Norah Tops the Charts

Grammy noms push pop-jazz album to Number One

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Forty-six weeks have passed since Norah Jones' Come Away With Me crept into record stores, making few immediate ripples. But during the spring, record labels -- desperate to combat sagging sales -- offered up a lower retail price for releases like Come Away With Me and John Mayer's Room for Squares. In the case of the latter, the gamble was a success. In the former, an overwhelming success: Jones' record climbed into the Top Fifty in May, the Top Twenty in August and the Top Ten in September. Though the album just missed being one of 2002's ten best sellers, a handful of Grammy nominations have given Come Away With Me legs when the rest of the big sellers have tired. This past week, nearly a year after its release, the album moved 108,000 copies, according to SoundScan, to reach Number One.

Much of the dialogue surrounding Come Away With Me has focused on which nametag it should bear: jazz, pop, torch, vocal, etc. Perhaps it isn't "jazz" cut from the cloth of Miles Davis (or even Ella Fitzgerald), but whatever one says about Jones' album, like the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack a year ago, it ain't like anything else that has topped the pop charts in a good long while.

Come Away With Me was the lone bit of news in a predictably lousy week of album sales. It was also the only record to top six-figure sales for the week, with Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me . . . Then pulling up at Number Two with sales of 89,000. Last week's chart topper, the 8 Mile soundtrack, fell to Number Five with sales of 75,000. For the most part, the rest of the Top Ten from last week just traded chairs, with Missy Elliott's Under Construction the only newcomer (climbing from Number Eleven to Number Eight with sales of 58,000). Unlike last week, there were a few debuts. Country newcomer Aaron Lines sold 13,000 copies of his debut, Living Out Loud at Number Sixty-eight. And new records by the Exies and Joe Nichols also found their way into the Top 200.

Having found its way to Number One, Come Away With Me might actually get to enjoy the slot for a little while. Release schedules for the major labels continue to be thin, with the upcoming Grammy Awards the biggest event on their dockets.

This week's Top Ten: Norah Jones' Come Away With Me; Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me . . . Then; Avril Lavigne's Let Go; the Dixie Chicks' Home; 8 Mile soundtrack; Justin Timberlake's Justified; Shania Twain's Up!; Missy Elliott's Under Construction; Aaliyah's I Care 4 U; and Christina Aguilera's Stripped.