After several fairly slow summer weeks, new blockbusters have finally started to roll out, beginning with Kanye West's Yeezus. Weekly album sales jumped five percent compared to the previous week, according to Billboard, but they're still pretty weak in the aggregate, down five percent overall for 2013. (Black Sabbath, who recently scored their first ever chart-topping album, dropped 71 percent in sales this week, yet still clings to Number Five on the charts – not bad.)
THE GOSPEL OF YEEZUS: Kanye West talks to Jesus on his new album, but he didn't talk to programmers. He avoided the standard operating procedure of sending a single to radio, which might have hurt him – but many stations have said they plan to play songs from Yeezus anyhow. The overall buzz gave Kanye 327,000 in first-week sales and a Number One debut. The big question is how long Yeezus will stick around – there's no traditional single, no radio and no video, so none of the new songs appear on iTunes' Top Songs or BigChampagne's Ultimate Chart (which measures Internet criteria and often predicts future sales), at least so far.
COLE WORLD: Rapper J. Cole pushed up Born Sinner so he could compete head-to-head with Yeezus during the same release week. He landed at Number Two, earning the best sales week of his career with 297,000 copies sold. Could he have sold even more in another week? My guess is the majority of hip-hop fans reserved enough cash to buy just one big album this week, and that was Yeezus. Still, Cole and Mac Miller's Watching Movies With the Sound Off (102,000 sales, Number Three) may well get the consolation prize of plentiful Spotify-Rhapsody-Rdio-etc. free streams. The last of this week's all-new Top Four albums: R&B star Kelly Rowland's Talk a Good Game (68,000, Number Four).
PHONE HOME: Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail comes out three days early on July 4th for one million users of Galaxy mobile phones, thanks to a heavily publicized deal with Samsung. But none of those copies will count on the Billboard charts, which have a longstanding rule that fans must actually purchase albums for money. It's anyone's guess whether the deal will cannibalize regular sales, and if so, how much. Can Jay-Z add enough sales beyond the Samsung Million to hit Number One? We'll find out soon.
Last week: Black Sabbath Score First Number One