As Adele's "21" spends a remarkable 22nd consecutive week in the top three of the Billboard 200 - its entire chart life since its debut on the March 12 tally - it raises the question: Just how amazing is that top-three streak?
As it turns out, pretty remarkable.
Since we began using point-of-sale data from Nielsen SoundScan to power the Billboard 200 chart's rankings on May 25, 1991, "21" is now tied for the third-most consecutive weeks in the top three of any album from its chart debut.
Adele's run is matched by Celine Dion's "Let's Talk About Love" (1997-1998) and beaten only by Garth Brooks' "Ropin' the Wind" (29 weeks, 1991-1992) and the "Bodyguard" soundtrack (28, 1992-1993). Certainly, it would seem that "21" isn't going away anytime soon and could increase its top three-tally.
That question leads to another: Which No. 1 albums spent the fewest total weeks on the chart?
We looked at every No. 1 album from May 25, 1991, through the end of 2010 to determine this list of the titles with fastest fades from the Billboard 200.
That time span was selected for two reasons. First, because the chart behaved very differently before its employment of SoundScan's authoritative sales data, we start with when the chart began using that company's information on May 25, 1991. Before then, the tally was based on ranked reports collected by Billboard, from retailers, as to what their biggest sellers of the week were.
Secondly, our cut-off for research was the final week of December in 2010. Only titles that reached No. 1 before the end of last year were considered for this list. It seemed unfair to include 2011's crop of No. 1s, as an album that fell off the chart in March, for example, could still stage a return in the coming weeks or months.
No. 1 Date (Wks. at No. 1) - Weeks on Chart
1. Various Artists, "Hope For Haiti Now"
Feb. 6, 2010 - 1 week at No. 1 - Six weeks on chart
The charity set collected performances from the live star-studded telethon that aired on Friday, Jan. 22, 2011, benefitting victims of the Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake. The digital-only 20-track album -- which boasted contributions from Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and more -- was rush-released to retailers over that weekend. It immediately debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 171,000 downloads according to SoundScan.
Its short six-week run on the chart isn't unusual. Albums that are tied to a specific event tend to fade fast on the tally once interest and news of said event dissipates.
What is especially unique about the set is how it got to No. 1 at all. While it wasn't the first charitable album to hit No. 1 -- it was the first No. 1 exclusively available digitally.
2. Soundtrack, "Howard Stern Private Parts: the Album"
March 15, 1997 - 1 week at No. 1 - Nine weeks on chart
The soundtrack compilation -- for Howard Stern's same-named autobiographical film -- debuted atop the list to much fanfare, but only charted for nine weeks. Like the "Hope for Haiti Now" album, "Private Parts" was affiliated with an event: the big-screen adaptation of his 1993 hit book "Private Parts." The film opened at No. 1 at the U.S. and Canada box office, grossing $14.6 million in its first weekend.
But, like all acts with a devoted and rabid fanbase -- as Stern has -- most of those fans turn out in the first week or weekend to support a project's release. The problem? Everyone that wanted to buy the album or see the movie did so as soon as possible. And after that, there weren't many casual customers interested in either the album or film.
Thus, while the album debuted with 176,000 copies in its first week, it immediately fell to No. 11 in its sophomore frame with 87,000. And, after just nine weeks on the list, it had vaporized from the tally. Still, the album -- which featured rock acts like AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Green Day and Van Halen -- has sold 562,000 copies in the U.S. That's a not-so-shabby total, especially considering the set has been out of print since 2004 and unavailable to purchase digitally.
3. Susan Boyle, "The Gift"
Nov. 27, 2010 - four weeks at No. 1 - 10 weeks on the chart
In third place on the list is "Britain's Got Talent" star Susan Boyle's second album, the Christmas set "The Gift." The collection included obvious standards like "O Holy Night," but included such offerings as covers of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
While it debuted at No. 1 with 318,000 sold -- and racked up four nonconsecutive weeks in the penthouse -- it slipped off the chart after only 10 weeks. That short stay isn't surprising, as most holiday titles drop off the Billboard 200 shortly after the Christmas season is over. "The Gift" was no different, as its last chart week was Jan. 29, 2011 (which reflected the sales week ending Jan. 16).
Similarly, Josh Groban's 2007 holiday effort "Noel" (which became that year's best-selling album), spent five weeks at No. 1 and 14 straight frames on the chart before falling off in early 2008. But, "Noel" returned in late 2009 for another six-week stay, followed by a further encore performance of eight frames during the most recent Christmas season.
So, while "Noel" initially only racked 14 weeks on the list in its first run, it has so far notched 29 weeks thanks to continued sales in successive holiday seasons. Thus -- unless people have tired of Boyle -- we could see her "Gift" keep on giving on the chart later this year.
4. R. Kelly & Jay-Z, "Unfinished Business"
Nov. 13, 2004 - 1 week at No. 1 - 11 weeks on the chart
The super duo's second collaborations set couldn't have been released at a more awkward time. It dropped just as the pair's highly-publicized Best of Both Worlds tour collapsed after a messy public feud between the two stars, not to mention a $75 million breach-of-contract lawsuit.
The aborted tour took its name from the duo's first album, 2002's "The Best of Both Worlds," which opened at No. 2 with first week sales of 223,000 copies. "Unfinished," which largely consisted of tracks recorded for -- but were not included on -- "Best," started with 215,000.
Though "Unfinished" departed the tally after 11 weeks on the chart -- and no doubt represents a challenging moment of history for both R. Kelly and Jay-Z -- each will forever be able to count the set towards their handsome sum of No. 1s. So far, Jay-Z has a whopping 11 No. 1 albums (the most of any solo act in history) while R. Kelly owns six.
LL Cool J, "G.O.A.T Featuring James T. Smith: the Greatest Of All Time"
Sept. 30, 2000 - 1 week at No. 1 - 12 weeks on the chart
Feb. 15, 1997 - 1 week at No. 1 - 12 weeks on the chart
Two albums led by two very different rappers are tied for the fifth-shortest chart stay of any No. 1 album of the past 20 years. LL Cool J's "G.O.A.T." gave the hip-hop veteran his first topper in a chart career, which at that point had been going strong for 15 years.
The "Gridlock'd" album was the companion set to the late 2Pac's then-new film, which was released to theaters four months after the rapper had been shot and killed. The soundtrack included four songs by 2Pac and has since sold 573,000 copies. What really helped its debut at No. 1 wasn't just the fact that the set was tied to 2Pac, but also how it was released at the end of January -- normally a time of year where no significant new albums come out. Thus, without much competition, "Gridlock'd" had a clear lane to No. 1. It bowed with 150,000 -- 25,000 copies ahead of the No. 2 set, No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom."
"Imagine That," the lead single from LL's "G.O.A.T.," peaked at No. 98 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- the only charting hit from the album. Thus, without a major hit, the album only lasted for 12 weeks on the chart. As for the "Gridlock'd" soundtrack -- much like the "Private Parts" set -- once the movie had left theaters, so did interest in the album.