Archive forNovember, 2006


Last week I found myself grumbling about a Disney-TV starlet who held back a cool rock album from #1. This week, I found myself rooting for her:

Karmic payback for Colbert. I dropped a little hint at the end of my post last week suggesting that Barry Manilow would debut at #1 with The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, an instant followup to last February’s smash #1 CD The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. This would have given Manilow a mind-blowing two #1 albums in a single calendar year – something he’d never achieved in his ’70s heyday – and also given Barry the record as the oldest guy ever to score a pair of chart-topping albums. Well, forget all that: Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, held on to #1 in her second week by the tiniest of margins, 203,000 copies to Manilow’s 202,000, according to Billboard. This is the second consecutive week that the Hannah soundtrack confounds sales predictions, following last week’s easy trouncing of My Chemical Romance (who tumble a worrying 64% in their week two). Manilow’s album looked like a strong contender, and like most adult-oriented albums nowadays, it gets a boost from such atypical sales channels as – no joke – QVC. Unfortunately for Barry, when you buy an album from a TV ad, shopping channel or website, the sale only gets booked to the SoundScan charts when it ships; thus any CDs purchased over the weekend and shipped the following Monday or Tuesday fall into the next week’s charts. So look for Barry’s Sixties album to hold well in its second week. As for me, I have no major beef with Barry, schlocky though he is. But after this year’s Colbert-vs.-Manilow Emmy travesty, I must say I’m not favorably inclined toward the man who Writes The Songs. So, Hannah Montana, I thank you, and Stephen Colbert thanks you.

Third time’s the charm? There’s no major action or upsets on the Hot 100 singles chart this week; Justin Timberlake takes a second-week victory lap with “My Love,” and most of the Top Five is static. But Beyoncé Knowles takes a big leap into the Top 10 (24–9) with the third single from her B’Day album, “Irreplaceable” (with its sassy refrain, “To the left, to the left/Everything you own in a box to the left”). In this space two months ago, I predicted that her acerbic second single, “Ring the Alarm” – which debuted high, just outside the Top 10 – would die a quick death due to its radio-unfriendliness. In short, I was proved right: after materializing all the way up at #12, “Ring” crept briefly to #11 before tumbling. Indeed, in general, B’Day has underperformed by Beyoncé standards, as none of its singles has sunk in for very long at radio, and after the album’s sizeable sales debut it hasn’t spent much time in the Top 10. But the acoustic-ish, midtempo “Irreplaceable” should reverse all that, doing for Ms. Knowles what “My Love” is doing for JT: keeping a big-splash album alive well past its on-sale date.

Hicks and other hicks. With fifth-place runner-up Kellie Pickler debuting at #9 on the album chart (and #1 country) with her debut album – just two weeks after the return of 2003 winner Ruben Studdard – the American Idol silly season is clearly in full swing. Before Santa comes down the chimney, Simon Fuller’s TV-and-music juggernaut is going to spawn at least three more albums, including the debuts by 2006 winner Taylor Hicks and first runner-up Katharine McPhee (either Mario Vasquez or Chris Daughtry might also drop in that timeframe). You could almost spend every week between now and New Year’s listening to a new record by a former shop clerk–turned–melisma whore, if you wanted. Just in case this past week made you feel a little too upbeat about the power of voting.

Did somebody say something about “cleaning up”? Aussie/country heartthrob Keith Urban, who’s spending the first week of his new album’s release in rehab, is expected to move more than a third of a million albums before this week is out. It’ll be the biggest sales week ever for Mr. Nicole Kidman no matter what, but capturing the top slot will mean getting past the Now! That’s What I Call Music juggernaut, which is expected to move about the same amount, and not being able to promote the album while he’s kicking the sweet stuff will give Urban a tough time. At the very least, he should comfortably top the new one from Mom-friendly crooner Josh Groban. This chart matchup too boring for you? Well, this will be the last sleepy week before the big guns come out: the Game and Akon next week; and the Beatles, Jay-Z and U2 just before Turkey Day.

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Apologies, again, to those of you who regularly read my chart rundowns, for last week’s no-show – the result of a merciless day-job workload.

That said, we didn’t miss much last week: Diddy debuted at #1, with a solid but lackluster total (I sent a question to Billboard’s chart columnist about Diddy’s feat; they ran it online here). And Justin Timberlake moved back into the album chart’s Top Five with his two-month-old album – foreshadowing his triumph this week on the singles chart:

If he wrote us a symphony In a victory for both Cameron Diaz’s boyfriend and fans of great pop, Justin’s “My Love” – in my opinion, the second-best pop song of 2006 – storms to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. By leaping from #5 to #1 in one swoop, Trousersnake halts the ascent of such radio garbage as Akon’s cheese-fest with Eminem, “Smack That,” and – yes! – Hinder’s execrable “Lips of an Angel” (which falls to #4; please let this song be over). “My Love” gives Justin back-to-back #1 singles after “SexyBack,” which is still in the Top Five this week. While his two hits were interrupted in the top slot by Ludacris’s unobjectionable “Money Maker,” Timberlake nonetheless becomes the first act to score consecutive #1 singles since Usher did it back in ‘04 with a jaw-dropping four-single streak (”Yeah!,” “Burn,” “Confessions Pt. II,” “My Boo”). How’d Trousersnake do it? Heavy radio airplay fueled most of the run, but the final push came from iTunes, where a “single mix” of “My Love” – sold separately from the album mix – is now the Apple store’s top-selling download. Interestingly, the single mix’s key feature is its removal of the “Let Me Talk to You” prelude, which appears on both the album mix and in the “My Love” video; most fans of the song agree the prelude is pretty weak and expendable, so in this case the public’s vote exhibits good taste.

Don’t break her chart, her achy-breaky chart. Rock critics are lousy chart predictors, part MCCXVI: For the second time this year, a left-field pop act famed from a TV show steals the #1 spot on the album chart from a long-favored contender. The new #1 album in America is not My Chemical Romance’s much-hyped (and generally excellent) The Black Parade but, rather, the soundtrack to Hannah Montana, a Disney Channel show starring the daughter of Billy Ray “Achy Breaky” Cyrus. Squeaky-clean Miley Cyrus doesn’t have much in common with the steamy, Diddy-svengali’d girl group Danity Kane; but just as those pussycat dolls stunned jaded insiders back in August by thumping OutKast for #1, Hannah wins in a walk over Gerard Way’s band of restyled emo-warriors, 281,000 copies to 240,000. Like the Killers with their #2 debut earlier this month, MCR can take solace in scoring their best sales week ever; also, last week their awesome single “Welcome to the Black Parade” took the top of the Modern Rock chart, evicting the Killers’ “When You Were Young.” As for Miss Cyrus, her win cements the Disney media empire’s dominance over the 2006 charts: with 10 months of the year over, the triple-platinum High School Musical soundtrack is still in the Top 40 and all but unstoppable as the year’s #1 album.

Bucking the trend. The news out of retailers is actually pretty good this week, as CD sales are up just over 5% compared with the same week a year ago – only the second week this fall to achieve that feat. It’s also heartening to see some acts defying gravity with “good holds,” as they say in Hollywood – i.e., modest weekly sales drops. Having suffered the slings and arrows of fickle hipsters, the Killers are still in the Top 10 in their fourth week, and Justin’s album is still in the Top Five, both with low-double-digit drops. The other Top 10–dweller with legs is octogenarian Tony Bennett, who debuted two weeks ago with his Duets album (there’s another idea he stole from Sinatra) and, after a second-week drop, is actually moving back up this week, with sales at Starbucks likely giving him a boost. Hmm…Hannah Montana, Tony Bennett…kids, elders – these are the year’s big winners. Have I hit that point home enough this year?

Making Bennett look hip. Was I just saying something about elders? Next week, a veteran artist is going to score his second #1 album of 2006. Yep, two chart-toppers in one year, and he’s nearing Social Security age. No, not that guy. No, I wish it were that guy. No, this guy will come and he’ll give without taking, but we’ll send him away.

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