Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Chrisette Michele sets personal high, industry low

May 13, 2009 |  1:16 pm

Chrisette_defjam Perhaps everyone was saving their extra cash for new albums from Eminem and Green Day.  In a slow release week, R&B singer Chrisette Michele tops the U.S. pop chart, selling only 83,000 copies of her “Epiphany,” according to Nielsen SoundScan.

That’s the lowest-ever debut on the U.S. pop charts since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991, according to Billboard’s Chart Alert. It’s also only the third newcomer to land atop the chart with less than 100,000 copies sold.

Def Jam's “Epiphany” joins the ranks of Johnny Cash’s “American V: A Hundred Highways,” which entered in 2006 with 88,000 copies sold, and the Notorious B.I.G.’s “#1’s,” which bowed atop the chart in 2005 with 99,000 copies sold. Michele’s “Epiphany” isn’t the lowest No. 1 total, however. The soundtrack to“Dreamgirls” topped the chart in January 2007 with only 60,000 copies sold.

Yet even in the down market, Michele’s chart-topper is still a large achievement for the neo-soul artist. Her debut, “I Am,” never sold more than 27,000 copies in one week, and went on to scan a total of 431,000 copies. Sales of “Epiphany” were no doubt helped by the low-low-low price of $2.99 on Amazon.com, and 14,000 sales were from the digital sector.

Michele has a narrow lead at the top, as the Disney soundtrack to “Hannah Montana: The Movie” is close behind at No. 2, having sold 82,000 copies. That pushes the soundtrack to a total of 826,000 copies, showing there’s plenty of life left in the Disney vehicle. “Hannah Montana” is on the verge of passing one of 2009’s earlier blockbusters, as U2’s “No Line on the Horizon” stands this week at 882,000 copies sold. 

New at No. 3 is the more pop-leaning R&B singer Ciara, who’s LaFace/Zomba release “Fantasy Ride” sold 81,000 copies in its first week. As Michele experiences a career high, Ciara falls victim to a career low. In 2006, her “Ciara: The Evolution” sold 338,000 copies when it debuted at No. 1. Her “Love Sex Magic” featuring Justin Timberlake is at No. 37 on the U.S. single’s chart, and seems to be treading down. But perhaps her upcoming tour with Jay-Z will put bring her numbers back up.

Other notes from this week’s chart:

* Last week’s topper, Bob Dylan's “Together Through Life,” falls to No. 3, selling 51,000 copies in its second week. That gives the Columbia's ”Life” a total of 177,000 copies sold to date.

* Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band lands at No. 40 with their Merge release “Outer South.” The newcomer sold 14,000 copies in its first week. Oberst has had more chart success recording under the Bright Eyes brand, as the 2005 effort "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning” went so far as to debut in the top 10.

* Even moms love Taylor Swift. There’s no stopping the young country superstar. Her Big Machine album “Fearless” had a 42% sales burst last week, selling an additional 41,000 copies. For those keeping score, Swift is now at close to 3.2 million copies sold of her sophomore effort.

* The world is apparently eager for more Daughtry. After performing a new song on last week’s “American Idol,” Daughtry’s self-titled RCA debut rockets back into the top 50. Daughtry went from No. 177 to No. 50, experiencing a massive 305% sales burst to 12,000 copies. To date, the album has topped 4.4 million copies sold.

* Overall, Billboard tells us that album sales are up 5.4% from last week, but down nearly 20% from the comparable week in 2008. Helping sales this week no doubt were Mother’s Day sales, and artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban, Sugarland and Darius Rucker all saw more than 20% sales boosts.

--Todd Martens

Photo: Chrisette Michele. Credit: Def Jam