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With the lack of any new releases creating much of a stir on the new Billboard 200 albums chart, we'll instead use this week's SoundScan sales analysis to handicap the Grammy nominees for Album of the Year. We'll also roll the numbers in bidding a fond farewell for now, anyway to Southern-fried rockers the Black Crowes.
Grammy Winners By The Numbers
In the premier category of Album of the Year, this year's slate of Grammy Award nominees are dominated by a trio of three-million-sellers that were all released in late 2000, just missing the cut-off date for last year's Grammy Awards ceremony.
If sales figures were used to indicate favorites in a certain Grammy category, then Outkast's Stankonia would certainly be tipped as the leader for the Album of the Year, thanks to its 3.79 million in sales. That puts rap duo of Big Boi and Dre just ahead of the bluegrass- and country-tinged "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack to the acclaimed Coen Brothers film (3.55 million) and U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind (3.30 million). Rounding out the last two nominations for Album of the Year are the debut effort from India.Arie, Acoustic Soul (1.01 million), and Love and Theft, the latest album from rock icon Bob Dylan, which has sold 561,000 copies since its September release.
The Album of the Year title is not always bestowed upon the biggest-selling nominee, as evidenced by the Grammy win posted by Steely Dan's Two Against Nature (996,000 copies sold to date) over Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP (8.64 million) last year. But the Recording Academy has, in the last decade, chosen such notable sellers as Santana's Supernatural (10.96 million), Celine Dion's Falling Into You (10.43 million) and Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (13.89 million) for Album of the Year.
Dylan won the Album of the Year Grammy in 1998 for his Daniel Lanois-produced comeback LP, Time Out of Mind, so it seems highly unlikely that the wisened singer/songwriter would be crowned a second time for its follow-up. And despite her accomplished debut, India.Arie also seems a bit of a stretch for Album of the Year honors as well, as the nouveau R&B spirit of Acoustic Soul seems akin to that of another recent winner, Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1999.
Of the three other discs vying for Album of the Year, the odd LP out seems to be the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. The last soundtrack to capture an Album of the Year Grammy was the Whitney Houston-driven "The Bodyguard" album in 1994, and we're not sure if the Recording Academy would be willing to give its top album honor to a country record that wasn't by Garth Brooks or the Dixie Chicks.
That would seem to leave U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind and Outkast's Stankonia to face off in a classic Album of the Year showdown: cherished veteran act vs. up-and-coming innovators. In light of the fact that U2 won three Grammys at last year's event for its "Beautiful Day" single from All That You Can't Leave Behind, the Irish band appears to be a lock for its first Album of the Year award since its 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.
But what makes us hesitant to lean toward U2 in 2002 is the simple idea that at some point in the 21st century, the Recording Academy must choose a rap LP as Album of the Year. They did come close in 2001 with Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, but the controversy that surrounded that album's nomination would have been nothing compared to the firestorm that would have engulfed the Grammys had Eminem actually won.
Simply put, Outkast's Stankonia would provide the Recording Academy with a safer, yet undeniably legitimate, rap Album of the Year. But six weeks out, we'd still call it a tossup between U2 and Outkast.
Regardless of who takes home the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the winner is sure to see his or her sales spike upward the week immediately following the ceremony.
Last year, sales of Steely Dan's Two Against Nature shot up from just 3,000 copies the week before the Grammys to more than 31,000 copies the week after, a jump that catapulted the reunion LP to #54 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Santana's Supernatural was already the #1 album the week before the Grammy Awards were handed out in 2000, but after it was named Album of the Year, sales more than doubled from a respectable 219,000 copies the previous week to a mammoth 583,000 copies the week following the win.
For those keeping score, the last 10 winners of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and their corresponding SoundScan sales figures to date are:
- Steely Dan, Two Against Nature (996,000 copies sold)
- Santana, Supernatural (10.96 million)
- Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (6.04 million)
- Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind (868,000)
- Celine Dion, Falling Into You (10.43 million)
- Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (13.89 million)
- Tony Bennett, MTV Unplugged (765,000)
- "The Bodyguard" soundtrack (11.68 million)
- Eric Clapton, Unplugged (7.27 million)
- Natalie Cole, Unforgettable (6.02 million)
Black Crowes: These Birds Have Flown
It appears that the Black Crowes have musically "winged it" for the last time.
The Black Crowes are going on hiatus for the time being, according to a statement issued by the band's publicists earlier this week. The move follows the recent departure of Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, the last remaining original member of the band aside from brothers Chris and Rich Robinson.
The announcement brings a turbulent two years to a close for the Atlanta-based Crowes, who first stormed onto the national music scene in 1990 with their debut LP, Shake Your Money Maker. The album produced two of the band's biggest singles, the acoustic ballad "She Talks to Angels" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and has sold some 3.79 million copies to date.
The Crowes' second effort, 1992's The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, also reached a platinum nest by tallying some 1.79 million in sales. Despite the drop-off between their first two LPs, it was with the band's third album, 1994's Amorica, in which the group seems to have musically yin-ed as its audience yang-ed. The batch of "experimental" songs and road-weary ditties sold only 536,000 copies and was the start of the Crowes' sales plummet, followed by 1996's Three Snakes and One Charm (311,000 copies sold), and 1999's By Your Side (271,000).
The Black Crowes appeared to be gaining lift in 1999 after a joint tour with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page spawned the double concert album Live at the Greek. After Page's back injury forced them to abandon plans for a fall 2000 trek in support of the album, momentum (and sales) for Live at the Greek stalled, with the record's sales eventually settling around 202,000 copies sold.
A Black Crowes best-of compilation, titled Greatest Hits 1990-1999: A Tribute to a Work in Progress and released in June 2000, also underwhelmed music buyers. The now-seemingly complete Tribute to a Work in Progress has sold less than 240,000 copies to date a fraction of what one of the Crowes' contemporaries, Lenny Kravitz, has sold of his own Greatest Hits LP (3.35 million).
New things appeared to be afoot for the Black Crowes the following year, thanks to a new label deal (with V2 Records) and the media attention surrounding Chris Robinson's wedding to actress Kate Hudson. However, the resulting album, Lions, failed to register much of a roar upon its release in May 2001 and has sold just 192,000 copies so far.
Considering the Black Crowes' current "hiatus," it leads us to ponder the fate of another sibling band, and a group with whom the Crowes mounted one of their final tours: Oasis.
Fronted by brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, the Brit-rock outfit has also endured a rather precipitous drop-off in sales with its two most recent releases, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (189,000 copies sold to date) and the double-live disc Familiar to Millions (64,000), both of which were issued in 2000. Those numbers indicate that Oasis' sales have "dried up" significantly as compared to the figures posted by the group's first three albums, 1994's Definitely Maybe (713,000 copies sold), 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (3.49 million) and 1997's Be Here Now (963,000). As the late George Harrison once sang, "All things must pass," y'know?
[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]
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