Valentine’s Day & Sade? Can’t beat that combination. Wanna know how I figured that out? Well, according to this week’s Billboard albums chart, the venerable British band debuts on top, selling an amazing 502,000 copies of “Soldier of Love”, their first album in just under a decade. 2010 has just charted, but it’s easily the best first week for an album this year, and will probably retain that statistic for a while to come.

Sade’s success speaks very strongly to whatever the musical equivalent of brand loyalty is. The band has never made a bad album, and they’ve held on to a very dedicated fanbase for nearly a quarter-century. They don’t have a flashy image, no one in the band has to take off their clothes or make pithy comments to the media, they haven’t had a Top Ten pop hit since 1986, and yet they still sell tons of records. 

Elsewhere on the charts, the Valentine’s Day holiday certainly has an effect on sales, as the albums that show increases mostly have a romantic vibe to them. Key among those releases is Michael Buble’s “Crazy Love”, which zooms back into the Top 20 at #11 with an 87% increase in sales against the prior week. Other big percentage jumps are enjoyed by the likes of Norah Jones (+91%) and Harry Connick (+47%), so if you’re a crooner, you probably had yourself a good week.

Among new albums, R&B crooner Jaheim enjoyed a solid first week with his latest effort, “Another Round”. A healthy 112,000 copies of “Round” were sold, landing the New Jersey singer in the #3 position behind Sade and a very steady Lady Antebellum. Four other albums debuted in the Top 20: country baritone Josh Turner checks in at #5, former DC Talk member Tobymac pops in at #6, the 180938403th live album by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds enters at #17, and the soundtrack to the film “Valentine’s Day” scores a #20 debut.

While Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey didn’t think their Super Bowl performance was too hot, enough folks were mesmerized by The Who’s halftime spectacle to send their “Greatest Hits” scooting to #56 on the albums chart with an 84% increase in sales. And proving that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, John “I Compare My Genitalia to White Supermacists” Mayer scores a 13% increase in sales with his “Battle Studies”, despite the fact that it gets bumped three spots to #40 on the chart.

It’s also worth noting that “We Are the World 2010” enters the top Digital Songs chart at #1 with a decent 267,000 legal downloads this week. While that number is fairly strong, it pales in comparison to the first weeks for songs like Eminem’s “Crack a Bottle” (386K), The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” (465K) or Taylor Swift’s ‘Today Was a Fairytale”, which debuted with 325,000 downloads just a couple of weeks ago. All things considered, that number’s gotta be a disappointment, and probably speaks as much to the fact that the Haitian earthquake is no longer at the forefront of the American public’s conscious as much as it does to the fact that the song is a steaming pile of shit.

With no major new releases hitting stores next week, expect Sade to easily maintain a second week at #1. Actually, with the next challengers to the top spot not arriving until March (in the form of Gorillaz and Ludacris), the smooth operators should probably get settled in for a lengthy stay at the top.

This week’s Top 20 albums:
1) Sade “Soldier of Love”
2) Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
3) Jaheim “Another Round”
4) Lil Wayne “Rebirth”
5) Josh Turner “Haywire”
6) TobyMac “Tonight”
7) Lady Gaga “The Fame”
8) The Black Eyed Peas “The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies)”
9) Susan Boyle “I Dreamed a Dream”
10) Taylor Swift “Fearless”
11) Michael Buble “Crazy Love”
12) Alicia Keys “The Element of Freedom”
13) Zac Brown Band “Foundation”
14) Mary J. Blige “Stronger with Each Tear”
15) Lady Gaga “The Fame: Monster (EP)”
16) Justin Bieber “My World”
17) Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds “Live in Las Vegas”
18) Soundtrack “Alvin & the Chipmunks 2: The Squeaquel”
19) Ke$ha “Animal”
20) Soundtrack “Valentine’s Day”

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