Van Halen had a lot riding on the bow of their latest album, which debuted at No. 4 with sales of 191,000. While the number is not exactly an embarrassment, it's below par for one of the world's top rock outfits.
No one expected VH to sink Titanic (which sold 455,000 copies and should keep steaming ahead thanks to its Oscar wins), but the veteran quartet didn't even have the biggest debut of the week. That honor belonged to relatively unknown rapper C-Murder, whose Life or Death album on Priority Records sold 197,000 in its first drive-by.
Van Halen took some big chances on the disc, not the least being a brand new lead singer. Van Halen III represents the third incarnation of the group, thanks to the addition of frontman Gary Cherone, formerly of Extreme. While every rock fan in the world seems to have an opinion on whether he's better or worse than his two predecessors, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, it's clear he has a harder, punkier edge. And that sound is very apparent on the CD.
Charting at No. 2 is Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love, which sold 200,000. Dion, of course, owes her continuing popularity to Titanic-- her performance of the film's Academy Award winning Best Song, "My Heart Will Go On," anchors her disc.
Bumped down from No. 2 to No. 5 is Madonna's Ray of Light, which moved a solid 168,000. Savage Garden's self-titled CD sold 123,000 for a No. 6 showing, followed by Eric Clapton's Pilgrim, which dropped from No. 4 as sales slid from 168,000 to 122,000.
Rounding out the Top 10 are three urban releases: the Backsteet Boys, (No. 8, 97,000 copies), K-Ci & JoJo (No. 9, 89,000) and the soundtrack for Ice Cube's Players Club (a No. 10 debut, 85,000).
Slipping off the list: The Wedding Singer soundtrack slipped and alternababe Natalie Imbruglia, whose debut effort Left of the Middle charted at a still-strong No. 13, thanks to continued airplay for the single, "Torn."