This week should really be about fireworks charts – spinners at Number One! sparklers plummeting! – since nobody really buys albums on the Fourth of July. Jay-Z news aside, and some action involving J. Cole, the charts more or less stayed the same as the previous week. Album sales were down six percent so far this year, and track sales were down roughly two percent.
SINNER VS. YEEZUS, ROUND TWO: Turns out J. Cole's plan to bump up the release date for Born Sinner to compete with Kanye West's Yeezus during the same week was smarter than it initially seemed. J. Cole is still a relatively new act on his second album; Kanye is an international superstar. But Born Sinner is looking like the tortoise to Kanye's hare, as it jumps from Number Two to Number One in its third week, selling 58,000 copies. Yeezus, meanwhile, drops from Two to Three, with just 39,000 sales – a loss of 40 percent. This means J. Cole has now sold slightly more copies in total than Kanye has. (Also dropping, from Number One to Number Two, is the third summer hip-hop blockbuster, Wale's The Gifted, which lost 68 percent and sold 50,000.)
JAY-Z, PHONE HOME: Looking ahead to next week: Jay-Z, Jay-Z and Jay-Z. Magna Carta Holy Grail is perhaps the year's most heavily hyped album, which is saying a lot, given that Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience arrived with Super Bowl commercials. From a chart perspective, the one million albums that Galaxy smartphone users were able to download early for free – thanks to a deal in which Samsung paid Jay $5 per album – won't count as sales. (SoundScan requires consumers to pay at least $3.49 apiece for albums to qualify.) But the RIAA certified MCHG as platinum anyway, since it shipped a million, and Billboard predicts the post-Samsung release will sell 350,000 to 400,000 copies. That should be enough, easily, for Number One.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" sold 5.6 million copies in the first half of 2013, making the song the year's biggest-selling single so far, according to Nielsen SoundScan's mid-year report. That's great news for the rap duo, but the rest of the report is alarming for the record industry – "Thrift Shop" was the only 5 million-seller, while two records (Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" and Fun.'s "We Are Young") both hit that mark last year. And Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience was the only album to sell more than a million copies (in fact, it sold more than two million). Overall, album sales so far this year are down by 5.6 percent, and track sales, once resilient, are down 2.3 percent. Why the drop? Spotify and other streaming services are the obvious answer, but Billboard's Ed Christman suggests a drop in catalog sales means the problem is more likely "complete my album" download sales and rising prices for older songs.
Last week: Wale Keeps the Hip-Hop Summer Rolling