Ask Billboard: Belinda's Back, JT Too, Mariah Carey's Album Sales & More
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Belinda Carlisle releases her first single since the '90s, Justin Timberlake posts back-to-back No. 1 albums seven years apart and a look at Carey's album sales.

As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet questions to Gary Trust: @gthot20

Gary, i miss ask Billboard, i have so many questions to send !!! XD

@enettozc

Yup, it's been a few weeks since the last "Ask Billboard." I figured if a lengthy break worked for Justin Timberlake ...

Actually, just a combination of taping some artist visits, including our fun recreation of Lisa Loeb's "Stay" video in our offices, as well as some others to be featured on Billboard.com soon, writing more for the print magazine and interacting with chart fans more often on Twitter as kind of an on-the-fly version of "Ask Billboard." If you haven't already, please follow me – @gthot20 – for chart news and chat any time.

OK, no more delays. Like a seven-minute JT song on "The 20/20 Experience," let's settle in for a nice, long reader Q&A featuring your great questions.

Speaking of Timberlake ...

WHAT GOES AROUND … COMES AROUND … STRONGER

Hey Gary,

It's been nearly seven years since Justin Timberlake released his last album, "FutureSex/LoveSounds." Now, I'm sure we all predicted that he'd debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but who would have guessed "The 20/20 Experience" would sell 968,000 copies? First off, seven years without a new album is like an eternity in the music world. Most artists, I'd think, tend to see reasonable but underwhelming sales with their newest efforts after a long break, but that wasn't the case at all this week. Timberlake has his best-selling week.

So, how rare is it for an artist to have their best-selling sales week after such a hiatus?

Thanks,

Garrett Godbey
Tampa, Florida

Hi Garrett,

We were actually discussing this topic in a recent charts department meeting, as brought up by Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield. Essentially, in era of Twitter and Facebook where we've become accustomed to receiving daily (or much more frequent) updates on artists' lives, could the opposite perhaps work better than ever? Does mystique carry greater weight in a time when it's at more of a premium? I.e., does absence really make fans' hearts grow fonder?

Timberlake isn't the only artist to return to a new level of success. A week earlier, David Bowie scored a career-best Billboard 200 rank and Nielsen SoundScan sales week with his first album in 10 years. As Keith wrote on March 19, "Bowie arrives at a career-high No. 2 with 'The Next Day,' selling 85,000. The rock legend's new album – his first studio set since 2003 – earns him his largest sales week for an album since SoundScan started tracking data in 1991. Bowie's previous best SoundScan-era sales frame came when 2002's 'Heathen' started with 55,000 at No. 14."

The idea of an act returning to greater acclaim after a lengthy hiatus is also key to "The History of the Eagles," the new Showtime documentary about the band (which I've been watching a bit obsessively). After notching five Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s in the '70s, the Eagles disbanded (if not, officially, as Glenn Frey claims) in 1980. When they reformed in 1994, their mostly-live retrospective album "Hell Freezes Over" roared onto the Billboard 200 at No. 1 with 267,000 copies sold. They appear to be the masters of maximizing long recording droughts; 13 years later, when they released "Long Road Out of Eden," their first album of all-new material in 28 years, it also debuted at No. 1 – with a whopping 711,000. (Check out an exclusive Chart Beat countdown, by the way, of the Eagles' group and solo members' 25 biggest Hot 100 hits here.)

In a Twitter chat between Keith (@keith_caulfield) and @MagnumArtero12, it was noted that Timberlake doesn't set the record for the longest gap between No. 1 studio albums in the SoundScan era. Maxwell reigned six weeks shy of eight years apart with 2001's "Now" and 2009's "BLACKsummers'night." The all-time longest gap between No. 1 studio albums? Again, the Eagles. Prior to "Eden," "The Long Run," their last studio set prior to their early '80s hiatus, began a nine-week reign on Nov. 3, 1979 – 28 years and two weeks before "Eden" launched on top (Nov. 17, 2007).

So, clearly, certain acts, including Timberlake, who surely aided sales thanks to his high profile leading up to his new release, definitely benefit from pop culture hibernation.

Keith also talked to the New York Daily News recently about the idea of artists' staying away only to return to warm welcomes. Key is that not every artist can have such a trick in their marketing arsenals. One has to have built a fanbase long-term, he noted. An excerpt: "'You have to have a legacy to go a long time between projects. Otherwise, when you come back, there won't be anyone left to care.' A perfect example: Justin Bieber. 'Can you imagine if he waited three years to release his next CD? His fans would have grown and moved on'."

"Younger artists in general can't risk limiting their exposure," author Jim Farber added. "Their audience is too fickle and they're still establishing themselves. Older artists, like Maxwell, Enya, and even U2 can go between five years to a decade between albums and still sell millions. Sade has pulled this off several times, disappearing for long stretches only to come back strong."

Read the entire insightful piece here.

NEXT: 'Thrift Shop' sales

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