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Chart Watch: The Glut of Country Albums

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Blake Shelton's BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE and Lady Antebellum's 747 hold down the top two spots on The Billboard 200. This marks the first time country albums have ranked #1 and #2 since November 2010, when Taylor Swift's Speak Now and Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party held those spots.

That’s the good news. The bad news: Both Shelton and Lady A posted disappointing sales tallies. Shelton’s album sold 101K copies in its first week, about half of the first-week tally of his previous album, Based On A True Story… (199K). It’s also far less than first-week tally of the current album by his wife, Miranda Lambert. Platinum sold 180K in its first week in June. For that matter, it’s less than the latest by Maroon 5, the group headed by Adam Levine, Shelton’s frequent foil on The Voice. V sold 164K copies in its first week last month.

Lady A’s album—its fifth studio set—sold 74K copies—which is less than half of the first-week tally of the trio’s previous album, Golden (167K).

What’s going on here? There’s a glut of albums right now by top country acts. There may simply be more albums than country fans have time or money to pursue. Tim McGraw released a new album two weeks ago. Kenny Chesney had a new one last week.

And many more albums by top country acts are on the way. Jason Aldean's Old Boots, New Dirt came out Tuesday. It will be followed by Florida Georgia Line's Anything Goes (Oct. 14), Little Big Town's Pain Killer (Oct. 21) and Garth Brooks's Man Against Machine (Nov. 11). (I skipped over Taylor Swift's 1989, set for release on Oct. 27, because she’s gone pop.)

Why do they all come out right on top of each other? Sales spike for all artists in the fourth quarter and artists want to capitalize on that. For country acts, there’s a second reason. The annual Country Music Awards telecast (set for Nov. 5) is the biggest platform of the year for country music.

Despite the disappointing sales tally, there’s a ray of “Sunshine” for Shelton. This is his second #1 album on The Billboard 200, following 2011’s Red River Blue. (Based On A True Story… debuted and peaked at #3.)

Shelton’s return trip to #1 comes just four months after his wife Miranda Lambert landed her first #1 with Platinum. Two other married couples have each had #1 albums in the same calendar year. Beyonce and Jay Z have achieved the feat twice: in 2011 (with 4 and Watch The Throne, respectively) and again in 2013 (with Beyonce and Magna Carta Holy Grail, respectively). Faith Hill and Tim McGraw did it once, in 1999 (with Breathe and A Place In The Sun, respectively).

Shelton’s album also enters Top Country Albums at #1. It’s his fourth #1 on that chart.

Lady Antebellum's debut at #2breaks a string of three consecutive #1 non-holiday studio albums by the trio. 747 also enters the country chart at #2. It’s Lady A’s first non-holiday studio album to fall short of #1 on the country chart.

Barbra Streisand's Partners holds at #3 for the second week in its third week on the chart (73K). It’s Streisand’s first album to spend its first three weeks in the top three since Back To Broadway in 1993. Deep trivia: This is Streisand’s third #1 album on which her name was shown as just Streisand (no Barbra) on the front cover. She was also identified that way on the covers of A Star Is Born and Guilty.

Cheek To Cheek by Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga drops from #1 to #4 in its second week (59K).

For the first time in his career, Prince has two albums in the top 10. The funk-heavy Art Official Age debuts at #5 (51K). The rock-oriented Plectrumelectrum (which is credited to Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL) debuts at #8 (26K). These are Prince’s 33rd and 34th studio albums; his 15th and 16th top 10 albums. Prince first cracked the top 10 in May 1983 with 1999.

Prince is the first artist to debut in the top 10 with two albums in the same week since Nelly opened at #1 and #2 in October 2004 with Suit and Sweat.

The all-female trio 3RDEYEGIRL is Prince’s third backing group on a top 10 album. He teamed with The Revolution on Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day and Parade and with The New Power Generation on Diamonds And Pearls and The Love Symbol Album.

Kenny Chesney's The Big Revival drops from #2 to #6 in its second week (39K) … Maroon5's V rebounds from #9 to #7 in its fifth week (31K). The group performed on Saturday Night Live on Oct. 4, the day before the end of the sales tracking week.

Chris Brown's X drops from #6 to #9 in its third week (24K) … The Script's fourth studio album, No Sound Without Silence, debuts at #10 (24K). It’s the group’s second top 10 album. The album reached #1 on the U.K.’s Official Albums Chart.

Adele's 21 tops the 11 million mark in U.S. sales this week. I took a look at this blockbuster in a separate blog we posted last week. If you missed it, here's a link.

Coming Attractions: Look for Jason Aldean's Old Boots, New Dirt to debut at #1 next week. Also due: Hozier's Hozier, Alex & Sierra's It’s About Us, Keyshia Cole's Point Of No Return, Jackson Browne'sStanding In The Breach, Weezer's Everything Will Be Alright In The End, Stevie Nicks's 24 Karat Gold—Songs From The Vault and Tinashe's Aquarius.

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