Answers to readers' questions about Mariah Carey, Natasha Bedingfield and Bananarama.

MERRY MARIAH

Hi Keith!

I read your column weekly and I know that Mariah Carey and her record sales are almost a weekly question -- and this week is no exception.

I noticed that her "Merry Christmas" re-entered Billboard's Top Comprehensive Albums chart this week at No. 136 and the total units moved for that collection is now at 4.5 million. Does this give Mariah one of the best selling (if not the best selling) Christmas albums in Nielsen SoundScan history?

Robbie Nicholson
Chattanooga, Tenn.

Hi Robbie,

In the time since you wrote this question, Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas" has moved 136-75-61 on Billboard's Top Comprehensive Albums chart. That particular tally (which is different from The Billboard 200 albums chart) includes all albums, including those are that catalog or exclusive to one retailer.

Her 1994 holiday set has now sold 4.56 million in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

If we only look at those albums released during the SoundScan era (beginning in 1991 when the company began tracking data), Carey's "Christmas" set is the third best-selling of that time frame. Only Kenny G's "Miracles-The Holiday Albums" (7.2 million) and Celine Dion's "These Are Special Times" (4.63 million) are ahead of Carey.

If we attempted to look at all Christmas albums, including those released before 1991, we have to consider those certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. They include Elvis Presley's "Elvis' Christmas Album" (9 million) and Mannheim Steamroller's "A Fresh Aire Christmas" and "Mannheim Steamroller Christmas" (both certified at 6 million).

Considering that Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" has become one of the very few holiday standards of the past 15 years, it's safe to say that "Merry Christmas" (which contains the tune) will continue to sell strongly in the future.



UNWRITTEN EXPLANATION

Hi Keith,

What is going on with Natasha Bedingfield's new single, "Unwritten?"

Considering that "These Words" reached the top 20 [on the Billboard Hot 100], and "Unwritten," in my opinion, is the best track off her album, I thought radio would be sure to embrace this song. It is barely making an impact on the airplay charts. What gives?

Jonathan Williams
Malvern, Ark.

Hello Jonathan,

Natasha Bedingfield's new single "Unwritten" is still growing at radio. For the week ending Dec. 4, it was heard on 101 U.S. stations including WIHT Washington, D.C. (34 plays), WWWQ Atlanta (26 plays) and WNKS Charlotte, N.C. (34 plays). On the Dec. 17 Mainstream Top 40 chart published by Billboard Radio Monitor, the song was bulleted at No. 31.

Additionally, the tune grew on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs, moving 51-40 on the Dec. 17 chart.

Taking all this into consideration, it's no surprise that "Unwritten" moves 77-65 on the Dec. 17 Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Throughout December, Bedingfield will play a number of radio station-presented concerts. Make sure to visit her official U.S. Web site at natashabedingfieldusa.com to find out where she'll be appearing.



GOING B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Hi Keith,

Any word on a possible U.S. release of the Bananarama's new album, "Drama?" The singles "Move in My Direction" and "Look on the Floor" have done well in other countries.

They are still going strong after more than 20 years, and this may be some of their best material yet!

Malcolm Graham
Barre, Va.

Hi Malcolm,

Bananarama recently released its independently distributed album "Drama," though it failed to crack the top 75 on the U.K. Albums chart. The album's first two singles, "Move In My Direction" and "Look on the Floor" both reached the top 30 (No. 14 and No. 26, respectively).

Neither the album nor its singles can be found on the latest U.K. singles or albums charts. There are rumblings that the album will be re-released with more fanfare in early 2006.

While it has been reported that the album will see an American release in 2006, it's tough to say how it would sell (or which label would pick up the act).