In this week's chart and sales analysis, we get horticultural with the Goo
Goo Dolls to see if their new album, Gutterflower, has the makings of a perennial seller. We also "roll" and remember with Neil Young and his Are You Passionate? LP, comparing its debut with another of his memorialist efforts, Sleeps With Angels.
Goo Goo Dolls Sow Gutterflower
Kind of hard to believe that it's been over three and a half years since the Goo Goo Dolls issued their triple-platinum LP, Dizzy Up the Girl. Even though the record spawned several hit singles including "Slide," "Broadway" and the Grammy-nominated "Black Balloon" that kept Dizzy firmly entrenched on the Billboard 200 until September 2000, the Buffalo band hadn't served up any new Goo in quite some time.
Despite the lengthy lay-off, the Dolls aptly demonstrated they've still got legs with the release of a new LP, Gutterflower, which sold 101,000 copies last week and will take bloom on the new albums chart at #4 (see "Ashanti LP Holds #1 As Goo Goo Dolls, Neil Young Debut"). Somewhat surprisingly, Gutterflower's opening week numbers mark the highest chart performance of the Goo Goo Dolls' career, far surpassing Dizzy's #17 debut (with 64,000 copies sold) in September 1998.
The Goo Goo Dolls had gone to chart heaven earlier that year as part of the "City of Angels" soundtrack. Thanks largely to the one-two combination singles Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited" and the Goos' own "Iris" the "City of Angels" album sailed to the top of the Billboard 200 for three weeks during May and June 1998. The LP has tallied 5.30 million in sales and currently stands as the fourth best-selling soundtrack of the SoundScan era (which dates back to May 1991), behind "The Bodyguard" (11.69 million copies sold), "Titanic" (9.97 million) and "The Lion King" (7.44 million), and just ahead of "Waiting to Exhale" (4.97 million) and the fast-rising "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack (4.94 million).
Aside from the crucial appearance on the "City of Angels" soundtrack, the Goos had already primed their fans for Dizzy Up the Girl with their previous album, A Boy Named Goo. Released in February 1995 (and selling just 4,500 copies out of the gates), A Boy Named Goo provided the band with its breakthrough hit, the alt-power-ballad "Name." The LP finally cracked the albums chart at #161 in August 1998 before peaking at #27 the following January and has gone on to total 1.60 million in sales.
But it was Dizzy Up the Girl that established the trio of Johnny Rzeznik, Robby Takac, and Mike Malinin as some of "America's newest hitmakers." Although the album would never climb higher than #15 on the albums chart, Dizzy did log a three-month run in the top 25 on its way to selling a total of 3.60 million copies. Presently, that's good enough to put it at #199 on the list of the 200 best-selling albums of the SoundScan era, nestled for now between the first volume in the Beatles Anthology at #198 (3.61 million copies sold) and Metallica's Re-Load at #200 (3.60 million).
While it remains to be seen whether Gutterflower can cultivate enough hit singles to blossom as well as Dizzy Up the Girl did on the charts, the Goo Goo Dolls have to feel a little better about their musical gardening. If anything, Gutterflower's #4 debut should help the Goos shake off the hugely disappointing harvest of their previous album, What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce. Issued last May, this anti-"best of" record culled tracks from the Goo Goo Dolls' first six albums, minus signature singles such as "Iris" and "Name."
Absent the hits, What I Learned was nothing short of a chart and sales disaster, moving just 7,000 copies in its first week to debut at #164. The record fell off the Billboard 200 the following week and has sold a paltry 49,000 copies to date a figure Gutterflower more than doubled in its debut. Also, Gutterflower has almost matched the total sales of the Goo Goo Dolls' 1993 LP, Superstar Car Wash (120,000 copies sold), in just one week.
So, with that lesson in mind, what have the Goo Goo Dolls really learned about ego, opinion, art and commerce? If ya wanna be secure in the first three, ya gotta serve the fourth.
The Passion According To Neil Young
Wisened rocker Neil Young also returns to the Billboard 200 this week with Are You Passionate?, one of the more highly-anticipated releases of the spring, chiefly because of its inclusion of the controversial September 11-related track, "Let's Roll."
Inspired by a Newsweek article that detailed the last words of a cell phone call made by Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines flight 93, Young's song was one of the first rock songs and remains the most direct to address the terrorist attacks on America.
Interest in the track helped Are You Passionate? debut at #10 on the albums chart (with 56,000 copies sold), providing Young with his third top 10 record of the last decade. But before anyone starts accusing Neil Young of profiteering off the terrorist attacks in America, one needs only to flash back to one of his other top 10 LPs, 1994's Sleeps With Angels.
The title track was Neil's anguished response to the April death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who had quoted a line from Young's "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" in his suicide note. Issued four months after Cobain's death, Young's Sleeps With Angels debuted at #9 on the albums chart after selling 81,000 copies although Young never issued the track as a single.
Young is also responsible for penning one of rock's great protest songs, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio," about the killing of four Kent State students by National Guard troops on May 4, 1970. Like "Let's Roll," "Ohio" was also inspired by a magazine article on the event (this one by Time). But the "Ohio" single was issued to public just a month later, in June, quicker than either the Sleeps With Angels or Are You Passionate? LPs though Young did make "Let's Roll" available to the public via his Web site and to radio stations through a limited pressing of the song (in conjunction with Young making a donation to the Beamer family fund).
Regardless, the top 10 debut for Are You Passionate? is the best a Young record has done on the charts since he teamed up with Pearl Jam on Mirror Ball, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 in July 1995 (with 97,000 copies sold). Interestingly enough, Young's last studio album, Silver & Gold, also sold 55,000 copies out of the gate in April 2000, but that was only good enough to enter the charts at #22 (as opposed to Are You Passionate?'s #10 debut).
It is also worth noting that neither of the two best-selling Neil Young LPs released in the SoundScan era, Harvest Moon and Unplugged, ever cracked the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Harvest Moon reached its chart zenith at #16 in November 1992, while Unplugged featuring many of the better-known Harvest Moon tunes peaked at #23 in June 1993.
If anything, Neil Young deserves some Billboard and SoundScan kudos for remaining one of the most prolific rock artists of this or any generation. From 1991-2002, Young has issued 12 albums: six studio LPs (Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels, Mirror Ball, Broken Arrow, Silver & Gold and Are You Passionate?), four live LPs (Weld, Unplugged, Year of the Horse and Road Rock, Vol. 1), one soundtrack ("Dead Man") and one greatest-hits compendium (Lucky Thirteen) and not including one album cut as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Looking Forward). In comparison, the venerable Guns N' Roses have issued just a single covers album (The Spaghetti Incident?) and a concert album (Live Era 1987-93). Ouch.
For those keeping score, total sales of Neil Young's SoundScan-era albums: Weld (177,000 copies sold), Harvest Moon (1.60 million), Lucky Thirteen (60,000), Unplugged (724,000), Sleeps With Angels (439,000), Mirror Ball (469,000), "Dead Man" soundtrack (47,000), Broken Arrow (179,000), Year of the Horse (117,000), Silver & Gold (364,000) and Road Rock, Vol. 1 (81,000).
With that kind of output in just the last 12 years, Neil Young has certainly made it clear that he's not interested in either burning out or fading away anytime soon.
[In SoundScan we trust. All figures, unless otherwise noted, are according to SoundScan's audited sales numbers and reflect sales as of press time.]