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On the charts: Pearl Jam's Target adventure, Phoenix rising and Whitney's steady

September 30, 2009 |  1:12 pm


Return to form: With "Backspacer," Pearl Jam scores its first No. 1 album in 13 years, Billboard reports. The set sold 190,000 copies in its first week in stores, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It's Pearl Jam's first release outside the major label system, but the band wasn't exactly going the DIY-route. In a move that surprised fans, Pearl Jam lined up with big box retailer Target for the exclusive release.

Long associated with an anti-corporate stance, Pearl Jam avoided major fan criticism by still allowing the album to be sold at indie shops and Apple's iTunes store. While "Backspacer" failed to land on the chart with the same impact of 2006's self-titled effort, which opened with 279,000 copies, it is on par with Target's other recent exclusive. Earlier this year, Prince went with the retailer, and ended up with the album "LotusFlow3r" landing at No. 2 after selling 168,000 copies.

Diva tales: It's another solid week for Whitney Houston. Her "I Look to You" is at No. 4 this week, selling 66,000 copies. That's a dip from last week, when she sold 156,000 copies -- a post-"Oprah" sales bump -- but brings her total to 620,000 copies sold to date. That's good news for Houston as the industry heads into the holiday season. With depressed sales making it relatively easy for a brand-name artist to stay in the top 20, Houston should be on target to rack up a bevy of Grammy nominations if she can maintain a consistent sales base.

Expect her to be joined on the chart next week by another diva -- Mariah Carey. Digital downloads of Carey's "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" are expected to be solid, as the album is currently retailing at Amazon.com for a budget price of $5.99. But album sales may not be a real indicator for the success of "Angel," as it's a truly ad-supported release, coming complete with sponsored liner notes.


On the subject of ads: Parisian pop band Phoenix climbs the chart this week, experiencing a few weeks of gains after its "1901" began heavy rotation in a Cadillac commercial. Since airing, the album has jumped back into the top 100 on Billboard's 200, and this week hangs out at No. 66. The album sells just shy of 7,000 copies in what is its 20th week on the tally. That gives the album a total of 142,000 copies sold. Last week, the set had sold about 5,500 copies, and sat at No. 96, and was as low as No. 116 two weeks ago.

'Jennifer's Body' is no 'Juno.' There's still time for a breakout -- and who knows? Perhaps Screeching Weasel's cover of "I Can See Clearly Now" will suddenly touch a nerve -- but the early results on this hoping-to-be-hip soundtrack to the latest Diablo Cody-scripted flick looks to be off to as slow a start as the film. While "Juno" eventually topped the U.S. pop chart in early 2008 -- it was, at that time, the first to do so since "Dreamgirls" -- it did so with a surprising mix of cult indie rock and choice classics. "Body" went for a more mainstream kill from the start, with Paramore's Hayley Williams, buzzy electronic artist Little Boots and L.A.'s own radio-friendly fuzz rockers the Silversun Pickups. Audiences are biting, however, as it has moved only 11,000 copies to date, including 3,000 this week, and sits at No. 161 on the chart.

The world's next big rap star: Last week's chart saw high debuts from two up-and-coming rappers, the Kanye West-championed Kid Cudi and the Lil Wayne-supported Drake. Kid Cudi's "Man on the Moon" got off to a smashing start, opening with 104,00 copies sold at No. 4. Drake's "So Far Gone," a seven-track album billed as an EP, opened solid too, entering at No. 6 after seeing 73,000 copies. Drake, a Canadian star who had a role in teen soap "Degrassi," has a lesser drop than Kid Cudi this week. Drake's "So Far Gone" holds in the top 10, resting at No. 9 with 36,000 copies sold, while Cudi's "Man on the Moon" drifts to No. 17, selling 28,000 copies this week. While Kid Cudi has sold more albums overall (133,000 versus 110,000), if the trend continues, Drake will lap Kid Cudi in a few weeks. 

Notable newcomers: Emo rockers Brand New land at No. 6 with "Daisy," an album that sold 46,000 copies this week. This is the act's first top 10 album, according to Billboard. Meanwhile, young hard rock act Five Finger Death Punch lands at No. 7 with "War Is the Answer." The album sold 44,000 copies this week. Billboard reports that the act's debut, "The Way of the Fist," never went higher than No. 107.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Pearl Jam's "Backspacer." Credit: Monkey Wrench Records
Middle photo: Phoenix's Thomas Mars. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times