In almost any other week, Pearl Jam's latest release, Yield, would be second to none.
After months of anticipation and early leaks of the highly anticipated album's tracks on the Net, about 360,000 fans flocked to record stores to pick up Pearl Jam's latest in its first week of release, according to SoundScan, the music-industry sales watchdog. With that many copies sold, Yield would have landed in the #1 spot at practically any other time of the year.
But with the soundtrack to the season's hottest movie riding its current tidal wave of success, these are not your average weeks on the Billboard chart.
While at first glance it may seem disappointing that Yield didn't
sink the phenomenally successful Titanic soundtrack, retailers and record-industry watchers report a different story. At Harmony House in Birmingham, Mich., Assistant Manager Brad Stern said that while Titanic and Yield have both been selling extremely well, Pearl Jam's latest sold better than he anticipated.
"We sold double what I expected to sell," Stern said of Yield. "We
started off with a box of 30 and we sold 20. I really only expected to sell 10 in its first week."
The expectations were a bit higher at Tower Records in Pearl Jam's hometown
of Seattle, and according to General Manager Stephanie Gendreau,
sales for Yield matched what she had projected. "It's our #1 seller
of the week," Gendreau said. "We expected it to do pretty well since [Pearl
Jam is] local and it definitely met our expectations."
Jim Kerr, alternative-music editor for the trade magazine Radio & Records, said that while PJ's last album, No Code, may have sold 8,000 copies more than Yield in its first week of release in August 1996, the group could still count on radio looking favorably upon this past week's sales figures. "So many people have written off the alternative format and Pearl Jam in particular," Kerr said. "But I think that radio will look at these numbers and see that they haven't lost their fanbase."
On the alt.music.pearl-jam newsgroup, a forum for fans to exchange opinions and news about the band, visitors were quick to discuss Yield's sales figures. Pearl Jam fan Ron Moskovitz was upset about people trying to read something into Yield's sales, which -- despite being strong at 359,000 albums sold -- fell well below the band's second album, Vs., which saw 950,000 copies fly off shelves in its first week. "For a newsgroup that has many people who often claim not to give a damn about sales," Moskovitz wrote, "there's been an awful lot of angst about first-evening sales, first-week sales, can it beat the Titanic, etc."
The week's other big debuts landed a bit further down the charts. The
soundtrack to the recently released movie "Blues Brothers 2000," which features tracks by R&B legend Aretha Franklin and bluesy jam-band Blues Traveler, moved 40,000 copies and landed at #27. The other debut that appeared on the Billboard albums chart belonged to drum & bass star Goldie, whose Saturnzreturn landed at #178.
Elsewhere on the charts, Chumbawamba's Tubthumper dropped out of
the top 10 after several months there and landed at #12 based on sales of 55,000 copies. The anarchist octet, who raised some eyebrows on Monday night when bandmember Danbert Nobacon threw a bucket of cold water on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, also faced some more bad news as a band called Chucklebutt hit #98 on the singles chart with a sound-alike cover of Chumba's hit song, "Tubthumping."
Previous to Chucklebutt's version, "Tubthumping" was not available as a single in the U.S., which meant that fans of the song had to plunk down the cash to buy Tubthumper in its entirety or find a copy of the import single.
Next week's big story could be that The Verve's Urban Hymns, which dropped from #23 to #28 on sales of 39,000, may finally hit the 500,000-sold gold mark, having sold 459,000 copies thus far.
The rest of the top 10: Celine Dion (#3), Spice Girls (#4), Usher (#5),
Matchbox 20 (#6), Backstreet Boys (#7), Savage Garden (#8), Mase (#9)
and Will Smith (#10). [Wed., Feb. 11, 1998, 7 p.m. PST]