This week’s Billboard album chart tosses out a few curveballs—notably Adele‘s return to the top spot, besting Britney Spears’ second-week Femme Fatale sales nearly seven weeks out from her sophomore album’s Feb. 22 release.
But the biggest shocker sits at number four, where Hollywood Undead‘s American Tragedy has set up shop with around 67,000 copies sold in its debut week.
So what exactly is Hollywood Undead, and how did they crash the charts?
Let’s answer the first question first: Hollywood Undead consists of six members: Johnny 3 Tears, J-Dog, Charlie Scene (prescient!), Da Kurlzz, Funny Man and Danny (not much of a sobriquet there, Danny).
Not surprisingly, they hail from Los Angeles, and their sound is informed by SoCal hip-hop and a sort of punk-metal fusion—American Tragedy features production by the likes of Kevin Rudolf and S*A*M & Sluggo.
Other things you should know about Hollywood Undead: The six members all wear masks, some of which have changed since the release of their 2008 debut Swan Songs; they spent the first part of the year on tour called “The Nightmare After Christmas” that also featured Stone Sour and Avenged Sevenfold; the single “Hear Me Now” charted reasonably well on Billboard but did big business on iTunes; and they really, really like drinking (“Comin’ in Hot,” an almost absurd ode to destroying brain cells with booze, features lyrics like “We drink so much Goose/ We’re turning into geese”).
Here’s the real question: How is it that a group of rap-rock dudes in masks managed to break through in 2011?
The tracks on American Tragedy (especially “Gangsta Sexy” and “Lights Out”) do have a swagger to them, and you can certainly pump your fist to their choruses. And with Linkin Park trying to become a stadium-sized version of Radiohead, Limp Bizkit forever on hiatus, Slipknot distracted by side projects, and Korn long ago shedding their swampy funk, Hollywood Undead have filled a void. Perhaps there is always a need for dudes rapping angst over loud guitars—and as Eminem proved with Recovery, the market for white-guy anger is still very much open.
I’ll just go ahead and give Charlie Scene the last (classy) word on the success of American Tragedy: “I gotta be honest with everyone: I was really looking forward to the opportunity to be on top of Britney this week, but being right behind her and Adele is a memory we’ll relish forever.”
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