Chart Watch

Week Ending Sept. 13, 2009: The Act You’ve Known For All These Years

Chart Watch

The Beatles, who have been smashing records on the U.S. charts since 1964, did it again last week. The group had nine of the week's 20 best-selling albums and 12 of the week's 30 best-sellers. Michael Jackson had set the old records in both categories just two months ago. At the peak of his posthumous sales, Jackson had seven of the week's 20 best-selling albums and nine of the week's 30 best-sellers. (Both tallies include Jackson 5 albums.)

The Fab Four sold 626,000 albums last week, the biggest one-week haul by any artist since July, when Jackson topped that mark for three weeks in a row. (His sales peaked the week ending July 12, when he sold 1,096,000 albums in one week.) The difference, of course, is that Jackson had just died. The Beatles dominated the public consciousness without being the subject of such sad and shocking news.

The Beatles' achievements overshadowed Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3, which entered The Billboard 200 at #1. The album sold 476,000 copies, which is the third-highest weekly total of 2009. Only Eminem's Relapse (608,000) and U2's No Line On The Horizon (484,000) have sold more copies in one week so far this year.

How big is Jay-Z? With one album, he sold more than three-quarters of what the Beatles sold of their entire catalog this week. And he did it with a fraction of the media hoop-de-do that greeted the Beatles' roll-out. (I'll have more on Jay-Z later in the column.)

 

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The Beatles had five of the 10 best-selling albums last week, the best showing by any artist since Jackson had six of the 10 best-sellers for two weeks running in July. Only one other artist has had as many as four of the week's 10 best-selling albums since August 1963, when Billboard combined its separate stereo and mono charts into one all-encompassing listing. That act was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, which achieved the feat in April 1966.

The Beatles' biggest seller last week was Abbey Road, which sold 89,000 copies and would have ranked #3 if catalog albums were eligible to make The Billboard 200. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sold 74,000 and would have ranked #5, The Beatles (better known as the White Album) sold 60,000 and would have ranked #7, Rubber Soul sold 58,000 and would have ranked #9, and Revolver sold 46,000 and would have ranked #10.

All five of these albums are between nearly 40 and nearly 44 years old. They are the oldest albums ever to rank among the week's 10 best-selling albums. Until this week, that distinction was held by Jackson's Off The Wall, which was nearly 30 years old when it scored for two weeks in July. The oldest of these five Beatles albums is Rubber Soul, which was released at the end of 1965. The album featured "Michelle," the only Beatles song to win a Grammy as Song of the Year.

The Beatles sold more albums last week than they have in any one week since December 2000, when their compilation 1 topped the 1 million mark.

Beatles In Stereo, a 14-CD box set, sold 26,000 copies and enters The Billboard 200 at #15. (It was allowed to compete on the big chart because it's a new title, rather than a reissue of an existing title.) This is the Beatles' highest-charting box set to date. It tops a pair of four-CD sets that were released earlier in this decade. The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 hit #35 in November 2004. The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2 hit #46 in April 2006.

Six other Beatles albums rank among the week's 30 best-sellers. Help! sold 39,000 copies and would have ranked #16 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to compete there. Let It Be sold 32,000 and would have placed #18, Past Masters 1 & 2 sold 31,000 and would have ranked #19, Magical Mystery Tour sold 30,000 and would have placed #20, A Hard Day's Night sold 29,000 and would have ranked #24 and Please Please Me sold 23,000 and would have ranked #28.

Two of these albums deserve special mention. Help! is the week's best-selling movie soundtrack, ending a long run by Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana: The Movie. And this is the third separate time that an edition of Let It Be has ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the U.S. The original album logged four week at #1 in 1970. Let It Be...Naked climbed to #5 in 2003.

Abbey Road is #1 on the Catalog Albums chart. It displaces Jackson's Number Ones, which held the top spot for 11 weeks. (Number Ones sold 45,000 copies this week and would have fallen from #4 to #12 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to compete there.)

Abbey Road is a perennial catalog seller, but this is the first time that it has hit #1 on the catalog chart since 1991, when Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard.  It's the fourth Beatles album to top the catalog chart in this time frame. It follows Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles 1967-1970 and 1. While Abbey Road isn't as famous as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, it was virtually as successful "back in the day." It spent 18 consecutive weeks at #1 or #2 on The Billboard 200 and spawned a #1 single, the double-sided smash "Come Together"/"Something."

The Catalog Controversy: This is the 12th straight week that The Billboard 200 has excluded one or more of the five best-selling albums in the country. Billboard has defended its decision to exclude catalog albums from the big chart by saying that it has an historic commitment to promote current releases and, especially, new artists. That's a valid point. But it seems to me it has an even larger commitment to its readers and followers around the world, who look to the magazine and its flagship charts for clear, straightforward reporting.

How do they handle this in the U.K.? Catalog albums are allowed to compete with current releases on The Official U.K. Charts Company's chart, which is the dominant survey in that key market. This week, four Beatles albums rank in the top 10 in the U.K. Sgt. Pepper's is #5, followed by Abbey Road at #6, Revolver at #9 and Rubber Soul at #10. But the #1 spot is held by 92-year old Vera Lynn with her album, We'll Meet Again-The Very Best Of Vera Lynn. Lynn, who was England's most popular female singer during World War II, is the oldest living artist to have a #1 album in the U.K. (You go, Vera.)

The Blueprint 3 is Jay-Z's 11th #1 album, which allows him to move ahead of Elvis Presley on the list of artists with the most #1 albums. Only the Beatles have had more chart-topping albums (19). Some will bristle at Jay-Z being mentioned in the same breath as these rock legends. But consider this: Jay-Z's #1 studio albums span nearly 11 years. The Beatles' entire U.S. career as a current act spanned less than seven years. Elvis' #1 studio albums and soundtracks (I'm not counting live and greatest hits sets) spanned less than nine years. Jay-Z has been on top a long time. And he's maintaining his popularity far better than most veteran artists. Only three of Jay-Z's 11 #1 albums have debuted with heftier totals than The Blueprint 3 managed this week.

Jay-Z is of course the rap star with the most #1 albums. Runners-up are DMX, Eminem and the late 2Pac, with five each.

This is Jay-Z's third Blueprint album to reach #1. The original topped the chart for three weeks in 2001. The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse hit the top in November 2002.

If you stopped people on the street and asked them to name the duo that has had the most top 10 albums in the 53-year history of The Billboard 200, I don't think too many would get it right. The correct answer is Brooks & Dunn, which this week lands its ninth top 10 album with #1s...And Then Some. The country stars are well ahead of their closest competition, Simon & Garfunkel, who have had six. The Carpenters, Steely Dan and OutKast have all had five. (The title of Brooks & Dunn's new album echoes the witty title of Barry Manilow's 1992 box set, The Complete Collection And Then Some...)

The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin'" returns to the top spot on Hot Digital Songs, after spending four weeks at #2 behind Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." This is the 10th week on top for "I Gotta Feelin'," which sold 179,000 downloads this week, 1,000 more than the Cyrus hit.

"I Gotta Feeling" also holds at #1 on the Hot 100 for the 12th straight week. This matches the 12 weeks that the Peas held the top spot with "Boom Boom Pow" immediately prior to this hit. Since 1955, only two other acts, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, have had two or more singles that logged 12 weeks at #1. Now, here's the amazing part: With just two #1 hits, the Peas have spent more weeks at #1 than such heavyweights as Diana Ross & the Supremes, which amassed 12 #1 hits, and George Michael, who had 10 (counting his hits with Wham!).

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

1. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 476,000. Nearly 82,000 copies of this new entry were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West), which holds at #4.

2. Miley Cyrus, The Time Of Our Lives, 120,000. The EP holds at #2 for the second week. It looks like this will be the first release to spend two weeks at #2 without reaching the summit since Nickelback's Dark Horse. "Party In The U.S.A." dips to #2 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Whitney Houston, I Look To You, 88,000. The album slips from #1 to #3 in its second week. Houston's two-day stand on Oprah should give it a needed boost next week. "I Look To You" dives from #77 to #124 on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., Vol. 2, 68,000. This new entry is the rapper's long-awaited sequel to his 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., which also debuted at #4. Raekwon has now amassed more top 10 albums on his own (three) than he has with Wu-Tang Clan (two).

5. Brooks & Dunn, #1s...And Then Some, 55,000. This new entry is the duo's third compilation to make the top 10, following The Greatest Hits Collection and The Greatest Hits Collection II. It's also #1 on this week's country chart. "Honky Tonk Stomp" enters Hot Digital Songs at #200.

6. Trey Songz, Ready, 45,000. The album slips from #3 to #6 in its second week. "LOL :-)" (featuring Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy Tell'em) drops from #43 to #58 on Hot Digital Songs.

7. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 44,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #11 to #7 in its 14th week. This is its 13th appearance in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Gotta Feelin'," which returns to #1.

8. Boys Like Girls, Love Drunk, 41,000. This new entry is the band's first top 10 album. Its previous album, Boys Like Girls, peaked at #55. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love Drunk," which jumps from #17 to #13.

9. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 40,000. The album dips from #7 to #9 in its 51st week. This is its 10th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody," which holds at #6. ("Use Somebody" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week.)

10. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 33,000. The former #1 album dips from #9 to #10 in its 44th week. This is its 38th week in the top 10. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which rebounds from #12 to #11.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Insane Clown Posse's Bang! Pow! Boom! plummets from #4 to #43, Colbie Caillat's Breakthrough drops from #5 to #11, Chevelle's Sci-Fi Crimes drops from #6 to #26, Pitbull's Rebelution drops from #8 to #24, and The Used's Artwork dives from #10 to #41.

Lady GaGa this week becomes the first artist in digital history to top the 4 million mark in paid downloads with two songs. She achieves the feat as "Poker Face" advances to 4,005,000 in paid downloads. Her previous hit, "Just Dance" (featuring Colby O'Donis) has sold 4,539,000 downloads. (Lady GaGa's album, The Fame, has sold 1,408,000 copies.)

Song Scorecard: "Down" by Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song has placed in the top five on Hot Digital Songs for the past seven weeks.

Six songs by the cast of Fox's hit TV show, Glee, are listed on Hot Digital Songs this week, topped by their version of Rihanna's "Take A Bow" at #18. Also listed are the cast's versions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," "Gold Digger" by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It," REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "On My Own" from the musical Les Miserables.

Heads Up: Muse's The Resistance is expected to be the top new entry on next week's chart, nosing out Kid Cudi's debut album, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day. Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Nite" has sold 1,993,000 downloads. Drake's So Far Gone, a seven-song EP containing the imaginative hit "Best I Ever Had," is expected to be the third-highest new entry. Also due:  Lil Boosie's SuperBad, Megadeth's Endgame, Honor Society's Fashionably Late, Mark Knopfler's Get Lucky, Ace Frehley's Anomaly, Trick Daddy's Finally Famous: Born A Thug, Still A ThugThrice's Beggars, Nelly Furtado's Mi Plan and Uncle Kracker's Happy Hour.

The Details: I mentioned earlier in this column, as I have before, that on April 2, 1966, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass placed four albums in the top 10 on The Billboard 200. That established a record (for having the most albums among the 10 best-sellers in the U.S.) that stood for more than 43 years, until Michael Jackson broke it in July. It's a good thing that Billboard's strict catalog rules weren't in place back in the '60s. If they had been, one of the albums that contributed to the Brass' record-setting tally, 1962's The Lonely Bull, would have long since been relegated to the catalog chart.

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