Matchbox 20 Heads 'North' With First No. 1.

As expected, pop/rock band Matchbox 20 scores its first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as its new "North" album debuts with 95,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (That's a little less than the 110,000 that was initially projected for the album last week by those in the know.) It's the group's first full-length studio album since 2002's "More Than You Think You Are", which debuted and peaked at No. 6 off a 178,000 launch.

Since then, the act released an EP in 2003 (aptly titled "EP") that went to No. 43 and a greatest-hits package in 2007 titled "Exile on Mainstream". The latter bowed and peaked at No. 3, starting with 131,000.

The group's breakthrough debut album, 1996's "Yourself or Someone Like You", topped out at No. 5 on the chart the following year, but spent a whopping 119 weeks on the tally. In 2000, the act issued its second set, "Mad Season", which reached No. 3 and earned its best single sales week when it started with 365,000.

While Matchbox 20 didn't achieve a No. 1 album until this week, its frontman, Rob Thomas, has had a No. 1. He etched a chart-topper with his solo debut, "Something to Be", which bowed atop the list in 2005 with 252,000. He then claimed a No. 3 set in 2009 with "Cradlesong" and a No. 91 entry with the "Someday" EP in 2010.

Matchbox 20's album was led by the single "She's So Mean," which became the group's 13th top 10 hit on the Adult Pop Songs airplay chart. This week "Mean" holds for a third straight week at No. 8, its peak so far.

DIGITAL DRAGONS: Powered by its No. 4 Alternative Songs hit "It's Time," rock band Imagine Dragons debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with its first proper full-length album, "Night Visions" (83,000). Of the set's first-week sales, a full 90% were downloads. The album was sale-priced last week in the iTunes store for $7.99 while Amazon MP3 offered it for $5.

Sources indicate that a large portion of the album's first-week iTunes sales were owed to the retailer's Complete My Album feature, which isn't surprising. The band released the successful six-song EP Continued Silence earlier this year, and four of those tracks are found on "Night Visions". (Consumers who had purchased any four of those tracks could apply them toward the sale of the new set.) Among those tracks were "It's Time" and the act's latest chart hit, "Radioactive." The latter rises 38-37 on Alternative.

"Continued Silence" peaked at No. 40 in August, but was deleted last week. Thus, it falls completely off the chart this week (from No. 57 last week), taking a 75% dive in sales (moving from 7,000 sold to 2,000).

DEEP DIVE: TobyMac's "Eye on It" descends from No. 1 to No. 8 on the Billboard 200, marking the fourth album to drop seven slots or more from the top spot this year. It follows Michael Buble's "Christmas" (1-24, Jan. 14), Madonna's "MDNA" (1-8, April 21) and Adam Lambert's "Trespassing" (1-12, June 9).

Buble's tumble was to be expected, as that chart reflected the week after Christmas, when hardly anyone was in the market for a holiday album. TobyMac's set has more in common with Madonna's and Lambert's, in that all three albums were seriously front-loaded. Christian acts, like TobyMac, tend to have a robust first week from banked preorders and hardcore fan purchases. But once the first week has passed, there aren't many general-market consumers interested in the product. Lambert's dedicated fans turned out in "Trespassing"'s first week, but they seemed to be the only ones wanting the album. Of the set's 155,000 total sales, 50% were sold in its first week. As for Madonna's "MDNA", its debut was bolstered by its much-talked-about concert ticket/album bundle offer. It moved 359,000 in its premiere week, then shifted 48,000 in its second frame.

Deep dives from No. 1 didn't used to be that common. Since the chart adopted SoundScan data on May 25, 1991, 65 albums have fallen at least seven rungs from the top in a week. But, between 1991 and 2002, there were only 10 albums that managed that not-so-awesome feat. The first was in 1994, when Pantera's surprise No. 1 set, "Far Beyond Driven", fell from No. 1 to No. 9 on April 16, 1994. The rest of that decade's big drops belonged mostly to similarly front-loaded rock and metal titles by Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Korn and the soundtrack to "Howard Stern's Private Parts."

Since 2003, as album sales have shrunk and sets see more of their sales come the first few weeks of release, more and more albums are tumbling faster. The worst years for big falls were 2005 and 2009, when eight sets (in each year) dropped seven slots or more.