Back in 2003, the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines triggered an avalanche of criticism when she said onstage that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," which raised the ire of the country music establishment and gave rise to death threats and radio-station-sponsored mass burnings of the group's CDs.
Three years after the Dixie Chicks backlash, Bush's approval rating has hit the lowest point in his presidency, and the timing couldn't be better for the release of the Chicks' Taking the Long Way, a Rick Rubin-produced LP that reiterates the band's controversial position. It's safe to assume that at least some Dixie Chicks fans have forgiven and forgotten, as 526,000 copies of Taking the Long Way sold its first week out. The disc tops the next Billboard album sales chart, bringing an end to rock's monthlong run at #1.
While first-week sales of the band's 2002 album, Home, were considerably stronger at 780,000, the Dixie Chicks easily outran "American Idol" Season 5: Encores, the latest compilation borne of the hit television series.
Encores, which features contributions by "Idol" finalists Paris Bennett, Bucky Covington, Chris Daughtry, Ace Young, Kellie Pickler, Elliott Yamin, Kevin Covais, Mandisa, Melissa McGhee, Lisa Tucker, Katharine McPhee and winner Taylor Hicks, opens at #3. It moved 154,000 copies — the best-selling debut of the five "American Idol" season-end compilations — but not even "Idol" could tackle "High School Musical."
One of the year's surprise hits, the soundtrack to the Disney Channel original movie continues to keep pace, selling more than 174,000 copies during its 20th week in stores. Sales of the disc swelled 113 percent on the heels of the film's DVD release, helping it claim the #2 slot.
Dixie Chicks and the "Idol" finalists weren't the sole newcomers to the chart — 16 albums managed to crack Billboard's top 200, according to the latest SoundScan figures. We Don't Need to Whisper, the debut disc from Angels & Airwaves — led by Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge — is among the newcomers, capturing the #4 spot with 127,000 week-one scans. Last week's #1, Red Hot Chili Peppers' double album Stadium Arcadium follows at #5 after selling 113,000 copies its third week in stores. Rascal Flatts' Me & My Gang takes #6 with 85,000 units sold.
Don Omar's latest, King of Kings, debuts at #7 with 68,000 scans, followed by another newcomer to the chart, WWE: Wreckless Intent, a compilation featuring Three 6 Mafia, Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. That album sold 66,000 copies during its initial week of release, outperforming Tool's 10,000 Days, in at #9, by just 700 units. Carrie Underwood's appearance last week during the "American Idol" finale paid off, as her Some Hearts enjoyed an 84 percent surge and rounds out the top 10 with 65,000 copies sold.
Stand Still, Look Pretty from Michelle Branch's side project the Wreckers opens at #14 with 44,000 copies sold, followed at #16 by Def Leppard's covers album, Yeah!, which racked up 42,000 sales. Less Than Jake's latest, In With the Out Crowd, debuts in the #78 spot with 14,000 copies sold, while Yo Gotti's Back 2 Da Basics bows at #84 with 13,000 units scanned.
Halifax's Inevitability of a Strange World ranks #130 with 7,000 sales, and Da Muzicianz's self-titled debut opens at #137 with close to 7,000 scans. The Walkmen's A Hundred Miles Off debuts at #163 with 6,000 copies sold, while Damone's Out Here All Night follows at #168 after moving 5,000 discs.