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Hootie & the Blowfish Avoid the Sophomore Slump

Pop music: The unpretentious band follows it monster debut album with a second effort that sells 411,000 copies in its first week in the stores.

May 02, 1996|CHEO HODARI COKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hootie & the Blowfish, whose 1994 "Cracked Rear View" album was the fastest-selling debut in pop history, is off to a brisk start with its follow-up, "Fairweather Johnson." The collection sold a robust 411,000 in its first week in the stores, SoundScan reported Wednesday.

The figure is the third-highest first-week total of the year, trailing only a pair of two-disc collections: 2Pac's "All Eyez on Me," which sold 556,000 copies in February, and the Beatles' "Anthology 2," which sold 442,000 copies in March.

While sales for "Fairweather Johnson" are also far from the first-week sales record of 950,000 set by Pearl Jam's "Vs." album in 1993, industry observers were uniformly impressed by the South Carolina rock group's ability to avoid the sophomore slump, which seems especially prevalent in today's pop market.

"The first-week sales were great," said Mike Fine, CEO of SoundScan, the New York-based firm that electronically monitors U.S. record sales.

About the album's failure to match Pearl Jam and 2Pac, he added, "There isn't the same urgency among Hootie fans as younger rock and rap fans to have the record for the first week. Other acts may enter the charts higher, but Hootie is likely to maintain high numbers for a longer period."

Val Azzoli, co-chairman and co-CEO of Atlantic Records, which released the album on April 23, was also delighted by the figures.

"We're absolutely elated," he said. "Music is such a fickle thing. It isn't like [Hootie] has three or four albums out and they've established themselves as artists. You're always a bit cautious, but these 400,000 records sold means there isn't a backlash. It's gonna be a steady seller from now until Christmas, which is perfect."

Hootie & the Blowfish have been dismissed by critics for their bland, unambitious musical vision, but the band's unpretentious manner and soothing, reassuring, down-home pop-rock style has obviously struck a nerve with record buyers. "Cracked Rear View" has sold more than 9 million copies and is still in the national Top 40.

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