Much ado is made about Jay-Z's opening week numbers, a little high, a little low; what gets lost in such discussion about the most prolific rapper is that he's become the chart equivalent of Michael Jordan to his competitors' Craig Ehlo. These days, there is no safer bet for a Number One debut. Jay-Z's sixth album (in a mere five years), The Blueprint, seemed to suffer no ill effects from a frequently shifting release date, which rather than moving further and further away, took leaps and bounds towards the present until it seemed to suddenly materialize record stores. Fans were unfazed and unconfused, as The Blueprint sold 426,550 copies in its first week, according to SoundScan, making the album Jigga's fourth consecutive Number One debut.
The Blueprint's stats are down fairly significantly from the MC's previous offering, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, but such oscillations seem commonplace in Jay-Z's career. Following the slow burn of success with 1996's Reasonable Doubt and 1997's In My Lifetime: Vol. 1, Jay-Z's sales have been consistently strong, the individual magnitude of each hinging on the strength of that individual album's singles. Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life scanned 352,000 copies in its first week back in September 1998, but the success of the title track gave the album a rare sales weight for the hip-hop genre, allowing it multiple weeks at Number One, with a sales spike during its first month of release as opposed to the obligatory drops. A businessman as much as rapper, Jay-Z struck while the proverbial iron was hot, returning just over a year later with Vol. 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter, an album which came with the buzz of an anticipated 1 million first week debut. It fell way short, scanning 426,000 copies. A little sales history would suggest over-saturation and artist fatigue. Yet, ten months later, The Dynasty shot to Number One with sales just shy of 560,000.
Which brings up the obligatory chitchat about Jigga's possible retirement, which again suggesting comparisons to MJ. Signs are also healthy amongst his Roc-A-Fella collective, but Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel have yet to bottle Jay-Z's lightening and prove to be breakout stars in their own right. Still, the latter remains a Top 200 resident with his latest, The Reason, which in three months of release is creeping towards the 500,000 copies sold mark. Sigel remains one of the genre's most under-appreciated talents. But finding a suitable substitute for Jay-Z's reign is inconceivable, as four straight Number One debuts shine like championship rings.
Jay-Z's sales accomplishments also come amid a week when the charts were peppered with newcomers. Canadian metalheads Nickelback are the latest gem in Roadrunner Records' collection. The band's third release, Silver Side Up bowed in at Number Two with sales of 177,986, nudging Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor, which settled for Number Three this week; one of only four albums from last week's Top Ten that wasn't bumped. Four other new releases were guilty of the displacement: Brooklyn-born rapper, Fabolous's first album, Ghetto Fabolous, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, P.O.D.' Satellite and Mariah Carey's Glitter all secured Top Ten slots.
But for Carey, Glitter's sales of 116,339 are yet another stumble in a miserable summer that included a hospitalization and reports of feuding in both the film and music industries. Glitter's weak first-week numbers could be chalked up to a sales slump across the board, paired with a slow sales week in light of last week's tragedy. While the latter might stick, the former doesn't hold water, as Carey's fellow R&B-ish divas have weathered slumping record sales to score strong debuts, including Destiny's Child (663,280) and Janet Jackson's All for You (605,128). More troubling for Carey is that the worst probably ain't over. Her feature film debut in the movie of the same name is an ocean liner just looking for a glacier. Oft-delayed and ultimately laid out to rot in the Hollywood dead zone that is the end of summer, Glitter looks to be a miscalculation of Biblical proportions.
vSpeaking of which, beyond the Top Ten, there was still plenty of action: Michael W. Smith and his Worship and Slayer's God Hates Us All were amusing counterparts at Numbers Twenty and Twenty-eight, respectively. While Babyface's Face 2 Face (Number Twenty-five), Ben Folds' Rockin' the Suburbs (Number Forty-two) and Jamiroquai's Funk Odyssey (Number Forty-four) also made respectable debuts.
As for chart milestones, three months after its release, and three weeks after her tragic death, Aaliyah's self-titled third album crossed over 1 million copies sold.
With a trio of strong releases (including new albums by Macy Gray, Tori Amos and Live) hitting record store shelves this week teaming up with this week's bumper crop of rookies, we might see a further overhaul in the realm of the Top Ten, which saw six acts check out this week.
This week's Top Ten: Jay-Z's The Blueprint (426,550 copies sold); Nickelback's Silver Side Up (177,986); Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor (160,996); Fabolous' Ghetto Fabolous (143,180); Bob Dylan's Love and Theft (133,760); P.O.D.'s Satellite (133,326); Mariah Carey's Glitter (116,339); Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory (107,459); Now That's What I Call Music! 7 (103,747); and Aaliyah's Aaliyah (100,659).