Tuesday, January 21, 2003


by Wayne Robins

Looking at the Billboard
200 Album chart, it's astonishing to see that only two male artists are in the top ten this week: Justin Timberlake, and the soundtrack to the Eminem movie, "8 Mile." The rest are all women, from all over the musical map.

Eight out of ten. Doubt that's ever happened before. But here it is:

1. Come Away With Me, Norah Jones 3
Blue Note | 32088 | (17.98 CD)

2 This Is Me...Then, Jennifer Lopez 2
Epic | 86231 | (18.98 EQ CD)

3 Let Go, Avril Lavigne 5
Arista | 14740 | (17.98 CD)

4 Home, Dixie Chicks 4
Monument/Columbia | 86840* | CRG | (12.98 EQ/18.98)

5 8 Mile, Soundtrack 3
Shady | 493508* | Interscope | (12.98/19.98)

6 Justified, Justin Timberlake 2
Jive | 41823* | Zomba | (12.98/18.98)

7 Up!, Shania Twain
Mercury (Nashville) | 170314 | UMGN | (19.98 CD)

8 Under Construction, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott
The Gold Mind/Elektra | 62813* | EEG | (12.98/18.98)

9 I Care 4 U, Aaliyah
Blackground/Universal | 060082 | UMRG | (12.98/18.98)

10 Stripped, Christina Aguilera 2
RCA | 68037* | (12.98/18.98)

Norah Jones, a favorite of jazz fans, baby boomers, and young urbanites, got a big boost from her multiple Grammy nominations, propelling "Come Away With Me" to No. 1. Lopez and Aguilera prove that the world is big enough for two attractive Hispanic women to crossover bigtime on marketing and promotion. The Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain are contemporary country artists, with the Chicks propelled by huge musical talent and Twain by the kind of savvy image building that makes her the musical equivalent of a soft drink. (Now we know why some people refer to soda as "pop." Missy and Aaliyah, of course, represent the new young black woman, stylish and independent, and in Aaliyah's case, regrettably, deceased. And Avril Lavigne is the best seller of all with the most staying power, that suburban teen girl short on glamour but long on attitude and excellently crafted rock and roll. The numbers next to the artist name, if any, are multiples of one million copies sold certified by the RIAA.

The diversity in everything but gender tells me two things. One, obviously, is that there is a buying audience for a wide range of music. The other is more subtle: the big four and a half record-manufacturing conglomerates ought to reconsider the marketing philosophy, which aims hard at young males but tends to slight young woman and adults of all ages and sexes.

List and formatting (c) Billboard magazine
commentary (c) Wayne Robins, 2003. e-mail: waynerobins@mac.com

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