Week Ending April 15, 2012. Albums: Lionel & Madonna, Week 3
Lionel Richie lands his first #1 album in more than 25 years as Tuskegee jumps from #4 to #1 in its third week on The Billboard 200. Richie first topped the chart in December 1983 with Can't Slow Down. He returned to the top spot in September 1986 with Dancing On The Ceiling. A two-hour TV special based on the album aired Friday on CBS, which gave the album the push it needed to reach #1.
You may recall that two weeks ago, Madonna's MDNA kept Tuskegee to a #2 debut. Madonna's tally was boosted by a much-debated album/concert ticket bundle, which added an estimated 185K copies to her tally. Without those copies, the race for #1 two weeks ago would have been much closer. (In fairness to Madonna, some of her fans probably would have bought the album if they hadn't been getting it as part of the bundle, so she would probably still have debuted at #1.) In any event, I'm glad the dust-up didn't keep Tuskegee from reaching the top spot. (Meanwhile, MDNA drops from #8 to #18 in its third week. More on that in a minute.)
Tuskegee is fourth "duets" album to reach #1, following Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company, Reba McEntire's Reba: Duets and Tony Bennett's Duets II.
This marks the first time that an African American artist has topped The Billboard 200 with a country album since Ray Charles scored in June 1962 with the ground-breaking Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music. Both men are from the South, where country is king. Charles was born in Albany, Ga. and raised in Greenville, Fla. Richie was born and raised in Tuskegee, Ala.
In addition, Tuskegee regains the #1 spot on Top Country Albums, displacing Rascal Flatts' Changed. (The trio is featured on "Dancing On The Ceiling" on Tuskegee.)
Nearly 8 million people watched Richie's TV special, which ranked #32 in the weekly Nielsen ratings. The show was taped in Las Vegas the day after the taping of the Academy Of Country Music Awards, when most top country stars were on hand. This echoes the situation in January 1985, when "We Are The World" was recorded just hours after the taping of the American Music Awards, when most top music stars were in Los Angeles. Richie was a key player at all four of these events. He hosted the AMAs in 1985. He and Michael Jackson co-wrote "We Are The World."
Richie released six studio albums between Dancing On The Ceiling and Tuskegee. Only one, 2006's Coming Home, reached the top 10. Several didn't even come close. Time stalled at #152 in 1998. But Richie kept it together in the lean years. He looks years younger than his age (62). His resurgence proves that if artists hang in there, success can come around again.