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Elvis Is Everywhere

The King returns to the top of the charts

For twenty-five years, one month and sixteen days the King has been
gone but not forgotten. And if the droves that flock to Graceland
aren’t sufficient proof, if his cosmic sales milestones of
yesteryear aren’t enough to wow in the age of first week sales,
well, Elvis can now cram some SoundScan girth into his jumpsuit of
milestones. Elvis’ 30 #1 Hits sold a half-million copies
in its first week, according to SoundScan, to put the King back at
Number One.

30 #1 Hits is a triumph of marketing. Unlike the
Beatles’ 1, which anthologized an under-anthologized
musical institution, Elvis has as many compilations as he did
handguns, from 1959’s skinny 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be
Wrong
to the tight and terrific The 50 Greatest Hits
(the ’68 comeback special of Elvis anthologies) released
just two years ago. That collection, apparently twenty
hits too many, was met with considerably lesser fanfare. Sure, the
recent twenty-fifth anniversary of his death spiked interest. And
there’s also the boosted sound quality to consider, as well as the
inclusion of E’s latest Number One, the Junkie XL remix of “A
Little Less Conversation.” But while it’s great to have Elvis back
in business, the album’s success was practically preordained by
cleverly plotted hype. And the September release, rather than
mid-August during the actual anniversary of his death, dropped into
stores just late enough to fade a smidgen before bounding
back towards the top of the charts come the holidays, as 30 #1
Hits
finds its way into stockings.

That said, if Elvis isn’t dead, he’s certainly in midst
of a rigid retirement, so if slipping the King to the public
through marketing is the spoonful of sugar, then so be it. Much has
been made in the past year about a return to rock, led by the “the”
bands: Hives, Vines, Strokes, etc. While most of these nouveau rock
practitioners have a nostalgic foot planted in the genre’s
yesteryear, the collection of thirty Elvis hits sounds refreshing
— for some songs even nearly five decades later — for being rock
& roll just for the sake of rock and roll. The King’s earliest
hits weren’t over-thought and contained the essence of rock without
pretense, at least beyond the usual: sex, cars and mischief, while
dabbling in love, good and bad. Elvis invented his own cool; it
grew from being Elvis, not because he dug the MC5.

As for the rest of the charts, sales were up and newcomers were
bountiful. India.Arie’s second effort, Voyage to India,
was the week’s second best debut at Number Six with sales of
109,000. She was quickly followed by a trio of other first-week
entries: Beck’s Sea Change (Number Eight, 90,000 copies
sold), Peter Gabriel’s Up (Number Nine, 76,000) and Nas’

Lost Tapes (Number Ten; 70,000). Pastor Troy’s
Universal Soldier (Number Thirteen, 52,000), Travis
Tritt’s Strong Enough (Number Twenty-seven, 28,000) and
Ryan Adams’ Demolition (Number Twenty-eight, 27,000) all
registered solid sales, which is more than can be said for Uncle
Kracker’s No Stranger to Shame, which, with a 22,000 copy
first week, is looking dead in the water compared to the
multi-platinum sales of its predecessor.

And for those keeping a patriotic eye on Steve Earle, the
shitstorm kicked up more than a month ago by a New York
Post
story about his first-person song about “American
Taliban” John Walker Lindh (“Twisted Ballad Honors Tali-Rat,” read
the headline) turned out to be neither career suicide, nor a
publicity stunt to boost sales, as some speculated. Earle’s
Jerusalem landed on the charts at Number Fifty-nine, six
slots higher than 2000’s Transcendental Blues, and with
sales of 18,000 (a dip of only 2,000 from the previous album), more
likely the result of lower sales nationally than any sort of
backlash.

As for next week, it could be a battle of rock & roll
iconography. The Rolling Stones have been pounding the pavement in
support of their just-released 40 Licks, a luxury that
Elvis hasn’t had in some time. The album is a double-CD, which
might make those with tighter purse-strings skittish, but then,
it’s the first-ever career-spanning collection for the group as
they head towards their fortieth anniversary.

This week’s Top Ten: Elvis Presley’s 30 #1 Hits; Dixie
Chicks’ Home; Avril Lavigne’s Let Go; Disturbed’s
Believe; Nelly’s Nellyville; India.Arie’s
Voyage to India; Eminem’s The Eminem Show; Beck’s
Sea Change; Peter Gabriel’s Up; and Nas’ Lost
Tapes
.

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