Official Charts Analysis: Ball & Boe triumph in tight chart race
by Alan Jones
With just eight sales between the first week tallies of their last albums, it always looked as though there would be little to choose between Stereophonics' new album Scream Above The Sounds and tenor twosome Michael Ball & Alfie Boe's latest collaboration, Together Again, this week – and so it proved.
After opening up a commanding lead in early trading, Stereophonics' advantage dwindled consistently throughout the week, descending from 11,925 after two days on release to a deficit of 35 in the final analysis, with Scream Above The Sounds – their 10th studio album – eventually debuting at No.2
Pooling their talents for the second time, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe's Together Again thus arrives at No.1 on sales of 43,795 copies (including 149 from streams) a week short of a year since their first collaboration, Together, opened at No.2 on sales of 44,860 copies. Together eventually reached No.1 five weeks later.
Together Again provides 55-year-old Ball, from Worcestershire, with his 21st chart album, his eighth Top 10 entry and his third No.1. It is the eighth Top 75 entry, the sixth Top 10 album and second No.1 for 43-year-old Boe from Lancashire, who made his chart debut in 2007. Together Again comprises primarily of show tunes and movie music – as did Together – and a virtual collaboration with the late Bing Crosby on his seasonal smash, White Christmas. Ball & Boe were already the oldest duo to have a No.1 album, and now hold the top two slots in that category.
Their promotional push for Together Again also impacts Together, which sprints 181-36 (2,435 sales). Incidentally, although its first week sales were almost identical to Stereophonics' Keep The Village Alive, and although it gave the latter album a start of more than a year, Together's cumulative sales of 611,330 are more than three times the 194,559 copies that Keep The Village Alive has sold.
With 43,760 sales – including 1,128 from streams – Scream Above The Sounds has the second lowest first week tally of any of Stereophonics studio albums, surpassing only Word Gets Around, which sold 13,155 copies to debut/peak at No.6 in 1997. Their biggest weekly sale of 139,728 came when third album Just Enough Education To Perform debuted at No.1 in 2001. Last album, Keep The Village Alive, sold 44,868 copies when opening atop the list a little over two years ago.
It is, incidentally, the second time that the gap between the top two has been 35 sales in 11 weeks, but only the sixth time there has been fewer than 100 sales between the top two in the 931 weeks that have elapsed in the 21st century. In August, Ed Sheeran's Divide remained at No.1 on sales of 15,343, while The 50 Greatest Hits by Elvis Presley re-entered at No.2 on sales of 15,308. The only smaller gaps this century were in week 15, 2009, when Lady Gaga's The Fame (44,978 sales) was just four sales ahead of Doves' Kingdom Of Rust (44,974 sales); and week 36, 2005, when James Blunt's Back To Bedlam (43,477 sales) carved out an 11-sale victory over The Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang (43,466 sales).
US jazz singer Gregory Porter was never in the chase for No.1 but scores his third straight Top 10 album, and secures his highest chart placing to date with his fifth studio album, Nat "King" Cole & Me. As its title suggests, the album is a tribute to legendary crooner Nat "King" Cole, and consists primarily of songs associated with him, though there's also a Cole-inspired original, When Love Was King. With first week sales of 29,694 copies, the album opens at No.3. It is the highest sales for this chart position for 32 weeks.
Porter's previous best position and first week sales came in May 2016, when his fourth and most recent studio album, Take Me To The Alley sold 19,320 copies to debut at No.5. Porter's first two albums, Water (2010) and Be Good (2012) were both modest successes, peaking at No.182 and No.113 ahead of his breakthrough album Liquid Spirit, which debuted at No.40 (2,502 sales) in September 2013, and peaked a year and a half (78 weeks) later, reaching No.9. It has sold 348,910 copies to date, substantially more than all of his other albums combined.
In celebration of their 20th anniversary, Steps' 22-date arena tour of the UK starts on November 12, and should help to whip up some extra sales for their fifth studio album, Tears On The Dancefloor, which has just been released in a deluxe edition with new artwork and extra tracks. The album debuted and peaked at No.2 on sales of 37,624 copies in May, and is back in the Top 10 for the first time in six months, re-entering at No.8 (11,136 sales). Its cumulative sales of 96,697 are more than four times as many as the 20,315 copies their previous comeback album – 2012's Light Up The World – has sold but less than a tenth of the 1,405,470 copies their debut album, Step One, has sold thus far.
Released on Halloween, Chris Brown's eighth solo studio album, Heartbreak On A Full Moon, had fewer than three full days to impact this week's chart, and is still barely available physically. Home to the hit Questions, which recently peaked at No.12, it nevertheless manages to debut at No.10 (6,893 sales), securing the 28-year-old R&B singer his sixth Top 10 album. With 45 tracks, all of which Brown wrote or co-wrote, it is one of the lengthiest studio albums ever released, with a playing time in excess of two and a half hours. In a challenging Christmas market, Brown's last album Royalty debuted and peaked at No.23 (20,712 sales) in 2015.
After surging 123-1 last week, George Michael's 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1 slides to No.4 (22,876 sales).
The rest of the Top 10: Beautiful Trauma (2-5, 17,854 sales) by Pink, Divide (5-6, 14,828 sales) by Ed Sheeran, As You Were (4-7, 12,317 sales) by Liam Gallagher and Flicker (3-9, 6,984 sales) by Niall Horan.
Falling out of the Top 10: 7 Days (6-18, 3,783 sales) and 7 Nights (8-35, 2,457 sales) by Krept & Konan, Carry Fire (9-20, 3,751 sales) by Robert Plant, Glasshouse (7-34, 2,477 sales) by Jessie Ware and The Queen Is Dead (10-59, 1,837 sales) by The Smiths.
Inaugural (2002) American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's eighth studio album, Meaning Of Life, is the 35-year-old's seventh Top 20 album, debuting at No.11 (6,639 sales) despite the cool reception afforded to introductory single, Love So Soft, which reached only No.63 on the radio airplay chart and No.81 on the singles chart.
Operating in the rarified atmosphere where rap meets rock, Californian band Hollywood Undead breached the Top 40 for the first time with their last album, Day Of The Dead, debuting and peaking at No.34 (3,228 sales) in 2015. The five-piece's fifth album is the aptly-titled Five, which surpasses that position but on lower sales opening at No.31 (2,636 sales).
UK rapper Skrapz reached No.48 (2,239 sales) with 2015 debut album The End Of The Beginning. Follow-up Different Cloth features collaborations with Chip and Donae'o, and opens at No.33 (2,546 sales).
Forty years after he appeared alongside father Ian on the front cover of the latter's No.5 album New Boots And Panties!!, 45-year-old indie singer/songwriter Baxter Dury is in the chart in his own right. With BBC's 6 Music and Radio 2 supporting first single, Miami, his fifth studio album, Prince Of Tears, opens at No.49 (2,136 sales).
Two years after first album Free TC reached No.93, rapper Ty Dolla $ign's follow-up, Beach House 3, debuts at No.53 (2,000 sales).
Released three days before the end of the survey period, Without Warning (No.66, 1,699 sales) is a collaboration between rappers 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin.
Nine of Weezer's 10 studio albums hitherto have made the Top 50, including their most recent – an eponymous 2016 effort which reached No.24 on sales of 3,747 copies – but they fall short of the threshold with Pacific Daydream, which debuts at No.68 (1,655 sales) this week.
Michael Buble's Christmas enters the Top 20 for the seventh year in a row, advancing 30-16, with 4,320 sales in the week raising its cumulative tally to 2,588,970.
Now That's What I Call Music! 97 is No.1 on the compilation chart for the third week in a row and 14th week in total, on sales of 7,330 copies.
Overall album sales are up 2.52% week-on-week at 1,772,826, 3.10% above same week 2016 sales of 1,719,519. Streaming accounted for 812,660 sales – 45.84% of the total. Sales of paid-for albums are up 7.02% week-on-week at 960,166, 19.71% below same week 2016 sales of 1,195,946.
© Music Week