Workin’ On A Mystery: Tom Petty Is This Week’s Stealth Chart Star

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Ed. note: Chris “dennisobell” Molanphy, our resident chart guru, looks at the upward, downward, and lack of movement on this week’s Billboard charts:

You won’t find one of the biggest-selling artists of the past week on the Billboard Hot 100, because chart rules make him and his band ineligible. But one week after Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers brought their unassuming live act to the Super Bowl halftime show, they’re all over the lists that count everything.

As we’ve explained before, Billboard segregates albums and singles that are more than a couple of years old from its flagship charts. But even if songs like “American Girl” aren’t allowed to appear on the Hot 100, Petty had a very big week.

Over on the digital sales chart–where old tracks are allowed to appear alongside currents–the highest Petty charter is “Free Fallin’,” which ends the week at No. 9. But if you combine its 63,000 downloads with the sales for “I Won’t Back Down” (No. 34, 28,000), “American Girl” (No. 45, 25,000), “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (No. 80, 18,000) and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (No. 116, 11,000), Petty and band are the sixth-biggest buck-a-song seller of the week.

(Interestingly, all of the above songs are credited on the Digital Tracks chart and on iTunes to “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” even though “Fallin’,” “Won’t” and “Runnin'” are technically from the 1989 non-Heartbreakers blockbuster Full Moon Fever. It’s further evidence that Petty’s so-called “solo” work has been completely subsumed into the band’s cumulative career.)

We don’t normally talk about album charts here, but Petty’s accomplishments there are even more eye-popping. Unsurprisingly, TP&HB’s Greatest Hits tops the Top Pop Catalog chart (a list that tracks the sales of records of Legend and Dark Side vintage). Most weeks, the No. 1 album on this chart, if it were allowed to appear on the main Billboard 200 chart, would appear somewhere in the lower half of the top 100–say, around No. 75 or so. But Petty’s Greatest Hits sold about 32,000 copies, which would place it all the way up at No. 12 on the big chart.

For comparison’s sake, last year’s Super Bowl performer, the almighty Prince, enjoyed a similarly fat week of sales right after the game, but they were spread across several albums, and his post-Bowl chart accomplishments were more modest. In mid-February 2007, The Very Best of Prince made No. 2 on the Catalog chart and would have placed at No. 85 on the Billboard 200, had it been allowed there; the soundtrack to Purple Rain made No. 13 on Catalog and would have ranked at No. 143 on the big chart.

It seems that for Petty & co., the smart move was releasing only one greatest-hits album 15 years ago, making it comprehensive, and then, at the big game, only playing hits from it. If, instead of, say, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Petty had played the post-Greatest Hits hit “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” his accomplishments would look a little more scattershot this week.

Here’s a quick rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:

• I said Petty & co. ranked sixth among all the digital sellers this week; in case you’re curious, the top five–adding up all of their big-selling songs–are as follows: Chris Brown (four tracks, including his Jordin Sparks duet; 185,000 downloads sold), Rihanna (four tracks; 175,000 sold), Flo Rida (one track; 167,000 sold), Yael Naïm (one track; 163,000 sold) and Miley Cyrus (six tracks; 152,000 sold). If Sean Kingston were fully credited on sales of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Love Like This,” his four tracks would squeak him past Petty as the sixth-biggest seller; for some reason, Digital Tracks credits that song just to her.

• You may notice two people who are selling like gangbusters with only one song each: Flo Rida and Yael Naïm. The former spends his eighth tiresome week on top of the Hot 100 with the T-Pain-backed “Low”–although, for the first time in those eight weeks, “Low” doesn’t earn a bullet, which means it might finally be starting to fade (fingers crossed).

• As for Macintosh-fueled chart debutante Naïm, her “New Soul” both retains its bullet and moves up two places to No. 7 on the Hot 100. That means she continues to outshine fellow Apple pitchwoman Feist, whose “1234” plummeted out of the Top 10 after a single week last fall. Actually, Naïm’s performance is even better than that: Billboard points out that “New Soul” is the first song to debut within the Top 10 of the Hot 100 and then move up in its second week since “Get Over Yourself,” a 2001 smash by Eden’s Crush. Who the heck were they, you ask? Eden’s was a prefab girl group assembled on the pre-American Idol TV show Popstars, with vocals by a then-unknown Nicole Scherzinger.

• Some big Hot 100 movers outside the sleepy Top 10: Miley Cyrus is at the doorstep of the Top 10 with her first bona fide adult-radio hit, “See You Again” (No. 12, up from No. 17). And Lupe Fiasco is at the doorstep of the Top 20 with his first major chart hit, “Superstar,” featuring Matthew Santos (No. 21, up from No. 25). Finally, the biggest mover on the whole chart is the 25-place jump to No. 52 by “Sexy Can I,” the latest from Brandy Norwood brother and callipygian-model-sexer Ray-J.

• For followers of the rock charts, Seether still lords over Modern Rock; but on the Mainstream Rock chart, the song finally falls from the No. 1 spot after 14 weeks on top. That’s the good news. The bad: they’re evicted by Puddle of Mudd’s “Psycho.”

• Since we added the Hot Country chart to our roundup a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been paying closer attention to some of that format’s biggest hits. You will forgive this tiresome blue-stater his ignorance, but the title that naturally caught my eye is Rodney Atkins’s provocatively titled “Cleaning This Gun (Come on in Boy),” the fastest riser in the Top 10 right now. You owe it to yourself to check out the lyrics. And rather than be condescending in that way country fans hate in us city-slickers, I will say that I’m truly, genuinely impressed at country songwriters’ seemingly endless new angles on the same down-home themes: in this case, a guy being warned by a father to be a gentleman with his daughter.

Top 10s Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses:

Hot 100 1. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low” (LW No. 1, 16 weeks) 2. Chris Brown, “With You” (LW No. 2, 11 weeks) 3. Rihanna, “Don’t Stop the Music” (LW No. 3, 12 weeks) 4. Alicia Keys, “No One” (LW No. 5, 23 weeks) 5. Timbaland feat. OneRepublic, “Apologize” (LW No. 4, 28 weeks) 6. Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” (LW No. 6, 15 weeks) 7. Yael Naïm, “New Soul” (LW No. 9, 2 weeks) 8. Snoop Dogg, “Sensual Seduction” (LW No. 8, 11 weeks) 9. Sean Kingston, “Take You There” (LW No. 10, 15 weeks) 10. Buckcherry, “Sorry” (LW No. 11, 10 weeks)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Keyshia Cole, “I Remember” (LW No. 2, 15 weeks) 2. Alicia Keys, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” (LW No. 1, 16 weeks) 3. J. Holiday, “Suffocate” (LW No. 4, 19 weeks) 4. Mary J. Blige, “Just Fine” (LW No. 3, 20 weeks) 5. Snoop Dogg, “Sensual Seduction” (LW No. 6, 14 weeks) 6. Mario, “Cryin’ Out for Me” (LW No. 8, 24 weeks) 7. Webbie, Lil’ Phat & Lil’ Boosie, “Independent” (LW No. 5, 17 weeks) 8. Chris Brown, “With You” (LW No. 10, 11 weeks) 9. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low” (LW No. 9, 21 weeks) 10. The-Dream, “Falsetto” (LW No. 12, 10 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me” (LW No. 1, 18 weeks) 2. Rascal Flatts, “Winner at a Losing Game” (LW No. 2, 18 weeks) 3. Rodney Atkins, “Cleaning This Gun (Come on in Boy)” (LW No. 4, 21 weeks) 4. Gary Allan, “Watching Airplanes” (LW No. 3, 30 weeks) 5. Billy Ray Cyrus with Miley Cyrus, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go” (LW No. 6, 29 weeks) 6. Kenny Chesney with George Strait, “Shiftwork” (LW No. 5, 17 weeks) 7. Alan Jackson, “Small Town Southern Man” (LW No. 7, 14 weeks) 8. Carrie Underwood, “All-American Girl” (LW No. 8, 11 weeks) 9. Chuck Wicks, “Stealing Cinderella” (LW No. 9, 25 weeks) 10. Craig Morgan, “International Harvester” (LW No. 10, 22 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Seether, “Fake It” (LW No. 1, 24 weeks) 2. Foo Fighters, “Long Road to Ruin” (LW No. 2, 16 weeks) 3. Linkin Park, “Shadow of the Day” (LW No. 3, 19 weeks) 4. Paramore, “crushcrushcrush” (LW No. 4, 13 weeks) 5. Foo Fighters, “The Pretender” (LW No. 5, 28 weeks) 6. Rise Against, “The Good Left Undone” (LW No. 8, 33 weeks) 7. Avenged Sevenfold, “Almost Easy” (LW No. 6, 19 weeks) 8. Radiohead, “Bodysnatchers” (LW No. 9, 16 weeks) 9. Chevelle, “I Get It” (LW No. 10, 30 weeks) 10. The Bravery, “Believe” (LW No. 12, 19 weeks)

[Photo: Getty]