In the first week after Labor Day, new albums and singles are starting to arrive that could define the fall shopping season. For the record industry's sake, they better be big – track sales remain down three percent this year, and album sales are down six percent, as they have been all year long.
GUESS WHO'S BACK, BACK AGAIN: Lost in last week's National Tut-Tutting of Miley Cyrus was the exciting development that Eminem finally released a new single. "Berzerk," with its Billy Squier and Beastie Boys samples and hints of a Slim Shady resurrection, sold 362,000 copies last week, finishing second on Billboard's Digital Songs chart to Katy Perry's "Roar" (which sold 448,000, an increase of 14 percent). Remember in the early 2000s, when teen pop and boy bands were dominating everything, and Shady showed up to pee in the sink? This is feeling a bit like that. One Direction is ascendant, Perry and Lady Gaga are having a diva-off on the singles chart and Miley dances with weird furry bears. Not that there's anything wrong with pop music, but the environment seems ripe for impish, early-2000s era Eminem, whose The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is due November 5th.
HARD TWERK: Miley Cyrus may have [pick one: embarrassed/liberated/shamelessly revealed] herself during last week's MTV Video Music Awards, but clearly there's a marketing strategy behind the over-the-top exhibitionism. Her new single "Wrecking Ball" came out 11 days ago, drawing 7.6 million YouTube views (even without a video) and selling 201,000 downloads. That's enough for a sales jump of 124 percent and a rise from number 13 to number five on Billboard's Digital Songs chart. Her summer hit "We Can't Stop," the one she illustrates with the tongue-wagging and twerking, earned a 10 percent sales boost but nonetheless dropped from number seven to number nine. Cyrus was the VMAs' big sales winner, although Lady Gaga's "Applause" jumped post-MTV from number five to number four, selling 213,000 copies, a sales increase of 31 percent.
ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: It's tempting to look at Avenged Sevenfold's Number One debut this week – Hail to the King sold 159,000 copies – and predict some kind of hard-rock comeback. But these days, even high-profile albums by established rock stars such as Linkin Park and the Red Hot Chili Peppers tend to drop significantly after their first week on the charts. Country albums tend to have slightly more staying power, which is probably good news for Luke Bryan's Crash My Party – although he, too, dropped to Number Two this week, selling 92,000 copies, a decline of 42 percent.
Last week: Luke Bryan Edges Out John Mayer