Chart Watch

Week Ending Sept. 20, 2009: Bring On ‘The Blueprint 4′

Chart Watch

Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 tops The Billboard 200 for the second straight week. Its second-week sales tally was bigger than the first-week totals rung up by such high-profile recent albums as Daughtry's Leave This Town, Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted and Bruce Springsteen's Working On A Dream.

The Blueprint 3 has sold 774,000 copies in its first two weeks. Only one album so far this year has sold more copies in its first two weeks. That's Eminem's Relapse, which sold 820,000 copies in that time frame. U2's No Line On The Horizon had a slightly stronger first week than The Blueprint 3, but a much slower second week. After two weeks, it had sold 617,000.

The Blueprint 3 is, surprisingly, only the third album so far this year to spend its first two weeks at #1. It follows Relapse and All I Ever Wanted.

Jay-Z has two songs in the top five on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart. "Empire State Of Mind" (featuring Alicia Keys) vaults from #23 to #1 in its second week. "Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West) slips from #4 to #5. "Empire State Of Mind," which sold 205,000 downloads this week, is Jay-Z's third #1 digital hit, following 2004's "Numb"/"Encore" (which gave equal billing to Linkin Park) and Rihanna's 2007 smash "Umbrella."

"Run This Town" climbs from #4 to #2 the Hot 100, pulling just behind the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin." It's the highest-charting hit Jay-Z has ever had (as a lead artist) on that chart. But it probably won't hold that distinction for long. "Empire State Of Mind" vaults from #50 to #5 this week. "Empire" could even become  Jay-Z's first #1 on the Hot 100 as a lead artist. He has been featured on three #1 hits on that chart: Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker," Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" and Rihanna's "Umbrella."

The Blueprint 3 is only the fourth of Jay-Z's 11 #1 albums to snag a second week on top. Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life had five weeks at #1 in 1998. The Blueprint, the first in this series, had three weeks on top in 2001. The Black Album was out front for two weeks in 2003.

Jay-Z is hardly the only artist to release a sequel (or even a second sequel) to a hit album. Lil Wayne had the best-selling album of 2008 with Tha Carter III. Raekwon was in the top five just last week with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, his sequel to his 1995 breakthrough album.

Oprah had Whitney Houston on her talk show for two days last week, which gave Houston's latest album, I Look To You, a second wind. The album rebounds from #3 to #2 in its third week.  It's Houston's first album to log three weeks in the top three since The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992-1993. The Preacher's Wife soundtrack had two weeks in the top three in early 1997. (I'm not counting Waiting To Exhale, which was marketed as a Various Artists album.)

Unfortunately, you can't go on Oprah every week. At some point, hit songs have to kick in. Houston has three entries on Hot Digital Songs, but none has really caught fire as yet. "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" debuts at #109, "I Look To You" rebounds from #124 to #110 and "Million Dollar Bill" re-enters the chart at #155.

Muse's The Resistance is facing little resistance on either side of the Atlantic. The album debuts at #3 on The Billboard 200 and bows at #1 in the band's native U.K. It's Muse's third consecutive #1 album in the U.K. Absolution hit the top spot there in October 2003. Black Holes And Revelations followed suit in July 2006. The latter album reached #9 on The Billboard 200. The new album sold 128,000 copies in the U.S. this week, more than double the first-week sales (48,000) on the last album. Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole" was the opening track on the chart-topping Twilight soundtrack.

The Beatles' Abbey Road is the #1 catalog album for the second straight week. The classic sold 50,000 copies and would have slipped from #3 to #7 on The Billboard 200 if catalog albums were eligible to compete there. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sold 40,000 and would have dropped from #5 to #11.

Pop Quiz: Abbey Road is the third album that was released in the 1960s to top the catalog chart since 1991, when Nielsen/SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard. Sgt. Pepper's was one of the others. Name the third. (Hint: Unless you grew up without a TV set, you're sure to know the music.)

Each week I try to have at least one left-field item. Here's this week's. Jay-Z was born on Dec. 4, 1969. The #1 album at the time? Abbey Road.

Michael Jackson's Number Ones sold 48,000 copies this week and would have rebounded from #12 to #9 if catalog albums were eligible to compete on The Billboard 200. This is the first time in Nielsen/SoundScan history that two different artists have had catalog albums that ranked among the 10 best-selling albums in the country.

There are two EPs in the current top 10. Miley Cyrus' The Time Of Our Lives dips from #2 to #5. Drake's So Far Gone debuts at #6. This may be a sign of the times. The music industry is aware that people are watching their spending and is offering products that suit this downsized era.  A few other EPs appear further down the chart: Modest Mouse's No One's First, And You're Next, Beyonce's Above And Beyonce: Video Collection & Dance Mixes and Trailer Choir's Off The Hillbilly Hook.

Lil' Boosie lands his first top 10 album with SuperBad: The Return Of Boosie Bad Azz, which debuts at #7. The rapper joins a long line of artists whose stage names start with "Lil" to land top 10 albums. He follows Lil Wayne, Lil' Kim, Lil Bow Wow, Lil' Romeo, Lil' Flip and Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz. Coincidentally, another act with a diminutive in his name debuts in this week's top 10. That would be Kid Cudi, who bows at #4.

Lil' Boosie borrowed the title of his new album from James Brown's 1970 hit, "Super Bad (Part 1 & Part 2)." The song reached #13 on the Hot 100, making it the Godfather of Soul's highest-charting pop hit of the 1970s.

The End Is Near: Three albums in this week's top 10 have the word "end" in their titles. There's Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon: The End Of Day, Megadeth's Endgame and the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. Are they trying to tell us something?

Beyonce's frisky "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's Beyonce's first song to reach this threshold. Her 2006 smash "Irreplaceable" has sold 2,697,000 downloads.

Quiz Answer: The third album from the '60s to hit #1 on the Catalog Albums chart is the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas. (It topped the catalog chart in December 2007.) The TV special of the same name has aired every year since 1965.

Here's the lowdown on this week's top 10 albums.

1. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 298,000. The album logs its second week at #1. More than 62,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the #1 Digital Album for the second week. Six songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Empire State Of Mind" (featuring Alicia Keys), which vaults from #23 to #1.

2. Whitney Houston, I Look To You, 156,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #3 to #2 in its third week. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," which debuts at #109.

3. Muse, The Resistance, 128,000. This new entry is the group's second top 10 album in a row. Black Holes And Revelations debuted at #9 in July 2006. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Uprising," which vaults from #113 to #19.

4. Kid Cudi, Man On The Moon: The End Of Day, 104,000. This new entry is Kid Cudi's debut album. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Pursuit Of Happiness" (featuring MGMT and RATATAT) which bows at #29. "Day 'N' Nite" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads this week.

5. Miley Cyrus, The Time Of Our Lives, 75,000. The EP dips to #5 after logging two weeks at #2. "Party In The U.S.A." slips from #2 to #4 on Hot Digital Songs. The tune tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. It rang the bell in just six weeks, faster than any song since the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin.'"

6. Drake, So Far Gone, 73,000. This new entry is Drake's first EP, following a pair of mix-tapes. Drake's formal debut album, Thank Me Later, is due in February. Six of the EP's seven songs are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I'm Going In" (featuring Lil Wayne), which bows at #21.

7. Lil' Boosie, SuperBad: The Return Of Boosie Bad Azz, 49,000. This new entry is Lil' Boosie's first top 10 album. He first charted in 2006 with Bad Azz, hence this week's Return.

8. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 46,000. The former #1 album rebounds from #10 to #8 in its 45th week. This is its 39th week in the top 10. It also returns to #1 on the country chart. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "You Belong With Me," which rebounds from #11 to #9.

9. Megadeth, Endgame, 45,000. This new entry is the veteran hard rock band's fifth top 10 album; its second in a row. Megadeth first cracked the top 10 in July 1992 with Countdown To Extinction.

10. The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D., 40,000. The former #1 album drops from #7 to #10 in its 15th week. This is its 14th week in the top 10. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "I Gotta Feelin," which drops from #1 to #6. The Peas had 24 straight weeks at #1 or #2 on this chart.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II falls from #4 to #22, Brooks & Dunn's #1s...And Then Some falls from #5 to #15, Trey Songz's Ready slips from #6 to #14, Boys Like Girl's Love Drunk drops from #8 to #30, and Kings of Leon's Only By The Night slips from #9 to #11.

Mark Knopfler's Get Lucky debuts at #17. Ace Frehley's Anomaly bows at #27. Both musicians rose to fame in the '70s as part of successful groups. Frehley was the guitarist for KISS, which first hit in 1974. Knopfler was the lead singer and guitarist for Dire Straits, which bowed in 1979. (I've said before that all the great album titles have been used up. Loverboy had a top 10 album called Get Lucky in 1982.)

Honor Society's Fashionably Late opens at #18. The album title is apt: The boy band is coming along about a decade after the peak of the boy band scene. Ten years ago this week, Backstreet Boys' Millennium was #2 on The Billboard 200. LFO, 98 Degrees and *NSYNC were also in the top 40.

Nelly Furtado's Mi Plan debuts at #39. This is Furtado's first Spanish language album. Other recent Spanish language albums by superstar pop singers include Christina Aguilera's Mi Reflejo (#27 in 2000), Jennifer Lopez's Como Ama Una Mujer (#10 in 2007) and Beyonce's Irremplazable EP (#105 in 2007).

Heads Up: Pearl Jam's Backspacer is expected to debut at #1 next week. Also, look for high debuts by three other artists who made the top 10 with their last major releases: Three Days Grace (Life Starts Now), Harry Connick Jr. (Your Songs) and Sean Kingston (Tomorrow). NOW Club Hits is also expected to start high. Also due: Mika's The Boy Who Knew Too Much, David Gray's Draw The Line, Brand New's Daisy, Children of Bodom's Skeletons In The Closet, Five Finger Death Punch's War Is The Answer and Monsters Of Folk's Monsters Of Folk.

R.I.P. Mary Travers, who died last week, was one third of Peter, Paul & Mary, one of the most popular American acts of the 1960s. In November 1963, the trio had the top two albums on The Billboard 200 (and a third in the top 10). The act's two biggest hits were Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" (#2 in 1963) and John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" (#1 in 1969). The group's hit recordings of those songs helped boost those songwriters to stardom. Travers was 71.

The Last Word: The 12th edition of Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles has just been published. It is, as always, an indispensable trove of information. The heart of the book is an alphabetical list of all artists who made the Hot 100 from Jan. 1, 1955 through Dec. 27, 2008. Each artist's name is followed by a chronological list of all their chart hits.

There's simply no limit to what you can learn by leafing through the book's 1,340 pages. For example, it's been a long time since some of pop's biggest names have cracked the top 40 on the Hot 100. Elton John and Prince last made the top 40 in 1999. Rod Stewart last appeared there in 1998. George Michael last made it in 1996. Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones last made the top 40 in 1989. Stevie Wonder last scored in 1987.

At the back of the book, Whitburn has lists of various chart feats. In addition to his own hits, Lil Wayne was featured on 26 Hot 100 hits by other artists through the end of last year, more than anyone else. Puff Daddy is second on the list with 21. The rest of the top five: T-Pain, with 20, and Jay-Z and Akon, with 19 each. Missy Elliott is the woman who has been featured on the most Hot 100 hits by other artists (18).

There's a lot more where these nuggets came from. Here's the link to Whitburn's website: (

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