WINNER OF THE WEEK: Nas. The veteran rapper's Life Is Good album sold 149,000 copies – while that doesn't exactly make it the sales sensation of the year, it opened at Number One, and its singles strategy has been sound so far. As Katy Perry and Adele have clearly shown in recent months, one way to maintain album sales over time is to spew out strong singles. Nas' "The Don" has racked up more than 5 million YouTube views, "Daughters" is at more than 3.8 million, and last year's "Nasty" is at 3.7 million. Even more encouraging, the album seems stuffed with future hits, particularly the nice Amy Winehouse collaboration "Cherry Wine" (although it's a love song that lasts six minutes, a little long for radio play). Also in Nas' favor: huge TV appearances over the past week, including Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Colbert Report, The Late Show With David Letterman, BET's 106th & Park and even ESPN.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Frank Ocean. Well, not Ocean himself, or his excellent Channel Orange album, or even his sales. Just the Billboard loophole that prevents the rising R&B star from reaching his full chart potential this week. On iTunes, the album is at Number Two, just below Nas, but overall its sales dropped 59 percent to 54,000. It's at Number Four on the Billboard chart, behind Nas, the Zac Brown Band's Uncaged and Kidz Bop 21. Why the decline? In part, because Billboard does not allow prices below $3.49 to count as "sales." The rule in general is understandable – it disallows artists from manipulating their sales by buying their albums en masse at $0.01 or what-not – but in this case, it disallowed Ocean's unspecified Amazon MP3 sales for $2.99 all last week. (Which we're kicking ourselves for missing, because we bought the album on iTunes for the full $9.99.)
AMAZON – GOOSING THE CHARTS SINCE AT LEAST 2010: While Ocean may have suffered from Billboard's no-sales-below-$3.49 rule, Phil Collins and others are beneficiaries. The rule only applies to an album's first four weeks of release, disqualifying Channel Orange sales but allowing Collins' 1998 best-of collection, Hits, to rise 4,575 percent in sales. Thanks to Amazon MP3's one-day, 99-cent price, the album sold 40,000 copies and hit Number Six; that's the Genesis frontman's first Top 10 album since 1989's But Seriously. Also pleased with Amazon's 99-cent sales: Bruno Mars, whose Doo Wops & Hooligans jumped 644 percent, from Number 135 to Number 11, selling 27,000; and Demi Lovato's Unbroken, up 239 percent, with 13,000 sales, from Number 124 to Number 27. Interestingly, Amazon is also selling Flo Rida's "Whistle" single for just 25 cents, compared to $1.29 on iTunes. It's no coincidence the track leapfrogged Cary Rae Jepsen and Katy Perry to hit Number One on this week's digital singles chart, with 211,000.
LAST WEEK: Zac Brown Band and Frank Ocean Duke It Out