Rihanna’s Elusive Dream: A No. 1 Album
And if you happen to be Rihanna, they do so on a pretty much weekly, if not daily, basis. Since she made her Billboard chart debut in 2005 with “Pon de Replay,” she’s become one of the biggest pop stars in the world, selling millions of albums and singles, winning Grammy Awards, and come Memorial Day weekend 2012, making the de rigueur segue into acting with the blockbuster-hopeful “Battleship.”
This week, she scores a few more wins, as “Only Girl (In the World),” the first single from her fifth album, “Loud,” ascends to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 1oo singles chart. It’s her ninth No. 1 on the list, giving her more trips to the top of the US pops than any other artist during that time frame, while making her the first female ever to have four No. 1 singles in one calendar year. And coming two weeks after “What’s My Name?,” her duet with Drake and the second single from “Loud,” hit the top spot, it marks the first time in chart history that an album’s first single follows the second to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
That’s a lot to celebrate in one week. One thing Rihanna won’t be celebrating, however, is her first No. 1 album. This time, she didn’t even come close. All of her previous albums have made the Top 1o on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, with “Good Girl Gone Bad” making it all the way to No. 2 in 2007. This week, “Loud” enters at No. 3 with 207,000 copies sold. It’s the best sales week of her entire career but still not good enough for No. 1.
Aretha Franklin aside, I can’t think of another major singles act who’s had such bad luck on the album chart. Olivia Newton-John, an ultimate singles queen in the ’70s and early ’80s, went to the top with her fifth album, “If You Love Me, Let Me Know,” in 1974; Shania Twain finally went to the top on her fourth try with 2002′s “Up!”; and after decades at bat, Neil Diamond scored his first home-run with “Home After Dark,” which debuted on top in 2008.
Blame a Scottish diva who’s pushing 50 and a 10-year-old opera singer for Rihanna’s latest miss. In its second week, Susan Boyle’s sophomore album, “The Gift,” a Christmas set, builds on its opening-week haul by 17,000, riding 335,000 to No. 1. One notch lower, 10-year-old opera prodigy, Jackie Evancho, who like Boyle found fame as a runner-up on a TV star search (in Evancho’s case, “America’s Got Talent”), sold 239,000 copies of “O Holy Night,” good enough for a No. 2 entry.
Or is it? Evanch0′s holiday-themed release is actually a four-song EP and DVD of performances and an interview, with a retail list price of $8. Even taking the pricing out of the equation (since some are blaming the No. 1 ranking of Rihanna’s “Only Girl” on Def Jam Records’ discounting of the digital single from $1.29 to $.99 on iTunes), I’m not sure what a four-song EP is doing on the album chart. Yes, more and more artists, from Lady Gaga and Ke$ha to Justin Bieber and Usher, are releasing EP’s these days, but they generally include up to twice as many songs. In fact, the DVD portion of Evancho’s “O Holy Night” has more tracks (six) than the CD. It’s less an album than a single tacked onto a mini-DVD.
Still, there it is, standing between Rihanna and No. 1. With Kanye West’s “Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday” on target to sell up to 575,000 and 425,000, respectively, over the coming week, Rihanna surely will have to wait until next time for her first No. 1 album. Interestingly, both West and Minaj appear on “Loud,” while Rihanna guest stars on “Pink Friday,” so it looks like this season she won’t even get to celebrate appearing on a No. 1 album.
Thanks to Eminem and T.I., at least that dream has already come true.
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