Chart Watch

Week Ending Sept. 14, 2008: Metallica And The Hard Rock Pantheon

Chart Watch

Metallica's studio first album in more than five years, Death Magnetic, enters The Billboard 200 at #1. It's Metallica's fifth #1 album, a total topped by only one hard rock band in history. Led Zeppelin amassed seven #1 albums between Led Zeppelin II in 1969 and How The West Was Won in 2003. Van Halen is the only other hard rock band to land five #1 albums. The group, which like Metallica was formed in Los Angeles, topped the chart with five albums between 5150 in 1986 and Best Of Volume 1 in 1996.

Metallica surpasses these other top bands in two respects. Metallica is the first hard rock act to reach #1 with five consecutive #1 studio albums. Led Zeppelin and Van Halen each had four straight #1 studio sets. Also, Metallica is the top-selling hard rock band since Nielsen/SoundScan took over tracking for Billboard in May 1991. AC/DC is in second place.

Death Magnetic posted first-week sales of 490,000. Impressively, the band ran up this total in just three days, between the release of the album on Friday and the close of the tracking period on Sunday. This is the fourth highest first-week sales tally so far in 2008, behind albums by Lil Wayne, Coldplay and Jonas Brothers. This is the heftiest first-week total for a metal-edged hard rock band since Tool's 10,000 Days bowed in May 2006 with sales of 564,000 copies.

Billboard's Keith Caulfield reports that Metallica is the first group to see five of its albums debut at #1 on The Billboard 200. Runners-up, with four albums that bowed at #1, are the Beatles, U2 and Dave Matthews Band.

All five of Metallica's #1 albums have had first-week sales in excess of 400,000 copies. The band's eponymous 1991 album, widely known as The Black Album, started with sales of 598,000. Load established the band's personal best when it had first-week sales of 680,000 in 1996. Reload started with 435,000 in 1997. St. Anger, which also had a Friday release, bowed with sales of 418,000 in 2003. It's extraordinary for an act to retain a fan base this large and avid over such a long period. Most of the other acts that enjoyed first-week sales in excess of 500,000 copies in the first half of the '90s are either inactive (Guns N' Roses, Pink Floyd) or haven't had first-week sales of this magnitude in years (Pearl Jam, Snoop Doggy Dogg). (Garth Brooks is believed to have had first-week sales above 400,000 earlier in this decade, but it was when albums sold in only one chain, such as his Wal-Mart exclusives, weren't eligible for the chart.)  

Metallica first cracked the top 10 with ...And Justice For All in October 1988, giving them a nearly 20-year span of top 10 albums. The band first hit the chart 24 years ago this month with Ride The Lightning. They're the group with the longest history to land a #1 album since Eagles, which hit #1 in November-more than 35 years after they first charted with their debut album, Eagles.

Another hard rock smash, AC/DC's Back In Black, jumps to #1 on the catalog chart. The 1980 classic sold 11,000 copies this week and would have ranked #43 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. This is the album's third trip to the top of the catalog chart. It first topped the chart in June 1991 (when the chart was just in its fifth week). It returned to the top spot in January 2006.

Pink's "So What" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the second week. The song sold 253,000 downloads this week. This is the heftiest total any song has achieved since Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" reached the same number in June.

Following up on my lead item from three weeks ago, Estelle's record company, Home School/Atlantic, relented and is allowing her wonderful "American Boy" (featuring Kanye West) to again be sold as a download. The song re-enters the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs at #9. It sold 91,000 downloads this week, bringing its total to date to 1,027,000. That's an impressive total, considering it lost three weeks of sales right at the peak of its popularity. (And what of Studio All-Stars' copy-cat version of the song? It unsurprisingly disappears from Hot Digital Songs. It managed to sell 101,000 copies in its first three weeks to fans who really do need to learn to be more discerning.)

While I'm on the subject of soundalikes, Hit Masters' version of Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" dips to #51 on Hot Digital Songs. The track has sold 260,000 downloads in the last five weeks. In the same period, Kid Rock has sold 446,000 copies of Rock N Roll Jesus. Advantage: Mr. Rock.

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

1. Metallica, Death Magnetic, 490,000. Metallica is the second metal-edged hard rock band, following Slipknot, to debut at #1 in the past three weeks. Nearly 60,000 copies were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Judas Kiss" at #84.

2. Young Jeezy, The Recession, 90,000. The album slips to #2 after debuting in the top spot last week. It's the highest ranking of four rap albums in this week's top 10.  "Put On" (featuring Kanye West) dips to #32 on Hot Digital Songs.

3. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 75,000. The album moves back up a notch to #3 in its 49th week. The album is now #4 for the year-to-date, just behind albums by Lil Wayne, Coldplay and Jack Johnson. In two weeks, look for it to be #3 for the year-to-date. The revival of Rock N Roll Jesus has pushed Kid Rock's career album sales total past the 20 million mark (his total as of this week: 20,639,000). That puts him in 52nd place on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the top 200 album sellers since 1991.

4. Jessica Simpson, Do You Know, 65,000. This new entry is Simpson's fourth consecutive top 10 album (discounting a 2004 holiday album). It's the pop star's first country release. (It bumps Sugarland's Love On The Inside from the top spot on the country chart.) Simpson is the second pop veteran so far this year to hit the top 10 with a country album. Jewel debuted at #8 in June with Perfectly Clear. "Remember That" bows at #67 on Hot Digital Songs. "Come On Over" jumps to #92.

5. Slipknot, All Hope Is Gone, 52,000. The album holds at #5 in its third week. It has ranked ahead of The Game's LAX in two of its three weeks, though LAX has sold about 9,000 copies more overall, owing to a much stronger second week. "Psychosocial" dips to #96 on Hot Digital Songs.

6. Jonas Brothers, A Little Bit Longer, 50,000. The album holds at #6 in its fifth week. The brothers continue to be the only act with two albums in the top 20 for the year to date. This album is #13. Jonas Brothers is #19 (counting just its 2008 sales). "Burnin' Up" dips to #33 on Hot Digital Songs. "Lovebug" vaults to #43.

7. The Game, LAX, 49,000. The album dips from #3 to #7 in its third week. "My Life" (featuring Lil Wayne) dips to #28 on Hot Digital Songs. (It was nice of The Game to help his pal Lil Wayne get a little exposure.)

8. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 47,000. The album rebounds from #10 to #8 its 14th week in the top 10. This is the longest run in the top 10 by a rap album since 50 Cent's The Massacre had 14 weeks there in 2005. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Got Money" (featuring T-Pain) at #14. This is the 15th consecutive week that five or more songs from the album have appeared on Hot Digital Songs. (That stat boggles my mind.)

9. LL Cool J, Exit 13, 44,000. As the title suggests, this is LL's 13th album. A most impressive nine of those albums have reached the top 10, including the last six in a row. The rapper first reached the top 10 with Bigger And Deffer in July 1987, giving him a more than 21 year span of top 10 albums. (So much for the notion that rap acts don't have long-term careers.) No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Various Artists, Mamma Mia! soundtrack, 41,000. The soundtrack dips from #7 to #10 in its 10th week in the top 10. This is the first movie soundtrack to log 10 weeks in the top 10 since Chicago had 11 weeks in 2003. This is the fourth straight week that no songs from this album have appeared on Hot Digital Songs. And this is the first week that the movie has not appeared in the top 10 on the box-office chart. So why is this soundtrack still in the top 10? Consumer awareness of the title. An ad campaign for a major film dwarfs any promotion the music industry can muster.

Three albums fall out of the top 10 this week. New Kids On The Block's The Block drops from #2 to #16. Underoath's Lost In The Sound Of Separation drops from #8 to #29. Chris Tomlin's Hello Love falls from #9 to #28.

Eric Benet's Love & Life opens at #11, becoming his highest-charting album to date. His previous best was A Day In The Life, which peaked at #25 in 1999...Gym Class Heroes' The Quilt bows at #14. The Heroes' breakthrough album, As Cruel As School Children, reached #35 in March 2007 and spawned the #1 hit "Cupid's Chokehold/Breakfast In America." The group's current hit, "Cookie Jar" (featuring The-Dream), jumps to #31 on Hot Digital Songs.

Comedian Mitch Hedberg's Do You Believe In Gosh? bows at #18. It bumps Flight of the Conchords' eponymous album out of the #1 spot on the comedy chart.

Natalie Cole opens at #19 with Still Unforgettable. This is a sequel to Cole's phenomenal hit Unforgettable With Love, which logged five weeks at #1 in 1991 and swept the Grammys that year. This is Cole's seventh top 20 album. She reached the top 20 with her first four albums in the '70s, when she was a leading contemporary R&B/pop star. She has now made the top 20 with three albums in which she borrows the silky-smooth pop/jazz sound made famous by her father, Nat "King" Cole. In addition to these two Unforgettable albums, she hit #20 in 1996 with Stardust. Natalie and Nat both rank among Nielsen/SoundScan's top 200 album artists since 1991. (He's #186. She's #191.) This is the only case where a parent and child both make the list-though it's just a matter of time before Miley Cyrus joins her dad Billy Ray Cyrus (#167) on the list.

Daughtry's Daughtry vaults from #79 to #36 in its 95th week due to the release of an expanded edition. This is the best-selling album released in the last two years. Bigger than Josh Groban's Noel. Bigger than Fergie's The Dutchess. Bigger than Hannah Montana. Bigger than Alicia Keys' As I Am. (I have just given you the rest of the top five best-selling albums released in the past two years, in descending order.)

Ups & Downs: Three albums experienced sales drops of 72%, the greatest decline on a percentage basis on this week's chart. They are New Kids On the Block's The Block, which drops from #2 to #16, Dr. Klang's Just A Rolling Stone, which plummets from #19 to #91, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog soundtrack, which free-falls from #39 to #181. On the positive side, Voices: Ultimate Gospel Collection registered a 453% increase in sales, a bigger percentage increase than any other non-debuting album. The album re-enters the chart at #138. It previously debuted at #127 in April.

Heads Up: Ne-Yo's Year Of The Gentleman and Nelly's Brass Knuckles will vie to be next week's top debut. Nelly has had three #1 albums. Ne-Yo has had two. Ne-Yo's "Closer" is a top 10 single. Darius Rucker, who led Hootie & the Blowfish to two #1 albums, will compete with his second solo album, Learn To Live. The album features a top three country hit, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It." Also due: Buckcherry's Black ButterflyLindsey Buckingham's Gift Of Screws, Lucinda Williams' Little Honey, DJ Khaled's We Global, Colby O'Donis' Colby O and Kristy Lee Cook's Why Wait.

Useless Information: Who would have guessed that the word "death" would appear in the titles of two of the biggest #1 albums of 2008? But there it is in the titles of Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and Metallica's Death Magnetic. Before these two albums, there were only two other #1 albums with the word "death" in the title--The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death, which was released two weeks after he was killed in March 1997, and Jadakiss' Kiss Of Death in 2004. On that cheerful note, have a good week, everybody.


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