How Justin Bieber’s #1 Album Factors Into the Teen-Idol Solo-Artist Pantheon


Canadian teenpopper Justin Bieber bows at the top of this week’s Billboard 200 with My World 2.0, which sold 283,000 copies in its first week at stores. The persistent Twitter trend and walking advertisement for blowdryers is the latest sheepishly grinning guy to hoist the teen-idol mantle, although he’s nearly alone as far as being a crushed-upon guy who can top the album charts while not being part of a band.

My World 2.0 is actually Bieber’s first proper full-length; My World, the Usher protégé’s November debut, was only seven tracks long and is officially classified as an EP. Bieber’s beta record is at No. 5 on this week’s chart, selling 50,000 copies and making Bieber the first pop star to have two top-five albums since Nelly’s 2004 diptych Sweat and Suit ranked at Nos. 4 and 2, respectively.

Billboard notes that the 16-year-old Bieber is also the second solo male artist under the age of 17 to hit the No. 1 spot on the albums chart; he joins Stevie Wonder, who reached the summit when he was 13 with Little Stevie Wonder/The 12-Year-Old Genius. Five female artists under 17 have also achieved this honor, with three of them hitting No. 1 in the last decade:

• Tiffany (1988, Tiffany, 16 years old)
• Leann Rimes (1997, Unchained Melody/The Early Years, 14 years old)
• Hilary Duff (2003, Metamorphosis, 15 years old)
• Miley Cyrus (2007, Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus, 14 years old)
• Demi Lovato (2009, Here We Go Again, just two weeks shy of 17)

One would think that the increased chart volatility resulting from the SoundScan era and the relatively low number of albums it takes to have a chart-topper these days helped this recent youth movement, although that isn’t entirely true; Rimes’ album sold 166,000 copies during its reign in 1997, while Lovato’s album, which came out last August, moved 108,000 copies during its stint at No. 1. Perhaps the rise of the hermetic teenpop universe that is the nationally syndicated Radio Disney network helped shepherd people toward places where they could buy albums by Duff, Cyrus, and Lovato; all three, it should be noted, are members of the Disney ecosystem.

Either way, Bieber is eleven months out from his 17th birthday, and judging by the canny way he’s been releasing his music (how many older artists would have just put all 17 tracks on My World and its sequel on one album?), he may very well become the only person to have achieved this feat twice.

Usher is set to knock his younger pal out of the top spot with sales that are currently projected to exceed Bieber’s first-week total. A testament to the power of age, or just another sign that a pop icon doesn’t need to have album sales to be considered bigger than a chart rival? We probably won’t figure that one out until the dust clears on the follow-up singles. (Remember how Here I Stand‘s second single “Moving Mountains” barely registered on radio? OK, it’s a terrible song, but still.)

In other chart news, the R&B singer Monica debuted at No. 2 with Still Standing, her first album since 2006’s The Makings Of Me; Standing sold 184,000 copies in its first sales week. This surprised some observers who apparently haven’t been looking at the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart — the lead single from Standing, “Everything To Me,” tops that list. And Monica likely benefited from the one-two punch of being dormant for a while and TV exposure.

BET’s reality show about Monica, which conveniently has the same name as the album, brought in lots of eyeballs — the premiere of the series garnered some 3.2 million viewers. A 5.9% response rate in a time when even finding a place to buy records resembles a neverending quest isn’t too shabby.