First! Taylor Swift’s Red won’t show up on the albums chart until next week, but country has already taken over the Billboard 200. Jason Aldean’s Night Train rumbled to the top spot with sales of 409,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The country singer’s first No. 1 on the albums chart trails only Mumford & Sons’ Babel, the previous week’s chart-topper, among the year’s biggest first-week sellers. No hard feelings, though: RED Distribution handles both albums (though not, despite the naming similarities, Swift’s Red).
2 to 10: Aldean isn’t the only male country singer sitting pretty in the top five. American Idol champ Scotty McCreery can start thanking Santa just a little bit early, as his Christmas With Scotty McCreery jingled all the way to No. 4 (41,000). More encouragingly, the outlaw country singer Jamey Johnson — whose The Guitar Song was one of SPIN’s 40 Best Albums of 2010 — bowed at No. 5 with Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (32,000). Of course, it wasn’t all country bros: Mumford’s Babel edged lower to No. 2 (74,000), Brandy’s Two Eleven earned the “Boy Is Mine” singer her first top 10 album since 2004, and Pink’s erstwhile chart-topper The Truth About Love clawed back to No. 6 (31,000) — right ahead of Miguel’s Essential-branded Kaleidoscope Dream (22,000). Rounding out the top 10 were Little Big Town’s Tornado (22,000), Adele’s immortal 21 (21,000), and Dethklok’s Metalocalypse: Dethalbum III soundtrack (20,000). Who says pop culture isn’t wondrous and eclectic?
So You’d Like to Have a Rematch: Incidentally, if Aldean does fall to Swift next week, as expected, it won’t be for the first time. Her Speak Now held Aldean’s My Kinda Party to No. 2 in November 2010. And just last week, Aldean’s “Take a Little Ride” lost its perch atop the Country songs chart to Swift’s team-up with realiable electro-pop hitmaker Max Martin, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” after the same chart methodology tweaks that made Psy’s “Gangnam Style” somehow the No. 1 “rap” song.
Country Tradition: As the lines between country, pop, and rock continue to blur, Johnson’s Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran shows there’s another way to straddle those borders. The album’s big-name guests include not only crossover-appeal country singers Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson, but also British new wave’s one-time angry young man, Elvis Costello. The titular Cochran, whom the album honors, wrote classic songs for the likes of Patsy Cline, who herself was no stranger to the pop charts. Country and pop have been forever ever getting back together.