How many ways can one person write "summer malaise"? Jay and Kanye are long behind us, and the main exciting chart news this week involves Robin Thicke, who had better concoct a second hit, and quick, if he wants his album to stick around on the charts. (Maybe he doesn't care – "Blurred Lines," the smash single, has sold 4.3 million copies, returning to Number One this week after a brief takeover by One Direction's "Best Song Ever.") The good news in this kind of sales drought is that chart newbies such as Five Finger Death Punch and Tech N9ne can sell a low-to-respectable amount of albums yet wind up in the Top 10.
EVEN JIMMY FALLON'S VERSION HAS SEVEN MILLION YOUTUBE VIEWS: Thicke's Blurred Lines album, which sold 177,000 copies in its debut week and hit Number One, sounds like the classic album-built-around-a-gigantic-hit. Check out the Spotify numbers: "Blurred Lines," the summer super-song, has streamed 58.2 million times as of Wednesday morning; the next-most-streamed song from the album, "Take It Easy on Me," is at roughly 68,000. (Tellingly, "Take It Easy on Me" never hit the Top 10 in iTunes' Top Songs.) Of course, "Take It Easy on Me" has only been out a month or so as a single, and it arrived with no video and therefore has no connection to hot, topless starlets. So more hype may be yet to come – stay tuned . . .
NEXT WEEK, DOWN TO TWO FINGERS: Hey, Five Finger Death Punch, congratulations on your highest-charting album ever – this week's pithily titled Number Two, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Volume 1, which sold 112,000 copies. May I now throw cold water onto your achievement? This album will fall on next week's chart. Almost everything does these days, with the exception of those with huge singles, like Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience or Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Decent rock, hip-hop, country and even pop albums, from Bon Jovi to Rick Ross, have no chart staying power. Even Selena Gomez' Stars Dance, last week's Number One, sold 31,000 copies in its second week, a drop of 68 percent, landing at Number Eight – and it had a hit single and the word "dance" in the title.
WE'RE NOT IN 1999 ANYMORE: Are Spotify and other streaming services cannibalizing album sales? The numbers indicate yes. For the last week of July, U.S. albums sold 4.68 million copies, the lowest weekly total of the SoundScan era, which began in 1991. Also, for the first time, labels sold fewer than 5 million albums in each of five straight weeks. There are perhaps other factors in play, including record executives' reluctance to price more titles at $5 or lower and a lack of hot new albums this summer, but the Spotify cause-and-effect is hard to overlook. As of this week, digital track sales are down three percent after years of iTunes-fueled growth, and overall album sales have dropped six percent compared to last year.
Last week: Selena Gomez Takes Holy Grail From Jay Z