WINNER OF THE WEEK: Digital songs. By downloading Psy's "Gangnam Style" for a New Year's Eve party mix last week – and yes, haters, some of us still like that song, and for the record, it's way better than the "Macarena" – I contributed to a record-breaking surge of post-Christmas download sales. The 55.74 million constituted the biggest weekly total ever, including Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" (from 221,000 the previous week to 582,000 last week), "Gangnam Style" (116,000 to 400,000) and Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" (226,000 to 497,000). The digital-track boomlet wasn't a surprise, as people spent the days after Christmas redeeming iTunes gift cards, but it was perhaps more dramatic than usual given a fluke in the calendar. In 2012, the post-Christmas buying season was one full week; in 2011, it split into two weeks.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Next week. After absorbing hit after hit throughout the holiday season, consumers have gone back to work, forgotten about iTunes and generally allowed record executives to return to the fetal position. Not to dissuade anyone from reading this column next Wednesday, but the biggest new release I can see on the list is Pet Shop Boys' "Memory of the Future," which is a single, not an album. Last year at this time, even Adele's 21 had a bad week, drawing just 124,000 sales, a drop of 14 percent; this year should be even worse, because the top albums will have to compete with a week involving Adele just to stay ahead of 2012. Still, see the paragraph below – Taylor Swift's Red seems to be on the early edge of its second wind, so that could be exciting.
THE YEAR OF TAYLOR: Although Adele's 21 sold nearly 4.5 million copies in 2012, and was the year's biggest-selling album, it was essentially a phenomenon of the previous year. Taking over was Taylor Swift's Red, which landed at Number Two for the year with 3.11 million sales. It also closed the year on a high – in addition to spawning "I Knew You Were Trouble," which sold a ridiculous 582,000 singles last week, Red hit Number One for the seventh week, selling 241,000 copies in the final week of 2012. Partly, this year-end strength was due to a discount – Amazon MP3 sold the album for $1.99, which, according to Billboard sources, accounted for 30 percent of the weekly sales. That's a huge boost, and almost certainly kept Red above the soundtrack for Les Misérables, which sold 136,000 copies and jumped from Number 33 to Number Two.
Last Week: T.I. Takes Off