Chart Watch

Week Ending Oct. 12, 2008: Britney Ends Long Shut-Out

Chart Watch

Britney Spears' "Womanizer" zooms from #96 to #1 on Billboard's Hot 100. It's her first #1 on that flagship chart since her debut single "...Baby One More Time" hit #1 in January 1999, when Spears was just 17. Spears has  maintained such a high profile over the past decade, it's hard to imagine that she has gone this long without a #1 single. She has had four #1 albums and has been on the cover of a magazine or two, but her highest-charting Hot 100 single since 1999 was last year's "Gimme More," which peaked at #3.

This is the third time in the past two months that the record for the biggest move to #1 on the Hot 100 has been broken. In September, T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" vaulted from #71 to #1. And just last week, T.I.'s "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna) made an even more dramatic move, leaping from #80 to #1.

"Womanizer" debuts at #1 on Hot Digital Songs, with 286,000 paid downloads. That sets a new record for the biggest first-week sales by a female artist, barely edging out Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body," which sold 286,000 in March. (The difference between the two is less than 250 units.) "Womanizer" is Spears' second #1 digital hit, following "Piece Of Me" which debuted at #1 in September 2007 with sales of 179,000.

Spears' sixth studio album, Circus, is due Dec. 2. It's her bid to regain the #1 spot. In November, you'll remember, Blackout opened at #2 behind Eagles' massive Long Road Out Of Eden. It was the first time a Spears studio album hadn't debuted at #1.

Bob Dylan fans were faced with a tough choice this week. His most committed (or at least his most affluent) fans shelled out $115 or more to buy the deluxe version of his new release, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Volume 8. More casual fans (as well as those spooked by incessant news reports that "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall") paid around $15 for the regular edition. Both versions include the same basic two discs and a 60-page booklet. The costlier version also includes a bonus CD with 12 extra tracks, a 150-page hardcover book and a hardcover slipcase.

The two versions of the album sold a combined total of 50,000 copies, which enabled the title to debut at #6 on The Billboard 200. (In the past, the two versions would have competed with each other on the chart, but a rule change this week allows sales by different editions of an album to be combined in most cases.) Tell Tale Signs is the highest-charting of the six installments in Dylan's Bootleg Series, which was launched in 1991 with the release of The Bootleg Series-Volumes 1-3 [Rare And Unreleased] 1961-1991. The six installments in the series have sold a combined total of 1,419,000 copies, which shows that there's tremendous profit, as well as prestige, in mining rock history. Three of the six installments (all of which are multi-disk sets) have sold in excess of 300,000 units each.

The word "bootleg" has had great allure in rock circles since at least the 1960s. The word has carried the promise of something illicit; something not officially sanctioned for release. Dylan is hardly the first artist to co-opt the word for an official, commercial release. Aerosmith made the top 20 in 1978 with Live! Bootleg. Paul McCartney made the top 20 in 1991 with a live album, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg). Ice Cube made the top 20 in 1994 with a compilation, Bootlegs & B-Sides. Fugees (Refugee Camp) charted in 1996 with a compilation, Bootleg Versions.

Tell Tale Signs is Dylan's 50th album to hit the Billboard chart since he broke through in September 1963 with The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It's his 18th album to crack the top 10 since he first scored in May 1965 with Bringing It All Back Home. Just five acts have amassed more top 10 albums since Billboard published its first album chart in 1945. This calls for a Chart Watch Extra. On Friday, I'll have a list of all artists who have had 15 or more top 10 albums since 1945. Many of the greatest names in pop music history are present and accounted for, from Elvis and Barbra to the Beatles and the Stones. Which of your favorites made the cut? Which missed? Check back on Friday and find out.

One final note: Tell Tale Signs is Dylan's third top 10 album since 2000, which means this is shaping up as his most winning decade on the charts since the '70s. Dylan had six top 10 albums in the '60s, eight in the '70s, none in the '80s and one in the '90s. (Dylan's highest-charting album of the '80s was Infidels, which hit #20.)

T.I.'s Paper Trail tops The Billboard 200 for the second straight week. This is the hip-hop star's second album in a row to log two weeks at #1. T.I. Vs. T.I.P. had two weeks on top in July 2007. Just six other artists have logged two or more weeks at #1 with each of their last two studio albums. All six of these artists (Eminem, Dixie Chicks, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and Coldplay) are more famous than T.I. is, which suggests that T.I. doesn't get as much press and media exposure as his success warrants. I would chalk that up to a discomfort in the mainstream media with rap.

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

1. T.I., Paper Trail, 177,000. This is the third rap/hip hop album to log two or more weeks at #1 in the last three years. Two of them are by T.I. (The third is Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III.)  Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. Two are in the top three. "Live Your Life" (featuring Rihanna) slips a notch to #2. "Whatever You Like" moves back up a notch to #3. (A Weird Al Yankovic parody of "Whatever You Like" bows at #56.)

2. Metallica, Death Magnetic, 66,000. The album rebounds from #5 to #2 in its fifth week in the top five. The album edges up to #8 for the year to date. "The Day That Never Comes" slips from #106 to #113 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Rise Against, Appeal To Reason, 65,000. This new entry is the second straight top 10 album by the Chicago-based band. The Sufferer & The Witness hit #10 in 2006. Nearly 23,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" enters Top Digital Songs at #87.

4. Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Hudson, 63,000. The album dips from #2 to #4 in its second week. Given the way albums have been taking steep dives in their second weeks lately, that's a victory. "Spotlight" drops from #38 to #49 on Hot Digital Songs.

5. Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul, 53,000. This new entry is the English group's third top five album--and its first in more than 11 years. Oasis had back-to-back top five albums with (What's The Story) Morning Glory? in 1996 and Be Here Now in 1997. This is Oasis' 10th chart album. "Shock Of The Lightning" enters Hot Digital Songs at #60.

6. Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, 50,000. This new entry is Dylan's first archival project to reach the top 10 since The Basement Tapes in 1975. He had recorded that album with The Band in 1967, but it sat in the vault for eight years. No songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

7. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 48,000. The album begins its second year on the chart by holding at #7 for the third week. This is the album's 18th week in the top 10. It's the first album to log 18 or more weeks in the top 10 since Daughtry's Daughtry ran up 27 weeks in the top 10 in 2006-2007. Both albums demonstrate the broad appeal of mainstream rock. No songs from Kid Rock's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, per Mr. Rock's wishes. Rock Heroes' cover of "All Summer Long" dips from #21 to #22 on Hot Digital Songs.

8. Ne-Yo, Year Of The Gentleman, 47,000. The album dips from #6 to #8 in its fourth week. Two songs from the album are listed in the top 40 on Hot Digital Songs for the seventh straight week. "Miss Independent" jumps from #26 to #23. "Closer" dips from #31 to #33.

9. Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits 3, 44,000. This new entry is McGraw's 12th consecutive top 10 album on The Billboard 200, his entire output since he became a star in 1994. McGraw's first two volumes of Greatest Hits each made the top five. His first Greatest Hits album in 2000 hit #4. His second, Greatest Hits Vol. 2: Reflected, reached #2 in 2006. McGraw, who has released just one studio album since Vol. 2, put out a statement criticizing his record company for releasing another hits album so soon. I agree with him. Nonetheless, this is the week's #1 country album.

10. James Taylor, Covers, 44,000. Taylor's album of covers slips from #4 to #10 in its second week. This is Taylor's first album to log more than one week in the top 10 since October Road in 2002. This is Taylor's 10th top 10 album. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Robin Thicke's Something Else drops from #3 to #12, Jack's Mannequin's Glass Passenger plummets from #8 to #40, Kellie Pickler's Kellie Pickler drops from #9 to #34, and Jazmine Sullivan's Fearless dips from #10 to #14.

Two other albums debut in the top 20. Sarah McLachlan's Closer: The Best Of Sarah McLachlan bows at #11. This is McLachlan's fifth top 20 album and her 13th chart album. McLachlan has been a fixture on the charts for nearly 20 years. Her first album, Touch, hit the chart in April 1989. Senses Fail's Life Is Not A Waiting Room opens at #18. This is the hard rock band's second straight top 20 album. Still Searching hit #15 in 2006. The band first charted in 2003.

Marco Antonio Solis' No Molestar debuts at #19. This is the Latin star's highest-charting album to date, topping Una Noche En Madrid, which hit #42 in June. Solis, who was born in Mexico, first cracked the pop album chart in 1999 with Trozos De Mi Alma.

Lil Wayne Watch: Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III inches up a notch to #13. This is the 19th consecutive week that five songs from the album have appeared on Hot Digital Songs.

Ups & Downs: Ben Folds' Way To Normal drops from #11 to #54 in its second week. That represents a sales drop of 77% compared to last week, the steepest drop of any album in the top 200. On the plus side, the August Rush soundtrack re-enters the chart at #175 with a sales gain of 122% compared to last week. The soundtrack has sold 282,000 copies to date.

Catalog Report: I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith tops the Catalog Albums chart for the 10th week. The album sold 10,000 copies this week and would have ranked #53 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there.

The Love You Make: As of this week, The Beatles' Abbey Road has sold 4 million copies since SoundScan took over sales monitoring in 1991. It's the first of the Beatles' original albums to reach this milestone. In fact, it's the first album from the 1960s by any artist to reach this sales threshold. Another Beatles classic, 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, is close behind, with sales since 1991 of 3,897,000. Sgt. Pepper's is the most famous Beatles album, but many feel that, song for song, Abbey Road is even better. (Abbey Road was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year, but lost. What album won that year? Answer below.)

Useless Punctuation?: Artists increasingly seem to regard question marks as optional, as we see from these current albums: Jessica Simpson's Do You Know, Heidi Newfield's What Am I Waiting For, Jimmy Wayne's Do You Believe Me Now, Kristy Lee Cook's Why Wait and Brandon Heath's What If We (which doesn't even pose a complete question). That's why I'm pleased to see Mitch Hedberg's Do You Believe In Gosh? with the proper punctuation. My seventh grade English teacher would also be pleased. 

Heads Up: Kenny Chesney's Lucky Old Sun is expected to debut at #1 next week. Chesney had four consecutive #1 studio albums from 2002 through 2005, but peaked at #3 in September 2007 with his latest, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates. Keane is due with Perfect Symmetry, its follow-up to the top five Under The Iron Sea. Also due: Lucinda Williams' Little Honey, Billy Currington's Little Bit Of Everything, Mary Mary's The Sound, Connie Talbot's Over The Rainbow, Ray LaMontagne's Gossip In The Grain, Little Big Town's A Place To Land and Elvis Presley's Christmas Duets (on which the King sings "duets" with various female country singers, including two, Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes, who weren't even born when he died in 1977.)

Shameless Plug: Check back on Friday for my latest Chart Watch Extra, in which I count down the 14 artists with the most top 10 albums since the chart began in 1945. I've given you five of the names. You have two days to guess the other nine. Good luck.

Answer: Blood Sweat & Tears

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