‘Noel’ is music’s saving grace

Groban's disc sells well despite industry slump

Josh Groban is the rare person in the music industry singing a happy jolly tune this holiday season.

While Groban’s “Noel” has crossed 3.5 million in sales to become the top-selling disc of the year, overall music sales during the Christmas shopping season were down an astounding 21% from last year. From the week of Thanksgiving up through the day before Christmas Eve, 83.9 million albums were sold, a decrease of 21.38 million from 2006’s 105.28 million.

Groban’s holiday album claimed its fifth straight week at No. 1, selling 757,000 copies to trump the debut session of Mary J. Blige’s “Growing Pains” (Geffen), which sold 629,000 copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan. “Noel” is the first Christmas album ever to hold the top spot for five consecutive weeks.

Blige’s disc was the only rookie in the top 10. All but three discs in the top 50 saw sales spikes, among them Alicia Keys’ “As I Am” (up 62% to 474,0000), the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden” (up 30% to 313,000), Chris Brown’s “Exclusive” (up 65% to 176,000) and Carrie Underwood’s “Carnival Ride” (up 57% to 216,000).

Debuts for the week included Jaheim’s “The Makings of a Man” (Atlantic), which sold 176,000 (No. 11); Lupe Fiasco’s second album “Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool” (Atlantic) moving 143,000 (No. 15) and Kirk Franklin’s “The Fight of My Life” (Gospocentric), which sold 74,000 (No. 33).

The week leading up to Christmas saw sales rise a whopping 42% over the previous week. But when the week’s sales of 25.57 million are compared to the same week from ’06, they represent an 18% drop.

Next week’s tally will take into account a fair number of gift cards for online music being cashed in, which could help prop up the last week of the year. With no significant titles released Tuesday and “Noel” out of the way, next week should find Keys and Blige battling for No. 1.

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