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In this week’s chart and sales analysis, we get all warm and fuzzy with Jennifer Lopez and her impressive Valentine’s Day 180. We also use the romantic inclinations of Cupid’s arrows to “get in the mood” for one of the sultriest Grammy Award categories, Best R&B Album.
J. Lo’s ’Funny’ Valentine’s Day
Talk about your Valentine’s Day rebounds. This time last year, reps for Sean “Puffy” Combs and Jennifer Lopez spent Valentine’s Day by separately confirming that the couple had split (see ” Valentine’s Day Heartbreak: Puffy And Lopez Split” ). Although Puffy and J. Lo (who wed dancer Cris Judd last September) are not together to represent the ideal pop/hip-hop couple this year, they can still enjoy this Cupid’s day by celebrating their respective critical and commercial achievements on the big screen and on the Billboard chart.
While Combs is no doubt ecstatic to be drawing serious notices for his strong turn as condemned felon Lawrence Musgrove in the Oscar-nominated flick “Monster’s Ball,” Lopez has even better reason to break out into one of her old Fly Girl routines this Valentine’s season. The singer/actress will score her second consecutive #1 album with J to Tha L-O!: The Remixes, which sold 156,000 copies last week to lay claim to the top spot on next week’s Billboard 200 albums chart (see “Jennifer Lopez Kicks The Boys To The Curb On Next Week’s Albums Chart” ).
Even though her previous chart-topper, J.Lo, sold more than 272,000 copies during its debut week, Lopez landed a particularly nifty dance move with J to Tha L-O! landing at #1 — especially considering how unkind audiences have been to remix LPs such as Michael Jackson’s Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, Nine Inch Nails’ Things Falling Apart and Limp Bizkit’s New Old Songs.
Issued in May 1997 as the follow-up/sequel/continuation of Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future anthology (which has sold 2.45 million copies to date), Blood on the Dance Floor sold just 35,000 copies out of the gate and debuted at #24 on the Billboard 200. Despite the red-hot title track, Blood on the Dance Floor would only course through the albums chart for nine weeks, going on to sell just 250,000 copies.
Despite Trent Reznor’s technical wizardry, Nine Inch Nails’ remix effort, Things Falling Apart, also failed to generate much of a chart pulse after arriving in stores in November 2000. Even with the holiday sales swell typical of a Thanksgiving-week release, Things Falling Apart tallied just 43,000 copies sold to debut at #67. The LP didn’t hang around much after the holidays, logging five weeks on the Billboard albums chart and totaling some 186,000 copies to date.
Even Limp Bizkit couldn’t crack the Billboard top 25 with its just-released remix record, New Old Songs. To the rip-rock band’s credit, New Old Songs sold more than 104,000 copies during its first week and entered the charts at #26 in December. Even though the Bizkit have sold 6.19 million copies of their previous studio album, 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, New Old Songs has done quite well for a remix album, selling 462,000 copies and currently standing at #113 on the Billboard 200.
But thanks to her #1 debut, Lopez can aim for even better things with J to Tha L-O!. Thanks to the inclusion of two established hits, the Murder Inc. remixes of “Ain’t It Funny” and “I’m Real,” the LP has a realistic shot of reaching the million-selling status of its predecessors, 2001’s J.Lo, at 3.18 million copies sold, and Lopez’s 1999 debut, On the 6, at 2.56 million copies sold. Those sales would easily provide Lopez with a platinum record certification for J to Tha L-O! — a rare feat for a remix record, though one achieved by Madonna for her 1987 album, You Can Dance.
Love, Remembrance & The Best R&B Album
With all the love and tenderness associated with Valentine’s Day, it seemed to make perfect sense to use the romantic holiday as a means of returning to our Grammy Awards preview — this time for one of the most silky-smooth categories, that of Best R&B Album.
While artists ranging from James Brown to Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross have been pioneering the R&B realm since the ’50s and ’60s, it turns out that — incredibly enough — the Best R&B Album award is one of the newer Grammy categories. In fact, despite a litany of classic R&B records cut during the ’60s and ’70s, there have been just seven previous winners of the Best R&B Album Grammy, dating back to 1994’s inaugural winner, Philadelphia’s Boyz II Men for II.
This year’s Best R&B Album nominees represent a unique mix of artists and voices, including India.Arie’s Acoustic Soul, Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor, Destiny’s Child’s Survivor, Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama and a posthumous nomination for Aaliyah’s self-titled LP.
If one were to go strictly by the SoundScan numbers in handicapping this category, then one would have to make Alicia Keys the overwhelming favorite for Songs in A Minor, as the album has sold 4.48 million copies to date — 500,000 more than the next nearest nominee, Destiny’s Child’s Survivor, which has sold 3.8 million copies. Songs in A Minor also holds a chart edge over the other nominees, having logged three weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in July 2001.
The only other chart-topping nominees are Survivor, which spent two weeks at #1 in May 2001 (including an impressive debut week of more than 663,000 copies sold) and Aaliyah, which entered the charts at #2 in July 2001. The album, which has sold 2.03 million copies, climbed to #1 a few months later in the wake of Aaliyah’s death in August.
Mary J. Blige exemplifies the role of R&B vet in this category, as No More Drama marks the singer’s fifth studio album to be issued during the last decade, dating back to her 1992 debut, What’s the 411? While we’re certain that Mary J. will most certainly get her Grammy due one day (she has only previously shared an award with Method Man for their joint single, “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By”), we’re thinking it’s likely to be in the category of Record or Album of the Year.
Even though No More Drama has already sold more than 1.86 million copies since its release last August, it lags behind the other nominees and has yet to catch up to Blige’s other albums, including What’s the 411? (2.71 million copies sold), 1994’s My Life (2.38 million), 1997’s Share My World (2.52 million) and 1999’s Mary (2.02 million) — although Drama is on pace to become her best-selling album within the next year.
In the same light, it seems rather unlikely that Destiny’s Child would win the Best R&B Album Grammy for Survivor, as the album — while a certifiable hit — has sold 2 million less than the group’s previous LP, 1999’s The Writing’s on the Wall, which has sold 5.9 million copies. By comparison, Destiny’s Child has sold just 725,000 copies of their 1998 self-titled debut.
Atlanta’s India.Arie emerged onto the R&B scene with an accomplished debut, Acoustic Soul, which has tallied more than 1.05 million in sales since its top 10 debut last March. While the LP is the smallest-seller of this year’s batch of nominees, any real hopes that India.Arie could take this category would seem to lie in the Recording Academy’s penchant for having awarded the Best R&B Album to fledgling acts over the years. Six of the seven Best R&B Album winners were honored for either their first or second efforts, with the hip-hop power trio TLC snapping that streak with their third album, Fanmail.
If the Grammy does go to a debut album this year, then look for Alicia Keys to win for her sprawling first LP, Songs in A Minor. The one hitch could come if sympathy sways Grammy voters toward Aaliyah’s impressive LP — a decision that surely would be less controversial than an Olympic pairs skating event.
Previous winners of the Best R&B Album and their SoundScan sales totals to date: D’Angelo’s Voodoo (1.60 million), TLC’s Fanmail (4.65 million), Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (6.05 million), Erykah Badu’s Baduizm (2.42 million), Tony Rich Project’s Words (931,000), TLC’s CrazySexyCool (7.05 million) and Boyz II Men’s II (8.51 million).
With two weeks until the Grammys, spring is in the air — and that means artists are readying the first wave of major releases of the New Year. In the coming weeks, artists such as Q-Tip, Alanis Morissette, Montell Jordan, Sheryl Crow, Brandy, Goo Goo Dolls and R.Kelly and Jay-Z, among others, are all scheduled to drop new albums. Bring it on.
[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan’s audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]