John Mayer Finds Room at Top

Singer-songwriter's new album unseats Duff

September 17, 2003 12:00 AM ET

John Mayer's Room for Squares was a slow-burning success, never making particularly large waves on the charts, but quietly selling more than a million copies. There was nothing quiet about the arrival of his new album: Heavier Things sold 317,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to give the fresh-faced singer-songwriter his first Number One.

Mayer's success is heartening for the struggling industry. Young, gifted and good looking, Mayer seems no different than a few dozen other aspiring musicians (like Jason Mraz, to name but one). But his songs were undeniably hooky and his label took a gamble and stuck a deep discounted price tag on his last record. Whether it was his looks, his sound, the comparatively risk-free price or a combination of the three, fans took a chance on Squares, and it paid off for Columbia.

Heavier Things was an easy Number One too, topping the second best-selling album, Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis, by 210,000 copies. Another debut, Seal's IV, posted sales of 82,000, good enough for Number Three.

There were several other strong newcomers to the chart: E-40's Breakin' News (Number Sixteen, with sales of 41,000); Iron Maiden's Dance of Death (Number Eighteen, 40,000); Pennywise's From the Ashes (Number Fifty-four, 18,200); ZZ Top's Mescalero (Number Fifty-seven, 17,600); and Andrew W.K.'s The Wolf (Number Sixty-one, 17,000).

But it was a pair of albums by two men who passed away over the past week that provided this week's chart with its drama. Though Johnny Cash died only three days before the end of a sales period, his most recent album, American IV: The Man Comes Around sprung to life over the weekend, with a 300 percent sales increase. The album climbed from Number Ninety-four to Number Twenty-two with sales of 35,000. Meanwhile, the two-CD Essential Johnny Cash returned to the charts at Number 130 with sales of 8,000, up from 1,000 a week ago. And Warren Zevon's The Wind spiked in the wake of his death. The album debuted three weeks ago at Number Sixteen with sales of 48,000, before falling to Number Forty a week ago. Another 47,000 buyers picked up the record last week, pushing its sales to 118,000 at Number Twelve, easily his biggest numbers in two decades.

Also worthy of note is Paul Oakenfold's remix of Elvis Presley's "Rubberneckin'." The song, which will be included on a new collection of Presley's hits, sold 11,000 copies to top the singles charts.

Next week could be something of a free-for-all at the top of the charts. Mayer's Heavier Things should put up six-figure sales for another week, but it'll be facing new releases by A Perfect Circle, David Bowie and Bubba Sparxxx.

This week's Top Ten: John Mayer's Heavier Things; Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis; Seal's IV; Alan Jackson's Greatest Hits, Volume 2; Beyonce's Dangerously in Love; the Neptunes' The Neptunes Present . . . Clones; Evanescence's Fallen; Mary J. Blige's Love and Life; Chingy's Jackpot; and the Bad Boys II soundtrack

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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