Chart Watch

Week Of Nov. 26, 2007: Idol Schmidol – Jordin Not Setting Off Sparks

Chart Watch

Josh Groban's Noel becomes the first holiday album in 13 years to reach #1 on Nielsen/SoundScan's list of the nation's top sellers. But I'm more struck by the tepid entry at #10 of Jordin Sparks' eponymous debut album. That's the lowest entry to date for a debut album by an American Idol winner, taking that dubious title away from Season 3 champ Fantasia, whose Free Yourself opened at #8.

Sparks' album sold 119,000 copies, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 30,740,000 viewers who watched Sparks beat Blake Lewis in the Idol season finale last May. My arithmetic skills aren't what they used to be, but I think that means that only about 1 in 250 Idol viewers went out and bought the album. (Where's an eighth grader when you need one?)

Sparks' opening week sales tally (as distinct from chart ranking) is also the lowest for a debut album by an Idol champ. It's less than half of the opening week sales (298,000) rung up by Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks. It's even less than half of the old low-end record tally (240,000) held by Fantasia. Sparks' opening week total is scarcely more than that achieved by Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee (116,000). To put these numbers in a little perspective, the strongest opening for a debut album by an Idol winner is Ruben Studdard's Soulful, which opened with sales of 417,000. (Clay Aiken, who was runner-up to Studdard in Season 2, had the strongest opening of any Idol contestant to date. His Measure Of A Man started with sales of 613,000.)

It's especially surprising, because Sparks' single "Tattoo" is a solid hit (it jumps from #16 to #12 on this week's Hot 100). It's an attractive, well-crafted single--if rather generic. That may be the problem: "Tattoo" gives little hint as to what makes Sparks unique.

Josh Groban's Noel jumps to #1 in its seventh week on the chart, with sales of 405,000. It's the first holiday album to reach the top since Kenny G's Miracles—The Holiday Album in 1994. Only four other holiday albums in the rock era have hit #1. Elvis Presley's Elvis' Christmas Album and Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas both did the trick in 1957. Mitch Miller & The Gang, which was a phenomena in its time with a string of hit albums and a weekly TV series, Sing Along With Mitch, had two #1 holiday albums—Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch in 1958 and Holiday Sing Along With Mitch three years later. (Christmas albums were not included on the pop album chart from 1963-1973, so we'll never know how high such holiday perennials as the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) or Barbra Streisand's A Christmas Album (1967) might have gone.)

This is Groban's second #1 album, following Closer in 2003. That album spawned Groban's first Hot 100 entry, "You Raise Me Up." Groban has had two other studio albums, Josh Groban in 2001 and Awake last year—both of which also made the Top 10.

Alicia Keys' As I Am dips to #2 with sales of 349,000. Now 26 jumps a notch to #3, becoming the 23rd consecutive album in the series to reach the top three. Only the first and third installments fell short. Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits and the Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden each move back up a notch to #4 and #5 respectively.

High School Musical 2 leaps from #14 to #6, on sales of 183,000. With this week's sales spurt, the album pushes ahead of Daughtry's eponymous debut album to become the #1 seller so far in 2007. HSM2 has sold 2,301,000 copies so far this year, to 2,211,000 for Daughtry. (Daughtry's album sold an additional 1,121,000 copies in 2006.) If HSM2 holds that ranking, this will be the second year in a row that the Disney franchise has claimed the top album slot. The soundtrack from the first High School Musical was #1 for 2006.

Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride regains two slots to land at #7. Celine Dion's Taking Chances dives from its #3 debut (and apparent peak) to #8. Chris Brown's Exclusive regains a notch to #9.

What becomes of the two albums that fell out of the top 10 this week? Jay-Z's American Gangster drops from #8 to #14, two weeks after opening at #1. Led Zeppelin's Mothership falls from #7 to #16 in its second week.

Keith Urban's Greatest Hits opens at #11. Urban's two most recent albums, Be Here and Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing, both opened at #3. Christian pop group MercyMe's All That Is Within Me opens at #15. It's the group's third studio album in a row to open in the top 15, following Undone in 2004 and Coming Up To Breathe last year. And to think you'd never even heard of them. (Well, I hadn't, anyway.)

The soundtrack to the new Disney movie, Enchanted, debuts at #48. It's the top movie soundtrack on this week's chart, replacing Hairspray.

Looking ahead to next week, look for debuts by Mudvayne's By The People, For The People and Pitbull's The Boatlift.

Christmas Extra: Because Christmas is a time for conspicuous excess, I'm going to go over the top in reporting on Christmas albums. Since 1992, the first full year that SoundScan monitored U.S. music sales, only two albums have been the #1 Christmas/seasonal album of the year more than once. Kenny G's aforementioned Miracles—The Holiday Album was the top-seller for both 1994 and 1996. The all-star Now That's What I Call Christmas! held the top spot for both 2001 and 2002.

Two artists have had the #1 holiday album of the year with two different releases. A second Kenny G album, Faith—A Holiday Album was the top seasonal title for 1999. Harry Connick Jr. had the top seasonal title with both When My Heart Finds Christmas in 1993 and Harry For The Holidays in 2003.

Josh Groban is the fourth pop artist with a classical bent to have the top-selling holiday album of the year. The instrumental group Mannheim Steamroller had the #1 holiday album of 1995 with Christmas In The Aire. Charlotte Church was on top for 2000 with Dream A Dream. The male vocal quartet Il Divo was #1 for 2005 with Christmas Collection.

The unlikeliest album to have been the #1 holiday release of any year since 1992 is Hanson's Snowed In, released in 1997, the year the teen pop/rock group stormed the charts with "MMMBop."

For completists, here are the #1 holiday albums of the year for every year since 1992 that I haven't already mentioned—Garth Brooks' Beyond The Season (1992), Celine Dion's These Are Special Times (1998), Clay Aiken's Merry Christmas With Love (2004) and Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong (2006).

Happy holidays, everybody.

View Comments