropped from #13 to #18 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible for that chart.

Bee Gees' Ultimate, a 2 CD + DVD package, debuts at #116. The brothers first charted in August 1967 with Bee Gees' 1st. They have cracked the top 20 in each of the last five decades.

Song Scorecard: Beyonce's "Halo" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads. It's the third hit from I Am...Sasha Fierce to reach this plateau. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" has sold 3,231,000 copies. "If I Were A Boy" has sold 2,176,000. The album has sold 2,476,000 copies, which proves it can still be done (though it's harder than it used to be).

Nickelback's "Gotta Be Somebody" becomes the first 2 million seller from its current album, Dark Horse. The Canadian band lifted two 2 million sellers ("Photograph" and "Rockstar") from its previous album, All The Right Reasons.

Sean Kingston lands his first 2 million seller with "Fire Burning." His 2007 smash "Beautiful Girls" has sold 1,946,000 digital copies. ("Beautiful Girls" was a bigger hit than "Fire Burning," but the market for digital songs has grown considerably in the past two years.) Jay Sean also lands his first 2 million-seller with "Down" (featuring Lil Wayne). This is the second time that Lil Wayne has been featured on another artist's 2 million-seller. He was also featured on Kevin Rudolf's "Let It Rock," which has sold 3,505,000 copies.

Shakira's "She Wolf/Loba" and Green Day's "21 Guns" both top the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. Shakira's biggest digital hit to date is "Hips Don't Lie" (featuring Wyclef Jean), which has sold 2,435,000 copies. Green Day's biggest is "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," which has sold 1,955,000.

BeBe & CeCe Winans' "Close To You" has been #1 on Billboard's Gospel Songs chart for the past eight weeks. BeBe Winans wrote the song, which means it's not a cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David ballad that became the Carpenters' first #1 hit in 1970. Still, what are the odds that two Grammy-winning, brother-sister duos would have chart-topping hits titled "Close To You"?

For the Record: I made two mistakes last week. Both involved Miley Cyrus. "Party In The U.S.A." is her third song (not her second) to reach the 2 million mark in paid downloads. (It follows "The Climb" and "See You Again.") And Hannah Montana: The Movie was #1 at the box-office in April, making Cyrus one of six music stars (since 1982) to have #1 movies that spawned chart-topping soundtracks. To atone for my errors, I'll spend the next week working on my "Hoedown Throwdown."

Heads Up: Bon Jovi will try for its fourth #1 album with The Circle, due next week. It will vie with Dashboard Confessional's Alter The Ending, Britney Spears' The Singles Collection, AC/DC's Backtracks, Flyleaf's Memento Mori, Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane, the Killers' Live From The Royal Albert Hall, Tori Amos' Midwinter Graces, Alejandro Sanz's Paraiso Express, Jason Mraz's Beautiful Mess: Live On Earth, Hollywood Undead's Desperate Measures and Wyclef Jean's From The Hut To The Projects To The Man.

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