Fred discusses John Mellencamp, Weird Al Yankovic, Lily Allen and more!

LET 'FREEDOM'S' RING: John Mellencamp returns to The Billboard 200 in a triumphant way, with the highest-debuting set of his career and his first top 10 album in just over 10 years.

"Freedom's Road" (UMe/Universal) jumps onto the album chart at No. 5, besting Mellencamp's previous highest entrance, the No. 7 debut of "Human Wheels" the week of Sept. 25, 1993. The new CD is Mellencamp's first top 10 title since "Mr. Happy Go Lucky" peaked at No. 9 the week of Sept. 28, 1996.

"Freedom's Road" is the 18th Mellencamp album to chart in a career that is now expanded to 27 years, five months and three weeks. It all began with the self-titled "John Cougar" LP, which debuted the week of Aug. 18, 1979, ultimately peaking at No. 64.

This latest release is the third most successful Mellencamp album, in terms of chart performance. The only albums to peak in higher positions are "American Fool," No. 1 for nine weeks beginning May 8, 1982, and "Scarecrow," which went to No. 2 the week of Nov. 16, 1985.


THE FUNNIEST CHART: Weird Al Yankovic extends his reign over Top Comedy Albums to 18 weeks with "Straight Outta Lynwood" (Way Moby/Volcano). That separates this CD from a pack of three and makes it the second-longest running No. 1 album in this chart's short history.

Since Top Comedy Albums was initiated on Nov. 13, 2004, the longest-running No. 1 title is "Retaliation" by Dane Cook, with 47 non-consecutive weeks in the penthouse.

Last week, "Straight Outta Lynwood" was tied with two other albums that ruled for 17 weeks each: "Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie Soundtrack" in 2004 and "The Right to Bare Arms" by Larry the Cable Guy in 2005.


A FROWN TURNED UPSIDE DOWN: That's what Smokey Robinson called a "smile," and that's the title of the highest-debuting song on this week's edition of The Billboard Hot 100. London's Lily Allen makes her U.S. debut with my favorite single of 2006, "Smile" (Capitol), a new entry at No. 83.

Allen's slice of reggae-influenced pop is the fifth different song with the title "Smile" to appear on the Hot 100, and the eighth overall.
The most-recorded "Smile" is the one written by film legend Charlie Chaplin. Four different versions of his "Smile" have charted, starting with a Tony Bennett single that went to No. 73 in 1959. Songstress Timi Yuro took the song to No. 42 in 1961. An instrumental by Ferrante & Teicher found its way to No. 94 in 1962 and a duet by Betty Everett and Jerry Butler also went to No. 42 in 1965.

The other three "Smile" songs were by Scarface featuring 2Pac and Johnny P, No. 12 in 1997; Vitamin C featuring Lady Saw, No. 18 in 1999 and Lonestar, No. 39 in 2000.

Allen's "Smile" also makes its debut on the Pop 100, at No. 78, where it is joined by another U.K. No. 1 hit. The song currently holding the top spot in the United Kingdom, "Grace Kelly" (Casablanca) by Mika, opens at No. 90.


JUSTIN'S HAT TRICK: For the first time in his solo career, Justin Timberlake has amassed three top 10 hits in a row on the Hot 100. "What Goes Around... Comes Around" (Jive) jumps 13-10. It is the follow-up to "My Love," which spent three weeks at No. 1 and that single was the follow-up to "SexyBack," which had a seven-week run at the top.

In 2003, Timberlake had two consecutive top 10 hits: "Cry Me a River" sailed to No. 3 and "Rock Your Body" rolled to No. 5.


MARTIAN CHART-HUNTER: The rock outfit 30 Seconds to Mars, featuring actor Jared Leto on lead vocals, sets a record on Modern Rock Tracks. The band's current hit, "The Kill (Bury Me)" (Virgin), is the first single in the history of this chart to spend 50 weeks on the tally.

"The Kill," which peaked at No. 3 in August, set the longevity record in its 47th frame, when it passed the 46-week run of Crossfade's 2004-05 hit, "Cold."