Cash Registers Ring, Are You Listening?

Despite a strong debut by Redman, the end-of-year charts look awful familiar

It's beginning to look a lot like last year. A glance at the nation's album sales charts as the year draws to a close reveals a striking similarity to the waning days of '97. In the latest SoundScan report, for the week ending Dec. 13, Garth Brooks' Double Live remains at No. 1 followed by Celine Dion's holiday album, These Are Special Times. Also in the top ten are albums by Metallica, Mariah Carey and Shania Twain, among others. Flash back to the corresponding week last year and find Garth Brooks at No. 1 with Sevens, Celine Dion at No. 2 with Let's Talk About Love, and Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and Metallica all finishing in the Top Ten.

There's more. Last week, teen wonders 'N Sync (with two albums on the chart) and the Backstreet Boys were entrenched at Nos. 3, 7 and 5, respectively. Last year at this time, teen wonders the Spice Girls and Hanson were entrenched at No. 6 and No. 9, respectively. This year, Jewel's Spirit is connecting spiritually and commercially, landing at No. 4, while last December it was Barbara Streisand's Higher Ground filling the Top-Ten folkie niche.

Artists who make a habit of hitting it big during the holiday shopping season are wise indeed, as sales traditionally skyrocket. This year is no exception. In fact, twenty-six of the top thirty albums saw sales increase last week. How strong of a week was it? Rapper Redman's latest effort, Doc's the Name, debuted by selling a hefty 182,000 copies and still didn't crack the Top 10. In fact, the top twenty-three albums for the week all managed to break the 100,000 barrier; during a normal sales week, just a handful of titles manage that feat.

Interestingly, of the few titles that failed to cash in last week with significant sales gains, most were from rap and R&B, two genres that have sold exceedingly well all year. New albums by Tupac, R. Kelly, Dru Hill, Method Man, Ice Cube, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and RZA did not benefit from the gift-buying sprees across the country.

From the top, it was Double Live (451,000 copies), followed by These Are Special Times (413,000); 'N Sync (379,000); Spirit (310,000); The Backstreet Boys (252,000); Mariah Carey's #1's (228,000); 'N Sync's Home for Christmas (221,000); Shania Twain's Come On Over (210,000); Offspring's Americana (193,000); and Metallica's Garage Inc. (191,000).