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.