Week Ending Sept. 9, 2012. Albums: Matchbox Twenty’s Long Wait

Paul Grein
Chart Watch (NEW)

More than 15 years after releasing its smash debut album, Yourself Or Someone Like You, Matchbox Twenty finally lands its first #1 album, North. It's the Florida-based group's first all-new album in nearly 10 years. Group leader Rob Thomas released two albums during the group's hiatus. The first, …Something To Be, hit #1 in April 2005.

Thus, Thomas reached #1 on The Billboard 200 on his own before he did it with the group that first made him famous. This is very unusual. Only one other musician who rose to prominence with a group has hit #1 on his own before hitting #1 with the group. That's Bobby Brown, who hit #1 in January 1989 with Don't Be Cruel. He returned to the top spot with the other members of New Edition in September 1996 with their reunion album, Home Again.

Yourself Or Someone Like You peaked at #5 in September 1997. It has sold 8,178,000 copies, which makes it the 38th best-selling album since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. The album accounts for a little more than half of matchbox's total album sales to date (15,748,000). The group reached #3 with two subsequent albums: 2000's Mad Season and 2007's Exile On Mainstream.

Shameless Plug: Thomas is the 26th musician to reach #1 on The Billboard 200 both as a solo artist and as a member of a group, duo or collective of artists (such as Ruff Ryders or The Firm). Later this morning, I'll post a Chart Watch Extra in which I look at these 26 artists.

Pop Quiz: Who was the first artist to reach #1 both as a solo artist and with a group? I'll give you a clue: His group was a famous jazz trio. If that clue gave it away, here's a second pop quiz for you: Who was the first female artist to reach #1 both as a solo artist and with a group? All will be revealed in the Chart Watch Extra.

Imagine Dragons' first full-length album, Night Visions, debuts at #2. The album sold 75K digital copies (out of 83K total). That tally puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums. The band has released five EPs, including Continued Silence, which cracked the top 40 last month. The band received a VMA nomination last week for Best Rock Video for "It's Time," a track from the album. "It's Time" will get the Glee treatment on the series' season premiere on Thursday (Sept. 13).

Lecrae's sixth studio album, Gravity, debuts at #3. It's the Christian hip-hop music artist's first top 10 album. He reached #17 in 2010 with Rehab and #15 in 2011 with Rehab: The Overdose.  Lecrae is featured on a song ("Forgiveness") on fellow Christian music artist tobyMac's Eye On It, which hit #1 last week (and drops to #8 this week.)

Carrie Underwood's Blown Away jumps from #8 to #5 in its 19th week. It's #1 on Top Country Albums for the seventh week. That's longer than any other album in 2012.

Maroon 5's Overexposed holds at #6 in its 11th week. The album debuted and peaked at #2 in July, behind Linkin Park's Living Things. But at this point, Overexposed has outsold its rival by more than 100K copies. It has sold 562K copies, compared to 455K for Living Things.

Cat Power's Sun debuts at #10. This is the first top 10 album for the "adult alternative" artist, who was born Charlyn Marshall. Cat Power first charted in 2003. Her highest-charting album before this was Jukebox, which hit #12 in 2008. (The title is Sun, but the cover image is Rainbow. Mariah Carey beat her to that title in 1999.)

It's no secret that songs sell better than albums these days. Ten songs sold more copies this week than the week's #1 album by Matchbox Twenty. Seventy-four songs outsold this week's #10 album by Cat Power. A whopping 168 songs outsold this week's #30 album by Eric Church.

Taylor Swift this week becomes just the fifth artist in digital history to hold down the top two spots on Hot Digital Songs simultaneously. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" logs its fourth week at #1. "Ronan," which Swift unveiled on the Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon on Friday, debuts at #2. Mariah Carey, Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas and Ke$ha were the previous artists to have the two best-selling songs in the U.S. the same week in the digital era. (You'll note that they're all female solo artists or female-centered bands. Beyonce wasn't kidding when she sang "Run The World (Girls).") I'll have more details in Chart Watch: Songs, which we'll post later today.

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

The Top Five: Matchbox Twenty's North debuts at #1 (95K). It's the group's fifth top 10 album; its first #1… Imagine Dragons' debut album Night Visions debuts at #2 (83K)… Lecrae's Gravity debuts at #3 (72K). It's his first top 10 album… Now 43 holds at #4 for the second week in its fourth week (35K). It has been in the top five the entire time… Carrie Underwood's Blown Away rebounds from #8 to #5 in its 19th week (29K). This is its eighth week in the top 10.

The Second Five: Maroon 5's Overexposed holds at #6 for the second week in its 11th week (29K). This is its 10th week in the top 10…2 Chainz' Based On A T.R.U. Story holds at #7 for the second week in its fourth week (26K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time… tobyMac's Eye On It drops from #1 to #8 in its second week (26K)… Trey Songz's Chapter V drops from #3 to #9 in its third week (24K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Cat Power's Sun debuts at #10 (23K). This is her first top 10 album.

Four albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Slaughterhouse's Welcome To Our House dives from #2 to #23, Alanis Morissette's Havoc And Bright Lights drops from #5 to #29, .fun's Some Nights drops from #9 to #11, Adele's 21 drops from #10 to #13.

Justin Bieber's Believe drops from #13 to #15 in its 12th week, but it advances to #4 on the year-to-date chart. (I think I'd take that trade-off.) This is likely to be the third year in a row that Bieber has had an album in the year-end top 10. My World 2.0 was the fourth best-selling album of 2010. Under The Mistletoe was #8 for 2011.

Animal Collective's Centipede Hz debuts at #16. It's the band's second studio album in a row to crack the top 20. Merriweather Post Pavilion reached #13 in 2009…Two Door Cinema Club's sophomore album, Beacon, debuts at #17. This is the group's first album to crack the U.S. chart. Its first album, Tourist History, reached the top 30 in Ireland and the U.K.

Melissa Etheridge's 4th Street Feeling debuts at #18. This is Etheridge's first regular studio album to fall short of the top 15 since 1992's Never Enough. (I'm discounting a 2008 Christmas album.). Etheridge is a big name (two Grammys and an Oscar). So how could her album have sold just 15K copies in its first week?

Frank Ocean's Channel Orange rebounds from #45 to #21 in its ninth week in the wake of Ocean's highly-praised performance of "Thinkin Bout You" on last week's VMA Awards. The album has climbed as high as #2. It has sold 295K copies to date. Expect another uptick if, as expected, Ocean picks up key Grammy nominations on Dec. 5. He's the front-runner to win for Best New Artist and also has a good chance of picking up Album and Record of the Year noms.

Chris Tomlin's 2010 album And If Our God Is For Us… drops from #20 to #27 in its 40th week. It's #1 on Top Catalog Albums for the second week. The album won a Grammy in February as Best Contemporary Christian Music Album. Incidentally, the title comes from Romans 8:31…The Sparkle soundtrack drops from #50 to #66 in its sixth week. The album is #1 on Top Soundtracks for the sixth week.

One Direction's Up All Night: The Live Tour is #1 on Top Music Videos for the 15th week. In the last 10 years, only two other videos have held the top spot for this many weeks. Adele's Live At the Royal Albert Hall was on top for 24 weeks in 2011-2012. Jay-Z/Linkin Park's Collision Course was on top for 17 weeks in 2004-2005. Up All Night sold 7K copies this week, bringing its 15-week total to 290K.

The Possession was #1 at the box-office for the second weekend.

Coming Attractions: Dave Matthews Band's Away From The World will be #1 next week, with sales in the 260K range. The entire top five will consist of debuts, with DMB followed by Little Big Town's Tornado (100K, give or take), Bob Dylan's Tempest (95K), Avett Brothers' The Carpenter (95K), and The xx's Coexist (65K). ZZ Top's La Futura will probably debut right around #9. Also due: Fifty Shades Of Grey: The Classical Album and the soundtrack to the Disney Channel's Austin & Ally.