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In this week's chart and sales analysis, we check in with our favorite dreadlocked rapper and soft-drink pitchman, Busta Rhymes, and wonder what could have gone right with Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. We also gauge how fans and record buyers chose to honor the memory and music of the late George Harrison.
Can Busta Bust Back To The Beginning?
After a sales misstep with Anarchy, his final album for Elektra Records, Busta Rhymes is hoping that his just-released LP, Genesis, will provide just that a new beginning.
Thanks to "woo-hah" hot sales, Genesis, Rhymes' first album as part of a new deal with J Records, moved more than 185,000 copies last week and will crash next week's Billboard 200 albums chart at #7 (see "Creed Won't 'Sacrifice' Pole Position On Billboard Chart"), becoming Busta's second straight record to debut in the top 10. Busta's previous album, Anarchy, posted similar numbers upon its release last year, selling 167,000 copies to debut at #4 in June 2000.
Even though it was released in conjunction with Busta Rhymes' theatrical appearance in the John Singleton-Samuel Jackson remake of "Shaft," Anarchy is the smallest-selling album in the Brooklyn MC's solo catalog. Anarchy spent only 14 total weeks during its chart tenure on the Billboard 200 and has tallied just 656,000 in sales, according to SoundScan.
The numbers for Anarchy are dwarfed by those posted by Busta's first solo effort, The Coming, which (after debuting at #6 on the charts in March 1996 with 124,000 copies sold) spent more than 20 weeks in the Billboard 200 on its way to selling more than 773,000 copies to date.
Despite the chaotic sales figures put up by Anarchy, Busta is no doubt expecting Genesis to return him to the fiscal level he achieved with his second and third records, 1997's When Disaster Strikes and 1998's E.L.E., which have posted almost identical figures with 1.64 million and 1.61 million copies sold, respectively.
Anchored by the rapper's breakthrough hit, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," When Disaster Strikes achieved the highest chart debut of Busta Rhymes' career by selling 165,000 copies in September 1997 to enter the Billboard 200 at #3 (trailing only Mariah Carey's Butterfly at #1 and LeAnn Rimes' You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs at #2).
Issued shortly before Christmas in 1998, Rhymes' E.L.E. sold more than 235,000 copies during its first week in stores, and holds the "biggest-selling-week" honors for all of Rhymes' albums. However, the holiday sales surge wasn't enough to push E.L.E.'s debut into the top 10 of the Billboard 200, as it instead spent its opening week on the charts at #13. Although it would inch up to the #12 spot in January 1999, it remains the only Busta Rhymes album that failed to spend at least one week inside the top 10.
Regardless of whether it can reach the magical 1.6 million marks of E.L.E. and When Disaster Strikes, look for sales of Genesis to breathe some semblance of life into The Best of Busta Rhymes, a greatest-hits compilation that has been commercially D.O.A. since arriving in stores in October. Since then, The Best of Busta Rhymes has only managed to sell a paltry 20,000 copies and has yet to move more than 3,300 copies in a single week.
What Went Right With I Might Be Wrong?
Before I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings slinks off the Billboard 200 charts entirely (it slides to #166 next week), we'd like to take a moment and ponder what could have been (and maybe should have been) for Radiohead's much-ballyhooed concert record.
Coming on the heels of the band's potent 1-2 combination punch of Kid A and Amnesiac, as well as Radiohead's acclaimed tours of Europe, North America and Japan this summer, I Might Be Wrong was obviously meant as a way to tide fans over until Thom Yorke and company's next proper release. Nothing new there, as Radiohead had previously done something similar by issuing its Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP in spring 1998, almost nine months after releasing OK Computer and featuring several B-sides and unreleased tracks from the OK sessions.
As with I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP earned enough sales to debut in the upper half of the Billboard 200 albums chart. The seven-track Airbag EP sold 20,000 copies to skid into the charts at #56 during its first week in April 1998, and has since gone on to sell more than 157,000 copies to date, none to shabby given that Airbag is no longer in print in America.
In just three weeks, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings has already sold over half that number, notching some 83,000 copies in sales, including an impressive first week where over 48,000 copies were sold, propelling the album to a #44 debut on the Billboard 200.
But considering how well Kid A (928,000 copies sold to date) and Amnesiac (628,000) have fared, we're wondering if Radiohead might have missed a golden opportunity to serve up a true, full-length concert record instead. Based upon the early returns for I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, we think they have.
While we do appreciate the lovely unreleased track, "True Love Waits," that Radiohead chose to include on Live Recordings, we're convinced that the album's relative brevity (eight songs that clock in at just over 40 minutes), when matched with its full-length price, undoubtedly turned some fans right from Wrong.
For a group whose anti-corporate stance is well-documented and who once considered using No Logo as the title for Kid A, it seems that Radiohead would be the kind of act that would want to give fans more product for less money. Instead, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings is carrying the same, if not higher, sticker price than the band's full-length studio releases and that's not a-ok for the kids, computer.
Considering how well received Radiohead's summer gigs went, a more typical and characteristically fan-friendly move from the band might have been to issue a 70+ minute live album on a single, regularly-priced disc, or even a complete concert across two discs at a discounted price.
When it comes to doling out live material, Radiohead is certainly no Dave Matthews Band, who have several platinum concert albums to their credit, including the 1.36 million-seller Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95, as well as Matthews' 1.72 million-seller with guitarist Tim Reynolds, Live at Luther College.
However, based on Radiohead's current following, we're confident that if the Oxford band had issued a more comprehensive version of I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings just in time for Christmas, it would have at least surpassed the sales levels of such recent, moderately successful concert albums as Ozzfest 2001: The Second Millennium (166,000 copies sold), Ben Harper's Live From Mars (185,000 copies sold), The Roots Come Alive (187,000 copies sold), or Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes' Live at the Greek (199,000 copies sold), numbers that I Might Be Wrong will be lucky to near in its current configuration. Oh, well. Maybe next Christmas ... or Bastille Day.
Remembering Curious George Harrison
As the world learned of the passing of George Harrison last week, many fans turned to music to help them mourn the loss and remember the achievements of the former Beatles guitarist both as a solo artist as well as a founding member of the Fab Four.
In record stores, fan reaction to Harrison's death helped spur sales of the Beatles' 1 single-disc compilation over the 30,000 mark and into the #73 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The week prior to Harrison's death, The Beatles' 1 which has already sold some 7.7 million copies since its November 2000 release sold just 17,000 copies and was down at #146.
Of course, 1 only features one of Harrison's Beatles tunes, "Something," while the other 26 tracks are all John Lennon-Paul McCartney compositions. This leads us to believe that many who picked up the album were primarily interested in reminiscing with Harrison's lead guitar work on such Beatles classics as "She Loves You," "Paperback Writer" and "Hey Jude."
Other Beatles albums that also witnessed a dramatic upswing in sales last week include Abbey Road (which features a pair of Harrison's most popular Beatles tunes, "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun"), which sold 12,000 copies up from just 4,500 the week before and The Beatles "White Album" (which includes the apt "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), which sold 9,300 copies, up from 3,100 the week before.
Several of Harrison's solo albums were also warmly remembered by fans and record buyers, with the remastered version of his 1970 triple album masterpiece, All Things Must Pass, garnering the most attention. Containing Harrison's most ubiquitous single, "My Sweet Lord," All Things Must Pass sold more than 13,000 copies and will enter the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums chart at #26 next week. That's the most the newly remastered version had sold since being issued in January, when it tallied 11,000 copies in its first week in stores. In comparison, All Things Must Pass sold just 900 copies the week before Harrison's death.
The Best of George Harrison, a sampling of Harrison's best known solo work from the early '70s along with several of his Beatles contributions such as "Taxman" and "If I Needed Someone," will also manage to crack the top 50 of the Catalog Albums chart. The album, which had sold just 400 copies a week earlier, moved more than 10,000 copies in the wake of Harrison's death to enter the charts at #39.
Other Harrison albums receiving some much-deserved attention are his 1973 solo effort, Living in the Material World, which sold 1,100 copies last week up from just 90 copies sold the prior week, and The Concert for Bangla-Desh, which sold 1,000 copies last week up from just 80 copies sold the week before. The Concert for Bangla-Desh, a document of the 1971 benefit concerts organized by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, and featuring appearances from Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston and Bob Dylan, won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1972.
Though he was often referred to as the "shy" or "quiet" Beatle, George Harrison undoubtedly left a musical legacy that will continue to resound for years and across generations to come.
[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]