Chart Watch

Week of Dec. 24, 2007: Mary J. Puts Up A Fight–But Groban Holds On

Chart Watch

Josh Groban's Noel holds at #1 for the fifth straight week, the longest a Christmas album has held the top spot since Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas, which was first released in the first holiday season following the end of World War II. Crosby's album held the top spot for a total of 39 weeks between 1945 and 1957. Groban's album sold a whopping 757,000 copies this week, pushing its year-to-date sales to 3,525,000. With one week still to go before SoundScan closes out 2007, Groban has already toppled Kenny G's 1994 record for the greatest sales by a holiday album in a single year. The saxophonist's Miracles—The Holiday Album sold 2,987,000 copies that year.


This is the ninth consecutive week that sales of Noel have increased over the previous week. As I noted here last week, sales of the album dipped very slightly in week two (declining a trifling 175 copies compared to its debut tally), but otherwise it's been a steady upward climb.


This week's tally for Noel represents the second biggest sales week of 2007, trailing only Kanye West's Graduation, which sold 957,000 copies in its opening week in September. Groban's sales tally this week is good enough for second place on two other lists. This is the second biggest weekly tally ever for a holiday album, trailing only Miracles, which sold 819,000 during Christmas week in 1994. And only one other album in SoundScan history—Mariah Carey's Daydream—has sold this many copies this deep (11 weeks) into its chart run. Daydream sold 760,000 copies in its 12th week in December 1995.


Noel is the first album to top 3 million in sales in 2007. Another album, High School Musical 2, may top the 3 million mark next week. It's currently just 111,000 copies shy of that threshold. Even if HSM2 makes it next week, this would be the lowest total of 3-million-selling albums in SoundScan history. There were three last year and five in 2005. The total peaked in 2000, when a whopping 18 albums topped the 3 million sales mark. But then the numbers started falling off. Eleven albums reached that plateau in 2001, eight in 2002 and five in 2003.


That's the all-too-familiar bad news about the state of CD sales. Here's a rare hopeful glimmer: This is the ninth consecutive week that the #1 album has topped 400,000 in sales—the longest such streak since 2000.


Noel is the first album to log five weeks at #1 since 50 Cent's The Massacre spent six weeks on top in the spring of 2005.  These albums otherwise have relatively little in common. Perhaps, in the spirit of the 50 Cent/Kanye West sales showdown, Groban could fire off a do-or-die challenge to Michael Buble.


Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains opens at #2 with sales of 629,000. Blige's last studio album, The Breakthrough, opened at #1 in December 2005, with sales of 727,000. Both albums had the fourth-highest opening week sales tally of the year. Growing Pains is Blige's sixth studio album in a row to debut at #1 or #2.  That's her entire output since Share My World in 1997. Blige's first two studio albums, What's The 411? and My Life, also reached the top 10. Thus, every studio album she has released over a 15-year span has made the top 10—a remarkably steady sales pattern.


Alicia Keys' As I Am dips a notch to #3 on sales of 474,000, bringing its year-to-date total to 2,350,000. It's #6 for the year-to-date, which matches the year-end ranking of Keys' 2001 debut Songs In A Minor. Next week's sales will probably push it up to #4 for the year. Watch this space. The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden dips a notch to #4 on sales of 313,000. This brings its year-to-date sales to 2,523,000, which puts it #3 for the year-to-date. It has now surpassed Daughtry's eponymous debut album as the year's top rock release and top album by a group. It has also far surpassed the relative showing of the band's Hell Freezes Over, which was the #9 album of 1995.


Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus moves up two notches to #5 on sales of 260,000. This brings its year-to-date sales to 2,414,000, which puts it at #5. It's currently the top-selling album of 2007 by a female artist. (It's stretching it to call this part-soundtrack, part-solo-album an album by a female artist, but, hey, it's Christmas. Besides, it will almost certainly lose the title next week to Keys' rapidly advancing As I Am.)


Now 26 dips two spots to #6 on sales of 235,000. The album has sold 1,154,000 copies so far this year, putting it ahead of Now 24 and Now 25 on the year-to-date tally—even though both of those albums hit #1, which Now 26 did not. (It pays to come out at the end of the year.)


The year's most successful albums by female country artists hold steady in the top 10. Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride jumps two spots to #7 on sales of 216,000. This brings its year-to-date total to 1,623,000—#12 for the year-to-date. (That's probably where it will wind up, too.) Taylor Swift's eponymous debut album holds at #8 on sales of 187,000. This brings its year-to-date total to 1,874,000—#9 for the year-to-date.


High School Musical 2 drops three spots to #9 on sales of 185,000. It will finish #2 for the year, just a beat off the first HSM soundtrack, which was the #1 album of 2006. And Chris Brown's Exclusive jumps two spots to #10 on sales of 176,000. The album has spent the majority of its seven chart weeks inside the top 10.


Two albums drop out of the top 10 to make way for the new arrivals. Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits drops two spots to #12. Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Song falls from #5 to #14. Mannheim Steamroller is the best-selling Christmas artist of all time, but this season was clearly outshone by Mr. Groban. As for Brooks, this album failed to match the chart punch of his 1994 The Hits collection, though it did pretty well (sales to date: 1,257,000) considering how many times these hits have been repackaged. But please Garth, resist the urge to put out The Definitive Hits Collection in 2011.


Jaheim's The Makings Of A Man opens at #11. This is the R&B artist's fourth hit album in a row—and, remarkably, his first not to feature the word "ghetto" in the title. Ghetto Love debuted at #9 in 2001. Still Ghetto bowed at #8 in 2002. Ghetto Classics opened at #1 in 2006. The new album debuts somewhat lower than those earlier releases, but actually registers a higher opening week sales total (176,000). (I hope no parents who went to the mall in search of The Makings Of A Man as a holiday gift for their kid mistakenly brought home Clay Aiken's Measure Of A Man. "Gee, thanks Dad.")


Two other albums debut in the top 40. Lupe Fiasco's Lupe Fiasco's The Cool opens at #15. Kirk Franklin's The Fight Of My Life bows at #33. Lupe Fiasco's breakthrough album, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, opened at #8 in September 2006.


The soundtrack to Stephen Sondheim's classic musical Sweeney Todd—The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street debuts at #56. This has already surpassed the chart peak of the original cast album, which hit #78 in 1979. The soundtrack debuts 28-1/2 years after the cast album—which is among the longest such waits in history. It tops the 27-1/2 year gap between the cast album and soundtrack renditions of Chicago.


Great Minds: Alicia Keys isn't the first artist to title an album As I Am. Anne Murray used the same title in 1989—when Keys was just seven years old. Murray's As I Am rode the country chart for seven months.


Boob Tube: If you're really hard-up for conversation at a New Year's Eve party, you could point out that Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains isn't the first album to share its title with a long-running sitcom. Dionne Warwick had an album called Friends in 1985. And if you broaden the discussion to include singles, you've also got Sly & the Family Stone's "Family Affair" from 1971. On second thought, maybe you're better off just talking about the cheese puffs.

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