Chart Watch

Week Ending Sept. 28, 2008: Uncle Walt & His Pop Star Factory

Chart Watch

Demi Lovato's debut album, Don't Forget, enters The Billboard 200 at #2. Lovato played the female lead in the Disney Channel's TV movie, Camp Rock. She also sang three songs on the soundtrack, which tops the million-unit sales mark this week. One of them, "This Is Me" (a duet with Joe Jonas), became the album's biggest hit. Lovato, 16, is the latest in a long line of performers to parlay exposure on Disney TV shows into hit records of their own.

Annette Funicello was just 12 in 1955 when the original The Mickey Mouse Club premiered and quickly became a baby-boomer obsession. Annette had four top 20 hits in 1959 and 1960, including "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess." The latter was from her album, Hawaiiannette. (It was a more innocent time.)

Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were regulars on a revival of The Mickey Mouse Club in 1992-93 (as was future Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling.) All three burst to major pop stardom in the late '90s. Even more remarkably, all three have sustained that stardom for a decade.

Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus have had best-sellers both in and out of their Disney Channel personas. Duff had hits with Lizzie McGuire TV and movie soundtracks. She has also had a pair of #1 albums of her own, Metamorphosis and the greatest hits set Most Wanted. Cyrus has reached #1 with Hannah Montana, the hybrid Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus and the strictly solo Breakout.

Raven-Symone stepped out of her The Cheetah Girls identity with her 2004 album This Is My Time, which has sold 236,000 copies.

Two performers from High School Musical have had successful albums in their own right. Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale both sold in the range of 500,000 copies with their albums V and Headstrong, respectively. Fellow cast mate Corbin Bleu had more modest success with his album, Another Side.

Jonas Brothers were already stars by the time they appeared with Lovato in this year's Camp Rock, but the movie took their career to the next level. The trio's recent #1 album, A Little Bit More, re-enters the top 10 this week.

Walt Disney died in December 1966 at the age of 65. His enduring hold on the pop culture landscape is his greatest legacy. I think he'd be pleased that performers who weren't even born in his lifetime are keeping the Disney brand in the forefront.

Report Card: This week marks the end of the first three quarters of 2008. I thought it would be a good time to check on sales trends in the music business. On the plus side, there's Lil Wayne, whose Tha Carter III  has sold nearly 2.5 million copies. Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is within striking distance of 2 million.

But overall, the outlook for the music business is only slightly better than the outlook for the housing market. Just 11 albums have topped the 1 million mark in sales so far in 2008, the lowest tally at this point in the year in Nielsen/SoundScan history. The trend has been straight downhill since 2004, when 35 albums topped the 1 million mark in the first nine months of the year. The number dropped to 27 in the same period in 2005, 26 in 2006 and 20 in 2007. This raises an important question: Is the album a becoming a relic of the past? Is it all about the individual song these days?  It's a meaty issue. I'll delve into in a Chart Watch Extra on Friday.

Download This: T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" returns to #1 on Hot Digital Songs, after yielding for three weeks to Pink's "So What." This is the third week on top for "Whatever You Like," which has sold 1,142,000 digital copies. Three other songs from the album are also listed on Hot Digital Songs. This bodes well for T.I.'s new album, Paper Trail, which is expected to debut at #1 next week. The rapper's last two albums, King and T.I. Vs. T.I.P., both debuted at #1 with first-week sales tallies north of 460,000 copies.

Have No Fear: Neo-soul newcomer Jazmine Sullivan enters The Billboard 200 at #6 this week with Fearless. That's also the planned title of country star Taylor Swift's second studio album, due Nov. 11. This isn't the first time two acts have released albums with the same title at nearly the same time. In September 1976, John Denver hit the chart with Spirit. Six weeks later, Earth, Wind & Fire charted with an album of their own with the same title. Both made the top 10. Ideally, an artist would prefer not to share an album title, but it's not the end of the world. And Fearless is a good, catchy title. Just ask country singer Terri Clark, who took an album with that very title to #85 on the Billboard 200 in 2000.

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

1. Metallica, Death Magnetic, 132,000. The album logs its third week at #1. Only three other albums have spent as many weeks at #1 so far this year. They are Alicia Keys' As I Am (which also had one week on top in 2007), Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III. Metallica's album has sold 959,000 copies, which puts it at #12 for the year-to-date. "The Day That Never Comes" dips to #91 on Hot Digital Songs.

2. Demi Lovato, Don't Forget, 89,000. This album debuts one notch ahead of where Camp Rock debuted (and peaked) in June. That soundtrack logged 10 weeks in the top 10 and is the #10 album for the year-to-date. Five songs from Lovato's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by the title track at #34.

3. Ne-Yo, Year Of The Gentleman, 83,000. The album dips from #2 to #3 in its second week. Ne-Yo has two songs in the top 30 on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Closer" at #19.

4. Pussycat Dolls, Doll Domination, 79,000. This new entry enters the chart one notch higher than the group's 2005 debut album, PCD, but with a lower first-week sales tally. (PCD opened with sales of 99,000). I expected a bigger debut from this follow-up, given the massive success of the first album. PCD has sold 2,862,000 copies and spawned five top 30 hits on the Hot 100, including three that made the top five. Three songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "When I Grow Up" at #26. The exuberant hit has sold 1,401,000 downloads.

5. Kings Of Leon, Only By The Night, 74,000. This new entry is the rock group's first top five album. The group, which first charted five years ago, has climbed higher on the chart with each of its four releases. Nearly 31,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making this the week's #1 Digital Album. Kings Of Leon, which includes three brothers and their cousin, appeared on Saturday Night Live and was featured on the cover of Spin. Two songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Use Somebody" at #46.

6. Jazmine Sullivan, Fearless, 66,000. This new entry is Sullivan's debut album. Two songs from the album are featured on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Need U Bad" at #121. Missy Elliott co-wrote and co-produced the song, a former #1 R&B hit.

7. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 60,000. The album drops from #4 to #7 in its 51st week in the top 10. This is the album's 16th week in the top 10, the longest stay of any current top 10 album. The album moves up to #3 on the year-to-date chart. Only the Lil Wayne and Coldplay albums have sold more copies in 2008. Rock Heroes' copycat version of "All Summer Long" moves up to #13 on Hot Digital Songs, with sales to date of 137,000 copies.

8. Joe, Joe Thomas, New Man, 54,000. This new entry is the R&B singer's third top 10 album. Joe has debuted at #2 twice in his career, with My Name Is Joe in 2000 and Ain't Nothing Like Me in 2007. No songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs. A Greatest Hits album is due from Joe on Oct. 14.

9. Young Jeezy, The Recession, 40,000. The album slips from #6 to #9 in its fourth week in the top 10. "Put On" (featuring Kanye West) dips to #42 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Jonas Brothers, A Little Bit Longer, 36,000. The album moves back into the top 10 after slipping to #11 last week. The album has sold 936,000 copies in seven weeks, which puts it at #13 for the year-to-date. (This week, it pulls ahead of Miley Cyrus' Breakout in cumulative sales.) Jonas Brothers remain the only act with two albums in the top 20 for the year-to-date. Jonas Brothers is #20. Two songs from the new album are in the top 50 on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Burnin' Up" at #45.

Six albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Nelly's Brass Knuckles plummets from #3 to #19 (believe me, heads will roll), Darius Rucker's Learn To Live drops from #5 to #13, DJ Khaled's We Global dives from #7 to #28, Buckcherry's Black Butterfly drops from #8 to #23, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III slips from #9 to #11 and The Game's LAX drops from #10 to #14. Even though Lil Wayne has dropped out of the top 10 (at least for now), this is the 17th consecutive week that five or more songs from the album have been listed on Hot Digital Songs.

TV on the Radio's Dear Science bows at #12. This is the third album by the indie-rock group, which first charted in 2006 with Return To Cookie Mountain. This group merits a spot in the Weird Name Hall of Fame.

Jackson Browne's Time The Conqueror opens at #20. This is Browne's highest-charting album since Lawyers In Love hit #8 in 1983. (A big comeback? Nah. The high debut is probably just a function of different chart rhythms.) Browne first charted with his eponymous debut in March 1972, three months before Eagles broke into the chart with their eponymous debut. Browne, of course, teamed with Glenn Frey to write Eagles' breakthrough hit, "Take It Easy."

Sex And The City Vol. 2-More Music enters the chart at #45. The first Sex soundtrack was a surprise hit, debuting at #2 in June. It re-enters the chart this week at #53. Sales of the first album increased 305% compared to last week, the biggest increase of any non-debuting album. Many hit soundtracks have spawned sequels, from Woodstock to Titanic. What was the first hit soundtrack to spawn a sequel?  I think I know this one! The 1946 movie The Jolson Story, which told the story of 1920s superstar Al Jolson, spawned a #1 soundtrack (Al Jolson in songs he made famous) and a #1 sequel (Al Jolson Souvenir Album).

Ups & Downs: Colby O'Donis' Colby drops from #41 to #187 in its second week. That's a drop of 71%, the steepest decline of any album on this week's chart. The album has sold 14,000 copies after two weeks. O'Donis' hit "What You Got" (featuring Akon) has sold 852,000 downloads.

Catalog Report: AC/DC's Back In Black holds at #1 on the Catalog Albums chart for the third straight week. The album sold 10,000 copies this week and would have ranked #53 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to compete there. Though Back In Black is among the best-selling albums of all time, it never reached #1 on The Billboard 200. You may wonder how that could be. (AC/DC has probably wondered that, too!)

Back In Black peaked at #4 in December 1980, behind Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits, Barbra Streisand's Guilty and Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July. (It remained at #4 the following week when Rogers was replaced by the John Lennon/Yoko Ono album Double Fantasy.) The competition, clearly, was stiff. The Rogers, Streisand and Lennon albums all generated big #1 singles. (And all made ideal holiday gifts.) Then too, Lennon had just been murdered, which generated tremendous media attention. So while Back In Black has sold more copies over the long haul than the albums that kept it from #1, I think the charts back then had it right. There was probably never a week when Back In Black was the nation's best-seller.

Heads Up: T.I.'s Paper Trail will probably debut at #1 next week (see earlier item), but several other albums will be right on its heels. Faith Hill releases her first holiday album, Joy To The World.  Hill's last three studio albums reached #1. Robin Thicke, whose The Evolution Of Robin Thicke peaked at #5 in March 2007, returns with his third album, Something Else. Jennifer Hudson, who sang the key song on the chart-topping Dreamgirls soundtrack, bows with her first solo album, Jennifer Hudson. James Taylor releases an album of Covers; Kellie Pickler follows the top 10 Small Town Girl with Kellie Pickler; and Anberlin follows the top 20 Cities with New Surrender.

The Value of a Dollar: I was flipping through Joel Whitburn Presents #1 Pop Pix 1953-2003, which depicts every #1 single in that time frame (usually with a picture sleeve). I noticed that singles cost 89 cents way back in 1954. Individual song downloads are 99 cents (or less) today. Name another consumer product that has increased in price so modestly in 54 years. In the '70s, the music industry had a marketing campaign, "Music Is Your Best Entertainment Value." It really is. (Here's the link to Joel's website, but don't blame me if you become addicted to his books.)

Shameless Plug: Remember to check out my Chart Watch Extra on Friday. If you love albums, as I do, brace yourself for a barrage of bad news.

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