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On the Charts: Carrie Underwood Blows Away Norah Jones

Beastie Boys' 'Licensed to Ill' hits the Top 20

May 9, 2012 1:04 PM ET
carrie underwood
Carrie Underwood performs on 'American Idol.'
FOX via Getty Images

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Carrie Underwood. The onetime American Idol queen's album Blown Away hits Number One on Billboard's albums chart, and it's the kind of country album that might follow the Lady Antebellum-Eric Church-Zac Brown Band slow burn into millions of sales. Singles-wise, "Good Girl" has been only somewhat impressive, hitting 3.6 million YouTube views since it came out in mid-March and peaking last week at Number Eight on the country songs chart. The calculus is a little different for country than for pop, but generally speaking, a star needs a hit – so while "Good Girl" is at just Number 48 on BigChampagne's Ultimate Chart, which measures Internet criteria, it's up six spots, so watch for an Underwood surge this summer.

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Norah Jones. The jazzy singer-songwriter's Little Broken Hearts hit Number Two, which is impressive, but sold only 110,000 copies, which isn't. That might be a nice accomplishment for some punk band on the charts for the first time, but not long ago Jones owned this business. Her 2002 debut Come Away With Me has sold more than 10 million copies, and her 2004 follow-up Not Too Late dropped just before Valentine's Day and sold 400,000 copies in its first week. It feels like the era of Norah Jones, Massive Pop Star, is over – and maybe the 2000s in general, as well.

MAYBE IT'S THE YEAR, NOT NORAH: The only album with greater one-week sales than Underwood's Blown Away this year has been Madonna's MDNA, with 358,000. (Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is third on this list, with 253,000.) Those are tiny numbers, especially given the hanky-panky Madonna pulled the week her album came out, releasing MDNA copies with concert tickets and counting them as sales. But to put things in perspective, 2011 wasn't much better until early June, when Lady Gaga's Born This Way made its debut with 1.1 million, then early September, when Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV sold 964,000. Just a handful of stars seem able to reach those numbers: In addition to Gaga and Wayne, there's Adele, Taylor Swift and maybe Eminem.

EVEN JOHNNY RYALL AWOKE FROM HIS STUPOR TO RAISE A GLASS: Goodbye to Adam "MCA" Yauch, the deep-voiced Beastie Boy who knew how to make an entrance and rock the banana phone. After Yauch passed away at age 47 last week, the Boys' Licensed to Ill hits the iTunes chart at Number Six and sells 19,000 copies, enough for Number 18 on the overall Billboard chart. We were hoping "Fight for Your Right" would zoom up the singles charts in tribute, but there are no signs of this whatsoever.

LAST WEEK: Jack White Is Moving and Shakin'

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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