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On the Charts: Mumford & Sons Slip, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Impress

Folk-rockers continue their slow decline

Ryan Lewis and Macklemore.
Jason Koenig
October 17, 2012 1:40 PM ET

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Indie rags-to-riches stories have become more common in the last few years, now that it takes just 20,000 or 30,000 album sales to hit the Top 10 rather than 10 times that much in, say, 2004. This week's Cinderella is Seattle rapper Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, whose catchy The Heist album comes not from a major record label but from the Alternative Distribution Alliance. It sold 78,000 copies and hit Number Two, second only to Mumford & Sons' Babel, although Macklemore is Number One this week on iTunes. How did they pull it off? One word: YouTube. The duo's "Same Love" is up to 4.7 million views and "Thrift Shop" is at almost 8.3 million. They're likely to drop down the charts, but their online marketing is top-notch and bodes well for concert-ticket sales.

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Mumford & Sons. Look at the numbers: 600,000, 169,000, 96,000. Not an impressive trajectory for a smash album. Babel had a fantastic debut two weeks ago, but its sales plunged 72 percent last week and another 43 percent this week. And the band's single "I Will Wait," despite a respectable 6.6 million YouTube views, seems to be petering out as well – it's down 14 slots on BigChampagne's Ultimate Chart (which tracks Internet criteria) from Number 16 to Number 30. It's still possible for Mumford to maintain its positioning with a slow-burning, Lady Antebellum-style, release-great-singles-over-time strategy, but for now, its chart run appears to be declining.

HOPE YOU LIKE COUNTRY MUSIC: Two of country's biggest stars, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift, are set to put out blockbuster albums in the next two weeks. Aldean's Night Train, according to Billboard, is "steaming towards Number One." Then comes Swift's Red on October 22nd. In addition to being one of perhaps five or 10 stars who can sell millions of albums these days, Swift is smartly flooding the market with hit singles – "I Knew You Were Trouble," "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "Red" are at Number One, Number Seven and Number Nine on iTunes, respectively.

LAST WEEK: Mumford & Sons 'Babel' On

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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