Chart Watch

Week Of Nov. 5, 2007: Eagles Black Out Britney

Chart Watch

The Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden, the veteran band's first studio album in 28 years, debuts at #1 on Billboard magazine's pop album chart, but only because of a significant, last-minute change in chart policy.

Because the album is available only at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, as well as Walmart.com and the band's own website, it wasn't eligible to appear on the Billboard 200 chart under the old rules, which required albums to be generally available at retail. Until yesterday, it appeared that Britney Spears's Blackout, which sold less than half as many copies as the Eagles (290,000, compared to 711,000), would take the top spot. This would have made Billboard, and Nielsen SoundScan, which supplies the point-of-sale information on which the charts are based, look out of touch and unable to keep pace with rapid changes in the music retail environment.

Billboard, in consultation with Nielsen/SoundScan, wisely tossed out the old policy. In a statement released today, Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's director of charts, explained the change. "We know that some retailers will be uncomfortable with this policy, but it was inevitable that Billboard's charts would ultimately widen the parameters to reflect changes that are unfolding in music distribution. We would have preferred to make this decision earlier, but only became aware within the last 24 hours that Wal-Mart would be willing to share the data for this title with Nielsen SoundScan."

Long Road Out Of Eden has the second-biggest opening of any album in 2007. It's behind Kanye West's Graduation, which opened in September with sales of 957,000, but ahead of 50 Cent's Curtis, which opened that same week with sales of 691,000.

The Eagles' opening is much better than their 1994 release, Hell Freezes Over, which opened with first-week sales of 267,000. The Eagles' stature as a band has grown in the past 13 years. Also, this is a double-album of new material, where that was a live recording (except for four studio cuts).

This is the strongest sales week for a double album since Shania Twain's Up! opened with sales of 874,000 three years ago. Only two other double-albums have debuted as strongly as these two. Garth Brooks's Double Live started with sales of 1,085,000 in 1998. The Beatles' Anthology 1 opened with sales of 855,000 in 1995.

Long Road Out Of Eden is the Eagles' sixth #1 album. The band first reached that peak in 1975 with One Of These Nights and followed suit with its next two studio albums, Hotel California in 1977 and The Long Run in 1979. It also reached #1 with Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 in 1976 and the aforementioned Hell Freezes Over.

The Eagles album is also #1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. Tonight, the group is slated to perform on the annual Country Music Awards telecast. It will, amazingly, mark the group's first appearance on an awards show. The group has been embraced by country audiences for many years. Its classic album Hotel California made the Top 10 on the country chart. In 1993, such top country acts as Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, and Trisha Yearwood recorded country versions of key Eagles hits on Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles, which became a best-seller. At the Grammy Awards in February, current country hotshots Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts sang Eagles classics in a salute to the band, keyed to Don Henley being named Person Of The Year by the Grammys' philanthropic entity, MusiCares.

Strikingly, five of this week's top 10 albums are also high on the country listings, showing the genre's durability even in a generally soft market for album sales. Last week's #1 album, Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride, slips to #3. Josh Turner's third album, Everything Is Fine, opens at #5. Raising Sand, bluegrass star Alison Krauss's collaboration with rock legend Robert Plant, drops from #2 to #6. And Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good slips from #8 to #10.

Spears's 290,000 opening is down from her three most recent studio sets. Her sophomore album, Ooops!...I Did It Again, opened with sales of 1,319,000 in May 2001. At the time, only one album--*NSYNC's No Strings Attached, which arrived two months earlier--had achieved such a powerful out-of-the-box sales number. Spears's third album, Britney, opened in November 2002, with first-week sales of 746,000. In The Zone followed in November 2003, with first-week sales of 609,000.

While the opening-week number on Spears is down from her 2000-2003 peak, it's stronger than you might have expected, given the unrelentingly negative press coverage she has received in recent months. Mariah Carey experienced a similar round of bad press in 2001 with a personal meltdown and the failure of her movie Glitter. She got back on her feet in 2002 with the modestly successful Charmbracelet and came back strongly in 2005 with The Emancipation Of Mimi.

This is the second week in a row that six albums debut in the top 10. In addition to the Eagles, Spears, and Josh Turner, this week's new Top 10 entries are hard rock band Avenged Sevenfold's eponymous fourth album, which opens at #4, the Backstreet Boys' fifth studio album Unbreakable, which debuts at #7 and operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli's The Best Of Andrea Bocelli: Vivere, which starts at #9.

The Backstreet Boys' Unbreakable debuts with sales of 81,000. That's down sharply from the group's last album, Never Gone, which opened with sales of 291,000 in June 2005. It's a little hard to imagine now, but the group was once the hottest recording act in America. Even now, it is the only act with two albums that have sold in excess of 10 million copies in the SoundScan era (which began in May 1991). The Backstreet Boys' 1999 album, Millennium, sold 1,134,000 copies its first week out, setting a new opening week sales record. Its follow-up album, Black And Blue, got off to an even faster start, opening with sales of 1,591,000 in November 2000.

Bocelli isn't the only artist in the top 10 with classical crossover appeal. Josh Groban, whose music blends pop and classical elements, dips from #5 to #8 with his holiday album, Noel.

What becomes of the six albums that fall out of the Top 10 to make way for the newcomers: High School Musical 2 slips just one notch, from #10 to #11, but some of the others take steep falls. Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus dips from #7 to #12, Seether's Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces drops from #9 to #22, Gary Allan's Living Hard nosedives from #3 to #23, Elect The Dead by Serj Tankian tanks (sorry, Serj, but who could resist?) from #4 to #24, and Coheed & Cambria's No World For Tomorrow plummets from #6 to #44. (If Coheed & Cambria went out to dinner last week to celebrate their Top 10 debut, I hope they didn't choose a terribly expensive restaurant.)

Several albums are likely to invade the Top 10 next week. This week's releases include Garth Brooks's The Ultimate Hits, Jay-Z's American Gangster and Chris Brown's Exclusive. Brooks and Jay-Z have had multiple #1 albums in the past. Brown's eponymous 2005 debut album peaked at #2. And Brown's "Kiss Kiss" single, which features T-Pain, is #1 on the Hot 100 for the second straight week.

Singles Watch: Only two singles in the top 10 on this week's Hot 100 moved up. Alicia Keys's soulful ballad "No One" jumped one notch to #3, while the insanely catchy "Cyclone" by Baby Bash featuring T-Pain moved back up a notch to #7, matching its highest ranking to date. "Cyclone" keeps trading places with another hit that features T-Pain--Kanye West's "Good Life."

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