CHARTING THE CHARTS: 19 Oct 06

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.

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