Roc-A-Fella 1219802

Executive producers: Kanye West, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua

Track listing: Say You Will / Welcome to the Heartbreak / Heartless / Amazing / Love Lockdown / Paranoid / RoboCop / Street Lights / Bad News / See You in My Nightmares / Coldest Winter


December 13, 2008
1 week

The fact that Kanye West scored his third consecutive chart-topping album with 808s and Heartbreaks wasn’t nearly as shocking as the performance of that week’s other big debut.

Chinese Democracy, the first studio album of original material by Guns N’ Roses since 1991, debuted at number three. That had to be a big disappointment for the only original member remaining in Guns N’ Roses, singer Axl Rose, especially if you consider the fact that the last time Guns N’ Roses issued an album of new material, it grabbed the Number 1 and 2 spots, respectively with Use Your Illusion II and Use Your Illusion I.

West, however, had to be pleased by comparison. His latest sold 450,000 copies in its debut week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, besting his 2004 debut, The College Dropout, but failing to match the sales of his two previous chart-toppers. Graduation, West’s 2008 release, sold 957,000 in its debut week, while Late Registration debuted with 860,000 in 2005.

While West’s drop is sales could be attributed to the general downturn in the music business, some may have chalked it up to a stylistic change that left some of his hardcore fans cold. Instead of his usual rapping, West opted to sing on much of 808s and Heartbreaks using an Auto-Tune effect on his vocals and a Roland TR-808 drum machine as his primary source of instrumental backing.

Some may have found slight humor in the fact that West decided to alter his voice considering he was calling himself “the voice of this generation” in the weeks before the album’s release. “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice,” he to the Associated Press. “It’s me settling into that position of just really accepting that it’s one thing to say you want to do it and it’s another thing to really end up being like Michael Jordan.”

That kind of boosting might have alienated some fans, but others may have felt sympathetic for West, who lost his mother, Donda, in November 2007 due to complications following plastic surgery. Much of the “heartbreak” on 808s and Heartbreaks was the result of his mother’s death.

“I’m just going through balancing that,” he said. “And I always used to have that support system, you know. My mom would be there; no matter what, she was there before everything.”

Week of December 13, 2008

1. 808s and Heartbreaks, Kanye West
2. Fearless, Taylor Swift
3. Chinese Democracy, Guns N’ Roses
4. I Am…Sasha Fierce, Beyonce
5. Theater of the Mind, Ludacris