Chart Watch: Early Winners & Losers In Christmas Album Race (Quack, Quack)

Paul Grein
Yahoo Music

The Robertsons' Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas enters The Billboard 200 at #4 this week. The album, a spin-off from the reality TV series Duck Dynasty, sold 69K copies in the week ending Nov. 3. That's less than 1K copies behind Kelly Clarkson's expected smash Wrapped In Red—and way ahead of under-performing holiday albums by such stars as Susan Boyle and Mary J. Blige. (We'll get to those.)

Duck The Halls isn't the first Christmas album that was drawn from a TV show to reach the top 10. Two Glee Christmas albums went top 10. Also, two Christmas albums by Mitch Miller & the Gang reached (or returned to) the top 10 during the 1961-1964 run of Sing Along With Mitch. (For the record, Nielsen SoundScan isn't classifying Duck The Halls as a TV soundtrack.)

Duck The Halls, which features country stars George Strait, Luke Bryan, Alison Krauss and Josh Turner, enters Top Country Albums at #1, displacing Luke Bryan's Crash My Party. It's only the second Christmas album to reach #1 on the country chart. The first was Garth Brooks' Garth Brooks & The Magic Of Christmas, which scored in December 1999. (Brooks' first and bigger-selling Christmas album, Beyond The Season, spent four weeks at #2 on the country chart in 1992.)

If Duck The Halls maintains this pace and winds up as the #1 or #2 holiday album of the season, this would mark the first time since the 1990s that a country holiday album has fared so well. Brooks' Beyond The Season was the #1 holiday album of 1992, Vince Gill's Let There Be Peace On Earth was the #2 holiday album of 1993 and Garth Brooks & The Magic Of Christmas was #2 for 1999.

But the Robertsons will have to contend with the formidable Kelly Clarkson, whose Wrapped In Red debuts at #3. Clarkson is vying to become the female American artist to have the year's top holiday album since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991. If Clarkson does win the holiday album derby, this would be the second time that an American Idol alum has had the year's top holiday seller. Clay Aiken's Merry Christmas With Love was the top holiday album of 2004.

All six of Clarkson's studio albums have reached the top three. Her only full-length album to fall short of the top three is Greatest Hits—Chapter One, which peaked at #11 last year. And that was just because greatest hits albums don't sell well in an era when fans can cherry-pick their favorites on iTunes. In a previous era, that would have been a #1 album.

Susan Boyle's Home For Christmas opens at a disappointing #19, with first-week sales of 12K. The Scottish singer's first Christmas album, The Gift, got off to a much faster start. It debuted at #1 in November 2010 with first-week sales of 318K copies. Boyle's last album, Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage, debuted and peaked at #12. A second Christmas album seemed her surest bet to return her to the top 10. If this doesn't do the trick, what will?

The Gift has sold 2,148,000 copies to date, which makes it the fourth best-selling holiday album by a female artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era. It trails Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas (5,299,000), Celine Dion's These Are Special Times (5,276,000) and Amy Grant's Home For Christmas (2,542,000).

Mary J. Blige's A Mary Christmas drops from #72 to #91 in its third week. The album, which was produced by Christmas album king David Foster, debuted (and so far, peaked) at #24 two weeks ago. It will turn around as we get closer to the holiday, but it's not off to a very Mary start.

A total of 18 Christmas albums are listed on The Billboard 200 this week. Expect that number to grow each week as we get closer to the holiday.

Want to stump your friends? Ask them this trivia question: "What's the only Canadian band in chart history to land two #1 albums on The Billboard 200?" Older fans might guess Bachman-Turner Overdrive or Rush. Younger fans might say Nickelback or Three Days Grace. Good guesses all, but the right answer is Arcade Fire. The band achieves the feat this week as Reflektor debuts in the top spot. The band's previous album, The Suburbs, debuted at #1 in August 2010.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Nickelback each had one #1 album in the U.S. BTO scored in October 1974 with Not Fragile; Nickelback in October 2005 with All The Right Reasons.

Rush, the Canadian band with the most top 10 albums in the U.S. (12) has yet to reach #1. Other Canadian bands that have had top 10 albums include The Guess Who, Loverboy, Crash Test Dummies, Barenaked Ladies, Our Lady Peace, Sum 41, Simple Plan, Theory Of A Deadman and Three Days Grace.

Reflektor sold 140K copies in its first week, down from the 156K that The Suburbs sold in its first week. That wouldn't be worthy of note, except for one thing. Six months after its release, The Suburbs won a Grammy for Album of the Year, in a major upset over four better-known rivals: Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum. You might think all the attention that that victory brought to the band would trigger a bigger first-week number for the band's follow-up album.

Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is expected to debut at #1 next week (with a first-week total north of 700K). That would mark the second time that Eminem has bumped Arcade Fire out of the #1 spot. His last album, Recovery, returned to #1 in August 2010, displacing The Suburbs. (I'm sure it's nothing personal.)

Reflektor sold 78K digital copies this week, which allows it to enter Top Digital Albums at #1.

Reflektor also enters the U.K.'s Official Albums Chart at #1. The Suburbs also reached #1 in the U.K. Thus, the group has had back-to-back albums that reached #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. Arcade Fire is the fourth Canadian act to have two or more "transatlantic #1 albums." Celine Dion has had four; Michael Buble, three; Avril Lavigne, two.

Katy Perry's Prism dips from #1 to #2 in its second week. After two weeks, the album has sold 378K copies. That's the highest two-week total for an album by a female pop artist since Madonna's MDNA sold 407K copies in its first two weeks in the spring of 2012. Incidentally, a Canadian rock band named Prism had a few chart albums from 1977 to 1982 (before Perry was born).

Drake's Nothing Was The Same, which drops from #3 to #5, tops the 1 million mark in sales this week. It moves up to #6 for the year-to-date. Drake's previous album, Take Care, was the #7 album of 2011 on Nielsen SoundScan's year-end chart.

Thomas Rhett's first full-length album, It Goes Like This, debuts at #6. The album includes his country hits "Something To Do With My Hands" and "It Goes Like This," which is currently #2 on Hot Country Songs. Rhett co-wrote Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise," which is the second best-selling digital hit in country music history.

Toby Keith's Drinks After Work debuts at #7. It's his 14th top 10 album. Keith is tied for third place on the list of country artists with the most top 10 albums. George Strait is in the lead with 18. He's followed by Tim McGraw (15) and Keith and Garth Brooks (14 each).

Linkin Park's Recharged debuts at #10. It's the band's second remix album to crack the top 10. Reanimation reached #2 in 2002.

"The Monster" by Eminem featuring Rihanna enters Hot Digital Songs at #1. It sold 373K copies. One Direction's "Story Of My Life" opens at #2 (305K). Will "The Monster" also debut at #1 on the Hot 100, or is Lorde's "Royals" safe for a sixth week on top? You'll find out later today when we post our Songs blog.

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

The Top Five: Arcade Fire's Reflektor debuts at #1 (140K). It's the group's third top five album...Katy Perry’s Prism dips from #1 to #2 in its second week (92K)…Kelly Clarkson's Wrapped In Red debuts at #3 (70K). It's her sixth top five album…The Robertsons' Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas debuts at #4 (69K)…Drake's Nothing Was The Same drops from #3 to #5 in its sixth week (38K). It has been in the top five the entire time.

The Second Five: Thomas Rhett's It Goes Like This debuts at #6 (36K). It's his first top 10 album… Toby Keith's Drinks After Work debuts at #7 (35K). It's his 14th top 10 album… Lorde's Pure Heroine drops from #5 to #8 in its fifth week (34K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Miley Cyrus' Bangerz drops from #4 to #9 in its fourth week (33K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Linkin Park's Recharged debuts at #10 (33K). It's the band's eighth top 10 album.

Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 drops from #8 to #13 in its fifth week. On the plus side, it tops the 500K mark in sales this week. It's Timberlake's second album to reach that plateau this year. The initial The 20/20 Experience is up to 2,335,000. Timberlake is the second artist with two albums that have topped the 500K mark in sales so far this year. Luke Bryan was the first.

Five other albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt drops from #2 to #11. Fifth Harmony's Better Together EP plummets from #6 to #80. DJ Khaled's Suffering From Success drops from #7 to #29. AFI's Burials plummets from #9 to #65. Luke Bryan's Crash My Party drops from #10 to #12.

Florida Georgia Line's Here's To The Future rebounds from #18 to #14 in its 48th week. The 2012 album tops the 1 million mark in 2013 sales this week. It's #8 for the year-to-date.

Robert Glasper Experiment's Black Radio 2 debuts at #16. Glasper's initial Black Radio reached #15 in March 2012 and won a Grammy for Best R&B Album. We're seeing more sequels to hit albums. Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 debuted at #1 four weeks ago. Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will debut at #1 next week.

Protest The Hero's Volition debuts at #20...Seether's Seether 2002-2013 debuts at #22…Violinist Lindsey Stirling's Lindsey Stirling vaults from #198 to #23 in its 49th week. The album originally peaked at #79 in 2012.

Chris Tomlin's How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection leaps from #81 to #43 in its 32nd week. The album debuted and peaked at #40 in November 2011. The album jumps to #1 on Top Catalog Albums this week. It's Tomlin's fifth #1 (!) on this chart. He's amassed all of them since March 2010. Tomlin is among the country's top Contemporary Christian stars.

Three Lou Reed albums enter or re-enter the chart in the first week following his death on Oct. 27. Reed's 1972 album Transformer re-enters at #98. The album, produced by David Bowie, yielded Reed's biggest hit, "Walk On The Wild Side." The Essential Lou Reed enters at #155. The live Rock N Roll Animal re-enters at #191. In addition, The Velvet Underground's debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, re-enters the chart at #129. This establishes a new peak for this legendary album. It originally peaked at #171 in December 1967.

Pitch Perfect drops from #92 to #105 in its 54th week. It's the highest-ranking soundtrack to a theatrically-released movie for the 27th week.

Bruce Springsteen's Springsteen & I enters Top Music Videos at #1. It's Springsteen's fifth #1 on this chart, following Blood Brothers (1996), Live In New York City (2001), Live In Dublin (2007) and London Calling: Live In Hyde Park (2010).

Ender's Game was #1 at the box-office over the weekend.

Coming Attractions: As noted above, Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will debut at #1 next week, with first-week sales in the 725K range. Celine Dion's Love Me Back To Life will debut at #2 (75K). Avril Lavigne's Avril Lavigne is also headed for a top 10 debut (#6, 40K). Also due: Pentatonix's PTX, Vol. 2 (#11, 27K), The Wanted's Word Of Mouth (#16, 17K), Il Divo's A Musical Affair (14K), James Blunt's Moon Landing (14K) and Jake Miller's Us Against Them (14K) and M.I.A.'s Matangi (12K).