Alan Jackson's Drive topped the nation's album chart this week with sales of 423,000, according to SoundScan. The debut is the highest by a country artist since Garth Brooks' Scarecrow, which opened with sales of 466,000 back in November.
A bit of a Nashvillain square peg, Jackson's sales have nevertheless always reached platinum status. Yet the sales of 2000's When Somebody Loves You and 1998's High Mileage showed a decline from 1992's A Lot About Livin' and 1994's Who I Am, which rode a national wave of country music enthusiasm. But this time out, Jackson outdid himself, not only topping When Somebody Loves You (which debuted at Number Fifteen), but outdoing first-week sales by country heavyweights the Dixie Chicks (Fly debuted Number One with sales of 341,000 sales in 1999), Tim McGraw (A Place in the Sun, Number One, 251,000) and Faith Hill (Breathe, Number One 242,000).
There's little mystery to Jackson's trip to the top. While he is one of country music's most prolific and consistent performers, huge debuts that does not make. Just ask George Strait, whose sales figures have remained fairly static for nearly twenty years. For Jackson the secret is "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," which was premiered at the Country Music Association Awards last fall. That live version appears as a bonus track on Drive, in addition to a studio take. Amid tunes old and new about flags and eagles and such, Jackson's September 11th-inspired song does as its writer is wont to do -- it takes a side road. Amid thoughts about those killed on 9/11, Jackson chose to turn inward and reflect on First Corinthians rather than lash outward or puff up his chest with American pride. The song has been omnipresent on country radio, even crossing over to Number Twenty-eight on the pop singles chart.
Little else dented this week's chart. The next highest debut came from another country music iconoclast, Willie Nelson, as his The Great Divide bowed in at Number Forty-three with sales of 23,000.
Were it not for Jackson, Creed's Weathered mustered sufficient sales, 128,000, for what could have been a ninth-straight week at Number One. And that tally was good enough to push the album past the 4 million copies sold mark in just two months. Elsewhere, most albums held their places, with minor sales decreases from the previous week. Kid Rock's Cocky (Number Twenty-three) and Jewel's This Way (Number Twenty-four) sold 38,000 and 37,000 copies, respectively, to each move past 1 million sales.
Next week, Nine Inch Nails' first-ever live album will splash onto the charts, the most promising contender for a new Top Ten arrival.
This week's Top Ten: Alan Jackson's Drive; Creed's Weathered; Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory; Nickelback's Silver Side Up; Ludacris' Word of Mouf; Ja Rule's Pain Is Love; Nas' Stillmatic; Usher's 8701; Pink's Missundaztood; and Enya's A Day Without Rain.