Chart Watch

Week Ending Oct. 18, 2009: Taylor Swift’s Minor Miracle

Chart Watch

Taylor Swift is on the brink of accomplishing something that I was starting to think we might never see again: topping the 4 million mark in sales with back-to-back studio albums. As of this week, Fearless has sold 3,998,000 copies. Her 2006 debut album, Taylor Swift, has sold 4,364,000 copies. Swift will become the first artist to land back-to-back 4 million-selling studio albums since Rascal Flatts achieved the feat with 2004's Feels Like Today (sales as of this week: 5,149,000) and 2006's Me And My Gang (4,796,000). Album sales have dropped since the mid 2000s, which makes Swift's achievement all the more impressive. She gets bonus points for "degree of difficulty."

Fearless rebounds from #17 to #7 on The Billboard 200 this week, boosted by the singer's Oct. 14 appearance on Oprah. The album has placed in the top 10 for 40 of its 49 weeks on the chart. This is the longest run in the top 10 since Usher's Confessions logged 41 weeks in the top 10 in 2004-2005.

In addition, Fearless returns to #1 on the Country Albums chart. This is its 25th week on top, which surpasses Taylor Swift, which logged 24 weeks in the top spot. When you log 24 weeks at #1 with your debut album, the odds that you'll ever approach that tally again are slim. The odds that you'll top that tally with your very next album are virtually nil.

The key to the success of both albums has been across-the-board radio acceptance. Fearless has produced two giant hits. "Love Story" has sold 3,977,000 downloads, more than any other country crossover hit in digital history. The current "You Belong With Me" has sold 2,167,000. Taylor Swift also spawned a pair of giant crossover hits, "Our Song" and "Teardrops On My Guitar." These four songs alone have sold 10,826,000 downloads.

Pop Quiz: While it's remarkable these days for an act to sell 4 million copies of back-to-back studio albums, it used to be rather commonplace. One act in Nielsen/SoundScan history (which dates to 1991) had back-to-back studio albums that topped the 10 million mark. Name that act. Extra credit: Name the four other acts that topped the 9 million mark with back-to-back studio albums. Answers below.

The soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: New Moon enters The Billboard 200 at #2, less than a year after the initial Twilight soundtrack debuted in the top spot. The New Moon soundtrack was released more than a month before the movie, which is set to premiere on Nov. 20. The initial Twilight soundtrack was released about two weeks before that movie's Nov. 21, 2008 launch. New Moon sold 115,000 copies this week. The first Twilight soundtrack rang up first-week sales of 165,000. But the new album had only three days, rather than a full week, to amass sales.

Muse is the only act from the Twilight soundtrack that also appears on Twilight Saga: New Moon. The lead single from the new soundtrack is Death Cab For Cutie's "Meet Me On The Equinox," which jumps from #199 to #116 on Hot Digital Songs. The album also features tracks by such rock acts as the Killers and Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

Nearly 57,000 copies of the New Moon soundtrack were sold digitally, which makes it the week's #1 Digital Album. That's no surprise. The original Twilight soundtrack has sold 527,000 digital copies, second only to Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.

Combining physical and digital activity, Twilight has sold 2,266,000 copies to date. It's the best-selling theatrical movie soundtrack since Chicago, which has sold 2,348,000 copies since its release in January 2003. Twilight logged 20 weeks in the top 10, the longest run by a theatrical movie soundtrack since City Of Angels in 1998.

Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Twilight movies with Robert Pattinson, may have another hit soundtrack in her future. She's set to co-star in a movie about the seminal female rock band the Runaways, which enlivened the L.A. rock scene of the mid-'70s. The group had a near hit with "Cherry Bomb" in 1976.

Michael Buble's Crazy Love, which debuted at #1 last week based on just three days of sales, holds at #1 for the second week. Buble's last studio album, Call Me Irresponsible, managed just one week on top.

Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 sold 55,000 more copies this week, bringing its six-week total to 1,116,000. Of all the albums that have been released in 2009, only three have sold more copies. Those are Hannah Montana: The Movie (1,586,000), Eminem's Relapse (1,481,000) and the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. (1,235,000). Thus, two of the four best-selling albums released so far this year are rap and another is pop with a hip-hop edge. Two more 2009 album releases have topped the 1 million mark: U2's No Line On The Horizon (1,026,000) and Rascal Flatts' Unstoppable (1,005,000). (Bear in mind that I'm confining this discussion to albums that were released in 2009. Seven more albums, released in prior years, have sold 1 million or more copies this year.)

Jay-Z's album is holding up to the competition much better than his recent albums have. This is its sixth week in the top 10. His last two albums, 2006's Kingdom Come and 2007's American Gangster, each logged just two weeks in the top 10. Jay-Z's last solo project to log six or more weeks in the top 10 was The Black Album, which had seven weeks in the top 10 in 2003-2004.

Britney Spears' "3" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second straight week. The song sold 172,000 downloads this week, bringing its two-week total to 426,000. Last week, it became only the fifth single to enter the Hot 100 at #1 since late 1998, when a Billboard rule change made it harder for singles to debut in the top spot. Four of those five singles were by American Idol alums (Clay Aiken, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Hicks). Thus, Spears' song was the first by a non-Idol alum to debut at #1 since the rule change in late 1998. Alas, this week "3" slips to #5. "Down"  by Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne returns to the top spot after slipping to #2 last week. "Down" is the first single to return to #1 after dropping out of the top spot since Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" last winter.

The Black Eyed Peas' "Meet Me Halfway" leaps to #17 to #5 on Hot Digital Songs. The Peas have had at least one song in the top five on this chart for all but two weeks since "Boom Boom Pow" blasted on at #1 in April. "Meet Me Halfway" has helped push The E.N.D. back into the top 10 on The Billboard 200. A $7.99 special at iTunes and a much-aired DirecTV spot featuring the band were also catalysts. Incidentally, "Boom Boom Pow" is just one week away from moving into the all-time top five in terms of paid downloads. It has sold 4,295,000 downloads as of this week. Next week, it will surpass "Crank That Soulja Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell'em, which will slip to #6 on the all-time list.

Quiz Answer: Backstreet Boys are the only act in Nielsen/SoundScan history to top the 10 million mark with back-to-back studio albums. The group's 1997 debut, Backstreet Boys, has sold 10,105,000 copies. Its 1999 follow-up, Millennium, has sold 12,108,000. Four other acts since 1991 have topped the 9 million mark with back-to-back studio albums: Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Eminem. Backstreet Boys are still at it, by the way. Their latest album debuted at #9 last week. Alas, this week it nosedives to #64.

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

1. Michael Buble, Crazy Love, 203,000. The album holds at #1 for the second straight week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Haven't Met You Yet," which jumps from #87 to #40.

2. Various Artists, The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack, 115,000. This new entry replaces Hannah Montana: The Movie as the week's top theatrical movie soundtrack. Death Cab For Cutie's "Meet Me On The Equinox" jumps from #199 to #116 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 55,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #5 to #3 in its sixth week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West), which inches up from #8 to #7.

4. Barbra Streisand, Love Is The Answer, 49,000. The former #1 album holds at #4 in its third week in the top five. This is Streisand's longest run in the top five since Higher Ground had seven weeks there in 1997-1998. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

5. Miley Cyrus, The Times Of Our Lives, 40,000. The EP rebounds from #8 to #5 in its eighth week. This is its seventh week in the top 10. "Party In The U.S.A." dips from #2 to #3 on Hot Digital Songs. The song is two weeks away from topping the 2 million mark in paid downloads.

6. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 40,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #23 to #6 in its 19th week. This is the album's 15th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Meet Me Halfway," which vaults from #17 to #5.

7. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 33,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #17 to #7 in its 49th week. This is its 40th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which inches up from #21 to #20.

8. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic, 32,000. This new entry is the rock group's first top 10 album. At War With The Mystics hit #11 in 2006. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

9. Mario, D.N.A., 32,000. This new entry is the R&B singer's second top 10 album. Mario also hit #9 in 2002. "Break Up" (featuring Gucci Mane and Sean Garrett) vaults from #60 to #24 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Mariah Carey, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, 31,000. The album dips from #7 to #10 in its third week. It has sold 254,000 copies, less than Michael Buble has sold in 10 days. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Obsessed," which drops from #14 to #22.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. KISS' Sonic Boom drops from #2 to #11, Toby Keith's American Ride falls from #3 to #12, Luke Bryan's Doin' My Thing drops from #6 to #31, Backstreet Boys' This is Us dives from #9 to #64, and Breaking Benjamin's Dear Agony dips from #10 to #13.

Michael Jackson's Number Ones tops the Catalog Albums chart for the 15th time in the past 17 weeks. The collection sold 24,000 copies this week and would have slipped from #9 to #17 on the big chart if catalog albums were eligible to compete there. The This Is It soundtrack will enter The Billboard 200 in two weeks.

Ho Ho Ho: Two Christmas albums with similar titles debut in the top 30. Bob Dylan's Christmas In The Heart arrives at #23. David Archuleta's Christmas From The Heart bows at #30. This is the 47th Christmas season since Dylan became a star in 1963. Why did he finally record a Christmas album now after not making one all those years? Never try to figure out Bob Dylan.

Christmas From The Heart is the American Idol alum's first album since his eponymous debut, which reached #2 in November 2008. It's unusual for an artist to release a Christmas album after just one regular studio album. But it's not unprecedented. Hanson, Clay Aiken and Il Divo all did the same thing. And all three of those artists had the top new Christmas albums of those years (1997, 2004 and 2005, respectively).

A third Christmas album, Sugarland's Gold And Green, bows at #56. This will probably be this year's biggest country Christmas album. Faith Hill's Joy To The World claimed that distinction last year. Toby Keith's A Classic Christmas took the title in 2007.

Two other rock albums debut in the top 40. Dead By Sunrise's debut album, Out Of Ashes, bows at #29. The group features Chester Bennington, the voice of Linkin Park. Five For Fighting's Slice opens at #34.

Daryl Hall & John Oates' Do What You Want, Be What You Are bows at #89. The four-disk box set is the duo's most expansive release to make the chart, topping 2003's double-disk Ultimate Daryl Hall + John Oates. The duo first charted in February 1974 with Abandoned Luncheonette. The song that gave the box set its title first appeared on Bigger Than Both Of Us in 1976. One of the highlights of the box is the 1981 smash "You Make My Dreams," which accompanies the feel-good movie scene of the year in (500) Days Of Summer.

Eleven songs from Glee are listed on Hot Digital Songs. This week's top entry is the cast's version of Avril Lavigne's 2007 hit "Keep Holding On," which vaults from #86 to #28. See how big that "Vol. 1" designation is on the cover of the upcoming Glee album? That's your clue that this is intended to be a long-running series of albums. It may fill the slot long held by the past-its-prime NOW series.

U.K. Watch: Editors' In This Light And On This Evening jumps to #1 in the U.K. It's the band's second #1 in its home country.

Heads Up: Tim McGraw will vie for #1 next week with his new album, Southern Voice. It's his first studio album since Let It Go debuted at #1 in April 2007. Joss Stone will follow her #2 album Introducing Joss Stone from 2007 with Colour Me Free! Also due: Flight Of The Conchords' I Told You I Was Freaky, Train's Save Me San Francisco, Cartel's Cycles, Lyle Lovett's Natural Forces and Rammstein's Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da.

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