Luther Vandross Tops Chart

R&B singer earns first Number One debut

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Luther Vandross' dance with death served as a reminder to fans that the R&B singer was still in the business. Vandross' new album, Dance With My Father sold 442,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to debut at Number One just a week after he left the intensive care unit of a New York City hospital following an April stroke that left him nearly comatose for more than a month. According to Carmen Romano, Vandross' business manager, the singer continues to improve and grow more responsive with each day. "I feel as though I'm watching a modern-day miracle," Romano said.

Dance gave Vandross the first Number One of his twenty-plus-year solo career, during which he has been something of an R&B Forrest Gump. Over the past three decades, Vandross penned a song for the musical The Wiz, appeared on David Bowie's Young Americans (for which he wrote "Fascination"), sang in commercials for the U.S. Armed Forces and Burger King, and provided backing vocals and arranging for an array of artists including Carly Simon and Ringo Starr. Vandross first stepped out from behind the curtain with the 1981 release of Never Too Much, which charted at Number Nineteen. A hit machine through the Eighties and Nineties, Vandross regularly appeared in the Top Ten.

Unlike some recent Number One albums, which have taken the top spot amid tepid sales, Dance had some competition. Metallica's St. Anger sold a hearty 363,000 copies in its first full week in stores, putting the album at 781,000 in under two weeks of sale. The return-to-rock publicity surrounding Radiohead's Hail to the Thief paid off. The band's latest sold 300,000 copies at Number Three, the lowest debut chart position (but highest selling) of their past three albums. Kid A hit Number One in 2000 and Amnesiac jumped in at Number Two a year later, but the albums sold 207,000 and 231,000 copies in their first week of sales, respectively.

Annie Lennox was welcomed back with a Number Four slot for Bare, her first album of new material in over a decade, which sold 153,000 copies. Country music mainstay George Strait fell one slot behind, selling 143,000 copies of Honkytonkville. Rap newcomer Joe Budden and rock oddballs Steely Dan also bounced into the Top Ten, selling 94,000 and 91,000 copies of Joe Budden and Everything Must Go, respectively. The Beach Boys' Sounds of Summer (Number Sixteen, 69,000) was the summeriest release to find its way onto the charts. Instead of the typical party-anthem fodder that comes with the season, soft was selling: Pop idol Justin Guarini's self-titled debut (Number Twenty, 57,000), Sarah Brightman's Harum (Number Twenty-nine, 40,000) and Kenny G's Ultimate Kenny G (Number Forty-two, 29,000) all worked into the Top Fifty.

This week's chart offers one of the first optimistic glimmers of 2003 for album sales. While the release docket was loaded, twenty-five older albums inside the Top 100 enjoyed sales spikes. Yesterday saw far fewer new albums on record store shelves, but releases by Monica and Steve Winwood are capable of posting steady, if not chart-topping, figures.

This week's Top Ten: Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father; Metallica's St. Anger; Radiohead's Hail to the Thief; Annie Lennox's Bare; George Strait's Honkytonkville; the 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack; 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'; Joe Budden's Joe Budden; Steely Dan's Everything Must Go; and Norah Jones' Come Away With Me.