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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Idols not newsmakers on download chart

It was a pretty exciting digital songs chart this week, but more if you were a fan of Disney's Camp Rock, which placed 10 songs on the top 200, according to Nielsen SoundScan, or Coldplay, who notched eight tracks from its new album plus a reprise for Yellow. Idols, under the circumstances, were fortunate to hold their sales as well as they did.

Jordin's No Air is a victim of the Camp Rock/Coldplay onslaught, falling from No. 12 to No. 20, but some attrition has to be expected at this point in any case. It was down 14% to 57,000, and has sold 2.12 million downloads. One Step at a Time is the only upward-moving Idol track on the chart, jumping 121-105 and selling 14,000, a 28% increase, for a total of 127,000. Tattoo drops 112-128, with a 6% decline to just under 11,000, for a total of 1.69 million.

David Cook's Time of My Life falls 23-39 thanks to a 20% drop in sales to 35,000, and its total is now a robust 558,000.

Carrie's Last Name falls 32-42, dropping 11% to 33,000, for a total of 339,000. All-American Girl slides 68-76, declining 7% to 18,000 for a total of 616,000. And Before He Cheats is down a bit, 134-139, losing 2% in sales to a rounded 10,000, for a total of 2.38 million.

And, for the first time since late last year, the chart is a Daughtry-free zone, as Feels Like Tonight, his last charting track, falls off. All in all, a fantastic run.

A few of you asked about the progress of Jennifer Hudson's Spotlight single. So far it hasn't made the chart, selling a rounded 6,000 its first week and 4,000 this week. And Madonnafan asked for the totals on a bunch of Clay's songs, which I will place in order of most sold:

Invisible: 104,000

Mary, Did You Know: 71,000

This Is the Night: 34,000

Solitaire: 33,000

On My Way Here: 12,000

Without You: 6,000.

Charting Idols' sales slide some more

Last week, album sales were all about Lil' Wayne. This week, they're all about Coldplay, with a healthy proportion allotted to the new Disney TV movie phenomenon, Camp Rock. (Which sounds like it should star Rupaul, Freddie Mercury and Boy George, but instead features the Jonas Brothers.) Idols made little splash this week.

Carrie's Carnival Ride does hold its own on the Billboard chart, remaining at No. 33, but sales were down 16% to 15,000. Total is now 2.19 million. Some Hearts hangs on in the top 100, sliding 92-97, with a 17% sales drop to 7,000 and a total of 6.46 million.

Jordin slips 66-69, with a sales decline of 13% to 10,000 and a total of 825,000. Daughtry falls 52-77, dropping 26% to 9,000 for a total of 4.13 million.

This part of the post seems to shrink every week, but rest assured, there are plenty of off-chart Idols to track in what follows.

Ruben to wed Saturday

Congratulations to Ruben on his impending (Saturday) marriage to Surata Zuri McCants.

Kady, Alaina form country trio

The headline might not make immediate sense -- you may be asking yourself, "How could two near-miss Idol semifinalists from last season form a trio?" Easy enough: Kady Malloy and Alaina Whitaker are joined by Alaina's sister (I presume), Brittney, and they've got a cover of Martina McBride's When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues and some other stuff up on their MySpace site (a live version of Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party among them). Trying to fill that country gap before Kristy Lee gets there?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Nashville Star: Country goes pop

It's a barren TV summer, it's a TV music competition and it's on a network, so it's worth covering, but man, Nashville Star is aggravating. I say this as a loyal, if critical, viewer of past seasons -- there were a lot of annoyances on the old shows (hosts, backstage interviewers -- anyone have fond remembrances of Cletus T. Judd or Two-Foot Fred? -- judges, one of whom I recall being so relentlessly positive he made Paula sound like Simon with a hellacious hangover. But at least the past seasons (on the USA Network, not CMT, as is sometimes misremembered) were -- from the contestant and band and repertoire standpoints -- recognizably country.

And face it, that's what you're coming to see if you're watching a show called Nashville Star. Nobody's fooled by the name; you expect country, and you should get it. What you don't expect, unless apparently you are an NBC executive, and shouldn't get are pneumatic dancers, a Madonna group song complete with gospel choir, a guest shot by Pussycat Dolls wannabes Danity Kane and a number of contestants with only the remotest connection to country performing.

The theme tonight was "pop goes country," but the overall theme for the show clearly should be "country goes pop," and it's an old, bad idea (conceived because network execs never believe that straight country can carry an audience on its own and constantly try to water it down with pop) that never works and sure isn't this time out.

More-specific views and reviews follow.

Monday, June 23, 2008
Your 'Nashville Star' forum -- or against 'em

As planned, I'll post about Nashville Star tomorrow -- just don't want to waste that live-posting adrenaline on a non-Idol show -- but for those of you who want to get a head start, here you go. Of course, we all want to hear how that "pop goes country" theme works out for all these authentic-sounding would-be country stars and all ...

Tough Blake: Labels show little patience for slower-selling Idols

So Blake lets the world know he's been dropped from the happy BMG Idol family. (Good summary here from the always-exemplary Rodney Ho in Atlanta.) The pattern continues: It's getting tougher out there.

Another pattern that this news reinforces: The curse of the runner-up. Of the first six second-place finishers (all of whom were signed by BMG labels, the first five to RCA, Blake to Arista), just one still has a deal in place. Justin, Diana, Bo, Katharine, Blake -- all gone. Clay's still on RCA, though his sales have slumped. Archuleta, beware -- the odds are not with you.

Of course, winners aren't immune, either, as Ruben and Taylor no longer retain their original deals, and Fantasia and Kelly, though not in any imminent danger that I know of, suffered severe sales drops on their last albums. All very intersting ...

On a completely different subject, Hekerui jokingly (I trust) accuses me of making up that Paula at Sober Day post. Sorry, photo and caption ran in Billboard, June 14, Page 70, in glorious color. One of the things I like about covering Idol, in my admittedly quirky fashion, is that you don't have to make this stuff up. It just falls in your lap, especially when Paula is concerned.

Friday, June 20, 2008
A twist in their sobriety

This kind of amused me. I was leafing through a recent copy of Billboard, and saw a big photo of Paula. According to the caption, she was at a Beverly Hills benefit event along with Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters, among others. And what was the cause that these paragons of clean living were espousing?

Sober Day USA 2008.

Well, I guess it doesn't wreck your reputation to have a Sober Day once a year ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Your weekly random memo

Think I'll post this a bit early, just in case tomorrow's events, whatever they may be, keep me away from the computer. I'm enjoying the comments, although I'm a bit behind, so please bear with me, keep the discussion going and I will strive to provide more stimulus next week.  Thanks, and happy randomizing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Status quo for Idols on download chart

Nothing dramatic occurred this week for the Idols on the top 200 digital songs chart, based on Nielsen SoundScan information. The same eight songs are represented; three went up on the chart (slightly), five dropped; two were up in sales (not dramatically), six were down (two of them substantially). But enough generalizations; here's the actual info:

Jordin regains the top spot among Idols as No Air climbs from No. 16 to No. 12, selling 66,000, a 4% increase, for a total of 2.06 million. Tattoo is up by the same margin exactly 100 places downward, 116-112, selling 11,000, a drop of 2%, for a total of 1.68 million. One Step at a Time continues its soft launch by dropping 107-121, selling 11,000, a decrease of 15%, for a total of 114,000.

David Cook slides 10-23, selling 44,000, a 46% drop, for a total of 523,000, enough for gold status.

Carrie's Last Name is down 26-32, selling 37,000 (down 6%) for a total of 306,000. All-American Girl is up 71-68, selling 19,000, up 8%, for a total of 593,000. Before He Cheats slips a tad, 132-134, selling a rounded 10,000, down 1%, for a total of 2.37 million.

And Daughtry's Feels Like Tonight falls 100-146, selling 10,000, a 31% drop, for a total of 468,000.

A couple of requests:

Fans of Kelly were hoping for a new million-selling download from three promising candidates, but it hasn't happened yet. Never Again has sold 961,000, Breakaway (the song) has sold 955,000 and Walk Away is at 918,000 as of this week.

Ace's Addicted has sold 5,000 to date (100 this week).

Carrie, Daughtry gain a little in album sales

In a good week for album sales in general (up 23%, largely attributable to Lil' Wayne's million-selling debut), Carrie and Daughtry registered gains for their chart albums. Not sure what the connection would be, unless it was a more-people-in-stores, rising-tide-floats-all-boats scenario.

No Idol album is in the top 30, as Carrie's Carnival Ride drops from No. 29 to No. 33 on the Billboard chart, but it's up 9% in sales to 18,000, bringing its total to 2.18 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Daughtry slips 54-57 on the chart, but is up 16% in sales to 13,000, totaling 4.12 million now. Jordin drops 50-66, but slips just a tad (1%) in sales to a rounded 11,000, for a total of 816,000. And Carrie's Some Hearts is down 84-92 but up 9% in sales to the mid-8,000s, totaling 6.46 million.

Clay's On My Way Here falls off the chart this week; figures can be found in the non-charting Idol summary that follows.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008
'Nashville Star' glows dimly

This was a test. I wanted to check out week 2 of Nashville Star without preconceptions, so this post is a reaction to that viewing. Next week, for those interested (and I hope, given what else is out there on TV, that there are a bunch of you interested), I'll set up a thread Monday so you can post your impressions as quickly as you wish, and I'll compare notes the next morning.

Anyway, I was not wildly impressed with the collective ability of this season's contestants. Nothing new there -- in the early stages NS often seems like a subpar amateur night, with talent coalescing and improving as the season moves on. (Much as it happens in some Idol seasons.)

Overall I have to question the initial selections, though. It seems to me that in the move from USA to NBC, somebody decided to go for youth at the expense of seasoned talent, and to pick a number of finalists who couldn't go country with a pickup and a hunting dog. The pop orientation of the song choices this week (and last week, from what I gathered in the recaps) was alarming for a show that's supposed to crown a new "Nashville star."

Other general observations before I get to specifics: The judging was constructive and often refreshingly candid, a pleasant contrast to the uselessness of Randy and Paula (especially this past season). But the idea of having the judges serving as mentors would seem to compromise their objectivity.

Billy Ray Cyrus seems pretty wooden as host, but if you ever saw the season with Wynonna hosting, you'll know that's something of an NS tradition. The addition of longtime Nashville cable personality Katie Cook as hypewoman is grating at best. The band is still excellent, but seems to be pushed far more into the background. Several finalists play guitars, as usual for the show, and I'm always a fan of that.

Individual performer comments, some of them less than positive (shocker!), follow.

Monday, June 16, 2008
Idols don't go gently into obscurity

Hello, everybody, I had planned to post a time or two late last week, but events intervened. In any case, here I am, having caught up on comments, and I find myself intrigued (if that's the word) with that San Francisco concert series of Idol also-rans (if that's the word; it's a reasonably polite term, anyway).

In observing seven seasons' worth of Idol, I've been fascinated to see how Idol finalists (and even a few semifinalists and auditioners) fail to disappear from the showbiz radar. No matter where they might have finished or how popular or unpopular they proved to be on the show, Idols continue to crop up constantly.

The concert series featuring the likes of JPL, Rickey Smith (!), Julia De Mato (!), etc., is a great example. It will be interesting to see if enough people fork over cold cash to see them, and whether it will turn into a touring institution. Another case in point is Vaio's amazing list of Idols on Broadway/stage in the latest random thread. And another, sadder case is the resurfacing of Nikki (following Jessica Sierra) on Celebrity Rehab.

Looking on the bright side, all this activity certainly demonstrates Idol's clout as an entry point to showbiz on some level or another. And I certainly shouldn't be surprised that contestants do their utmost to extend their time in the spotlight (at whatever level) -- the kind of person who tries out for and gets through on Idol is likely to be a dedicated aspirational showbiz kid who's committed to the cause. But it still bothers me that the power of a past Idol association, no matter how ephemeral, can preserve the delusions of some decidedly unexceptional talents and annoying personalities that showbiz has a place for them. I worry about their superficial brand of celebrity squeezing out more talented artists who didn't take the TV audition route to establish themselves. And it pains me to see former Idol contestants go over the cliff in their personal lives because post-Idol existences didn't match up to their sometimes-overblown expectations.

Shifting out of weighty mode, I wanted to let Chicago_48 know that banning/blackballing has never crossed my mind -- I may have disagreed with what you had to say from time to time; shoot, I've probably disagreed with practically everybody who posts here from time to time. That's part of the fun, or at least part of the stimulus that keeps things interesting. (I should also point out that I don't remove comments; that's an independent process at this site.) Also, sorry to sasha4clay that you had comment posting problems; I can't understand why such a non-controversial comment would encounter any problems. Maybe it was a glitch, or maybe, because it included a compliment for me, the folks at the site didn't want me to get a swelled head or something.

Friday, June 13, 2008
Your weekly random memo

Sorry I wasn't around Thursday -- moving issues keep cropping up. Thought I'd quickly set up the traditional random thread to give you something to start with, although I'm likely to be in and out later today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Brief clarification

A couple of you already raised this question -- but the numbers iTunes released to SoundScan were just for the week, not a cumulative total. I would love to get the weekly totals for the season, and believe me, if I can, I'll let you know.

Idol download domination diminishes

With my peculiar knack for timing, one of the few weeks I'm absent for duty turns out to be the most momentous Idol week ever for the download chart. Two weeks ago, the week ending May 25 for Nielsen SoundScan purposes, the top 200 Digital Songs chart contained no less than 40 tracks by Idols, not to mention a further 11 by other artists directly attributable to the show (either the models for Idol covers or performers on the finale). That adds up to more than a quarter of the chart being an Idol franchise.

That was the result, as you no doubt know, of iTunes deciding to release sales figures for all the Idol downloads throughout the season (including semifinals) to Nielsen SoundScan for the first time. SoundScan was not permitted to release them previously for fear of influencing the voting if people knew, for instance, that David Cook was generally outselling everyone, as I've heard unofficially.

Now the songs have been pulled (except for David's coronation song, Time of My Life, which is no longer an iTunes exclusive either), so the Idol chart contingent has been reduced to eight this week, slightly fewer than normal.

Anyway, rather than lump everything together, let's try to recapture the excitement as if it were new with week-by-week examinations of the chart, starting with two weeks ago, then last week, and ending with this week's report. The fun starts ... after the break.

Vonzell in gun run-in at Florida airport

OK, it's a item, not always the world's most reliable source, but they have no reason to make this one up. According to the site, Vonzell, Season 4's third-place finalist, was detained by Southwest Florida airport officials, who found an unloaded gun in her baggage. Not the swiftest move at an airport, even if, as TMZ says, Vonzell has a permit. (Maybe those pre-Idol postal routes of hers were unusually perilous.) She'll face the legal process for this.

Idol sales slump again

The finals provided a boost for many Idols on the chart, but now, two weeks later, the bloom is off that rose.

We've got some catching up to do in this space, so I'll give you a three-week wrap-up of sales, courtesy Nielsen SoundScan.

Here's what the figures mean in order:

This week-last week-2 weeks ago  Artist:  Sales this week Last week 2 weeks ago Total

29-19-15  Carrie (Carnival): 17,000  19,000  25,000 Total: 2.16 million

50-27-19  Jordin: 11,000  15,000  20,000  Total: 804,000

54-33-20  Daughtry: 11,000  13,000  20,000  Total: 4.10 million

84-70-64  Carrie (Hearts): 8,000  9,000  10,000  Total: 6.45 million

162-106-48  Clay: 4,000  6,000  12,000  Total: 137,000

Three-week trends for off-chart Idols follow.

Monday, June 9, 2008
NBA courts favor with Cook: Idol to sing Game 3 anthem

And so it continues. David Cook will sing the National Anthem at the third game of the NBA finals, taking place at the Lakers' L.A. home, the Staples Center.

He joins, according to an spokeswoman, Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks and Jordin Sparks in the Idol/pro basketball anthem-singing ranks.

On another note entirely, I'm going to be without TV access tonight, so anyone who wants to report on the first week of Nashville Star, I'd be grateful. I plan to be watching henceforth.

See you Wednesday after an off-day for moving Tuesday.

The Blog Pound takes a romantic turn

So I'm reading your comments -- and thanks for doing a fantastic job of keeping the discussion momentum moving forward in my absence -- and what do I find? Romance in the air, mostly, although "romance" isn't quite descriptive enough. We've got David C. and Kim C. dating (gotta wish 'em the best), Clay anticipating fatherhood (congrats), and a goodly portion of you speculating about your favorite theoretical Idol baby daddy/mama. It's all too much.

On a more mundane note, for those of you asking about sales, on Wednesday I plan to post a whopping three-week make-up sales summary, one for albums, one for downloads, so we can catch up (it will include the latest numbers).

Also, when I get my notes from the season back (I hope tomorrow), I'll jump into the most memorable top 20 performances thread -- don't want to miss anything through forgetfulness.

As for me, I didn't take the time off because of Idol exhaustion -- it was the entire relocation scenario -- packing, loading, flying to the new location (with two cats; not recommended for pleasant flying experience), a couple of motel stays (after leaving old house and before moving into new one), etc. About two-thirds of our stuff is here, but the remainder arrives tomorrow, so posts may be scarce Tuesday -- then it's down to setting everything up (which in my case involves a scarily massive record collection).

But I'm looking forward to jumping into the discussion fray more actively (not that you need any help!).

I'm back -- more to come

Just a quick note to say I'm operational (I don't know about the "rational" part of that term), and you should be hearing from me with more substantive posts later today. Although I've been undergoing the severe trauma known as "moving" for the last couple of weeks, and in a semi-news blackout, I know there's been a bit of Idol activity: David C. getting signed by the BMG group (RCA, home of Kelly, Clay and more), David A. getting signed by the BMG group (Jive, home of Jordin -- a label historically very good at creating and obtaining radio hits), and some more gossipy stuff that crossed my path briefly and that I'm sure I'll read about more when I catch up to your comments.

As soon as the rest of my worldly goods arrive (Tuesday, I hope), I should be able to find my Idol file and execute a few planned posts as well as we look back on the past season. Meanwhile, thanks as always for your support.

Thursday, June 5, 2008
Archuleta signs a record deal

The other David has just signed with 19 Recordings/Jive Records. His debut album comes out later this year, after he wraps up the Idol tour -- and lots of homework.

"Signing a record contract with 19 Recordings/Jive Records is truly a dream come true," Archuleta said in a statement. "Being a fan of American Idol since season one and admiring the alumni, I am honored and humbled to be a part of that group. I'm really excited to start working on everything."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Which record label snagged David Cook?

This just in: American Idol winner David Cook has just signed with 19 Recordings/RCA Records. He's getting ready to record his debut album, which will be out this fall. His first single, The Time of My Life, is already breaking all kinds of records. Get the full details here.

Monday, May 26, 2008
A twist of Leming and a look at early Idol recordings

I'm not really here, but I did want to post from beyond the veil to alert you to a couple of interesting stories: a partially sad, partially uplifting update on what almost-semifinalist Joshua Leming has been up to from Marco della Cava, and a critical look at pre-Idol recordings by a half-dozen finalists from Brian Mansfield. Check 'em out and see you in a couple of weeks.