It's clear Tupac Shakur, the late gangsta-rapper, can still sell albums on a level reserved only for music's biggest superstars.
But in the battle of two highly anticipated, but opposite-end-of-the-spectrum albums released in time for the post-Thanksgiving holiday rush, the victor was the man in the cowboy hat.
Garth Brooks' Sevens easily topped the Billboard album charts for the week ending Nov. 30, with SoundScan reporting sales of 896,932 for the long-awaited CD. His closest competition, the posthumous collection from slain rap star Shakur entitled R U Still Down? (Remember Me), moved a respectable 549,000 copies; a sales figure which would have been enough to land the two-CD collection at #1 nearly any other week.
Sevens is now the second-highest first-week seller since SoundScan started collating the charts with its point-of-sales monitoring system in May of 1991. The only album with a higher opening tally was Pearl Jam's Vs., which sold 950,000 records in its first week of release in 1993. Pearl Jam's Vitalogy now drops to #3, with 877,000 copies sold during its first week of release in 1994.
But could it have been higher?
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the Los Angeles Times quoted the head of Brooks' Nashville Capitol label, Pat Quigley, as saying Sevens could have sold 2 million copies in its first week had it been released, as originally planned, on the same day as Brooks' Aug. 7 HBO-televised free concert in New York's Central Park. Brooks delayed the release of Sevens, which includes the tune "Longneck Bottle" (RealAudio excerpt), at the last minute because he was upset about turmoil among the executives at the label's parent company, EMI Recorded Music, according to Billboard's Nov. 15 issue. The release of the album was further complicated when EMI Capitol Music Group North America was closed down in May, leaving performers such as D'Angelo, the Artist and Brooks in the lurch until new arrangements could be made.
Brandon Wiesner, 21, an architecture student and webmaster for "PlanetGarth: The Unofficial Internet Site of Garth Brooks," concurs with Quigley. "I believe that it could have sold around 2 million," he wrote in an e-mail. "Sales of Garth's older albums doubled after the Central Park concert. It would have been a madhouse if Sevens was in the stores at that time."
The week's second-highest debut comes from Shakur, whose R U Still Down? (Remember Me) landed at the #2 spot . The album features "I Get Around" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Fuck The World" (RealAudio excerpt), songs that were completed by the rapper before his Sept. 13, 1996, death following a still-unsolved drive-by shooting on the Las Vegas strip. It is the first release following the pact between his mother, Afeni Shakur, and New York-based Jive Records that puts Shakur's mother in control of the majority of her son's estimated 150-songs-worth of unreleased material.
The other big rap releases of the week included In Tha Beginning ... There Was Rap, a compilation of new-school artists, such as Master P, Puff Daddy and Wu-Tang Clan, covering old-school rap hits that were originally performed by Ice-T, LL Cool J and NWA, among others. The release moved enough copies to land at #15. On the disappointing tip, mega-movie star and rapper Will Smith didn't move the millions who had seen him in such films as Men In Black and Independence Day to the record stores. His debut solo album, Big Willy Style landed at #31.
Sublime's Second-Hand Smoke, an odds and sods collection of outtakes, remixes, rare tracks and remastered songs from the Long Beach, Calif. group's catalog, debuted at #28. The group, disbanded after the heroin-overdose death last year of lead singer Brad Nowell, has agreed to release three more posthumous efforts: a greatest hits album, a live album and a Brad Nowell acoustic effort.
Speaking of albums with different song versions, Marilyn Manson's Remix and Repent collection entered the charts at #102.
The biggest mover on the charts that wasn't a debut belonged to alternative-pop rockers Marcy Playground. Spurred on by increased radio play for "Sex & Candy," the album's first single, the group's self-titled debut moved from #182, where it debuted last week, to #152.
Looking ahead to next week's charts, the Diana, Princess Of Wales Tribute, which features such artists as Puff Daddy, Sinead O'Connor and Peter Gabriel, is set to land pretty high, as is the soundtrack to Scream 2, which features tracks from D'Angelo, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and DJ Spooky.
The rest of the top 10: Celine Dion (#3), Barbra Streisand (#4), Metallica (#5), LeAnn Rimes (#6), Shania Twain (#7), Chumbawamba (#8), Spice Girls (#9) and Hanson (#10).
[Wed., Dec. 3, 1997, 6:30 p.m. PDT]