On the Charts: T.I. Takes Off

Plus: Top 20 albums nosedive

t.i. chart watch
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T.I. performs during the T.I. Live Stream at fuse Studios in New York.
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WINNER OF THE WEEK: T.I. Prison seems to have done minimal damage to the Atlanta rapper's career, as his Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head sells 179,000, second only to Taylor Swift's Red, which sold 276,000, an increase of 32 percent. It's curious that Trouble Man sold more in its first week than T.I.'s previous album, 2010's No Mercy. Did No Mercy come out too soon after his sentence? Was it just weaker than Trouble Man, not to mention his earlier stuff? Or maybe it's just because, as Billboard reports, last week officially ended on December 23rd, when music fans were still deep into last-minute holiday shopping. The record industry sold 12.79 million albums last week, the most in a single week all year. Expect precipitous drops next week.

T.I. Embraces Life as 'Trouble Man'

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Recent Top 20 albums. It was a terrible week for albums that looked strong not long ago, including: The Game's Jesus Piece (which sold 35,000 copies and dropped from Number Six to Number 37, losing 59 percent), Green Day's Tre (24,000, from Number 13 to Number 57, a drop of 60 percent), the Nashville soundtrack (42,000, from Number 14 to Number 34, a drop of 26 percent) and Glee, the Music: The Christmas Album Volume Three (25,000, from Number 20 to Number 54, down 43 percent). Why the steep declines? It's mysterious. My only theory is sales immediately before Christmas are a different thing than sales any other time of year. When you're out buying last-minute trinkets for nephews and nieces, do you want Taylor Swift's Red, or T.I.'s hot new album, or do you want warmed-over The Game or the third Green Day album of 2012?

ALBUMS? PEOPLE STILL BUY THOSE?: Compared to 2011, otherwise known as "The Year With Adele in It," album sales were dreary as usual, dropping 5 percent overall, from 323 million to 306 million. (That's not counting the final week of the year; Nielsen Soundscan's official 2012 stats should arrive next week.) But it was a terrific year for singles, so much so that I'm having trouble deciding what to leave off my Top 10 list (Pink? Gotye? Carly Rae Jepsen?). They increased 5 percent, from 1.225 billion last year to 1.28 billion. So when will the record industry stop putting out those silver coasters off which they've been making tons of money since 1982? Maybe never. Three hundred million is still a big number, enough to keep the cash infusion rolling into record labels.

Last Week: Rod Stewart's Christmas Cage Match