Chart Watch

Week Of Dec. 3, 2007: Will Josh Groban’s Noel Be SoundScan’s #1 Album of 2007? Is Santa Jolly?

Chart Watch

Josh Groban's Noel holds at #1, with sales of 539,000. Only one other seasonal title-Kenny G's Miracles-The Holiday Album-has sold more than 500,000 copies in one week since the SoundScan era began in 1991. Kenny G's album topped that sales threshold three times in December 1994. (Noel is actually selling better than Miracles-The Holiday Album did at the same point 13 years ago. Miracles didn't see its first 500,000 sales week until the frame ending Dec. 11-which corresponds with next week's chart.)

Noel is already the 10th best-seller of 2007, with cumulative sales of 1,536,000. And it still has four weeks left in the year in which to fatten its total. At the rate it's going, Noel has a very good shot of winding up as the year's #1 album. It just depends how strongly it sells in the next four weeks-and how the current year-to-date sales leader, High School Musical 2, holds up. HSM2 sold 98,000 copies this week, to hold at #6. This brings its year-to-date total to 2,398,000. If both Noel and HSM2 maintain their current sales pace, Noel will be out in front in two weeks. (FYI, SoundScan's 2007 research extends to the week ending Dec. 30. Billboard magazine's year-end rankings close earlier. So there's a very real chance that they will trumpet different albums as being #1 for the year. Don't be confused.)

Noel will be the first holiday release to rank among the top 10 albums of an entire year since the aforementioned Kenny G album, which was #8 for 1994. Miracles-The Holiday Album holds two important records. It's the best-selling seasonal album of the SoundScan era (and, most likely, of all time), with sales to date of 7,198,000. That record seems out of reach. Also, Miracles sold 2,987,000 copies in one year (1994), a SoundScan-era record for a holiday album. Groban is already more than halfway there. Will he make it? It will probably be very close. Stay tuned. (Incidentally, Noel features two acts that have topped the album chart in their own right-Faith Hill, who has reached #1 with her last three albums, and the venerable Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which rang the bell with The Lord's Prayer in January 1960.)

This is the sixth consecutive week that the #1 album has sold more than 400,000 copies. It's the first time in six years that that beleaguered music industry has seen such a long run of hot-selling chart toppers. This last happened in November-December 2001, when, for seven straight weeks, albums by Britney Spears, Garth Brooks and Creed held the top spot with sales north of 400,000. (Creed, not the two higher-profile celebrities, was responsible for five of those weeks with its smash album, Weathered.) And Groban's album is likely to keep this string going. This is the best news the music industry has had all year. (Of course, it may be the only good news the music industry has had all year.)

One final note about Groban: Noel, in its eighth week, achieves the highest weekly sales total of any non-debuting album since 50 Cent's The Massacre registered sales of 771,000 in its second week in March 2005.

The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden moves back up from #5 to #2, with sales of 313,000. This brings the album's cumulative sales to 1,765,000-which makes it the sixth best-selling album of the year so far. It will be the first album by a veteran act (defined as an act that has been around 20 years or more) to rank in the year-end top 10 since 2000, when both Santana's Supernatural and the Beatles 1 achieved the feat. Veteran acts placed in SoundScan's year-end top 10 just five times before that. In 1993, both Eric Clapton's Unplugged and Billy Joel's River Of Dreams did the trick. In 1995, both the Beatles' Anthology 1 and the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over scored. And Supernatural also ranked among the top 10 for 1999. Album sales usually taper off after an act has been around for 20 years (or 35, in the Eagles' case)-which makes the group's current achievement very impressive.

The Eagles' album got a boost from a 60 Minutes profile which aired on Nov. 25. (60 Minutes, which premiered in 1968, is one of the few pop-culture mainstays that has been around longer than the Eagles, which first hit the charts in 1972.) Groban, of course, has also gotten a boost from TV. He was featured on Oprah's annual "My Favorite Things" episode and on a subsequent episode going behind the scenes to examine the making of the initial episode. (I'm going to wait for Oprah's inevitable look at the making of the "behind the scenes" episode to break down and watch.)

Alicia Keys' As I Am dips another notch to #3, with sales of 257,000. This brings its total to 1,350,000, the 16th best tally of the year. It, too, will probably wind up in the year-end top 10. (Keys' debut, Songs In A Minor, was the #6 album of 2001.) Keys' album is no more than a week or two away from surpassing Akon's Konvicted as the year's #1 R&B album. The current tally for Konvicted is 1,591,000.

Now 26 dips a notch to #4, on sales of 127,000. Garth Brooks' Ultimate Hits dips a notch to #5, on sales of 112,000. Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus jumps from #12 to #7, five months after opening at #1. The album is the fourth best-seller for the year to date, with sales of 1,844,000. Celine Dion's Taking Chances holds at #8, two weeks after debuting at #3. Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride dips from #7 to #9, five weeks after debuting at #1.

Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Song jumps from #21 to #10. It's the ensemble's ninth holiday release since it debuted in 1984, and its third to reach the top 10. Christmas In The Aire hit #3 in 1995. Christmas Extraordinaire reached #5 in 2001. Mannheim Steamroller is a holiday phenomena, with four of the top 10 selling holiday albums of the SoundScan era. The ensemble is led by composer/producer Chip Davis, whose other (frankly, more dubious) claim to fame is co-writing and co-producing one of the biggest novelty hits of the '70s-C.W. McCall's "Convoy." If you don't know it, it's almost worth checking out. I said "almost."

What becomes of the two albums that were displaced from this week's top 10? Chris Brown's sophomore album, Exclusive, dips from #9 to #11, three weeks after opening at #4. Jordin Sparks' eponymous debut drops from its #10 debut to #18.

Enchanted, which jumps from #48 to #39, remains the #1 movie soundtrack. But on the overall soundtrack chart, it ranks behind five TV soundtracks-HSM and Hannah Montana (and their sequels) as well as the Vince Guaraldi Trio's soundtrack from the landmark 1965 TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Pitbull's The Boatlift is the week's highest debuting album. That's the good news. The bad news is that it debuts way down at #50. (That's the lowest "top new entry" in 18 months.) The Latin rapper reached the top 20 with both M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue) in 2004 and El Mariel last year. Mudvayne's By The People, For The People debuts at #51-a big drop-off from the hard rock band's previous album, Lost And Found, which opened at #2 in April 2005.

American Idol runner-up Blake Lewis is due to debut next week with his first album, Audio Day Dream. Also expected to enter the fray: Godsmack's Good Times, Bad Times, the band's first album since IV hit #1 in May 2006, and Nelly Furtado's Loose: The Concert, her follow-up to the chart-topping Loose. 2Pac is due to chart with Best Of 2Pac Parts 1 and 2. The slain rap legend released just four albums in his lifetime. This is his 15th posthumous release.

Several other albums by acts that scored big last time out are expected to debut next week. Country star Trace Adkins is due with American Man: Greatest Hits Vol. II, his first album since Dangerous Man opened at #3 last year. Birdman's 5 Star Stunna is the rapper's follow-up to Fast Money, which went top 10 in 2005. Scarface's M.A.D.E. is the rapper's first album since My Homies Part 2 made it to #12 last year.

Year-End Extra: For most of the year, it looked like Daughtry's eponymous debut would be the #1 album of 2007. Daughtry took the year-to-date sales title (from Norah Jones' Not Too Late) on May 13 and held it until last week, when HSM2 claimed it. And now Josh Groban has a very good chance of stealing the title in the closing weeks of the year.

This is the second time in three years that the year-end sales title has still been in play this late in the year. Two years ago, 50 Cent's The Massacre, which had held the year-to-date sales title for more than nine months, lost it to Mariah Carey's The Emancipation Of Mimi in the second to last week of the year. It came down to the fact that Carey's album lent itself better to holiday gift-giving. The year-end race was even closer in 1994, when Ace Of Base's early favorite The Sign lost the sales title to The Lion King soundtrack in the very last week of the year. The contest couldn't have been closer: The Lion King edged out the Swedish popsters for the year by a paltry 17,000 copies. (Now we know why Ace of Base didn't sustain: They couldn't handle the tension.)

 

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