WINNER OF THE WEEK: American Idol. Scotty McCreery – who knew? Other than the Idol judges and millions of voters, of course. Last season's winner lands at Number One on Billboard's Top 200, selling 197,000 copies of Clear As Day, becoming the first Idol winner to take that spot since Ruben Studdard in December 2003. McCreery is also following standard country-music-business practices. He isn't flooding the charts with singles, Lil Wayne-style; he's methodically putting them out three months at a time ("I Love You This Big" immediately after the Idol finale last May, "The Trouble with Girls" in August). So there is absolutely no new action from McCreery on the singles charts – no iTunes, no Ultimate Chart. As we preach just about every week, he'll need another big one to prove his staying power. We suspect, given Idol stars' history, this will happen in time for holiday shopping. (Watch for Lauren Alaina, Idol's Number Two last season, to follow McCreery next week.)
LOSER OF THE WEEK: The X Factor. It's still early in the life of ex-Idol judge Simon Cowell's Fox talent competition X Factor, but so far the show seems oblivious to U.S. pop charts. That's a missed opportunity, because NBC's The Voice demonstrated last summer that even unknown reality-show competitors can launch hits via iTunes – eventual winner Javier Colon hit the Top 25 within the first couple of weeks. And last week, X Factor did its "boot camp" episode, in which groups of contestants did versions of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," Jay-Z's "Wishing On a Star" and others. Why not blanket iTunes with those singles? Ratings are low, so far – just 12 million per episode, far fewer than Cowell's prediction of 20 million, and generating buzz by selling singles online and jumping into the charts is never a bad thing.
AND SPEAKING OF IDOL: Buzz of the week comes from another veteran Idol-turned-Number One pop singer – Kelly Clarkson. Her single "Mr. Know It All" came out in late September and is inching towards viral, scoring more than 4.5 million views on YouTube and jumping to Number 24 – 38 slots! – in one week on BigChampagne's Ultimate Chart. (This measures not only radio play and traditional sales but Internet stuff like Facebook likes and YouTube views.) Sales-wise, the increase wasn't quite so dramatic, as it rose from Number 38 to Number 30 on Billboard's latest Hot 100 singles chart. Thus we conclude Ms. Clarkson is effectively working the Internets, and when her album Stronger comes out in 11 days, we suspect she will be fortuitously positioned.
LAST WEEK: J. Cole Moves Into the Spotlight