Got Charts? Wrestling With WWF LPs; Breaking Records With Celine

A weekly tale of the tape for the statistically obsessed.

In this week’s chart and sales analysis, we welcome our favorite French-Canadian chanteuse, Celine Dion, back into the fold as she manages to break one of her own records. We’ll also climb into the ring and size up the rise (and sometimes the fall) of the World Wrestling Federation music series.

Dion’s New Day Dawning

Another Day, another #1 album for Celine Dion.

After putting her career on hold for the last two years to attend to family matters (see “It’s A Boy For Celine Dion” ), Dion has made a resplendent return to the Billboard 200 albums chart with A New Day Has Come. Issued a few days before Dion turned 34 (on March 30), fans celebrated both the singer’s birthday and the end of her self-imposed “hiatus” with her first all-new studio LP since 1997′s Let’s Talk About Love.

The time off between the two records — during which Dion cut a French-language album (1998′s S’Il Suffisait D’Aimer), a Christmas album (1998′s These Are Special Times), and released a pair of compilation discs (1999′s All the Way: A Decade of Song and 2000′s The Collector’s Series, Vol. 1) — certainly didn’t hamper Dion’s comeback. If anything, Dion’s musical absence appears to have made her fans’ hearts (and ears) grow even fonder.

Dion’s A New Day Has Come sold more than 527,000 copies last week to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 (see “Celine Dion Tops Albums Chart; WWF, Avant Make Strong Debuts” ). And while sitting atop the albums chart is nothing new for Dion — who previously earned #1s with All the Way, Let’s Talk About Love and 1996′s Falling Into You — the mammoth debut week numbers certainly were.

By selling more than a half-million copies out of the gates, A New Day has become Dion’s first record to enter the chart at #1, and it also beat out her previous best debut week — posted by 1997′s Let’s Talk About Love — by almost 200,000 copies. The singer’s last #1 album, All the Way, landed at #3 on the Billboard 200 in November 1999 after selling 302,000 copies. The best-of record climbed to #1 the following week and eventually logged three weeks atop the albums chart on its way to selling some 6.08 million copies.

Let’s Talk About Love, Dion’s second chart-topping album, debuted at #2 in November 1997 (with 333,000 in sales). Even though the record was #1 for only one week in early January, Let’s Talk About Love spent much of that winter and spring near the top of the charts, registering 17 weeks at #2. The album that kept Dion at bay for more than four months? Why, none other than the “Titanic” soundtrack, which also featured Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” The two records remain very close, SoundScan-wise, as the “Titanic” soundtrack has sold 9.97 million copies to date, while Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love has tallied 9.15 million in sales.

Dion got her first taste of a #1 album with Falling Into You, which debuted at #2 (with 192,000 copies sold) in March 1996. It would take the LP six months to climb to the top of the Billboard 200, where Falling Into You would spend three weeks in September and October. Despite the worldwide acclaim the love theme from the “Titanic” would bring her, it was this record that undoubtedly made her a star in the U.S. During Falling Into You‘s two-year chart run, the album never slipped lower than #93 on the Billboard chart. With more than 10.45 million copies sold to date, the record remains the best-selling of Dion’s career.

Another Dion album, the Yuletide-flavored These Are Special Times, also got very close to #1 upon its release in November 1998. After making its chart debut at #4 (with 125,000 copies sold), the album climbed to #2 for two weeks in December before falling completely off the Billboard 200 by Valentine’s Day. Despite the precipitous chart rise and fall, the album has sold 4.07 million copies to date, trailing only Kenny G’s Miracles (6.98 million copies sold) and Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas (4.15 million) in terms of seasonal album sales.

Of the two other English-language albums Dion has released during the SoundScan era (which began May 1991), neither debuted very strongly, as 1993′s The Colour of My Love entered the Billboard 200 at #88 while 1992′s Celine Dion landed at #11. Both albums would make respectable chart climbs, with Colour peaking at #4 in March 1994 and Dion’s eponymous LP topping out at #34 in June 1992. Both became Dion’s first multi-platinum albums, with The Colour of My Love selling 4.23 million copies and Celine Dion totaling 2.24 million. (Dion’s first English-language LP, Unison, which was released in September 1990, has sold 1.18 million during the SoundScan era.)

But that doesn’t mean that every project has turned out roses for Dion. Her three French-language releases in the U.S., S’Il Suffisait D’Aimer, 1995′s The French Album and 1994′s Dion Chante Plamondon, all failed to crack the Billboard 200. The French Album was the robust seller of the bunch, tallying 221,000 copies — more than that of Dion Chante Plamondon (106,000) and S’Il Suffisait D’Aimer (95,000) combined.

Those missteps have been more compensated for by Dion’s successes, though. The singer is responsible for five of the 200 top-selling albums of the SoundScan era, with Falling Into You currently at #9, followed by Let’s Talk About Love at #15, All the Way at #57, The Colour of My Love at #139 and These Are Special Times at #160. For female artists, only Mariah Carey can match that feat — although Carey’s best-selling LP, 1995′s Daydream (7.50 million copies sold), is only #33 on the SoundScan era list.

Perhaps the best gauge of Dion’s career impact (as well as the importance of her return) can be found in her total career numbers. According to SoundScan’s release-to-date figures, Celine Dion is the fifth best-selling artist of the last 10 years with more than 39.17 million copies sold of all her albums. But with A New Day Has Come just out and in stores, look for Dion to leapfrog past the current #3 (Mariah Carey with 40.49 million) and #4 (Metallica with 40.21 million) in the next few months.

With enough of a push — and perhaps a masterful movie tie-in — A New Day Has Come may even help boost Dion past the venerable Beatles, who have SoundScanned 42.6 million in sales (since 1991) to stand at #2. Just don’t expect her to bump country crooner Garth Brooks and his stable of LPs from the top of the SoundScan release-to-date figures, as Brooks is credited with some 64.35 million albums sold.

It should also be quite some time before any artist or group challenges Dion, Brooks, the Beatles, Carey or Metallica for the top five SoundScan spots, as there is a huge career gap of some 10 million albums between the current #5, Dion, and the current #6, the Backstreet Boys, who have 29.07 million in total album sales. For all those reasons and more, it’s good to have ya back, Celine.

WWF: Get In The Ring

The latest entry in the rock-(and-rap)-and-wrestling phenomenon is — quite aptly — WWF: Forceable Entry, which sold some 145,000 copies last week to forcibly enter at #3 on next week’s Billboard 200. That marks the second highest chart debut in the current salvo of World Wrestling Federation LPs, trailing only the #2 bow achieved by WWF: The Music, Vol. 5 in February 2001.

Such a strong debut seems to indicate that the WWF series of albums appear to be back on track, as Forceable Entry has already sold more copies than the last tie-in, WWF: Tough Enough, which has mustered just 138,000 in sales since being released in September.

The history of WWF tie-ins is as varied and as colorful as the WWF itself. As some may recall, the series got its start back in 1987 with The Wrestling Album. That record featured a rather infamous version of “Land of a Thousand Dances” as performed by Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and future Minnesota Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura that, in turn, spawned a video that was quite popular on MTV back in the day.

Six years later, The Wrestling Album would spawn Wrestlemania: The Album, which would fail to reach the Billboard 200 upon its release in 1993. Though it never spent a single week on the albums chart, the Wrestlemania LP has gone on to sell more than 91,000 copies so far. But whereas the first two WWF albums featured performances or skits by the wrestlers themselves, things would change significantly in 1996 with WWF: Full Metal, which shifted the focus from wrestlers and their warbling to the respective grapplers’ entrance themes.

WWF: Full Metal cracked the Billboard 200 for two weeks in October 1996, climbing as high as #184, and has gone on to rack up 173,000 in sales. The WWF series kicked into high gear from that point on, with the next album, 1998′s WWF: The Music, Vol. 2 (a confusing title in itself, as it’s considered the follow-up to WWF: Full Metal) logging a total of 16 weeks on the albums chart on its way to racking up 480,000 copies sold.

The WWF would reach a double zenith with vols. 3 and 4 in the WWF: The Music series, which were issued in December 1998 and October 1999 and are the fed’s only albums to reach the million mark. Although it peaked at #10, WWF: The Music, Vol. 3 spent 30 weeks on the Billboard 200 and remains the best-seller in the WWF series at 1.21 million copies.

WWF: The Music, Vol. 4 actually had the largest-selling debut week of all the tie-ins, notching 214,000 copies out of the gate. But the monster 1-2-3 debuts by Rage Against the Machine’s The Battle of Los Angeles, Mariah Carey’s Rainbow and Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Block Is Hot were enough to keep Vol. 4 at #4 during its debut week. Despite spending just two weeks in the top 20, WWF: The Music, Vol. 4 has sold more than 1.13 million copies.

Vol. 5 in the music-meets-wrestling series also spent just a pair of weeks in the top 20, including the week it debuted at #2 on the albums chart in February 2001 after selling 176,000 copies. Maybe it was the presence of an original song from the Rock, titled “Pie,” that kept Vol. 5 from capturing the platinum status of its predecessors, though it’s still sold a respectable 640,000 copies.

Released just a month after WWF: The Music, Vol. 5, WWF: Aggression featured rappers such as Snoop Dogg, ODB, Method Man and Kool Keith offering up their versions of wrestlers’ entrance themes. Despite a variation on the rock-wrestling theme, the LP reached much the same audience as the previous album, totaling some 640,000 copies sold to date.

No matter, ’cause if it’s rock or rap and it’s accompanying (popular) WWF wrestlers to the ring, don’t worry about it. Just release it and the fans will come. Vince McMahon told me so.

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