In the Top 200 album chart that’s published tomorrow in Billboard, the No. 1 record will not be, as had been expected, Mariah Carey’s Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel or Paramore’s Brand New Eyes (who are they anyway?), but Love Is The Answer, the billionth album in the billion-year career of Barbra Streisand (first-week sales: 180,000). With Paramore, currently No. 1 in the UK, taking the runner-up spot (175,000), poor Mariah will have to settle for No. 3 (168,000). Lower down, Madonna’s two-CD Celebration compilation enters at No. 7 with 72,000 copies sold, pretty standard for a greatest-hits set.
But getting back to Barbra, it’s her ninth No. 1 album (a record among female artists) and her first since 1997’s inspirational set, Higher Ground. The grand entrance is impressive for several reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that the woman is, at 67, a good four decades older than your average No.1-debuting artist. Unlike Mariah, she accomplishes her chart feat without the benefit of a Top 10 single, a video, or the exposure of a sales-enhancing sit down with Oprah Winfrey. Also, as Barbra fans tend to skew older and less internet-savvy, they made more of an effort to get the new album than simply clicking a computer mouse on iTunes, as evidenced by its particularly strong sales through such outlets as Starbucks and QVC (though Love Is The Answer did sell strongly via Barbra’s website).
I’m not sure what the lesson is in all this, but it does underscore one major point: True superstars are here today, here tomorrow, here to stay — until, of course, death do they depart. But then again, as recently evidenced by Michael Jackson, sometimes that’s when the monster sales really kick in.
In other chart news, Jay Sean, a ridiculously attractive British singer of Sikh Punjabi descent, ends the Black Eyed Peas’s 26-week strangehold atop the Hot 100 with his debut U.S. single, “Down” (watch it here). It’s a cheesy, Auto Tune-enhanced Eurodisco song in a vein similar to BEP’s “I’ve Got A Feeling,” only 10 times more annoying. What do the Yanks see in this? Perhaps it’s the whole Slumdog Millionaire/Bollywood thing now extending to music, or maybe their taste is simply as awful as I’ve always suspected it to be. Whatever the reason, I’ll never understand how this song can coast to No. 1, while in the past few years, far superior singles by the likes of Duffy and Muse have only managed to dent the U.S. Top 40, and Sugababes and Robbie Williams are still waiting for their Stateside breaks — if they haven’t given up hope completely.
A mystery indeed.