I had a theory that 2014’s music sales were depressingly low, in part, because major pop stars took forever to release their likely hit albums and singles. But the hits are finally starting to arrive – see Pharrell, Rick Ross and Lea Michele below – and sales remain stagnant. Albums are down 15 percent (that’s a lot) and tracks are down 11 percent compared to last year. People in the record industry better hope Universal Music mogul Lucien Grainge’s big ideas pay off soon.
A CASE OF THE MONDAYS: Following Justin Timberlake’s lead from last fall, Pharrell Williams put out his new Girl on a Monday — March 3rd, the day after his shimmying-with-Meryl-and-Lupita Academy Awards performance, rather than industry-standard Tuesday. This created a domino effect, in which rapper Rick Ross and others released albums the same day. Did the calendar tinkering work? Sort of. Pharrell, the world’s hottest pop star at the moment, thanks to "Happy," hit Number Two – which is a big deal, but it sold only 112,000 copies, which seems dismal for somebody with such a high cultural profile and gigantic hit single. Ross beat him to Number One, selling 179,000 copies of Mastermind, also low by his standards.
"THAT’S SO RATCHET" = THE NEW "GAG ME"?: I’m a sucker for funny one-hit wonders, which is why I’ve been depressed for the past year after the ubiquity of "Harlem Shake" and "Gangnam Style" finally died down. But relief is on the way. "#SELFIE," the Chainsmokers’ dance-music anthem which stars a Moon Unit Zappa-like protagonist saying dismissive things like, "Who goes out on a Monday?" and "How did that girl even get in here, did you see her, she’s so short," finally graduates from viral to pop. After racking up more than 10 million YouTube views since late January, it rose this week from Number 20 to Number 10 on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart, selling 88,000, an increase of 64 percent.
EATING FROZEN CROW: When the Frozen soundtrack first hit Number One in January, I sneered it was only because nothing else was out. I was wrong. The album is beginning to look like one of those soundtracks, rising 9 percent in sales last week after Idina Menzel’s version of "Let It Go" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It sold another 100,000 copies, bringing its total to 1.3 million overall. Can Frozen withstand the chart competition now that household-name pop stars (including Ross, Pharrell and Lea Michele, whose Louder sold 60,000 copies and made its debut at Number Four) are starting to arrive? I better not predict otherwise.
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