Ask Billboard: Albums, Avril & 'American Idol'

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


BOTTOMS DOWN

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your great column every week. I have a question I don't think has been addressed before.

With Cake's "Showrrom of Compassion" debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with the lowest number of copies sold (44,000) for a leading set since the chart's conversion to Nielsen SoundScan data in May 1991, it got me wondering: how many copies do the albums at the lowest portion of the chart now sell?

Thanks again (I started following the Billboard charts back in the late '70s!)

Tony Bisio
Tampa, Florida


Hi Tony,

Thanks for the kind words!

Just as the sales totals atop the Billboard 200 are bleak in comparison to the past, it's unsurprising that acts can now dent the chart's basement with lower numbers than before.

This week, the No. 200 title, Blake Shelton's "All About Tonight" EP, sold just north of 2,000, marking the eighth-lowest total for an anchor position album in the chart's SoundScan era.

A former No. 1, interestingly enough, holds the mark for lowest weekly sales sum for a No. 200-ranking set. In the Aug. 29, 2009, chart week, Kenny Chesney's "Lucky Old Sun" sold slightly less than Shelton's release shifted this week.

Since May 1991, the top 116 lowest-selling weeks for No. 200-placing titles have occurred since the beginning of 2008. Of those, the top 55 graced the list since the start of 2009.

Conversely, the highest SoundScan-era sales total for an album at the bottom rung on the Billboard 200? Slipknot's "Iowa," which moved 21,000 copies following the 2001 Christmas shopping week.

Discounting weeks impacted by holiday purchasing habits (i.e., outside of November through January, for the purposes of this statistic), Avril Lavigne's "Let Go" has logged the top sales total for a No. 200-ranking album in the Billboard 200's SoundScan timeframe. The set sold 8,000 copies the chart week of Feb. 28, 2004.

Speaking of Lavigne ...


Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


IF IT'S NOT TOO COMPLICATED ...

Hi Gary,

Compliments to the Billboard.com staff. I follow your news and charts every day!

I would be very happy to know the sales and Billboard 200 chart peaks of one of my favorite singers, Avril Lavigne.

Thanks a lot!

Francesco Drux
Italy


Hi Francesco,

Thanks! And, good timing, as Lavigne's "What the Hell" bounds onto the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 13. The first single from her fourth album, "Goodbye Lullaby," due March 8, opens at No. 6 on Digital Songs (163,000 downloads sold, according to SoundScan). Early radio airplay also looks encouraging, as the song starts at No. 32 on Adult Pop Songs and No. 38 on Pop Songs.

Here is a recap of the U.S. SoundScan sales and Billboard 200 peak positions for the 26-year-old's album releases so far:

"Let Go"
6,761,000
No. 2, 2002, two weeks (97 total weeks)

"Under My Skin"
3,090,000
No. 1, one week, 2004 (66 total weeks)

"The Best Damn Thing"
1,631,000
No. 1, two weeks, 2007 (51 total weeks)

Overall, Lavigne has sold 11.5 million albums, according to SoundScan.


Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE (SOMETIMES)

Hi Gary,

Curiosity just struck me after reading this month's Chart Beat feature on songs that peaked at No. 11.

How about cover versions of Hot 100 No. 1s that climbed to No. 2? Only Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey's remake of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross' "Endless Love" comes to mind.

Did a similar chart fate befall any other former chart-toppers?

Thanks,

Leo del Castillo
Baguio City, Philippines


Hi Leo,

"Endless Love" did stop at No. 2 on the Hot 100 the second time around, but it's not the only former No. 1 to return as a runner-up remake.

Here is the list:

"Endless Love"
No. 1 (nine weeks), 1981, Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
No. 2, 1994, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey

"Total Eclipse of the Heart"
No. 1 (four weeks), 1983, Bonnie Tyler
No. 2, 1995, Nicki French

"We Are the World"
No. 1 (four weeks), 1985, USA for Africa
No. 2, 2010 ("We Are the World 25: For Haiti"), Artists for Haiti

Another song almost counts. Carrie Underwood's "Inside Your Heaven" debuted at No. 1 the week of July 2, 2005. The following week, Bo Bice's version of the cut debuted - and peaked - at No. 2.

It's hard to consider Bice's take a "remake," however, of Underwood's, as each singer recorded the 2005 "American Idol" winner's song before knowing who (ultimately, Underwood) would don that season's crown.

A few other pertinent titles regarding Nos. 1 and 2:

In a reversal of the feats above, five songs originally peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 before cover versions outperformed them by reaching the summit:

"Can't Help Falling in Love"
No. 2, 1962, Elvis Presley
No. 1 (seven weeks), 1993, UB40

"Groovy Kind of Love"
No. 2, 1966, the Mindbenders
No. 1 (two weeks), 1988, Phil Collins

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
No. 2, 1967, Gladys Knight and the Pips
No. 1 (seven weeks), 1968, Marvin Gaye

"MacArthur Park"
No. 2, 1968, Richard Harris
No. 1 (three weeks), 1978, Donna Summer

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
No. 2, 1974, Elton John
No. 1 (one week), 1992, George Michael/Elton John

And, two songs unluckily peaked at No. 2 in each of their two top Hot 100 performances. "Rockin' Robin" reached the runner-up spot in 1958 for Bobby Day and in 1972 for Michael Jackson. In 1964, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers lifted "Last Kiss" to No. 2, the same position that Pearl Jam's cover reached in 1999.

Still, the latter version of "Last Kiss" ranks as Pearl Jam's top-charting Hot 100 hit to date.


Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, 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.


'IDOL' THOUGHTS

"American Idol" returned Wednesday (Jan. 19), offering a host of zany highlights after just two episodes.

Similar to sports columnists making football picks each week (great, I just reminded myself of the Patriots' loss Sunday ...), each week in "Ask Billboard" during this season's auditions, just because I've always wanted to, I'll list the contestants that I feel have a chance to become the next ... American Idol.

If, come the season finale, the winner is one of the names I included, I'll ... um ... release my own victory ballad? Maybe not, but it's fun to watch the early episodes of an "American Idol" season and try to guess the voices that might have a chance to win it all.

Personal favorites from the show's first week back: Ashley Sullivan (proud to perhaps become the "first awkward Idol," as she boasted); youngsters Victoria Huggins, Brielle Von Hugel and Travis Orlando; Sarah Sellers; Jovany Barreto (the potential first "Idol" to graduate to Latin music stardom); Brett Loewenstern; and, unassuming, and undaunted, smooth-voiced 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux.

Which aspiring "Idol"s have impressed you so far since the series' return?

Follow Billboard.com's complete coverage of the 10th season of "American Idol" here.

As always, please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below or by e-mailing askbb@billboard.com.