Surprise Hits & Misses of 2006

2006 was a year of surprises on the charts, with some new albums wildly exceeding expectations. Here are some particularly successful projects that weren’t expected to do so well, along with some unexpected misses that are performing below expectations.

Surprise Hits

Josh Turner, Your Man

Release: January 24, 2006
Sales to Date: 1,522,015

Turner seemed to have “one-hit wonder” written all over him when his religious-themed sleeper hit “Long Black Train” powered the album of the same name to platinum status. Radio had never embraced him, despite those sales, and expectations were low for the follow-up album. Turner beat the odds by playing against type, and returning with a smooth love song that topped the singles chart. He’s now one of the genre’s hottest stars.

Alan Jackson, Precious Memories

Release: February 28, 2006
Sales to Date: 1,171,598

This collection of Sunday School songs that he recorded for his Mom as a present was quietly released, and went on to outsell nearly all of his recent studio albums – all of them without a certain 9/11 anthem – despite no radio play. It’s even been outselling his more recent studio album, Like Red On a Rose, for the last few weeks. Those two projects garnered Jackson three Grammy nominations, and have shown him to be a lot more versatile than he’s generally been given credit for.

Little Big Town, The Road From Here

Release: October 4, 2005
Sales to Date: 885,764

Jason Aldean, Jason Aldean

Release: July 26, 2005
Sales to Date: 829,918

The Wreckers, Stand Still, Look Pretty

Release: May 23, 2006
Sales to Date: 586,851

Rodney Atkins, If You’re Going Through Hell

Release: July 18, 2006
Sales to Date: 576, 128

Kellie Pickler, Small Town Girl

Release: October 31, 2006
Sales to Date: 336,148

Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift

Release: October 24, 2006
Sales to Date: 263,898

Heartland, I Loved Her First

Release: October 10, 2006
Sales to Date: 227,395

This year has seen a stunning number of acts break through and post impressive sales numbers, more than any year in recent memory. Many have done so on independent labels and/or before radio was on board. It’s a healthy sign for the industry that consumers are so willing to receive new acts, and that may be necessary, considering…

Surprise Misses

It’s all relative, I know, but a few projects have surprised me with their lackluster sales, at least as compared to what could normally be expected from those artists. Here are a handful of albums that haven’t been the success their labels probably budgeted for.

Kenny Chesney, Live Those Songs Again

Release: September 19, 2006
Sales to Date: 396,494

Live albums are always a dicey proposition, but who would think that despite being available since September and all those pre-Christmas sales being tallied, that Chesney’s live set would have a cumulative total that is smaller than the opening week of his last studio album?

Dierks Bentley, Long Trip Alone

Release: October 17, 2006
Sales to Date: 267,600

Since his last studio album sold 1.35 million on the strength of just three singles, this was supposed to be one of the biggest fourth quarter releases for the genre. As it’s turned out, this excellent album has been sliding down the charts rapidly; though it did gain a bit of steam Christmas week, it’s still barely hanging on in the Top 100 albums, with many older albums by newer country artists outselling it. Color me confused.

Montgomery Gentry, Some People Change

Release: October 24, 2006
Sales to Date: 129,883

Ouch. Country consumers have summarily rejected the latest album from genre mainstays Montgomery Gentry, despite radio embracing the title cut and their gold-selling hits package that preceded the set. Suddenly the perennial “right below Brooks & Dunn” duo is being outsold by many other twosomes – Sugarland, Big & Rich and The Wreckers have pushed MG to the #5 spot among country duos, according to SoundScan at least. Is there another single on this album to save the set?

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