Got Charts? Analyzing Alanis & A Grammy Champ's Vanishing Act

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In this week's chart and sales analysis, we break down Alanis Morissette's accomplished and affirming return to #1 heights with Under Rug Swept as well as Lenny Kravitz's combination Grammy win/Billboard loss for his Lenny LP and "Dig In" single.

Alanis Morissette: Back At One

Considering all the contractual hand-wringing that preceded the release of Alanis Morissette's new album, it now seems a safe bet that both artist and label are pleased with the sweeping success of Under Rug Swept.

The Canadian singer/songwriter will score her third #1 LP on the Billboard 200 next week, courtesy of Under Rug Swept's chart-topping debut after selling 215,000 copies last week (see "Alanis Morissette Sweeps J.Lo Out Of Top Chart Slot"). That was enough to hold off a post-Grammy run by the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, which cleared 209,000 copies to climb from #15 all the way to #2 (see "Got Charts? Expect 'O Brother' Sales Boost After Unexpected Win").

While we were a bit surprised that Morissette's #1 margin was so slim out of the gates, her numbers should be more than enough to alleviate any chart fears Alanis (or her label) may have had prior to Under Rug Swept's release. Truth be told, there was reason for a wee bit of concern.

Morissette's 1995 album, Jagged Little Pill, has sold more than 13.92 million copies to date and currently stands as the second biggest-selling album of the SoundScan era, trailing only Shania Twain's Come on Over at 14.2 million. Alanis' 1998 follow-up, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, only managed to sell about one-fifth as well as its predecessor — even though that was still a none too shabby 2.51 million copies. But eyebrows would be further furrowed by the sluggish performance of Morissette's Alanis Unplugged album.

Despite being released during the typically sales-friendly Thanksgiving holiday in 1999, Alanis Unplugged sold only 46,000 copies during its first week in stores to chart at #63. The album didn't experience much holiday joy on the charts, logging just seven weeks in the top 100 and a total of 14 weeks in the Billboard 200. In comparison, Jay-Z's recent Unplugged volume debuted at #34 on the Billboard 200 in December after moving more than 134,000 copies upon its release. With 430,000 copies sold so far, Jay-Z's Unplugged is already close to matching Alanis Unplugged's 505,000 copies sold.

But as much as Under Rug Swept marks a huge sales spike up from Alanis Unplugged, Morissette's new album wasn't able to match the first week numbers posted by her last studio record, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, during its chart debut in November 1998. Like Swept, Junkie also entered the Billboard 200 at #1, but Junkie pushed its way on to 469,000 Alanis addicts its first week and sold more during its second week in stores (268,000 copies) than Under Rug Swept did during its first.

Despite spending back-to-back weeks at #1, Morissette's Junkie demonstrated a lack of long-term potency, spending just eight weeks in the top 20 and a total of 38 weeks on the Billboard 200. This represented a far cry from how Alanis had managed to conquer the charts with Jagged Little Pill. Though Pill had a humble beginning, debuting at #117 back in June 1995, the album would climb into the top 10 a month later, eventually hitting #1 for the first time in September.

But what made Jagged Little Pill such a decisive chart phenomenon was its well-honed longevity, thanks in large part to a series of follow-up singles to Morissette's breakthrough, "You Oughta Know," including "Ironic," "Hand in My Pocket" and "You Learn." During 1996, those songs and videos would keep Jagged Little Pill in the top 20 of the Billboard 200 for the entire year, including 46 weeks in the top 10 and 10 weeks at #1. Amazingly enough, during Jagged Little Pill's two-year chart run (after which it was moved to Billboard's Pop Catalog albums chart), the record only spent one week out of the top 100, and that was its #117 debut.

While Under Rug Swept did well to stave off the surging "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack from #1 on next week's Billboard 200, Alanis' record will be hard-pressed to keep both the "surprise" Album of the Year winner and Brandy's new Full Moon record from the top spot. The "O Brother" soundtrack's current chart position, #2, is the highest it has ascended on the Billboard 200 since it was released in December 2000, and the record should continue to benefit from its Grammy win next week. As for Alanis, if she can keep Under Rug Swept from being brushed off the charts before summer, then her new album should easily near (if not reach) reach the 2.5 million mark set by Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

Lenny: Going, Going, Gone

Well, it's been quite a week for Lenny Kravitz. Last Wednesday, the vintage-threaded rocker was winning a Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for his "Dig In" single from his latest, Lenny. Next week, the album will drop off the Billboard 200.

The Grammy win could have been a unique career highlight for Kravitz, as it marked his fourth consecutive win for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance after being honored for the singles "Again," "American Woman" and "Fly Away." But since it was issued in October, Lenny has been something of a chart and sales slacker.

Despite the massive success of Kravitz's last studio LP, 1998's 5 (2.95 million sold), and 2000's Greatest Hits (3.43 million sold), fans were apparently unready for new material from Kravitz. The new album has sold a disappointing 587,000 copies so far and spent just 17 weeks on the Billboard 200. These less-than-stellar numbers are similar to another Kravitz underacheiver, 1995's Circus, which spent only 16 weeks on the chart and currently stands at 529,000 copies sold.

Despite being vanquished from the chart, the good news for Kravitz is that even though Lenny has stalled (for now), his Greatest Hits album is continuing to log time on the charts, having spent the last 71 weeks on the Billboard 200. That clearly indicates a continued and widespread interest in the rocker's music, even if a wide majority of the 3 million fans who are familiar with Kravitz's biggest tunes weren't hip to Lenny.

Which leaves the obvious question: Did most of Kravitz's Greatest Hits fans even know that he had a new studio album out?

Hard to say, hard to say. But look for Kravitz to kick new life into his Lenny LP via a rockin' second single and a major summer trek — a scheme that gave 5 a chart boost during the summer of 1999. Ah, Lenny Kravitz and the sounds of the summer concert season. Who needs spring?

[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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