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Got Charts? Sympathy For Mariah, 2001's Biggest Flops, Nine Inch Nails' Chart Algebra

If you're a real chart geek, we invite you to tune in Friday night at 5 p.m. ET for "Chart Attack," MTV News' weekly, in-depth look at what's charting where and why. Check out the "Chart Attack" Web page for more info.

In this week's chart and sales analysis, we come to the aid of Mariah Carey (and her floundering "Glitter" soundtrack) by pointing out some of the bigger chart dogs of 2001, and take a little lesson in mathematics and algebraic theory with NIN's Trent Reznor and his new And All That Could Have Been live album.

Sympathy For Mariah

We're not usually the first to jump to the defense of such megastars as Mariah Carey — especially when the artist gets a $28 million "separation package" to split from her label. But we think it's high time for a temporary cease-fire in the outrageous slings and arrows being launched at Carey because of the lackluster performance of both her "Glitter" film vehicle and the accompanying soundtrack.

The "Glitter" movie turned out to be pure fool's gold at the box office, grossing less than $5 million in the U.S., according to Variety. The flick, a fictionalized version of Carey's own rags-to-riches story, has likely earned a place as one of the more dubious cinematic efforts from a music performer — joining the ranks of such memorable '80s flubs as Madonna's "Shanghai Surprise" and the Fat Boys' "Disorderlies."

The "Glitter" soundtrack has also been an underachiever in its own right, with the disc having sold just 505,000 copies since debuting at #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last August. Despite the success of her "Loverboy" single, the album quickly plummeted down the charts, spending just eight weeks in the top 100 and a total of 12 weeks in the top 200. It's understandable why Carey's record label freaked, as the "Glitter" numbers marked a seismic drop in her career record sales up to that point.

Even though it sold half a million copies, "Glitter" has fallen well short of the marks set by the 31-year-old singer's previous studio efforts, including 1999's Rainbow (2.86 million copies sold), 1997's Butterfly (3.62 million), 1995's Daydream (7.49 million), 1993's Music Box (7.07 million), 1991's Emotions (3.55 million) and her 1990 debut, Mariah Carey (4.80 million).

But we think there's a problem with labeling the "Glitter" soundtrack as an out-and-out "bust." While the record seems to represent the sales nadir of Carey's career, one could argue that other albums from last year, such as Sugar Ray's self-titled record or Eric Clapton's Reptile, were at least as big of a downer as "Glitter," especially when compared to those artists' own previous efforts.

The Orange County, California, band has sold 682,000 copies of Sugar Ray since the LP's release in June — down from both the 2.41 million in sales posted by Mark McGrath and company's 1999 album, 14:59, as well as the 1.85 million copies sold of their breakthrough, 1997's Floored.

The guitarist known as Slowhand was also forced to shed the skin of his recent commercial successes with Reptile, which has notched just 535,000 in sales since arriving in stores last March. Again, while those figures are nothing to sneer at, they are a step down from the level reached by his collaborative effort with vintage bluesman B.B. King on 2000's Riding with the King (1.91 million copies sold), as well as Clapton's last solo album, 1998's Pilgrim (1.39 million).

So, regardless of the alarming shrinkage in sales posted by Carey, Clapton, and Sugar Ray's albums, it's hard for us to break down and really speak ill of any record that has sold at least 500,000 copies — and is a shoo-in for at least a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. In fact, it's come to our attention that there were many 2001 albums from big-name artists that took as harsh a commercial drubbing as Carey's "Glitter" soundtrack did. So, in the interest of fair play, we thought we'd go ahead and remind everyone about a few of those sales slackers.

First off, it's hard to slam Carey too much when "Glitter" wasn't even the biggest R&B flop of the year. That distinction falls to none other than Macy Gray, whose second album, The Id, has sold just 498,000 copies in the past five months. Admittedly, we hate to "call out" any former employee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (located in Canton, Ohio) during Super Bowl week, but Gray had sold over 3.27 million copies of her debut, 1999's On How Life Is, so The Id was definitely a comedown. But she is still a youngster on the R&B scene, and we think she's still capable of "Blowin' Up Your Speakers."

The Stone Temple Pilots had originally decided on releasing a greatest-hits package in 2001, but eventually scrapped that plan in favor of issuing their fifth studio album, Shangri-La Dee Da, in the summer. Perhaps they should have stayed at home and just read James Hilton's "The Lost Horizon" instead, as the record has sold just 326,000 copies to date.

What is perhaps most disheartening for STP is that after rebounding from a lay-off with their previous record, 1999's No. 4 (1.01 million copies sold), Shangri-La Dee Da looks to be the band's first LP not to crack the million mark — bucking a trend established by the group's 1992 debut, Core (4.61 million), followed-up by 1994's Purple (4.11 million) and 1996's Tiny Music ... Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop (1.57 million).

Pop music fans have short attention spans — which, in turn, translates into some artists having the sort of mercurial careers that literally puts them on top one day and at the bottom the next. That adage is thoroughly demonstrated with our third offender, LFO. The pop smash single "Summer Girls" propelled sales of LFO's eponymous 1999 album over the 1.49 million mark. But while the guys in LFO once serenaded girls who wore Abercrombie & Fitch, these days band members seem as likely to work behind the counter at an A&F store than crank out another hit. Their follow-up LP, the unfortunately titled Life Is Good, has moved just 282,000 copies since its release in June.

In terms of rap LPs in 2001, there was probably no greater disappointment than Run-DMC's much-hyped, oft-delayed reunion album, Crown Royal. Backed by an all-star cast of rockers and rappers, including Kid Rock, Nas, Sugar Ray, Method Man, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, Jermaine Dupri, Everlast and Jagged Edge, Crown Royal looked as though it might provide the venerable rap trio with its own version of Santana's Supernatural. And while we were hoping that Crown Royal would return Run-DMC to the platinum status of 1985's King of Rock, 1986's Raising Hell (triple platinum) and 1988's Tougher Than Leather, we were shocked that the new album has only been coronated by some 142,000 record-buyers. That's not even half the amount Run-DMC posted by their (then) swan-song LP, 1993's Down With the King, which has sold more than 370,000 copies to date.

None of those artists or albums can touch what we consider to be the biggest sales fiasco of the year, though, which came courtesy of the alt rock group the Toadies. Who? Exactly. The Ft. Worth, Texas, band scored a massive hit in the mid-'90s with their single, "Possum Kingdom," which elevated sales of their 1995 album, Rubberneck, to the 1.02 million mark. After six long years (and some slight juggling in personnel), the Toadies returned in early 2001 with the follow-up, Hell Below/Stars Above. Apparently, most of the Rubberneck fans didn't hang around during the sabbatical, as Hell Below has sold just an infernal 61,000 copies — a staggering 94 percent decrease in sales from their previous album.

Those five records weren't the only sales disappointments from 2001, with other underachievers — by "Glitter" standards — including: Foxy Brown's Broken Silence (491,000 copies sold to date), Cake's Comfort Eagle (408,000), R.E.M.'s Reveal (388,000), Big Pun's Endangered Species (304,000), Rammstein's Mutter (162,000), Blues Traveler's Bridge (120,000), Buckcherry's Time Bomb (104,000), Semisonic's All About Chemistry (58,000) and Monster Magnet's God Says No (42,000).

Of course, that list does not include some of the slackers that have been mentioned or spotlighted in previous Got Charts? columns, such as Tori Amos' Strange Little Girls (337,000 copies sold), Björk's Vespertine (280,000), Live's V (258,000), Fatboy Slim's Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (256,000), Bush's Golden State (211,000) and the Black Crowes' Lions (193,000).

We're also being rather forgiving of those artists who released albums late in the year, as their sales could still pick up, although we're none too impressed (so far) by the likes of Natalie Merchant's Motherland (296,000 copies sold), Timbaland & Magoo's Indecent Proposal (295,000), Smash Mouth (241,000), Lit's Atomic (128,000), Prince's Rainbow Children (101,000) and De La Soul's AOI: Bionix (83,000).

This also means we haven't forgotten about some of the albums that were issued late in 2000 but failed to measure up over the course of the following year, including Everlast's Eat at Whitey's (329,000) Orgy's Vapor Transmission (316,000), Everclear's Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 2: Good Time for a Bad Attitude (279,000), the Spice Girls' Forever (199,000) and Vitamin C's More (48,000).

What gives Mariah Carey the advantage over many of the other sales underachievers, though, is that as a solo artist, it's easier for her to rebound from the less-than-desired performance of just one album. A band usually has to deal with keeping the inner tensions in check following such a disappointment as the "Glitter" soundtrack. But Carey has documented her vocal abilities and prowess over the years, and there's nothing to indicate that she's technically slipping. Like all accomplished vocalists, she just needs to be matched with the right material for a return to chart or sales form — and we're betting that that hit single isn't too far away.

Nine Inch Nails' Chart Algebra

You'll have to excuse Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor if he gets tripped up on the following mathematics equation: "37 + 26 = 12." That's because the formula is a "closer" representation of the true impact of NIN's live record, And All That Could Have Been, on the new Billboard 200 albums chart. Last week, fans split almost 50-50 on whether to pick up the regular version of And All That Could Have Been or the limited-edition version, which featured a bonus disc of studio outtakes, dubbed Still.

The regular edition of And All That Could Have Been sold more than 28,000 copies to enter the Billboard 200 at #37, while the limited edition moved more than 33,000 copies to debut at #26 — not too bad, considering that NIN's remix disc, Things Falling Apart, sold just 43,000 copies during its first week in stores in October 2000 to enter the charts at #67.

However, Reznor might be slightly irked that the Billboard and SoundScan sales charts don't take into account the commutative property of addition for And All That Could Have Been, instead counting the two different versions as completely separate entities. If one were to combine sales of the two editions (for a total of 61,000 copies sold), that would be good enough to drive the NIN record up to the #12 spot on the Billboard 200 — nestled between the current #11, Enya's A Day Without Rain (62,000), and what would be #13, Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor (59,000).

While such number-crunching probably isn't too big of a deal for Reznor, it should help the NIN leader (and the band's fans) judge how well the live album fares as compared to another upcoming concert LP, Sade's Lovers Live.

Coming Attractions

While we considered holding off until the Academy Awards in March, we're really digging the "I Am Sam" soundtrack, which could become the first of the "unlikely" hits of the year. Loaded with contemporary artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow and Eddie Vedder covering such Beatles classics as "Blackbird," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Mother Nature's Son" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the record has prompted us to take a look at some of the biggest and best motion picture albums from the last decade.

So, next week, we'll round up the usual soundtrack suspects — along with a few surprises.

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