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On the Charts: Throwbacks Rule: Alice In Chains, John Fogerty Debut Strong

Daft Punk Stays on Top

John Fogerty performs in Los Angeles, California.
Chelsea Lauren/WireImage
June 5, 2013 12:45 PM ET

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Throwbacks. Daft Punk's Random Access Memories repeated at Number One this week, but the big chart surprises were Alice In Chains' The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (61,000 sales, number two) and ex-Creedence frontman John Fogerty's Wrote a Song for Everyone (51,000, number three). Neither of these albums has any chance of improving upon these sales next week, but both show that aging rock acts, even those without the full groups that made them famous, can hit the charts if they're smart. Alice In Chains has slowly, steadily rebuilt its fanbase after the death of frontman Layne Staley in 2002 and a reunion three years later; Fogerty follows the Legendary Artist blueprint of stars from Van Morrison to B.B. King, inviting contemporary stars such as Dave Grohl, the Zac Brown Band, Kid Rock and Miranda Lambert for cameos. What's especially savvy is that both made their chart debuts in slow early-summer weeks, when it's easy to sell a few thousand copies of a debut album.

John Fogerty Celebrates Birthday, New Album in L.A.

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Digital sales. Earlier this year, iTunes, Amazon MP3 and the rest seemed invincible – according to Billboard, sales jumped 16.2 percent in the first two months of 2013. But then came a steep decline, worrisome for a record industry that has spent the last 10 years staking its future on iTunes et. al. This week, the trend continues, as digital sales are down three percent compared to the same point last year. (Meanwhile, curiously, the news about CD sales is "good" – they're no longer down 19.5 percent as they were in March, but only 14 percent as of late May.) Why the disturbing numbers? It's easy to blame Spotify – it makes sense that when fans sample albums for free, they're more discerning about buying with real money. But I'd point to another, more traditional explanation – no hits! When Adele's 21 was ascendant, I can't recall anybody worrying about digital sales; as much as I like Daft Punk's Random Access Memories and Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, they don't have the same juice.

MAYBE ADELE CAN JOIN EVERY BAND FROM AND SAVE THE DAY?: I've been harping for weeks about Top 10 stars' dismal second weeks – Bon Jovi, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Lil Wayne, Tyler, the Creator and Kid Cudi all have lost big sales after splashy debuts. (And, frankly, John Fogerty and Alice In Chains are certain to follow this trend next week.) Although Daft Punk's Random Access Memories hangs on for a second week at Number One, it actually lost 73 percent in its second week, selling just 93,000 copies. According to Billboard data, the highest Number One decline in its second week was Justin Bieber's Believe, at more than 79 percent. The average drop-off for a second-week album this year is 68 percent. That's pretty depressing.

Last week: Nothing Random About Daft Punk's Big Debut

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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