[From USA Today]
In race of returning pop divas, Shania is leader of the pack
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Fall's stampede of returning pop divas left nobody trampled.
Highly anticipated releases by Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez
and Christina Aguilera showed impressive marketplace clout, though only one looms as an
Twain's month-old Up!, a double album offering pop and country versions of 19 tunes, is
No. 1 for the fourth week and has sold 2.2 million copies. Its predecessor, 1997's Come On
Over, reached sales of more than 14 million, the best-selling album since Nielsen
SoundScan began tracking in 1991.
"She had a big fan base to work with," says Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's director
of charts. "She's still getting a fair amount of play from country radio while being
able to court a pretty large audience at pop stations. It could hold court for the rest of
Twain's reign in no way diminishes the accomplishments of her peers, Mayfield says.
"I'm not sure what expectations were, but each of them did better than they've done
before," he says of the early tallies. "And that's saying something considering
the climate we're in." Record sales overall are in a yearlong slump.
Image baggage complicated the comebacks of Carey, whose Glitter film and soundtrack bombed
last year, and Houston, who has been plagued by erratic behavior and rumors of drug use.
Both took advantage of high-profile TV interviews to ease their re-entries.
"Mariah had only one other album (1999's Rainbow) that did better in the first week
than Charmbracelet, which certainly had a better start than Glitter," Mayfield says.
"Whitney's new album, only her third besides a soundtrack since SoundScan began
counting, had the best opening yet. Christina had a pretty big start, and J. Lo had the
biggest week of her still-young career."
The diva scoreboard:
Shania Twain, Up! (released Nov. 19)
Opening week: No. 1 with 874,000 copies
This week: No. 1 with 373,000
Total: 2.2 million in four weeks
Single: I'm Gonna Getcha Good! peaked at No. 34 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in November.
Mariah Carey, Charmbracelet (Dec. 3)
Opening week: No. 3 with 241,000 copies
This week: No. 14 with 173,000
Total: 415,000 in two weeks
Single: Through the Rain never entered the Hot 100.
Whitney Houston, Just Whitney (Dec. 10)
This week (opening week): No. 9 with 205,000
Singles: Whatchoolukinat didn't crack the Hot 100. One of Those Days is No. 81 after six
weeks on the chart.
Jennifer Lopez, This is Me ... Then (Nov. 26)
Opening week: No 6. with 314,000 copies
This week: No. 8 with 220,000
Total: 705,000 in three weeks
Single: Jenny From the Block is No. 3 on the Hot 100 after nine weeks.
Christina Aguilera, Stripped (Oct. 29)
Opening week: No. 2 with 330,000 copies
This week: No. 16 with 168,000
Total: 1.2 million in seven weeks
Singles: Dirrty peaked in October at No. 48 on the Hot 100; Beautiful is No. 10 after five
Though all five enjoyed fast retail starts, some could drop out of the race sooner than
others. Twain's track record suggests the surest bet for a lengthy chart ride.
"She's got country and pop: two ingredients for a long shelf life," Mayfield
says. "Shania has the best shot."
But an early entry could pose a real challenge to the existing rankings. Newcomer Norah
Jones' jazz-flavored debut, Come Away with Me, is No. 15 and has sold 2.2 million copies
since its release in February.
"She's proof that sometimes you get more longevity if you build your way into the top
10 rather than start there," Mayfield says. "It's not one of those records that
fits into any tidy radio category. There are still radio stations discovering this woman.
She's had a chance to grow at a natural pace."
NEWSFILE: 20 DECEMBER 2002