Eagles to Britney: Gimme More

Britney Spears’ Blackout was blocked out. A last-minute change in rules has yielded a win for the Eagles, whose new album was supposed to be ineligible for the Billboard/SoundScan chart. But instead it got counted…and counted…and came in at No. 1, ahead of Britney Spears by a country-rock mile. The band’s double-disc set Long Road Out of Eden, their first full studio album since 1979’s The Long Run, debuted with 711,000 copies, all of them sold at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club stores, on those retailers’ websites, and the Eagles’ website.

Until now, albums available through only a single retailer (Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are the same company) haven’t been contenders for the chart — but don’t just blame that on Billboard and SoundScan, since big-box stores have been reluctant to voluntarily report their sales on exclusive titles in the past. At the last minute yesterday, as the chart was being compiled, everyone saw the light: The Billboard folks knew that an official win by Britney would render the chart unreliable in a lot of people’s minds, and the Wal-Mart honchos knew that publicity over the victory would drive many more customers into their stores in the coming weeks to buy up more of those 3 million non-returnable CDs the chain bought from the Eagles. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Eagles had the second-biggest bow of the year, trailing only Kanye West.)

Spears made her debut at No. 2 with 290,000 copies, significantly below early projections. Some news stories are reporting that Britney had never come in below No. 1 before. That’s accurate if you’re only counting the four all-new studio albums that preceded Blackout, the last of which, 2003’s In the Zone, bowed with 609,000. However, since then she’s had two compilations, neither of which debuted on top. In 2003, her Greatest Hits bowed at No. 4 with sales of 255,000. So by that modest standard, this week’s higher entry wasn’t so bad. But clearly, her label’s execs wish she were doing something to promote the album besides shopping for chandeliers and making daily runs to Starbucks.

Third place belonged to Carrie Underwood, who sold 170,000 in her
second week, a pretty serious drop-off from her 500K-plus bow last week.
Following that, the chart has a slew of new releases. At No. 3 is metal
band Avenged Sevenfold, the rare act to improve on the debut
sales of its previous album. Last time out, they opened with 33,000, but
this one scored 94,000. Country hunk Josh Turner’s third studio
album, Everything is Fine, was in at No. 5 with 81,000, down
some from the 102,000 that he debuted with a year and a half ago.
Suffering a far more serious dip were the Backstreet Boys. Their
previous album debuted in 2005 with 291,000 copies, but this week, Unbreakable
couldn’t round up even a third of those same customers, bowing with
81,000. The other top 10 debut belonged to Andrea Bocelli, who sold
68,000, to come in at No. 9.

Holdovers in the top 10, besides Underwood: the Robert Plant/Alison
Krauss collaboration, down from No. 2 to No. 6 with a very modest
percentage dropoff, selling another 81,000. Josh Groban dropped three
spots to No. 8, even though his holiday album had a slight unit
increase with 76,000. Rascal Flatts came to the CMA Awards with another
53,000 units, rounding out the top 10.

Next week, it’s all about Jay-Z’s American Gangster-inspired
disc, which is expected to come in somewhat shy of a half-million
units. But there’s even more curiosity around what kind of drops the
Eagles and Spears will or won’t suffer. Can the receipts generated by Blackout possibly bring the project into the black? Will it be a long road out of the red for Wal-Mart’s investment in Long Road Out of Eden, or will it continue to be America’s favorite impulse buy for months to come? Stay tuned.

Third place belonged to Carrie Underwood, who sold 170,000 in hersecond week, a pretty serious drop-off from her 500K-plus bow last week.Following that, the chart has a slew of new releases. At No. 3 is metalband Avenged Sevenfold, the rare act to improve on the debutsales of its previous album. Last time out, they opened with 33,000, butthis one scored 94,000. Country hunk Josh Turner’s third studioalbum, Everything is Fine, was in at No. 5 with 81,000, downsome from the 102,000 that he debuted with a year and a half ago.Suffering a far more serious dip were the Backstreet Boys. Theirprevious album debuted in 2005 with 291,000 copies, but this week, Unbreakablecouldn’t round up even a third of those same customers, bowing with81,000. The other top 10 debut belonged to Andrea Bocelli, who sold68,000, to come in at No. 9.

Holdovers in the top 10, besides Underwood: the Robert Plant/AlisonKrauss collaboration, down from No. 2 to No. 6 with a very modestpercentage dropoff, selling another 81,000. Josh Groban dropped threespots to No. 8, even though his holiday album had a slight unitincrease with 76,000. Rascal Flatts came to the CMA Awards with another53,000 units, rounding out the top 10.

Next week, it’s all about Jay-Z’s American Gangster-inspireddisc, which is expected to come in somewhat shy of a half-millionunits. But there’s even more curiosity around what kind of drops theEagles and Spears will or won’t suffer. Can the receipts generated by Blackout possibly bring the project into the black? Will it be a long road out of the red for Wal-Mart’s investment in Long Road Out of Eden, or will it continue to be America’s favorite impulse buy for months to come? Stay tuned.

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