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Week Ending Oct. 23, 2011. Albums: Casting Crowns Not Crowned

Chart Watch

There's a surprise at the top of The Billboard 200 this week. The surprise isn't so much that Adele's 21 returns to #1. The album hasn't ranked lower than #4 in its 35-week chart run. The surprise is that Casting Crowns' Come To The Well didn't debut in the top spot. Music industry prognosticators had expected that to happen, which would have made Casting Crowns the first Contemporary Christian group ever to reach #1.

The Florida-based group also debuted (and peaked) at #2 with its 2007 album The Altar And The Door. Three other albums by Christian pop or rock groups have debuted (and peaked) at #2: Underoath's Define The Great Line, Skillet's Awake and Red's Until We Have Faces.

It's odd that no Christian pop or rock groups have reached #1. The weekly Billboard 200 tally includes sales from Christian retail outlets, online Christian retail sites and churches, as tracked by Christian SoundScan, as well as conventional music outlets, as tracked by Nielsen SoundScan.

Come To The Well is Casting Crowns' fourth top 10 album. The group first cracked the top 10 in September 2005 with Lifesong, which went on to win a Grammy as Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. For all its success, Casting Crowns has yet to cross over to the Hot 100. It has "bubbled under" the Hot 100 three times, with "East To West," "Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)" and the current "Courageous."

Two artists that are best known for religious music have hit #1. Bob Carlisle hit #1 in June 1997 with Butterfly Kisses (Shades Of Grace), which was a blend of Contemporary Christian music and pop/country songs. "Butterfly Kisses" won a Grammy as Best Country Song. And back in January 1960, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir hit with The Lord's Prayer.

Adele's 21 logs its 13th week at #1. That's the longest run at #1 by any album since the Titanic soundtrack spent 16 weeks at #1 in 1998. It's the longest run by (or dominated by) a female artist since Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack logged 20 weeks on top in 1992-1993. It's the longest run by a British artist since the Police's Synchronicity was #1 for 17 weeks in 1983.

21 is in its 35th week on the chart. It's the first album to rank #1 this deep into its chart run since Norah Jones' Come Away With Me was #1 in its 53rd week in March 2003. That album returned to #1 after it won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

Also this week, 21 becomes the first album to  top the 4 million mark in U.S. sales in a calendar year since 2005, when both Mariah Carey's The Emancipation Of Mimi and 50 Cent's The Massacre achieved the feat. Will it strike 5 million before the year is over? Stay tuned.

P.S. In 2008, when Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III was the year's best-selling album with sales of just 2,874,000 copies, if somebody told you that a future album would sell 4 or 5 million copies in a calendar year, you have thought they were either overly optimistic or perhaps just out-of-touch. It's nice to see an artist defy the odds.

Scotty McCreery's Clear As Day logs its third week in the top five. It's the first album by an American Idol winner to spend more than a single frame in the top five since Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts, which logged 10 weeks in the top five in 2005-2006.  (I have news on Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina, too. Keep reading.)

Tony Bennett's Duets II rebounds from #6 to #5. This is its fifth week in the top 10, which equals the mark set by Bennett's 2006 album Duets: An American Classic. The last Duets album to spend more than five weeks in the top 10 was Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company, which amassed 13 weeks in the top 10-eight weeks upon its release in August 2004 and five more weeks after it swept the Grammys in February 2005.

Joe's The Good, The Bad, The Sexy debuts at #8. It's Joe's fifth top 10 album. The title is of course a parody of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, a "spaghetti Western" starring Clint Eastwood which was released in the U.S. in  December 1967. The score, by Ennio Morricone, hit #4 on The Billboard 200 in May 1968.

Five Finger Death Punch's American Capitalist drops from #3 to #9. It's the band's first album to spend two weeks in the top 10. Its 2009 album War Is The Answer spent a single frame in the top 10.

Pop Quiz: War Is The Answer was released in September 2009, one week before Barbra Streisand's Love Is The Answer. Which album has sold more copies in the U.S. during its run? Answer below the top 10 list.

Lauren Alaina's Wildflower logs its second week in the top 10. This is the first time that the debut album by an American Idol runner-up has held on for a second week in the top 10 since Clay Aiken's Measure Of A Man logged four weeks in the top 10 in 2003. Even such high-profile runners-up as Adam Lambert and David Archuleta were pushed out after just one week.

"We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris jumps from #3 to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" holds at #2 for the second week. Adele's "Someone Like You" drops from #1 to #3. Which will come out on top on the Hot 100? You'll find out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

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

1. Adele, 21, 106,000. The album returns to #1 in its 35th week on the chart. The album sold 29K digital copies this week, which puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Someone Like You," which drops from #1 to #3.

2. Casting Crowns, Come To The Well, 99,000. This new entry is the Contemporary Christian group's fourth top 10 album; its second to reach #2. "Courageous" jumps from #127 to #121 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Scotty McCreery, Clear As Day, 57,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #4 to #3 in its third week. It's #1 on Top Country Albums for the third week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "I Love You This Big" drops from #113 to #179. "The Trouble With Girls" drops from #161 to #184.

4. Evanescence, Evanescence, 40,000. The former #1 album drops to #4 in its second week. The album has sold 168K copies in two weeks.

5. Tony Bennett, Duets II, 39,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #6 to #5 in its fifth week. The album has sold 435K copies in five weeks. It's #33 for the year-to-date.

6. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV, 35,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #9 to #6 in its eighth week. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "She Will" (featuring Drake), which dips from #30 to #31.

7. Lady Antebellum, Own The Night, 34,000. The former #1 album jumps from #8 to #7 in its sixth week. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. "Just A Kiss" dips from #35 to #36. "We Owned The Night" dips from #68 to #69.

8. Joe, The Good, The Bad, The Sexy, 33,000. This new entry is Joe's fifth top 10 album. The R&B star first cracked the top 10 in 2000 with My Name Is Joe.

9. Five Finger Death Punch, American Capitalist, 29,000. The album drops from #3 to #9 in its second week. The album has sold 120K copies in two weeks.

10. Lauren Alaina, Wildflower, 26,000. The album drops from #5 to #10 in its second week. "Like My Mother Does" drops from #109 to #174 on Hot Digital Songs.

Quiz Answer: It was fairly close, but Five Finger Death Punch beat out Barbra Streisand. War Is The Answer has sold 575K copies, compared to 514K for Love Is The Answer.

Two albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Ryan Adams' Ashes & Fire falls from #7 to #24. Martina McBride's Eleven drops from #10 to #22.

Jane's Addiction's fourth studio album, The Great Escape Artist, bows at #12. It's the band's third top 20 album. Ritual de lo Habitual peaked at #19 in September 1990. Strays debuted and peaked at #4 in July 2003.

The soundtrack from the reboot of Footloose jumps from #16 to #14 in its fourth week. It's the #1 soundtrack for the second straight week. The soundtrack from the original 1984 movie re-enters the chart at #102. It sold 4K copies this week, bringing its total (since 1991) to 980K...Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. by M83. debuts at #15.

Adele's 2008 album 19 jumps from #22 to #20. It's #1 on Top Catalog Albums for the 25th week. It's far and away the year's best-selling catalog album. Among all albums, it's #27 for the year-to-date.

Lalah Hathaway's Where It All Begins bows at #32. This is Hathaway's first top 40 album. Her father, R&B great Donny Hathaway, first cracked the top 40 in March 1972 with Donny Hathaway Live. This is Lalah's fourth chart album, which puts her just one behind her dad.

Chris Isaak's Beyond The Sun bows at #34. Isaak first charted in 1987...Patrick Stump's Soul Punk bows at #47. This is the first full-length album by the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. The band first cracked The Billboard 200 in 2004...The Original 7even's Condensate bows at #58. The group was formerly known as The Time, which first charted more than 30 years ago (!). The Time's highest-charting album was Pandemonium, which hit #18 in 1990.

Tim McGraw this week tops the 40 million mark in U.S. album sales. McGraw, who first charted in 1994, is just the eighth artist to top 40M in album sales since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. He's #3 among country artists. Here's the entire top 10, as of this very week, courtesy of our friends at Nielsen SoundScan: 1. Garth Brooks, 68,551,000, 2. The Beatles, 63,017,000, 3. Mariah Carey, 53,406,000, 4. Metallica, 53,025,000, 5. Celine Dion, 51,368,000, 6. George Strait, 43,018,000, 7. Eminem, 40,930,000, 8. Tim McGraw, 40,005,000, 9. Alan Jackson, 38,722,000, 10. Pink Floyd, 36,933,000.

Taylor Swift's Journey To Fearless is #1 on Top Music Videos for the second week. It's Swift's first video to spend more than one week on top.

Paranormal Activity 3 was #1 at the box-office over the weekend.

Coming Attractions: Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto will debut at #1 next week with sales in the 440K range. Kelly Clarkson's Stronger will debut at #2, with sales in the 160K range. Look for Michael Buble's Christmas to vie with Adele's 21 for the #3 spot, both with sales in the 100K range. Toby Keith's Clancy's Tavern and Tom Waits' Bad As Me also appear headed for top 10 debuts. Also due: She & Him's A Very She & Him Christmas, Kaskade's Fire & Ice and Vince Gill's Guitar Slinger.

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