When you see that there’s a Chart Stalker Extra, you know it means one thing. This week’s Billboard chart is boring. As. Shit. Really, it is. There weren’t any major new releases last week, so that means Beyonce holds on for a second frame at Number One, moving a still impressive 115,000 units. She’ll cross the Gold sales threshold next week, but her stint at the top will be over by that point. It looks like next week’s chart champ will be country star/reality TV judge Blake Shelton.

R&B singer Lloyd has the week’s top debut, starting at #10, and he’s the only debut in the entire Top Forty! Folks stayed away from buying music in droves during this heavy vacation week, and the most notable increase came from Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. Capitalizing not only on the 4th of July (and patriotic feelings from those not clued in enough to listen to the lyrics of the title track) but sax player Clarence Clemons’ tragic passing, the Boss’s seminal album re-enters the Top 200 at #137 on a 295% gain.

If you’re a Bruce fan, you’ll remember that he was only the second artist to release two albums simultaneously when Human Touch and Lucky Town entered the charts in early 1992. Barely half a year before, rock band Guns ‘n Roses kicked down that particular door by releasing volumes 1 and 2 of their Use Your Illusion series at the same time. Unlike Springsteen’s relatively poor-performing albums, G’NR sold millions of those two albums, which makes it a perfect featured title in this week’s Chart Stalker Extra, where we’ll hop in the wayback machine and look at the Top 20 albums the week of October 12th, 1991. Just a couple of months before Nirvana’s Nevermind topped the charts and created one of rock ‘n roll’s last “WTF” moments, let’s see what was topping the charts:

Top 20 Albums October 12th, 1991

1) Use Your Illusion II | Guns ‘n Roses
2) Use Your Illusion I | Guns ‘n Roses
3) Ropin’ the Wind | Garth Brooks
4) Emotions | Mariah Carey
5) Metallica | Metallica
6) Waking Up the Neighbours | Bryan Adams
7) Unforgettable-With Love | Natalie Cole
8) The Commitments Soundtrack | Various Artists
9) Luck of the Draw | Bonnie Raitt
10) Cooleyhighharmony | Boyz II Men
11) No More Tears | Ozzy Osbourne
12) C.M.B. | Color Me Badd
13) Time, Love and Tenderness | Michael Bolton
14) Blood Sugar Sex Magik | Red Hot Chili Peppers
15) No Fences | Garth Brooks
16) Gonna Make You Sweat | C&C Music Factory
17) The Fire Inside | Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
18) On Every Street | Dire Straits
19) Naughty by Nature | Naughty by Nature
20) Extreme II: Pornograffiti | Extreme

So, what were people listening to in late 1991? Well, they obviously couldn’t get enough of their hard rock, considering G’NR and Metallica held three of the top 5 spots. Proving that the music industry’s habit of releasing several superstar albums on the same day is not a new phenomenon, the Guns albums (which were in their second week on the chart) shared a release date with Mariah Carey’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Emotions, which held for a second frame at #4.

Garth Brooks was enjoying his reign as the era’s biggest country star. Hell, he was the era’s biggest star PERIOD. His third album, Ropin’ the Wind, surprised many by debuting at #1, and was in it’s second week at #3 on it’s way to selling almost 10 million copies (according to Soundscan.) R&B harmony groups were in full effect, as evidenced by the presence of rookies Boyz II Men and Color Me Badd in the Top 20. Several other acts in the Top 20 were either on their way down in terms of audience and influence (the Dire Straits and Bob Seger albums turned out to be sales disappointments), or were making waves based on inescapable singles (see: Naughty by Nature, Extreme and C&C Music Factory.)

The most interesting thing about this particular week’s chart might be the new albums that entered outside the Top Ten-albums that should have hinted that a paradigm shift was on the horizon. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Warner Brothers debut, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, made an inauspicious entry at #14. The album sold modestly for several months, and then blew up when “Under the Bridge” became a humongous pop hit. The California band’s breakthrough album wound up selling over five million copies.

At #45, nestled in between albums by Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart, was the sophomore album by A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory. Of course, these days, a #45 debut generally means that you’re gonna lose your record contract. Not only has the album gone on to sell well over a million copies in the two decades since, but many people consider Low End to be one of, if not THE best hip-hop album ever made.

Finally, there’s the matter of the little album that debuted at #144 that week. You might have heard of it? Called Nevermind? I swear I didn’t realize that until I’d already chosen this chart to feature and had already written half of this!

So there you go, kids. Twenty (almost) years ago, and one highly influential chart.

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