Welcome to our weekly rundown of what’s happening on the Billboard charts, recapping the big movers in sales and streams of singles and albums. On we go:
- Country Comes to Town. It’s a big week for country artists on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. First, Jason Aldean takes a little ride to the top spot with Night Train, moving a whopping 400,000-plus units to overtake Mumford and Sons and become his first chart topper. He ought to savor the moment while he can, though: the indomitable Taylor Swift is a lock for the throne next week, with Red expected to catapult her to the top. Aldean is joined in the upper echelon by American Idol alum Scotty McCreery, who debuts at No. 4 with an album of yawningly obvious Christmas songs (“Let It Snow,” “O Holy Night,” etc.), and Jamey Johnson’s tribute to “I Fall to Pieces” songwriter Hank Cochran, Living for a Song, entering at No. 5. In other genres, Brandy has an impressive return to form, with Two Eleven coming in at No. 3, and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen places at a respectable No. 12 with Sunken Condos. It’s not a new frontier musically for him but still a solid effort.
- For the Love of Ne-Yo. There’s some stagnation on the Hot 100 singles chart, where Maroon 5 and Psy lock down the 1-2 positions for a fifth consecutive week. It’s a bit of sweet revenge for Maroon 5, whose previous single, “Payphone,” was similarly held out of the top spot by a juggernaut pop song (“Call Me Maybe”). New to the Top 10 this week are Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and the latest from Ne-Yo: the reliable balladeer goes uptempo with “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” to score his 11th Top 10 hit (including duets and guest appearances). Interestingly, this is Ne-Yo’s second success with that title: his career took off when he wrote a different “Let Me Love You” for R&B singer Mario back in 2004.
- The Return of Bruno. Aided by a well-received double-duty performance as host and musical guest this past weekend on SNL, Bruno Mars hurdles from 33 to 15 with “Locked out of Heaven,” the lead single from his forthcoming album Unorthodox Jukebox. Also making a strong move within the 40 is Flo Rida’s “I Cry,” with its effective repurposing of the refrain from the Brenda Russell ballad “Piano in the Dark.” Flo may yet score a fourth Top 5 hit from his Wild Ones disc.
- Breaking Chainz. Rapper 2 Chainz achieves an impressive distinction on this week’s R&B/Hip-Hop tally: with the ascension from 11 to 7 of Juicy J’s “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” on which he guests, he now appears on four of this week’s Top 10 tunes. He’s the lead artist on “No Lie” (No. 6) and “Birthday Song” (No. 10) and a guest on Kanye West’s “Mercy” (No. 4). Between his success and the continued strong performance of between-the-sheets belter Miguel’s “Adorn,” it seems safe to say that Billboard’s revised tabulation policy isn’t turning this chart into simply the best-selling pop songs by artists with R&B appeal. (Video below is NSFW)
- Liner Notes. One of this week’s album rebounds seems rather puzzling: Journey achieves Billboard “pacesetter” status with a years-old greatest-hits compilation that jumps from 162 to 64. The band was featured earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival in the documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, but that wouldn’t seem to explain this week’s resurgence. That title just grows truer all the time, it seems.
Got questions about the charts, past and present? E-mail me at Joseph_McCombs@timemagazine.com