Keith answers readers' questions on Kylie Minogue, Celine Dion and Splender.

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Keith Caulfield at askbb@billboard.com.


'X' AMERICAN HISTORY

Keith,

I have yet another musical question on my mind, and since I couldn't find a definitive answer, I at last turn to you.

Why is it that record companies persist in delaying the U.S. release of albums that have been out for months internationally?

I can see this not being harmful for newer acts, but I can only see it being greatly detrimental to established ones.

Take Kylie Minogue's "X" for example. It will be released in the U.S. on April 1 with "All I See" as its lead single.

With that difference aside, why does her label not simply release them in both territories simultaneously? Can they seriously be kidding themselves that stateside Kylie devotees -- and they are numerous -- have not already managed to get a hold of the album in one way or another?

Just look at her fall 2003 album "Body Language." It was released on Feb. 10, 2004 in the U.S. (months after it bowed internationally), quickly peaked at No. 42 on The Billboard 200 and then fell off the chart.

Is it me, or don't practices like these ultimately hurt artists?

Eagerly awaiting your response and thoughts,

Rudy South
Amboy, N.J.


Hi Rudy,

Timing. It's all about timing.

Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to release an album at the same time globally. However, with certain artists (and it seems like Kylie Minogue is one of them), the decision is made to have the U.S. release come later.

In the U.S., Minogue's "X" will be released on April 1 through Astralwerks/Capitol. It bowed outside America last November.

Why does the American release of "X" come so many months after its international bow? Capitol Records hasn't said why. One can imagine that it had a lot to do with making sure that there was an effective promotional campaign in place for the album in the U.S.

That said, Minogue will be in the U.S. on the promotional trail, making sure everyone is aware that she has a new album out. At the time of this writing (March 13) her appearance schedule had yet to be announced.

The first U.S. single from "X" is "All I See" featuring Mims. The original version of the song did not include Mims. The rest of the track is essentially identical to the original version.

To be certain, Minogue's label knows she has a devoted following in the United States that probably already bought the album as an import, or got a hold of the music some other way. (I, for one, bought the album last December as an Australian import.)

But we are a small minority. We are a drop in the bucket when it comes to the kind of sales that are needed to justify a major label release.

As an import, "X" has sold about 2,000 physical copies in the U.S.
Interestingly, the digital version of "X" was released in mid-February but vanished from the iTunes store last week. In that span of time, the digital version of "X" sold 4,000.

Collectively, the 14 tracks on "X" have sold 18,000 digital downloads. The biggest seller of the bunch was "Speakerphone." It has shifted 5,000 downloads.



WHEN A MILLION'S JUST A MILLION

Hi Keith,

One of my friends and I are having an argument about Celine Dion's latest album, "Taking Chances."

Billboard just reported that it has now shipped one million copies in 16 weeks. I must admit that selling a million albums is quite an achievement but I nevertheless believe that, with her standards (which are quite high, I concede), this latest album constitutes a disappointment.

No artist who once sold 10 million copies of their earlier albums hope to sell a (mere) million copies. My friend keeps telling me she's still on top of her art and cites as an example her incredible concert ticket sales in South Africa.

Would you agree with me that Dion's career likely peaked a few years ago and that she's coasting on the fumes of her past successes? Do you see "Taking Chances" coming back strongly in the next few weeks?

Thanks a lot for your comments!

Natalia Mendes
Montreal, Quebec


Hi Natalia,

First, it's hard for any artist, much less Celine Dion, to sell a million albums these days.

It's likely that you read a story about how "Taking Chances" was certified platinum in the U.S. by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipping one million copies to retailers.

It's actually just shy of selling a million in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. It has shifted 926,000 so far.

(The RIAA, a completely separate entity from Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan, bases their gold and platinum awards on units shipped to U.S. retail. For further information on the RIAA, visit its official Web site.)

It is unfair to compare "Taking Chances," in terms of sales, to Dion's earlier albums like "Falling Into You." The latter set, which has sold 10.8 million in the U.S., is one of those once-in-a-lifetime albums. It'd be like comparing Madonna's new album's sales to how well "Like a Virgin" or "True Blue" sold. Or, bashing Alanis Morissette because her last album didn't sell as well as the phenomenon that was "Jagged Little Pill."

Certain albums simply capture the attention of what seems like the entire country. For a time in the '90s, Dion was everywhere (and in everyone's stereo).

Considering that "Taking Chances" is her first pop album since 2003, and that's she's been basically off the pop radar for years (working in Las Vegas), it's doing fairly well.

Dion's extensive world tour has dates lined up through January 2009. In the next week, she visits South Korea while she'll hit Australia at the end of the month. In April, she heads to Malaysia and China, followed by a tour of Europe in May through July. Her North American tour begins on Aug. 12 in Boston.



SPLENDID SPLENDER

Hi Keith,

I was a huge fan of the group Splender who I feel were hugely underrated.

"Halfway Down the Sky" was a masterpiece! So many people I know swear that one or all of the songs on that album changed or saved their life in some way.

Unfortunately, I donĀ¹t ever remember seeing "Halfway Down the Sky" on The Billboard 200 albums chart when it was released. Could you tell me how many copies of "Halfway Down the Sky" have sold to date and if the album ever charted on The Billboard 200?

Thanks,

Michael Yokeley
Sacramento, Calif.


Hello Michael,

Splender's "Halfway Down the Sky" has sold 226,000 in the U.S. since its release in 1999, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The act's next release, 2002's "To Whom It May Concern," has managed 16,000.

The group had a few hit singles on Billboard's charts. "Yeah, Whatever" reached No. 24 on Alternative/Modern Rock and No. 26 on the Hot AC/Adult Top 40 chart. "I Think God Can Explain" peaked at No. 12 on Hot AC/Adult Top 40 and No. 62 on The Billboard Hot 100.

Splender disbanded after the release of "To Whom It May Concern."

The group's lead singer, Waymon Boone, now fronts a new band, Headrush.