It was fifty-one weeks ago to the day that Ja Rule (a.k.a. Jeffrey Atkins) dropped his Rule 3:36 onto the top of the charts, with sales in excess of a quarter-million copies. The album quickly followed the rap template and made a hasty exit from the Top Ten, and quickly disappeared, but not for long. On the strength of some sturdy singles, the album proved to be something of a hip-hop Lazarus, needling its way back into the Top Ten and going on to sell more than 3 million copies to date. Ja's third album, Pain Is Love, has stormed out of the gate with a quicker first step, selling 360,712 in its first week, according to SoundScan, to give him his second consecutive Number One debut, and dislodging buddy Jay-Z's The Blueprint (which passed 1 million copies sold this week) after it resided on top for nearly a month.
Timing may again be crucial. Last year Ja played a big part in freeing hip-hop from a role as summer soundtrack. Along with Ludacris' Back for the First Time and Jay-Z's Dynasty: Roc La Familia, Rule 3:36 showed that albums in the genre could better thrive if allowed to find their legs through the lucrative holiday season, rather than burning out fast in amongst the fickle summer purchasing set. With sales, it seems better to fade away, than to burn out, and the annual timing of Ja's releases could stand as proof.
Which brings us to, um, Enya (a.k.a. Eithne Ni Bhraonain). The ethereal Celtic crooner released her Day Without Rain nearly a year ago, to a fairly lukewarm Number Twenty-three debut and not-too-shabby sales of 118,890. After a second week improvement (Number Seventeen/120,000), the album packed up and headed south. It was a decent start for the album, but hardly the new-agey bear hug that one might expect given the release was her first in five years. Well, she tricked us all. Not content to disappear A Day Without Rain has been quietly hiding in that secret compartment of the charts that resides between Number Twenty-five and Fifty; a zone that earns newcomers the status of "respectable" start. What Enya's latest didn't do, was fall out of that zone . . . for forty-six weeks, she has quietly resided in the Top Fifty with sales occasionally dipping to the low-30,000 range, boosted by the usual spikes (Valentine's Day, etc.), and occasionally surging into the realm of 60,000. With an increased promotional boost (including a regular television spot), the album has made the final turn and burned down the last stretch, breaking the Top Twenty four weeks ago, for the first time since its release, and then jumping from Number Nineteen to Seven to Four and this week, Number Three. Sales have also jumped, from 66,000 a month ago to 128,598 last week.
Elsewhere the charts remained unremarkable. After a flurry of new releases over the past three weeks gave the Top Ten a facelift, Ja Rule was the only newcomer this week. Though, Garbage's Beautiful Garbage (Number Thirteen), Elton John's Song's From the West Coast (Number Fifteen), Billy Joel's Essential Billy Joel (Number Thirty), Gary Allen's Alright Guy (Number Forty) and Oysterhead's Grand Pecking Order (Number Forty-nine) all made . . . respectable . . . debuts. And as for Joel, the humbly titled return to his classical roots, Opus 1-10: Fantasies and Delusions (Number Eighty-five/14,667) -- for whatever criticism it may garner -- still scored a victory of taste over Classical Hits(Number 101), a compilation that would set Beethoven to rolling.
Next week, Ja Rule should only face opposition from his current bunkmates in the Top Ten -- Jay-Z, Enya and Alicia Keys - as the Strokes' much-touted debut and Leonard Cohen's first recording of new material in nine years are likely to garner more press than sales.
This week's Top Ten: Ja Rule's Pain Is Love (360,712 copies sold); Jay-Z's The Blueprint (147,858); Enya's Day Without Rain (128,598); Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor (122,605); Nickelback's Silver Side Up (115,073); Totally Hits 2001 (113,945); Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory (93,699); Usher's 8701 (93,047); P.O.D.'s Satellite (83,231); and Staind's Break the Cycle (78,445).