On the Charts: The End of the Adele Era?

Plus: Album sales continue their dangerous slide

Mark Venema/Getty Images
August 29, 2012 12:55 PM ET

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Singles. Most of the good news in the record industry has to do with individual songs – the year began with Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," accelerated around the curve with Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and is sprinting with Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," which dropped 51 percent this week but still managed 307,000 downloads, for an impressive two-week total of 930,000. Single sales are up six percent so far this year, compared to an album sales decline of 4 percent, and artists from Flo Rida to Katy Perry have learned in recent years to survive as singles specialists. We're still waiting for a Motown, Sun, Stax, Chess or other indie label to pop up with low overhead to dominate the market. All that's missing is a great city jammed with talent, a killer house band and a Berry Gordy Jr.

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Number One albums, again. Last week we listed recent Number Ones that had precipitous sales drops in their second weeks – Nas, Rick Ross, NOW 43 and so on. The trend continues this week, as 2 Chainz's Based On a T.R.U. Story decreases 67 percent, selling just 48,000 copies and landing at Number Two. Ross' God Forgives, I Don't, at Number One the week before last, lost another 36 percent of its sales, with 28,000 copies, enough for just Number Eight. This trend, we're afraid, doesn't bode well for this week's Number One, Trey Songz's Chapter V, which sold 135,000. Songz' previous album, although it lost out on Number One to Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns in 2010, sold 240,000 in its debut week. That's almost double the amount of Chapter V, and speaks to album sales' growing weakness over the past two years, Adele aside.

END OF THE ADELE ERA? For the first time in 79 weeks, Adele's 21 is not in the Top 10. It dropped nine percent this week, selling 24,000 copies and bottoming out at Number 12. According to Billboard, only Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. (84 weeks) and The Sound of Music soundtrack (109) have been in the Top 10 longer, although 21's run equaled that of Def Leppard's Hysteria and Michael Jackson's Thriller. It is no coincidence that overall album sales are down four percent (see above) – there's no 21 on the charts to lift overall sales, and 2012 is competing with 2011, which did have a 21. Still, the year could end strong, with Taylor Swift's Red primed to conquer the holiday shopping season.

LAST WEEK: Taylor Swift Breaks Ke$ha's Record

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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