Got Charts? O, Canada — Nickelback Lead Charge From Up North

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With all the attention and contention surrounding the Canadian skating and hockey teams at the Winter Olympics, we thought we’d take the opportunity in this week’s chart and sales analysis to lavish a little intercontinental praise on Nickelback. Also, we continue our countdown to next week’s Grammys by predicting which former Best New Artist winner will get her due in a showdown for Best Pop Vocal Album.

A Fistful Of Nickelback

Blame it on the Olympics — Canadian athletes are claiming they’re not getting any respect at this year’s Winter Games in Salt Lake City. It’s hard to blame them, what with the medal controversy surrounding Canadian figure skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Salé, not to mention Wayne Gretzky’s observations that Olympic fans were actively rooting against the Canadian men’s hockey team.

With the Great One’s comments in mind, we wanted to help soothe relations with our Canadian brothers and sisters by heaping some way-overdue Got Charts? love on Vancouver’s Nickelback and their monstrous breakthrough LP, Silver Side Up.

Led by the back-to-back single/video combination for “How You Remind Me” and “Too Bad,” Nickelback have already tallied over 3.24 million copies sold of Silver Side Up since the record debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in September. That total is more than double the amount that Nickelback’s fellow Canadians in Sum41 have logged of their own breakthrough, All Killer No Filler, which has registered some 1.54 million in sales to date. As for Nickelback, Silver Side Up shows little sign of tarnishing as the LP has spent 21 of the last 23 weeks in the top 10 and will entrench itself firmly at #5 next week.

If Silver Side Up can keep up its torrid sales pace for a few more weeks, Nickelback should easily glide past the Barenaked Ladies and lay claim to having the biggest-selling LP by a Canadian rock band in the U.S. during the SoundScan era, which dates back to 1991. Toronto’s quirky pop outfit currently holds that honor with the Barenaked Ladies’ 1998 album, Stunt, which has sold 3.59 million copies to date.

With a round of summer touring and perhaps another single release, Silver Side Up could ante up past the 5 million mark and maybe even challenge countrywoman Sarah McLachlan’s 1997 LP, Surfacing, which remains the Lilith Fair founder’s best-selling album to date (5.35 million copies).

Should Nickelback reach the rare air of the 5 million mark, they may feel like they’ve stumbled into a Lilith tour stop. For Canadian artists, the upper echelons in LP sales have been dominated by females over the last 10 years, fronted by femmes such as Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion and Shania Twain. Two of those Canadians are responsible for America’s two top-selling albums of the last 10 years — Twain’s Come on Over (14.19 million) and Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (13.91 million). Dion has a pair of albums in the top 15 of the last decade, with her 1996 effort, Falling Into You, at #9 (10.45 million) and her 1997 follow-up, Let’s Talk About Love, at #15 (9.14 million).

If Canadians feel as though they’re getting robbed and jobbed at the Olympics, they can at least take solace in knowing their country remains very near and dear to record-buyers’ hearts — something Morissette will likely prove once again with a chart-topping debut for her new album, Under Rug Swept, which hits stores next Tuesday. As for Nickelback, they look like they’re set to enjoy the next few months on the Billboard 200, although they might want to consider enlisting a female guitarist or keyboardist to help break up their high concentration of XY chromosomes.

This Is Pop, Yeah Yeah

There’s just a week to go until the Grammys, so we continue our Got Charts? preview of the major album awards by handicapping the nominees for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Like other Grammy categories, such as Best Rock Album or Best Rap Album, the Recording Academy has only been handing out the Best Pop Vocal Album since the mid-’90s. The award had been known as simply “Best Pop Album” before it was changed to Best Pop Vocal Album, starting with last year’s awards.

Tweaking the category’s name seems to indicate that the Academy is still in the process of fine-tuning which artists should be placed, stylistically, in which categories. As with the newer categories — particularly Best Rock Album — these year-to-year re-evaluations can lead to a rather diverse slate of nominees. Artists set to vie for this year’s Best Pop Vocal Album honors are Nelly Furtado for Whoa, Nelly!, Janet Jackson for All for You, Elton John for Songs From the West Coast, ‘NSYNC for Celebrity and Sade for Lovers Rock.

If the Academy strictly observed that the “pop” in the category’s title is short for “popular,” then ‘NSYNC’s Celebrity would be this year’s Best Pop Vocal Album, hands down. With more than 4.58 million logged in sales, Celebrity has far outsold all of the other nominated records in this category. The album also debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, a feat that only Janet Jackson was able to match with All for You (2.78 million).

But while both ‘NSYNC’s and Janet’s albums have done well, they each mark a drop in the sales achieved by their respective previous records, with ‘NSYNC selling 10.92 million copies of No Strings Attached and 8.67 million copies of their 1998 self-titled debut. Jackson’s All for You should breeze past the 3.1 million in sales of her 1997 LP, Velvet Rope, but she’ll be hard-pressed to match the 6.74 million in sales of 1993′s Janet. In both instances, it seems unlikely that the Recording Academy would award artists for the albums that made a smaller impact in comparison to their overall canon.

Despite selling 2.02 million copies of her debut, Whoa, Nelly!, singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado doesn’t appear to have much of a chance to make like a bird and fly away with the Best Pop Vocal Album award (even though she does hail from Canada). In handing out the previous seven awards in this area, the Recording Academy has yet to present the Grammy to an artist for his or her debut work, instead favoring vets such as Madonna, Sting, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. And if the Academy were going to skew young this year, it would likely be for the more popular ‘NSYNC.

That leaves two nominees: Elton John and Sade. Regarded by fans and critics as a throwback to his ’70s heyday, Songs From the West Coast seems to be the sentimental favorite for the Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy. Unlike the other nominees, the album’s relatively small sales (472,000 copies to date) may not hamper John’s chances that much, as the Recording Academy has previously awarded the Grammy to the likes of Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo (299,000 to date) and James Taylor’s Hour Glass (926,000).

However, the juggernaut in the Best Pop Vocal Album category has to be Sade’s Lovers Rock, which has sold 3.25 million copies since its release in November 2000. Lovers Rock marked the Nigerian-born singer’s first release since 1992′s Love Deluxe, and Lovers Rock has already almost matched the 3.4 million that LP has sold to date.

In the last three years, the Recording Academy has been content to award the Grammy to career comeback albums, as with Sting’s Brand New Day and Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature. In another good sign for Sade and Lovers Rock, two of the last three Best Pop Vocal Album recipients won for albums that reached the 3 million mark in sales.

What may tip the scales toward Sade would be the fact that Elton John recently won a Grammy, sharing last year’s Best Musical Show award with lyricist Tim Rice for their work on the Aida: Original Broadway Cast LP. A Sade victory would also provide the Recording Academy with a rare chance to honor a former winner of its much-maligned Best New Artist category, a Grammy Sade won after the release of her 1984 debut, Diamond Life.

 
Previous winners of the Best Pop Vocal Album and their SoundScan sales totals to date: Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature (1 million), Sting’s Brand New Day (3.41 million), Madonna’s Ray of Light (3.71 million), James Taylor’s Hour Glass (926,000), Celine Dion’s Falling Into You (10.45 million), Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo (299,000) and Bonnie Raitt’s Longing in Their Hearts (1.58 million).

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