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Sheesh. After several weeks of relative sales "doldrums," we're happy to see any movement on the charts, let alone a dethroning of Creed's Weathered from atop the Billboard 200. In this week's chart and sales analysis, we take a closer look at some of the albums that have enjoyed lengthy stays at #1 during recent years and the records that eventually displaced them. We also continue our preview of next month's Grammy Awards by surveying the nominees for Best Alternative Music Album.
#1 Streaks (And The Albums That Broke Them)
Well, you've gotta hand it to Alan Jackson. Propelled by the overwhelming response to his September 11 paean, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," the country star sold more than 423,000 copies of his new album, Drive, last week to knock Creed's Weathered from the #1 spot on next week's Billboard 200 albums chart (see "Creed Knocked From Top Of Albums Chart").
In doing so, Jackson becomes just the seventh country artist since 1996 to lasso a chart-topping debut, joining the ranks of Garth Brooks (who has done it four different times, with Scarecrow, The Limited Series box set, Double Live and Sevens), LeAnn Rimes (twice, for You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs and Unchained Melody: The Early Years), Tim McGraw (A Place in the Sun), the Dixie Chicks (Fly), George Strait (Carrying Your Love With Me), and Faith Hill (Breathe).
That's not really what has got our charts juices flowing this week we're more interested in the Creed chart streak that Jackson ended by taking a Drive. With eight consecutive weeks at #1, Creed's Weathered fell just short of breaking a (now) four-way tie for the second-longest chart-topping run in the last five years. So, in keeping with that spirit, we thought we'd revisit some of the more impressive chart streaks during that time, as well as the artists and albums that eventually put a stop to those #1 runs.
Prior to Weathered, the last record to log eight consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 was Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, which debuted at #1 in late May 2000 after selling some 1.76 million copies during its first week in stores. The cropped blond rapper spent most of June and July atop the Billboard albums chart before giving way to the multi-artist, jukebox-friendly compilation Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 4, which sold 320,000 copies in its debut week to become the first #1 album in the Now series.
Aside from Eminem (and Creed), the only other artists to top the charts for a full two months within the last five years are surprise, surprise! No Doubt and 'NSYNC. Gwen Stefani and the boys of No Doubt rattled off an eight-week #1 run in late 1996 and early 1997 with their breakthrough, Tragic Kingdom. The album sold 228,000 copies during one week in mid-December 1996 to complete its climb to #1.
In a strange twist of fate, Tragic Kingdom lifted the #1 crown from Razorblade Suitcase, the second effort from Bush, the group fronted by Stefani's present-day fiancé, Gavin Rossdale. Tragic Kingdom later yielded the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart to the "Gridlock'd" soundtrack (150,000 copies sold in its first week). That album featured the track "Wanted Dead or Alive," a collaboration between Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur, who had co-starred in the film alongside Tim Roth.
For 'NSYNC, the Orlando boy band enjoyed a lengthy, well-choreographed chart run with its second album, No Strings Attached, which spent eight straight weeks as the #1 album in America during the spring of 2000. Actually, No Strings Attached plays a prominent role in one of our favorite back-to-back chart streaks in recent memory.
As fans well recall, 'NSYNC set an opening-week record in March 2000 by selling more than 2.41 million copies of No Strings Attached to lay claim to the #1 spot. In the process, 'NSYNC also ended Santana's six-week, post-Grammy Awards run atop the Billboard 200 with his comeback album, Supernatural. No Strings Attached tied a knot around the top of the charts for two months before being bested by Britney Spears' Oops! ... I Did it Again for a single week in May (with Oops! selling 1.31 million copies in its debut week). And who could possibly knock Spears out of the #1 spot? Why, Eminem's aforementioned The Marshall Mathers LP, conveniently enough.
Of course, the #1 stretches posted by Creed, 'NSYNC, Eminem and No Doubt can't compare to the lengthiest chart-topping run in recent memory. That honor, for those who've forgotten, belongs to the "Titanic" soundtrack, which cruised at #1 on the Billboard albums chart for a remarkable 16 consecutive weeks, from January through April 1998. It would take the Dave Matthews Band's Before These Crowded Streets to sink the "Titanic" soundtrack (thanks to 421,000 copies sold of DMB's LP in its opening week), and we're guessing there's a special place reserved for Matthews in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for having done so.
Bringing it back to the present with Creed, the band's unceremonious bumping from the top spot won't keep it from achieving a rather unique chart "trinity." Even though Weathered dips to #2 on next week's Billboard 200 albums chart, the group's previous two records, Human Clay and My Own Prison, will sit at #1 and #3, respectively, on next week's Billboard Pop Catalog Albums chart. Coincidence? Ya never know.
Best Alternative Grammy? The Charts Tell All
Best Alternative Music Album is one of the newest categories in all of the Grammy Awards, with only two previous winners: Radiohead's Kid A (951,000 copies sold) last year and Beck's Mutations (532,000 sold) before that. This year's crop of nominees is an appropriately eclectic mix, including Tori Amos' Strange Little Girls, Björk's Vespertine, Fatboy Slim's Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, Radiohead's Amnesiac and Coldplay's Parachutes.
With 1.05 million copies sold of Parachutes, Coldplay's dreamy debut would seem to be the prohibitive favorite. But as we've mentioned in previous columns, the Recording Academy seems to enjoy repeat winners in the newer categories, which would seem to offer a glimmer of extraterrestrial hope for Radiohead's Amnesiac, which has sold 669,000 copies to date, but seems hard-pressed to catch up to Kid A.
Fatboy Slim's Halfway has been a sales slacker, having only reached the 255,000 mark despite the hip Christopher Walken-Spike Jonze video for "Weapon of Choice" nowhere near the 1.38 million in sales of Slim's previous album, 1998's You've Come a Long Way, Baby.
Tori Amos' Strange Little Girls is the smallest-seller of the fiery songstress' catalog, with only 335,000 copies sold. That's a downward trend from the 431,000 copies sold of her 1999 double album, To Venus & Back, 1998's From the Choirgirl Hotel (725,000 copies sold), 1996's Boys for Pele (992,000), 1994's Under the Pink (1.33 million) and 1992's Little Earthquakes (1.78 million). Moreover, Amos' latest is a collection of cover songs, and it's hard to imagine the Academy bypassing original material by Radiohead, Björk and Coldplay in favor of dramatic reworkings of tunes such as Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" or even Eminem's "Bonnie & Clyde '97."
In this category, the marks against Amos would seem to mirror the marks against Björk, because as accomplished as Vespertine is, it too is one of the weaker sellers of Björk's catalogue. The Icelandic singer's newest album has tallied just 277,000 copies sold, only out-distancing her 1997 remix LP, Telegram (228,000), and 2000's Selmasongs (201,000), compared to sales for 1993's Debut (843,000), 1995's Post (701,000) and 1997's Homogenic (442,000). Vespertine could also suffer from a split vote between it and the similarly-crafted soundscapes of Amnesiac.
Give the nod to Coldplay's Parachutes, an album that has achieved its success through persistence and perseverance. Even though Parachutes has landed over a million copies in fan's hands, the album has never climbed above #51 on the Billboard 200. Instead, it has "hung around," logging 58 straight weeks on the albums chart since December 2000. Let's just hope Coldplay can tear themselves away from working on the follow-up to attend the Grammy Awards. We think they'll be pleasantly surprised.
Coming Attractions ...
Yes, Mariah Carey's "Glitter" soundtrack failed to generate much (if any) of a sales rush and led her label, Virgin Records, to negotiate a split with her after issuing the record (see "Mariah Carey And Virgin Part Ways"). But with more than 500,000 copies sold, we're not so sure it's fair to label the LP as one of the biggest disappointments in recent years, or even of 2001. Next week we'll review the pedigrees of some of the real sales dogs from last year.
[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]