Chart Watch

Week Ending Sept. 27, 2009: Battle Of The Pop Titans

Chart Watch

Michael Jackson's Number Ones regains the #1 spot on the Catalog chart, sending the Beatles' Abbey Road packing after just two weeks on top. I expected the Beatles' catalog resurgence to last longer and I thought Jackson's posthumous sales spurt would subside more quickly. But fans had other ideas. Number Ones sold 39,000 copies this week and would have climbed from #9 to #8 if catalog albums were eligible to compete on The Billboard 200. Abbey Road sold 29,000 and would have dropped from #7 to #17.

Number Ones remains the year's best-selling album, with sales since Jan. 1 of 1,876,000 copies. The hit-studded collection has sold more copies this year than it did from the time of its release in November 2003 through the end of 2008 (1,708,000).

Here are some more amazing stats: Jackson has sold 5,280,000 albums since he died in June. In just three months, he has sold more than half as many albums as he did in the 9-1/2 years between Jan. 1, 2000 and his death. (He sold 10,245,000 albums in that period.) The week before he died, Jackson ranked #47 on Nielsen/SoundScan's running list of the best-selling albums in its history (which dates back to 1991). He currently ranks #28.

This is the 12th week at #1 on the catalog chart for Number Ones. That's the most weeks that any album has topped this chart in a calendar year since Johnny Cash's 16 Biggest Hits was the #1 catalog album for 19 weeks in 2006. In both cases, the albums were released years before the artists died, and topped the catalog chart for the first time the week following the artists' deaths. (Cash's album was released in 1999. He died in 2003.)

Pearl Jam lands its first #1 album in more than 13 years as Backspacer enters The Billboard 200 in the top spot. The band topped the chart with three straight albums from 1993 to 1996, but fell short of the #1 spot with its next four studio releases. So is this a comeback for Pearl Jam? Not really. Backspacer sold 189,000 copies in its first week, which is less than the 279,000 copies its last album, Pearl Jam, sold when it debuted at #2 in May 2006.

This is the band's ninth studio album; all but one have reached #1 or #2 on the Billboard 200. (The exception was 2002's Riot Act, which stalled at #5.)

Pearl Jam's longevity is noteworthy because the band was so associated with the Seattle-based grunge scene of the early '90s. When an act becomes closely identified with a scene or a moment, it's hard to stay on top when the scene changes, as it inevitably does. Pearl Jam has far outlasted the other groups that emerged from that scene. Nirvana ended with Kurt Cobain's suicide in April 1994. Soundgarden disbanded in April 1997.

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The Black Eyed Peas wind up six solid months at #1 on the Hot 100 as "I Gotta Feeling" logs its 14th week in the top spot. The Peas were #1 for 12 weeks with "Boom Boom Pow" immediately before "I Gotta Feeling" took over.

"I Gotta Feeling" tops the 3 million mark in paid downloads this week. The song took 16 weeks to reach this sales threshold, a pace topped by only two hits in digital history. Flo Rida's "Right Round" took 11 weeks to ring the bell. "Boom Boom Pow" took 13. "Boom Boom Pow" has gone on to top the 4 million mark. Will "I Gotta Feeling" match that feat? I gotta feeling it will.

(Fergie pulled five top five hits from her 2006 solo debut album, The Dutchess. She might reasonably have decided she was too big to go back to the Peas. I bet she's glad now she decided to stay in the group.)

What will finally knock "I Gotta Feeling" out of the top spot? Key contenders include "Down" by Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne, which rebounds from #3 to #2, Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A.," which rebounds from #6 to #3, Jason DeRulo's "Whatcha Say," which jumps from #10 to #5 and Carrie Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova," which vaults from #96 to #11. 

Two weeks after being dissed by Kanye West at the VMAs, Taylor Swift gets some respect from her fans, who enable her to set two sales records. The teen titan's current hit, "You Belong With Me," becomes her fourth song to top the 2 million mark in paid downloads. It follows "Love Story," "Our Song" and "Teardrops On My Guitar." Swift is the only country artist with more than one song at or above the 2 million mark. Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts each have one.

Swift's current album, Fearless, also makes news. It logs its 24th week at #1 on the country chart, matching the run at #1 of her eponymous debut album, which topped the chart for 24 weeks in 2007-2008.  Swift is only the fourth artist in the 45-year history of Billboard's Top Country Albums chart to have two albums that spent 24 or more weeks at #1. The three others to achieve this feat were Alabama (Feels So Right and Mountain Music), Garth Brooks (No Fences and Ropin' The Wind) and Shania Twain (The Woman In Me and Come On Over). In all four cases, the artists achieved the feat with back-to-back studio releases. As Jerry Reed once sang, "When You're Hot, You're Hot."

Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. This is its fifth week on top. The single has climbed as high as #2 on the Hot 100. Cyrus has been having a great year. Hannah Montana: The Movie has been the #1 theatrical movie soundtrack for 25 of the past 27 weeks. (It was topped for one week each by Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen and the Beatles' Help!, which hasn't been in theatres in 44 years.)

Jay-Z has two songs in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs. "Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West) dips from #5 to #6. "Empire State Of Mind" (with Alicia Keys) drops from #1 to #7. "Run This Town" tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. Jay-Z's album, The Blueprint 3, has sold 908,000 copies in its first three weeks. It's already #15 for the year-to-date. It may give Eminem's Relapse a run for its money as the year's best-selling rap album. Relapse has sold 1,449,000 copies to date.

Madonna turned 19 the day that Elvis Presley died (Aug. 16, 1977). This week, she ties the rock legend for the most #1 albums in the U.K. by a solo artist. Her two-CD retrospective Celebration debuts in the top spot (and will enter The Billboard 200 next week). It's Madonna's 11th #1 album in the U.K. Only the Beatles have had more #1 albums in the U.K. (15). What's the bottom line here? Madonna has amassed more #1 albums in the U.K. than any other act to emerge in that key market since 1963. Kudos, Madonna.

Five Finger Death Punch's War Is The Answer enters The Billboard 200 at #7. This is a breakthrough for the group, whose previous album, The Way Of The Fist, peaked at #107. That album has sold 354,000 copies, but it did it the hard way. It never sold more than 9,000 copies in a single week. The new album sold nearly five times that many (44,000) this week.

War Is The Answer is a pretty militaristic album title. Next week, we'll have a competing viewpoint courtesy of  Barbra Streisand, whose latest album, Love Is The Answer, is expected to debut in the top five.  I'll let these two acts hash this out.

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

1. Pearl Jam, Backspacing, 189,000. This new entry is Pearl Jam's fourth #1 album. 59,000 copies were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "The Fixer," which vaults from #68 to #40.

2. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3, 134,000. The album slips to #2 after two weeks on top. Five songs from the album are listed in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West), which dips from #5 to #6.

3. Three Days Grace, Life Starts Now, 79,000. This new entry is the Canadian group's second album in a row to debut in the top five. One-X debuted (and peaked) at #5 in June 2006. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Break," which dips from #80 to #92.

4. Whitney Houston, I Look To You, 66,000. The former #1 album dips from #2 to #4 in its fourth week. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. Is this a bad sign? It's not good, let's put it that way.

5. Miley Cyrus, The Time Of Our Lives, 61,000. The EP holds at #5 in its fifth week. "Party In The U.S.A." returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs.

6.  Brand New, Daisy, 46,000. This new entry is the New York-based group's first top 10 album. Its previous highest-charting album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, reached #31 in 2006.

7. Five Finger Death Punch, War Is The Answer, 44,000. This new entry is the band's first top 10 album.  The Way Of The Fist peaked at #107.

8. Harry Connick Jr., Your Songs, 37,000. This new entry takes its title from Elton John's 1970 classic, "Your Song." This is Connick's second studio album in a row to make the top 10, following Only You. The pop/jazz singer first charted more than 20 years ago with the When Harry Met Sally... soundtrack.

9. Drake, So Far Gone, 36,000. The EP slips from #6 to #9 in its second week. Four songs from the EP are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Successful" (featuring Trey Songz and Lil Wayne), which drops from #24 to #33.

10. Muse, The Resistance, 36,000. The album drops from #3 to #10 in its second week. "Uprising" drops from #19 to #48 on Hot Digital Songs.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Kid Cudi's Man On The Moon: The End Of Day tumbles from #4 to #17, Lil Boosie's SuperBad: The Return Of Bad Azz  plummets from #7 to #30, Taylor Swift's Fearless drops from #8 to #13, Megadeth's Endgame dives from #9 to #36, and the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. slips from #10 to #16.

Remember when the phrase "The Davids" referred to David Cook and David Archuleta? That is so 2008. Now it could refer to the David Crowder Band and David Gray, who debut just outside the top 10. The Crowder Band's Church Music opens at #11. This is the Christian rock group's highest-charting album. Its previous best was Remedy, which bowed at #22 in 2007... Gray's Draw The Line bows at #12. This is also Gray's highest-charting album and his third in a row to make the top 20. Gray received a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist of 2001. (Aerosmith had a #11 album in 1977 with this title.)

Monsters of Folk's Monsters Of Folk vaults from #143 to #15 in its second week. The band consists of M. Ward, Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes have had two top 10 albums. My Morning Jacket has had one. M. Ward's highest-charting solo album, Hold Time, reached #31.

You can sell a lot of albums without ever making the top 10. Just ask the Zac Brown Band, whose The Foundation tops the 1 million mark in sales this week. The album also logs its 20th consecutive week in the top 20. (It dips from #13 to #18 this week.) The album has climbed as high as #11.

One of the most unlikely hits in digital history reaches a milestone this week. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's 1993 recording of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"/ "What A Wonderful World" tops the 2 million mark in paid downloads. It's only the second pre-2000 recording to hit this threshold. It follows Journey's 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin'." The Hawaiian singer and ukulele player included the coupling on his 1995 album, Facing Future. He died in 1997 at age 38. Jason Castro borrowed this arrangement of "Over The Rainbow" for a 2008 appearance on American Idol. Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong recorded the original versions of these classic songs in 1939 and 1967, respectively. Both of those recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and rightly so.

T-Pain should get some kind of award for most assists. Maino's "All The Above," on which he is featured, tops the 1 million mark in paid downloads this week. It's the second time this year that T-Pain has been featured on a million-selling download. He also helped out on Jamie Foxx's "Blame It."

Heads Up: Three of the top female singers in history, Barbra Streisand, Madonna and Mariah Carey, will go head-to-head-to-head on next week's chart. Streisand will be back with Love Is The Answer (which was produced by Diana Krall). Madonna weighs in with a greatest hits set, Celebration. Carey has Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel. Also due: Paramore's Brand New Eyes, which may well debut at #1; Breaking Benjamin's Dear Agony, Alice In Chains' Black Gives Way To Blue, Miranda Lambert's Revolution and AFI's Crash Love, all of which look good for top 10 debuts. Also due: Selena Gomez & The Scene's Kiss And Tell, Lynyrd Skynyrd's God & Guns, Joshua Bell's At Home With Friends and Foreigner's new Wal-Mart exclusive Can't Slow Down.

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