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Ask Billboard: ‘Idol’-izing Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina

Updated album and download sales for the 2005 "American Idol" winner, plus her thoughts on this year's runner-up, Lauren Alaina.

Ask Billboard is updated every week. 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.


Hello Gary!

It’s been almost six years since Carrie Underwood‘s debut album, “Some Hearts,” was released. Now, she is the “American Idol” singer with the top U.S. album sales and one of the biggest names in country music.


Could you please provide us “Carrie’s Care Bears” her up-to-date sales stats?

Thank you,

Matheus Oliveira
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Hi Matheus,

Underwood’s to-date U.S. album sales of 12,394,000 place her ahead of Kelly Clarkson (10,702,000) for the title of best-selling “Idol” graduate. Clarkson can close the gap with Monday’s release of her fifth album, “Stronger.”

Here is a recap of how Underwood’s three albums have sold so far:

7,133,000, “Some Hearts”
3,217,000, “Carnival Ride”
2,041,000, “Play On”

… and her top-selling digital tracks, which comprise her 14 top 10s on Country Songs, as well as her “Idol” coronation song “Inside Your Heaven” (which, while a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in 2005 on the strength of sales, merely dented Country Songs, reaching No. 52, before she became established as a country artist):

3,314,000, “Before He Cheats”
1,897,000, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”
1,697,000, “Cowboy Casanova”
1,429,000, “All-American Girl”

1,202,000, “Undo It”
1,078,000, “Last Name”
1,069,000, “Remind Me” ( Brad Paisley featuring Underwood)
1,011,000, “Just a Dream”
962,000, “So Small”
891,000, “I Told You So”
777,000, “Temporary Home”
705,000, “Wasted”
442,000, “Mama’s Song”
403,000, “Don’t Forget to Remember Me”

Next up for Underwood? Working on her fourth album and co-hosting the Country Music Assn. Awards Nov. 9 with reigning Entertainer of the Year winner Paisley.

“I’ve recorded vocals (for) six songs,” she told Billboard.com last month. “It’s all about just making the best album that I possibly can. New songs are coming in all the time. I’ve recently written some stuff I’m really, really excited about.”

Carrie’s Care Bears will also surely like the ballad “Eighteen Inches” on Lauren Alaina’s debut album, “Wildflower.” Underwood co-wrote the potential single choice. (The set’s new release, following the No. 36-peaking “Like My Mother Does,” is the uptempo “Georgia Peaches,” while “The Middle” also sounds like a future country hit).

The pair has developed a bond, with Alaina recently reaching out to Underwood for encouragement when she felt homesick.

“I just said, ‘How do you deal with being away from your family for so long and just being gone all the time?’,” Alaina said, according to an AP report (featuring analysis from Billboard associate director of charts/retail Keith Caulfield!) “And (Underwood) said, ‘You have to think about all the positive stuff that’s going on, because you have so much going for you right now. Your family will always be there.’

“Just hearing that from her, knowing that she had been through what I’m going through, just made me feel 10 times better,” Alaina said.

“(Alaina) is a breath of fresh air in country music today,” Underwood responded about her fan-turned-friend.

“I can’t wait to see what she’ll do in the future.”

Ask Billboard is updated every week. 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.


Hi Gary,

How interesting that the top-selling Christmas album of the Nielsen SoundScan era, “Miracles – the Holiday Album,” is by a Jewish musician, Kenny G (nee Gorelick) and that the artist at No. 2, Josh Groban (“Noel”), has Jewish ancestry, as well ( “Ask Billboard,” Oct. 16).

So, I’m curious: what are some other Jewish performers and composers who have hit Billboard holiday charts with Christmas albums? I’m sure the list includes Irving Berlin, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond.

L’Shanah Tovah,

David Fritz
Reseda, California

Hi David,

Belated happy new year to you, as well!

Jewish artists certainly have a successful history when it comes to Christmas songs. (Jewish radio programmers, too. When I was music director at WSNE in Providence, R.I., the station annually segued to all-Yuletide music during the holidays. Considering the station’s lofty ratings for those periods, I apparently faked my way through the assignment quite well).

And, why not? Christmas fare is some of the most upbeat and melodic music ever made and, since the majority that gets airplay each season is rather secular lyrically or more seasonal than Christmas-themed, it’s, thus, fairly universal in its appeal. My favorite song of Mariah Carey‘s entire catalog is “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Wham!’s “Last Christmas” and Band-Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” don’t sound any less catchy when heard in spring, summer or fall.

Let’s run down a list of notable artists of Jewish ancestry who have placed Christmas music on Billboard charts. It’s even longer than might be expected (bringing to mind the classic exchange from “Airplane!”: “Would you like something to read?” / “Do you have anything light?” / “How about this leaflet, ‘Famous Jewish Sports Legends’?”)

Herb Alpert
“Christmas Album,” No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1968

Sammy Davis Jr. (converted to Judaism)
“Christmas With the Rat Pack,” No. 4, Holiday Albums, 2004

Neil Diamond
“The Christmas Album,” No. 3, Holiday Albums, 1992

“The Christmas Album Volume II,” No. 9, Holiday Albums, 1994
“A Cherry Cherry Christmas,” No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2009

Kenny G
“Miracles – the Holiday Album,” No. 1 (17 weeks), Holiday Albums, 1994
“Faith: A Holiday Album,” No. 1 (five weeks), Holiday Albums, 1999
“Wishes,” No. 2, Holiday Albums, 2002
“The Greatest Holiday Classics,” No. 3, Holiday Albums, 2005

Eydie Gorme
“Navidad means Christmas,” No. 9, Christmas Albums, 1966

Josh Groban
“Noel,” No. 1 (19 weeks), Holiday Albums, 2007

Barry Manilow
“Because It’s Christmas,” No. 1 (two weeks), Holiday Albums, 1990

“A Christmas Gift of Love,” No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2002
“In the Swing of Christmas,” No. 11, Holiday Albums, 2009

Bette Midler
“Cool Yule,” No. 6, Holiday Albums, 2006

Mitch Miller
“Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch,” No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1958
“Holiday Sing-Along With Mitch,” No. 1 (two weeks), Christmas Albums, 1958

Andy Samberg
“**** in a Box” (the Lonely Island), No. 8, Comedy Digital Songs, 2010

Paul Simon
“Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” No. 24, Triple A, 2010

Barbra Streisand
“A Christmas Album,” No. 1 (five weeks), Christmas Albums, 1967
“Christmas Memories,” No. 1 (one week), Holiday Albums, 2003

Carole King could add her name to the above list, as the singer-songwriter releases her first holiday album, “A Holiday Carole,” Nov. 1.

And, Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas,” which spent 11 weeks at No. 1 for Bing Crosby on Billboard’s pop charts in 1942. Berlin’s father’s profession? Cantor in a synagogue.

(Missing from the list is Kiss, fronted by Gene Simmons, since the holiday film “Kiss Saves Santa” exists only in the “Family Guy”-verse).

Some Jewish artists have recorded Chanukah songs, as well.

Adam Sandler humorously bemoaned the lack of such music, so he wrote “The Chanukah Song” “for all those nice little Jewish kids who don’t get to hear any Chanukah songs.” His signature 1995 hit, which spun-off two follow-up versions, has perennially appeared on Billboard’s holiday charts.

Kenny G’s “Miracles – the Holiday Album” includes “Chanukah Song” (not the same song as Sandler’s, but a saxophone instrumental).

And, Marc Cohn offered his interpretation of one of the most gentle traditional Chanukah songs, “Rock of Ages” (or, in Hebrew, “Ma’oz Tzur”).

The hymn, believed to have been composed in the 13th century, celebrates the strength of the human spirit and gratitude for good fortune, notions fitting for all, regardless of religion.