Archive forOctober, 2006


The recent blockbuster numbers posted by the likes of Beyoncé and Timberlake have receded, clearing the way for another lackluster disc atop the charts…

Rod and His Package. With an solid, unspectacular 184,000 copies sold, Rod “Check Out My Crotch” Stewart lands at #1 with his latest wheezy collection of standards – this time of the “Rock Classics” variety. Evanescence makes this possible by plummeting 63% from its rollicking #1 debut last week. This is Rod’s fourth career #1 album, joining the unimpeachable 1971 classic Every Picture Tells a Story; the dopey, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”–fueled 1979 smash Blondes Have More Fun; and the third volume of his four-record Great American Songbook series – all four of which, from 2002 to 2005, debuted in Billboard’s top five. Indeed, ever since Clive Davis dreamed up the Rod-sings-the-oldies format a half-decade ago, it’s perenially propped up BMG Records’ fourth-quarter coffers, as each record has appeared like clockwork in mid-October and sold like an Oprah book-club selection. So, with this unofficial fifth volume, Rod benefits from the autumnal habits of aural-wallpaper-demanding soccer moms. But he also takes advantage of 2006, The Year Of The Fart, with its low sales hurdles and the fleeing of young record-buyers in droves. Okay, okay, enough – I’ll leave Rod alone. After all, given his lecherous, Pickler-ogling appearance this year on American Idol and his more accurate portrayal a few years back on South Park, I suppose it’s a wonder the old boy can get it up these days.

Look out! Falling album. Evanescence is but one example this week of steep, 60-percent-plus drops by last week’s big-debuting discs: the Killers stumble by 68%, George Strait by 62% and Monica by a whopping 70% (she plummets out of the Top 25 entirely, down from #8 to #26). As I noted earlier this week on an Idolator post, big CD debuts have become like big movie debuts: if the product falls 50% or less the second week, the company’s thrilled. (In Hollywood, studios call a 40ish-percent drop a “good hold.”) Movies are fighting the tendency of multiplexes to overplay a flick on multiple screens the first weekend and then shunt it to the side to make way for more product. In music, it’s a different problem, as diehard fans must have their favorite act’s new disc in week one, but casual fans never show up in week two – many of them probably taking avantage of the diehards who upload or burn the disc for them. The result: week-two drops of sixty-something percent are the New Normal. As further evidence that only folks with gray hair still buy CDs that are more than seven days old, behold Bob Dylan. As we recall, Modern Times debuted at #1 six weeks ago; it’s down to #29, which sounds sorta meh – until you consider that Dylan’s never lost more than 30ish-percent in any week (this week’s drop: a mere 26%). In short, it’s taken ol’ Bob seven weeks to get to the bottom rungs of the Top 30, while Monica is just three spaces above him in her week two.

It’s All About the Lincolns. Rod’s underwhelming high-100s chart-topper will be succeeded next week by a similarly respectable-but-underwhelming debut: Sean Daddy Puff Doody, or whatever he is, will ring the bell, with a number likely boosted by deep discounting that will price him well below $10, maybe even a few bucks above $5. We’re several weeks into the final, make-or-break quarter of this horrible music year, and the record industry’s gonna have to do better than it’s doing right now if it hopes to erase its year-to-date 5–6% sales slump. Look for My Chemical Romance, hitting stores next Tuesday (just in time for Halloween), to kick things up a notch before this lackluster October is out.



Normally I lead with album-chart news, but this week I must begin by honoring a singles-chart achievement by the Bard of Snark:

Revenge of the nerd. Beloved by generations of pubescent boys, “Weird Al” Yankovic scores the biggest hit of his career, as his Chamillionaire parody “White and Nerdy” vaults from #28 to #9 – Yankovic’s first-ever Top 10 hit, just two weeks shy of his 47th birthday. That’s right, Al fans, “White” has gone further than “Eat It” (#12, 1984) or “Smells Like Nirvana” (#35, 1992), his only other career Top 40 hits. It’s a victory for anyone who feels, as I do, that “White” is the funniest and best thing Al’s done in more than a decade. Even better, it’s the result not of sales gimmicks or hype but good old-fashioned viral word-of-mouth. Al’s debut in the Top 30 of the Hot 100 last week was notable – his highest debut ever, and instantly his second-biggest hit – but it wasn’t that surprising in the age of iTunes; a single week of sales can send songs crashing onto the chart, with little or no radio support, as fans rush in with 99-cent clicks. This week’s move, however, is a real schocker: apparently even more people wanted Al’s single in its second week as did in its first, as another digital sales burst (radio airplay is still negligible) spurs the song into the Top 10. As if Al’s cup t’weren’t runnething over enough, he scores a second simultaeneous Hot 100 hit, as his Green Day spoof “Canadian Idiot” debuts at #82. To paraphrase Dazed and Confused’s Wooderson, that’s what Al loves about these junior-high-school boys: he gets older, they stay the same age.

Killer or be killed. As predicted for weeks, Brandon Flowers’s gang of reborn anthem-rockers fell to Evanescence on the album chart. Amy Lee’s faux-goths drained the wallets of almost 450,000 Emily The Stranges, an impressive number if not an all-out blockbuster. (That sound you just heard was My Chemical Romance’s managers and accountants salivating.) As for the Killers, the news is not all bad. Sam’s Town’s 315,000 in sales is a disappointment in terms of expectations – the big push on the MTV awards, two years of glossy magazine spreads, Flowers’s big mouth – but it’s their biggest single week of sales ever; and over on the Modern Rock radio chart, “When You Were Young” evicts the Red Hot Chili Peppers from the #1 slot. Meanwhile, online, the snark rages on, with scores of digerati piling on, while Slate’s Jonah Weiner mounts an eloquent half-defense of the album. (Me? I think the followup single, “Bones,” is lame, but there’s a few minor gems on there.)

Owning the sexy. Seven weeks – that’s how long Justin Timberlake has been #1 with “SexyBack” on the Hot 100, a chart that combines song sales and radio airplay. Yet if you look at the sales-only chart (Top Digital Songs) used to calculate the overall Hot 100, “SexyBack” got evicted from #1 weeks ago, first by the Fray and this week by (gack) Hinder. It’s an interesting study in how the charts work: big iTunes sales were what propelled Justin to #1 in the first place, but wall-to-wall Top 40 radio airplay is keeping him there, now that sales have fallen off. His followup hit, the superior, hipster-praised “My Love,” is rising fast, up to #13 this week and threatening to enter the Top 10 while “SexyBack” is still #1. The main difference between this hit and its predecessor? “My Love” is being propelled by airplay and sales almost equally, with radio leading the way. iTunes users have been able to buy the song for weeks, so there’s not likely to be a one-week burst of sales for “My Love”; if it’s destined to follow “SexyBack” at #1, it’ll have to get there the old, one-week-at-a-time way. The bigger lesson: first singles from albums sold on iTunes have an easier time on the charts than second or third ones do. Not like any of Trousersnake’s songs is hurting much.

From smoking to dead. Last week saw the most red-hot Tuesday of CD releases so far this year, as Evanescence and the Killers were joined by such critic-proof acts as Beck (#7), the Decemberists (#35) and the Hold Steady (#128), along with country giant-killer George Strait (#3) and not-so-Miss-Thang-anymore R&B girl Monica (#8). This week, in one of their usual bouts of idiotic scheduling, the labels have released a lot of middling crap, and it’s anyone’s guess whether Evanescence will repeat or get tossed by Rod Stewart, desecrating more standards, or Lloyd Banks, pumping out some g-g-g-g-generic G-Unit bullshit. If only the Killers’ handlers had been smart enough to push the release of Sam’s Town back just one week, to get out of the way of Amy Lee, the fussy Mr. Flowers would’ve had a #1 record; someone at Island–Def Jam needs to get fired, or at least buy a calendar.

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Last week’s sleepy charts gave way to a real horsereace this week – and not even Oprah could whip her pony through the tape…

20 Y.O. got no help from “O.” Nothing sells product like Oprah – James Blunt can credit at least a third of his double-platinum sales this year to Winfrey’s show. So when Janet Jackson made a flawlessly timed appearance on the Mighty O’s couch last week, just as her new album hit stores, everyone predicted (including yours truly) that Ms. Wardrobe Malfunction was destined for #1. But we – and Janet – forgot about Luda: for the third time in a row, Ludacris debuts at #1, as his Release Therapy beats Janet by less than 20,000 copies. The unhelpfully titled 20 Y.O. is now Janet’s second album in a row to debut in the runner-up slot. Right after Nipplegate, 2004’s Damita Jo also came up short at #2, ending Janet’s streak of five consecutive #1 studio albums. That streak began way back in 1986 with Control, Jackson’s pop masterpiece; 20 Y.O. billed itself as a sequel to that album – from its title to its marketing blitz to Janet’s attempt to return to her 20-year-old figure (minus another stone or two). But 20 Y.O. is no Control, musically or commercially. Her chart shortfall is an embarrassing face-plant, sorta like watching someone’s tarted-up middle-aged mom trying to get into a club and getting dissed at the velvet rope. Actually, it’s exactly like that.

White and charty. The Hot 100 singles chart is a veritable parade of honkies-made-good this week, as white-boy music takes up four of the top five slots – from the immoveable Justin to the pleasant, inoffensive Volvo Rock bands Snow Patrol and the Fray. You can credit, or blame, iTunes; the Fray’s “How to Save a Life” is the country’s top download this week (thanks in large part to Grey’s Anatomy), and the others are all given a lift by 99-cent downloads. As I’ve said before, digital sales generally boost stuff that appeals to suburbanites…the good, the bad, the ugly. On the ugly tip, Hinder’s crapfest “Lips of an Angel” continues its march up the list, landing at #3, just two heartbeats away from Justin (still #1 after six weeks – the Sexy is officially Back, methinks) and Ludacris (waiting patiently at #2 for Trousersnake to put it back in his pants). On the ugly-and-proud tip, “Weird Al” Yankovic benefits from the YouTube revolution with his highest-ever debuts on both the Hot 100 and the album chart: “White and Nerdy” crashes onto the singles list at #29, and Straight Outta Lynwood is his first Top 10 album ever. Imagine if he’d included a “SexyBack” parody…

Goth chicks win – shoulda kept the eyeliner. Brandon Flowers’s decision to drop the Maybelline for the Killers’ second album is looking like a worse decision all the time, as they will debut at #2 next week behind Evanescence. Idol of poseur goth girls nationwide Amy Lee will get to gloat at departed bandmate Ben Moody, as the album he fronted, Fallen, never topped the chart. But screw all that – I’m wondering how high the Decemberists will land with their major-label debut, and if the critically adored Hold Steady can break the Top 40.

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