Music fans got into the American spirit this Fourth of July.
American V: A Hundred Highways, the latest posthumous Johnny Cash studio release, cruised right to number one for the holiday week. Released on July 4, the Rick Rubin-produced disc sold 88,000 copies for the week ended Sunday, according to the latest Nielsen SoundScan numbers.
Since 1991 when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales, no disc has debuted at number one with fewer copies. The previous low was Destiny's Child's #1's, which sold 113,000 first-week copies last November. Likewise, no album topped the Billboard 200 pop chart with five-digit sales since Jamie Foxx's Unpredictable sold 97,000 copies last January after several weeks of release.
"It meant so much for Johnny to be accepted by a new audience," Rick Rubin said in a statement. "Nothing would make him more proud than this overwhelming vote of acceptance. Thank you."
By the time he died in September 2003, Cash had recorded about 50 new songs for his Grammy-winning American series. Rubin, who launched the series on his American Recordings label back in '94, compiled the best material for two final installments. The new disc features "Like the 309," the last song Cash wrote before his death; American VI is slated for 2007.
The only new release to crack the Top 10 was Chi-town punk rockers Rise Against, who claimed the 10 spot by selling just 48,000 copies of Sufferer & the Witness.
In fact, only two other new albums managed to hit the Billboard 200: The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest soundtrack sold 30,000 copies at 24 as the film itself just smashed all opening box-office records with a $135.6 million booty. Latin singer Diana Reyes surfaced at 143 as her hits collection Las No. 1 de la Reina scanned just under 6,000 copies.
Here's a quick recap of the Top 10 albums for the week ended Sunday:
1. American V: A Hundred Highways, Johnny Cash
2. Loose, Nelly Furtado
3. Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Friendship, India.Arie
4. Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks
5. St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley
6. Girl Like Me, Rihanna
7. Me & My Gang, Rascal Flatts
8. High School Musical soundtrack, various, various
9. Dusk & Summer, Dashboard Confessional
10. Sufferer & Witness, Rise Against
The Independence holiday week is traditionally one of the most sluggish of the year, and this year was particularly rough. Total sales were down 15 percent from the same week a year ago. Fittingly, the week's lagging sales followed a midyear Nielsen SoundScan report that showed year-to-date album sales down 4.2 percent (270.6 million vs. 282.6 million copies) compared to the first half of 2005.
The silver lining, however, is that overall sales--which also includes singles, digital tracks and music videos--is actually up 23.7 percent (564 million vs. 456 million). Digital sales propelled the gain, with digital tracks up 77 percent (280.9 million vs. 158.8 million) and digital albums up 126 percent (14.7 million vs. 6.5 million).
Among the year's top titles, the High School Musical soundtrack--released last January in conjunction with the film's debut on the Disney Channel--leads the pack at number one with 2.6 million copies. Country superstars Rascal Flatts trail at number two with Me & My Gang, which sold 2 million copies to date and currently holds the year's single-week sales record at 722,000 copies.
The remaining Top 5 were all 2005 releases: James Blunt's Back to Bedlam at three (1.66 million), Mary J. Blige's The Breakthrough at four (1.5 million) and Carrie Underwood's Some Hearts at five (1.48 million).
As far as musical styles, R&B albums were both the top seller (53.8 million) and the top decliner (down 22.4 percent). Alternative music followed with 50.9 million (down 14.9 percent), while country albums placed third with 36 million and a genre-leading 17.7 percent gain. Christian/gospel and soundtrack albums are the year's other big gainers, up 11.6 and 12.6 percent respectively, while rap albums marked the second biggest decline at 15.8 percent.
Other notable '06 sales figures:2006 sales are expected to break the 1 billion mark, a threshold first crossed in 2005. Four of the Top 10 albums--Back to Bedlam, Some Hearts, Now That's What I Call Music! 21 (number six,1.4 million) and Andrea Bocelli's Amore (number nine, 1.1 million)--never topped the Billboard 200. The year's top-selling digital album, Jack Johnson's Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, fell 145,000 copies short of the overall Top 10. Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" leads digital track sales with 1.55 million downloads. On average, 10.7 million digital tracks were sold each week compared to 6.7 million at the same point last year. More than 23,000 albums were released. New albums accounted for 22 percent of sales compared to 39 percent midway through last year. Here's a rundown of the Top 10 albums of the first-half of 2006:
1. High School Musical soundtrack, various, 2.6 million
2. Me & My Gang, Rascal Flatts, 2 million
3. Back to Bedlam, James Blunt, 1.7 million
4. The Breakthrough, Mary J. Blige, 1.5 million
5. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood, 1.48 million
6. Now That's What I Call Music! 21, various, 1.4 million
7. King, T.I., 1.3 million
8. Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks, 1.27 million
9. Amore, Andrea Bocelli, 1.1 million
10. All the Right Reasons, Nickelback, 1.07 million