Week Ending Sept. 1, 2013. Albums: Paying Tribute To Alabama

Alabama & Friends, an all-star tribute to the famed country quartet, enters The Billboard 200 at #8. That’s higher than any previous Alabama album ever climbed. The group’s top-charting album before this, The Closer You Get…, reached #10 in April 1983. Alabama & Friends features some of the biggest names in country music, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. It also features two Alabama tracks. It’s just the just the third multi-artist tribute album to make the top 10. Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles reached #3 in November 1993. So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute To Luther Vandross hit #4 in September 2005, less than three months after the death of the R&B great.

Alabama was the hottest act in country music in the 1980s. The band had the #1 album on the Top Country Albums chart for a total of 124 weeks in that decade. That’s nearly as many weeks at #1 as Garth Brooks amassed in the 1990s (146). The big difference: you all know how Brooks dominated The Billboard 200 in the 1990s. By contrast, The Closer You Get… was Alabama’s only previous top 10 album on the big chart.

Why the disparity? Alabama peaked in the 1980s, before country acts got their full due on The Billboard 200. This changed when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991. Their bar-code scanning system revealed, once and for all, how big both country and rap really are.

In 1984, Alabama became the first act to be named Entertainer of the Year three times by the Country Music Assn. They are, to this day, one of just two acts to take that top award three years in a row. The other is Kenny Chesney, who won it from 2006 through 2008.

Here’s a quick history of multi-artist tribute albums on The Billboard 200. The first to appear on The Billboard 200 were A Tribute To Woody Guthrie—Part One and Part Two (April 1972). The first to crack the top 40 was Deadicated (a tribute to Grateful Dead, May 1991). The first to crack the top 20 was Two Rooms—Celebrating The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin (November 1991). The first to crack the top 10 was the aforementioned Common Thread: The Songs Of The Eagles (October 1993).

One artist, Trisha Yearwood, is featured on both the Eagles and Alabama tributes. She sang Eagles’ #1 pop hit “New Kid In Town” on the former album; Alabama’s #1 country hit “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go” on the latter.

Here are two other multi-artist tribute albums, not already mentioned, that have cracked the top 20: Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (#19 in 1994) and Encomium: A Tribute To Led Zeppelin (#17 in 1995).

Avenged Sevenfold lands its second #1 album in a row with Hail To The King. The hard rock band first topped The Billboard 200 in August 2010 with Nightmare (when it bumped Eminem’s Recovery out of the top spot). Avenged Sevenfold is the third rock group to land two #1 albums in this decade. The first two were Linkin Park and Vampire Weekend.

Hail To The King sold 159K copies in its first week. The tally includes 77K digital copies, which puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums. (If the title sounds familiar, it should. Radiohead hit #3 on The Billboard 200 in 2003 with Hail To The Thief.)

Hail To The King also enters the U.K.’s Official Albums Chart at #1. Avenged Sevenfold is the second hard rock band to reach #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. so far this year. Black Sabbath reached the top in both countries with 13. (This is Avenged Sevenfold’s first #1 album in the U.K. Nightmare peaked at #5 there.)

Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party dips to #2 after two weeks at #1. The album has sold 779K copies in its first three weeks, which makes it #9 for the year-to-date. The album may well wind up in Nielsen SoundScan’s top 10 for 2013. Bryan’s previous album, Tailgates & Tanlines, was the #8 album of 2012. Bryan is on track to becoming just the third male country solo artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era to have an album in the year-end top 10 two years running. Garth Brooks scored every year from 1991 through 1993 and again in 1997-1998. Jason Aldean scored in 2011 and 2012.

Crash My Party is #1 on Top Country Albums for the third straight week. It’s the first album to spend its first three weeks at #1 on the country chart since Taylor Swift’s Red, which spent its first 13 weeks on top (and 16 weeks overall). It’s the first album by a male solo artist to spend its first three weeks at #1 country since Kenny Chesney’s Welcome To The Fishbowl in early summer 2012.

Big Sean’s sophomore album, Hall Of Fame, debuts at #3. This matches the #3 peak of his debut, Finally Famous, in July 2011. (I like the positive thrust of his album titles, but what’s left? Living Legend? Icon For The Ages?)

Big Sean is one of the biggest “Big” acts in chart history. Big Pun and Big & Rich have each had three top 10 albums. Big Tymers and Big Time Rich have each also had two. Big Brother & the Holding Company and Big Boi each had one.

Juicy J’s third solo album, Stay Trippy, debuts at #4. This is far and away his highest-charting solo album. As part of Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J (real name: Jordan Houston) landed five top 10 albums between 2000 and 2008. He also won an Oscar for Best Song for co-writing “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” from Hustle & Flow.

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience rebounds from #22 to #6 in its 24th week in the wake of the VMA’s. Timberlake dominated the show with a lengthy medley of his hits and a show-capping award for Video of the Year for “Mirrors.” This is the best-selling album so far this year, with sales of 2,218,000. It has sold more than 1 million more copies than the year’s #2 album: Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox, which has sold 1,170,000 copies in 2013. (Jukebox rebounds from #18 to #9 this week.)

Katy Perry’s “Roar” is #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the third straight week (448K). Eminem’s “Berzerk” debuts at #2 (362K). “Roar” is the first song to spend its first three weeks at #1 since Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” spent its first five weeks on top in August-September 2012. Will “Roar” move up to #1 on the Hot 100 or will “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell log its 13th week on top? You’ll find out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

Here’s the low-down on this week’s top 10 albums.

The Top Five: Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King debuts at #1 (159K). It’s the band’s third top 10 album…Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party dips from #1 to #2 in its third week (92K). It has been in the top five the entire time…Big Sean’s Hall Of Fame debuts at #3 (72K). It’s his second top 10 album…Juicy J’s Stay Trippy debuts at #4 (64K). It’s his first top 10 album…Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines rebounds from #6 to #5 in its fifth week (55K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time.

The Second Five: Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience rebounds from #22 to #6 in its 24th week (37K). This is its 17th week in the top 10…John Mayer’s Paradise Valley drops from #2 to #7 in its second week (36K)….Alabama & Friends' Alabama & Friends debuts at #8 (32K). It's the group's second top 10 album...Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox rebounds from #18 to #9 in its 38th week (27K). This is its 21st week in the top 10…TGT’s Three Kings drops from #3 to #10 in its second week (27K).

The Teen Beach Movie soundtrack drops from #8 to #15. It’s #1 on Top Soundtracks for the seventh week. It’s the first TV soundtrack (from a made-for-TV movie or a series) to top this chart for seven weeks since Victorious: Music From The Hit TV Show scored in 2011.

Five other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Jimmy Buffett’s Songs From St. Somewhere drops from #4 to #12. Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris plummets from #5 to #49. Now 47 drops from #7 to #11… A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord dives from #9 to #44. Jay Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail drops from #10 to #14.

Alejandro Fernandez’s Confidencias debuts at #19. This is Fernandez’s highest ranking to date. It’s also higher than his father, Latin music legend Vicente Fernandez, has ever climbed. Alejandro’s previous highest charting album was Viento A Favor, which reached #73 in 2007. Vicente’s highest-charting album is Para Siempre, which hit #38 that same year.

Selena Gomez’s Stars Dance rebounds from #25 to #20. Surprisingly, this is the highest-ranking album by a female artist on this week’s chart. (These things are cyclical. Women will dominate again. In fact, female solo artists may well have the top two albums next week with Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly and Tamar Braxton’s Love & War.)

The Great Gatsby: Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film rebounds from #43 to #22 in its 17th week, due to the release of the DVD of the movie. It’s the week’s highest-ranking soundtrack from a theatrically-released movie for the seventh non-consecutive week. It displaces Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones.

In 1991, when Columbia Records kicked off Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series with a three-disk set of rare and unreleased material, few would have guessed that the series would still be going strong 22 years later. But this week, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 debuts at #21. (The album would have debuted higher, but a deluxe edition was counted separately. It sold 7K copies and debuts at #60. If Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard had opted to merge the two editions of the album, it would have debuted at #14.)

The eight installments in the franchise (the first installment was titled Vols. 1-3, which threw the numbering off) have sold a combined total of 1,769,000 copies. That’s a healthy total for material that would otherwise just be sitting in a vault. The title of the new volume borrows from the title of Dylan’s 1970 album, Self Portrait.

Bruno Mars’ Doo-Wops & Hooligans drops from #60 to #64 in its 150th week. It’s #1 on Top Catalog Albums for the eighth week.

Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away Tour: Live is #1 on Top Music Videos for the third week. This marks the first time that a video by a female country artist has logged three weeks at #1 since this chart originated (as Top Music Videocassettes) in March 1985. Shania Twain’s The Woman In Me, Martina McBride’s CMT Crossroads (a collabo with Train) and Taylor Swift’s Journey To Fearless all spent two weeks at #1. In addition, a female country group, Dixie Chicks, spent two weeks on top with An Evening With The Dixie Chicks. Underwood’s Blown Away album topped The Billboard 200 for two weeks; Top Country Albums for seven weeks.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler edged out One Direction: This Is Us at the box-office over the four-day Labor Day weekend. The One Direction movie had been vying to become the third music concert movie to rank #1 at the box-office, following Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best Of Both Worlds Concert Tour and Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Instead, it becomes the fourth music concert movie to debut and peak at #2. It follows U2: Rattle And Hum, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. As you can see, landing a #1 movie is every bit as hard as landing a #1 record.

Coming Attractions: Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly, Tamar Braxton’s Love & War and Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks will probably debut in the top three spots next week, with sales of about 110K, 105K and 90K, respectively. John Legend’s Love In The Future will probably debut at #6 (55K); Jaheim’s Appreciation Day at #7 (45K); Bastille’s Bad Blood at #11 (28K); and Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love at #13 (24K).