Got Charts? Creed Vs. Pearl Jam, Shakira’s Machisma, Kid Rock’s Curse

A weekly tale of the tape for the statistically obsessed.

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In this week’s chart and sales analysis, we arbitrarily settle a few sales scores between Pearl Jam and Creed, and we size up Shakira’s crossover success against the likes of Latin pop stars Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias. We finish up with a little fun exploring a fictional musical curse with the help of Kid Rock, Puff Daddy and the Spice Girls.

Creed And Pearl Jam: The Doppelganger Effect

With the release of Creed’s third album, Weathered, perhaps it’s time to say “Enough!” to the Pearl Jam comparisons. You know the groups would like to. Unfortunately, the sales figures won’t let us — even though that may all change in the next few months.

Though Creed have been accused of being little more than Pearl Jam’s radio-friendly doppelganger since their emergence in the late ’90s, the Tallahassee band’s chart-topping debut on next week’s Billboard 200 (see“Scott Stapp Called It: Creed’s Weathered Makes Big Debut At #1″ ) will mark a significant transitional moment in their relationship.

Weathered stormed the #1 spot by selling more than 887,000 copies in its first week in stores, according to SoundScan — sales figures that are practically identical to those put up by the Seattle proto-grungers seven years ago with the release of their own third album, Vitalogy.

When Pearl Jam issued Vitalogy on CD and cassette formats in December 1994, the album soared straight to #1 on the strength of 877,000 copies sold and became Pearl Jam’s second consecutive album to top the charts. (The self-avowed vinyl enthusiasts had released the LP version of Vitalogy two weeks earlier than the CD/cassette versions. The album found enough turntables to spin over 40,000 copies and entered the Billboard 200 at #55 based on vinyl-only sales.)

While the chart and sales numbers for Vitalogy and Weathered are surprisingly similar, the career crossroads at which Creed and Pearl Jam find (or found) themselves at upon the release of their respective third albums could hardly be more different.

For Pearl Jam, as impressive as Vitalogy’s debut had been, it was nevertheless a slight dip from the then-record-setting 950,000 copies the band had sold of its second album, Vs., in October 1993. Vs. spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 and has gone on to sell more than 5.75 million copies to date, itself a sizable decrease from the 8.75 million copies sold of Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut, Ten.

Vitalogy spent only one week at #1, and Pearl Jam’s third album was a relatively quick chart casualty following the seasonal push that continued to boost sales through January 1995. In the end, Vitalogy logged a mere 15 weeks in the top 20 and 48 total weeks in the Billboard 200 on its way to tallying 4.60 million in sales.

Of course, the release of Vitalogy found Pearl Jam at their fan-unfriendliest. The band was still embroiled in a bitter dispute with Ticketmaster, a fight that kept Eddie Vedder and his bandmates away from the road and their adoring public for long stretches of time. The group also had all but abandoned the traditional means of promoting itself or its work, i.e. radio singles, music videos or press interviews.

Though Pearl Jam would eventually make their peace with Ticketmaster, radio programmers and the media at large, the damage had already been done on the commercial front. None of the group’s subsequent studio releases — 1996’s No Code (1.36 million copies sold to date), 1998’s Yield (1.52 million) and last year’s Binaural (700,000) — have managed to breathe the same multi-platinum air of Pearl Jam’s first three records.

With Weathered, Creed find themselves in the midst of a career-defining sales swell, as they have more than doubled the first-week numbers posted by their previous album, Human Clay,. Creed molded that record into the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 in October 1999 after the album sold more than 315,000 copies out of the gate.

Creed’s total album sales have also ballooned in a relatively short time. The Floridians’ 1997 debut, My Own Prison, has sold some 5.63 million copies, while Human Clay recently surpassed the 10.2 million mark, according to SoundScan. Human Clay also spent a staggering 99 of 104 total weeks in the upper half of the Billboard 200 albums chart and continues to sell at a pace of more than 10,000 copies a week — so don’t expect Weathered to take the same sort of mercurial fall down the charts that undercut Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy.

If Creed can keep the internal strife to a minimum while continuing to tour and release singles (and videos), then the band is all but assured of establishing its commercial legacy as decidedly different — if not altogether bigger — than that of Pearl Jam.

Shakira Airs Her English-Language Laundry

Colombian pop siren Shakira is taking American audiences to the cleaners with her first cross-lingual album, Laundry Service.

Fueled by the English-language hit, “Whenever, Wherever,” Shakira’s Service debuted at #3 on this week’s Billboard 200 and has already sold more than 344,000 copies in just two weeks in stores. That’s none too shabby considering that the 24-year-old’s last Spanish-language studio album, Dónde Están Los Ladrones?, has sold a respectable 710,000 copies since its September 1998 release.

Shakira’s sales figures also fare reasonably well when compared to those posted by the macho Latin trio of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony — each of whom has successfully cultivated English language audiences with his own respective “crossover” releases in recent years.

After entering the Billboard 200 albums chart at #8 in October 1999, Marc Anthony managed to sell 203,000 copies of his self-titled English-language debut during its first two weeks in release. The album has gone on to sell some 2.85 million copies to date in the U.S., according to SoundScan.

Contra La Corriente, Anthony’s last Spanish-language effort prior to making the crossover move, has tallied 397,000 in Stateside sales since its October 1997 release. Libre, Anthony’s new Spanish-language album, sold 52,000 copies last week and will enter the next Billboard 200 at #57.

Enrique Iglesias, who has already sold more than 805,000 copies of his new disc, Escape, actually posted rather modest numbers when his first English-language record, Enrique, debuted in November 1999. In comparison with Shakira’s hefty sales figures, Enrique barely cracked the top 50 during its first week on the Billboard 200 by debuting at #42.

Enrique moved 150,000 copies during its first two weeks in stores, although it would eventually go on to sell more than 1.83 million copies total, thanks in large part to the hit single, “Bailamos.” Iglesias’ last Spanish-language album, 1998’s Cosas Del Amor, has done about as well as Anthony’s Contra La Corriente by selling some 388,000 copies to date in America.

Of course, Ricky Martin remains king when it comes to crossing over. The former Menudo singer and “General Hospital” soap stud has sold more than 6.86 million copies so far of his self-titled first English-language album, which debuted at #1 in May 1999 after selling some 660,000 copies.

In its first two weeks in stores, Ricky Martin rolled the R’s of over 1.11 million buyers, selling 260,000 more copies than the singer’s previous Spanish-language album, Vuelve, has registered since its release in February 1998. Martin’s second English album, Sound Loaded, has been less of a scorcher, mustering only 1.62 million in sales to date, and is likely to be bested by Iglesias’ Escape by the end of this year’s holiday period.

Kid Rock And The Curse Of ’Forever’

Kid Rock’s Cocky is selling shockingly rockily.

The long-awaited studio follow-up to Kid Rock’s 1998 breakthrough, Devil Without a Cause, will make a surprisingly limp debut on the Billboard 200 next week. Cocky sold some 222,000 copies during its first week of release and will enter the albums chart at #7, just ahead of Pink’s new record, Missundazstood.

The chart showing might normally be enough to get the Kid’s rocks off, sales-wise, but not when you consider that his last album, the compilation The History of Rock, sold more than 456,000 copies to debut at #2 on the Billboard 200 in June 2000. Even in its second week on shelves, The History of Rock outdid Cocky’s debut, with 247,000 units sold. Cocky will be hard pressed to meet that amount next week, despite the post-Thanksgiving seasonal surge.

The reason for Rock’s hardened album sales? Well, we’re not sure, but we’re willing to go way out on a limb (and fan a little musical superstition) and blame it on something we refer to as the curse of “forever.”

Since 1999, both the Spice Girls and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Sean Combs adopted the word “forever” for use as album titles, and both times brought on varying degrees of bad luck.

After selling more than 5 million copies of his 1997 debut, No Way Out, Combs issued his second solo effort, boldly entitled Forever, in August 1999. Even though the record has sold more than 1.38 million copies to date, Combs’ first-week thunder was jacked by none other than Christina Aguilera, whose self-titled debut sold 252,000 copies to enter the Billboard 200 at #1, just ahead of Forever at #2 (with 205,000 copies sold).

If the “forever” curse was mildly annoying to Combs, it was a downright hex for the Spice Girls, who at one point during the mid-’90s were widely regarded as Britain’s most popular musical import to the States. As a quintet, the Spice Girls have tallied more than 11 million albums in the U.S. between their first two releases, 1996’s Spice (7.31 million) and 1997’s Spiceworld (4.10 million).

But after Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell walked out on the Girls in May 1998, the remaining four Spices opted to test the solo waters for a spell before reforming for a third, Geri-less album which they christened Forever and issued on Election Day last year. The curse struck once again, and the Spice Girls album was vanquished from the Billboard 200 chart in less than two months. To date, the Spice Girls’ Forever has only sold a tragic 197,000 copies.

While the curse seems to have been limited to album titles, we’re hypothesizing and postulating that Kid Rock’s decision to issue a track called “Forever” as Cocky’s lead single has unfortunately brought on some harsh rock and roll mojo. 

Of course, we could be wrong — Wu-Tang Forever was a hit in 1997 — but as a music-minded public safety announcement, we’re encouraging all artists to stay away from the word “Forever” in all of their album titles and lead singles. It can only help.

[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan’s audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]