The year's music-sales news continues to be bleak — track sales are down 12 percent, and album sales are down 16 percent — but this week suggests some hope. Thanks to Valentine's Day, album sales jumped 20 percent compared to the previous week, and track sales were up 7 percent. Can the trend continue? Depends. Will there be more hit records?
THE HIT DEBUT RETURNS — FOR ONE WEEK, AT LEAST: What's that? A hit album? Finally, for the first time in 2014 — unless you count one so-so-selling Springsteen album and NOW 49 — the endangered species "Number One debut" returns. Eric Church's The Outsiders sold a respectable 288,000 copies, and has a chance to hang around the charts for a while. Although its early videos are hardly in Miley Cyrus territory — "Give Me Back My Hometown" has about 1.1 million YouTube views — that song has performed well on Shazam's New Releases chart, which often predicts big hits. Also, while rock and hip-hop albums have frequently plunged in sales after their debut weeks over the past few years, upper-echelon country releases such as Luke Bryan's Crash My Party tend to stick around. Other debut albums in the Top 10 this week? None.
PHARRELL'S SUCCESS CONTINUES — AND MAYBE FOR THE LONG TERM: I thought 2013 was Pharrell's year, but it may have been the beginning of a two-year medley. Due in part to a boost from his ranger-hat appearance on the Grammy Awards a few weeks ago, the super-producer's new single "Happy" rose from Number Two to Number One on Billboard's Digital Songs chart, selling 329,000, an increase of 31 percent. The metrics for that slick Despicable Me 2 pop jam are excellent — it has 67 million YouTube views, more than 20 million Spotify streams and is also Number One on iTunes' top-selling songs list. Perhaps not coincidentally, Pharrell's label today announced a release date for his upcoming album, G I R L of March 3rd.
NOTHING SAYS "I LOVE YOU" LIKE A CHEAP MILEY CYRUS ALBUM: Valentine's Day no longer carries the power to singlehandedly launch an album the way Norah Jones' Feels Like Home turned into a smash after it came out on February 9th, 2004. But I'm guessing that numerous men picked Beyonce's self-titled album over flowers and chocolates, to the extent that it sold 48,000 copies this week, an increase of 26 percent and a jump from Number Seven to Number Four. Also Valentinious: Imagine Dragons' Night Visions, which scored 41,000 copies and increased 77 percent, from Number 12 to Number Six; and Miley Cyrus' Bangerz, 29,000, up 96 percent, from Number 18 to Number 10. Of course, in the Dragons and Miley cases, both received boosts from $6.99 iTunes sales, or so Billboard reports.