Blake Shelton, the breakout judge on “The Voice,” has found a receptive jury in the American public.
The country star’s “Red River Blue” album sold 116,000 copies in its first week in stores, giving Shelton his first No. 1 album on the Billboard sales chart after a solid 10-year run. His previous one-week Soundscan sales best was 77,000, all the way back in 2003.
For Shelton, 2011 has turned out to be a perfect storm. Credit this breakthrough to a decade’s worth of steady career-building: the fastest-rising single of his career (“Honey Bee”); a barrage of wedding publicity; and Shelton being even more hilarious and personable on TV than notoriously lovable laugh riot Christina Aguilera.
Shelton wasn’t the only country star enjoying a new peak this week. Chris Young, one of the genre’s biggest recent breakout stars, earned his first top 10 Billboard spot and debuted at No. 4 on sales of 73,000 for his third album, “Neon.”
These two country hunks may have released their albums at just the right time. The coming weeks will see an abundance of releases by seemingly every mid-level male country star under 40, including Eric Church, Luke Bryan and Jake Owen, young acts who aren’t always easily distinguished by non-hardcore fans. Shelton and Young beat that rush – or glut.
One less twangy act can also claim an uptick in sales: the hard rock band Incubus, which bowed at No. 2 with sales of 80,000 for “If Not Now, When?,” an impressive 10,000-unit increase over their previous album’s opening week.
Pop songstress Colbie Caillat isn’t on the same upward sales trajectory. Her third album, “All of You,” debuted at No. 6 with 70,000 copies, a comedown from her sophomore effort, which bowed on top two years ago with 106,000. But even this newer and lesser number suggests enviable fan loyalty, given that Caillat doesn’t have a single with much radio traction right now.
Among holdovers, Beyoncé surrendered the top spot, falling to No. 5 in week three with “4,” which sold another 72,000. Though it's too early to write the album off, the project has been hobbled by its lack of hit songs. The first, "Run the World (Girls)," was a rare outright dud for Beyoncé, and the second, "Best Thing I Never Had," has been a modest starter. So it didn’t take even a month for Beyoncé to fall below a couple of chart positions behind the year’s reigning diva, Adele, whose own numerically titled album, “21,” is far and away 2011’s top seller.
The Adele blockbuster held steady and sold another 77,000 this week, raising its tally to roughly 2.7 million. That puts “21” more than a million ahead of the year’s second-bestselling album, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which apparently wasn’t born with fantastic legs. Still losing steam after its fast (albeit Amazon-99-cent-sale-abetted) start, Gaga’s album slipped out of the top 10 this week, as did her current digital single, “The Edge of Glory.”
Speaking of singles, the only new entry in an otherwise static top 10 belonged to newsmaker Demi Lovato, who enjoyed a strong No. 2 start with 176,000 downloads for her first post-rehab release, “Skyscraper.”
Her vocal on that stark ballad may be a little too raw for radio, not to mention some of her tender Radio Disney fans, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Lovato’s sales stay skyward once the comeback publicity dies down.
LMFAO, meanwhile, has more reason than ever to party. The goofy dance-music duo faced little competition, even from Lovato, for the top spot among digital songs, as “Party Rock Song” sold another 215,000 downloads, raising the tune’s total to 2,257,000. Their accountants, too, are surely LTFAO.
Also debuting this week were a couple of controversial albums by veteran bands trying to make a fresh start with new lead singers replacing dead or otherwise dearly departed frontmen. The reconstituted Sublime With Rome entered at No. 9 with 35,000 in sales, while Yes' first album in 10 years (and first in almost three decades with a singer other than Jon Anderson) bowed at No. 39 with 11,000.
Other new entries included Theory of a Deadman's "Truth Is," in at No. 8 with sales of 38,000; the Disney Channel's "Shake It Up" soundtrack, entering at No. 25 after moving 17,000 units; and the latest "Harry Potter" score album, which sold 15,000 for a No. 28 bow. Female country singers didn't do as well as males this week: Ashton Shepherd's critically hailed sophomore album came in at No. 40 on sales of 11,000.