Chart Watch: The Triumph of Bland Pop - Rolling Stone
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Chart Watch: The Triumph of Bland Pop

Plus: Iffy ‘American Idol’ timing, hip-hop’s weak point

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Jason Mraz performs in Bali, Indonesia.


WINNER OF THE WEEK: Bland pop albums. Peaceful, mellifluous romantics are beating the crap out of each other this week for chart dominance. Jason Mraz’ touchy-feely Love Is a Four Letter Word opens at Number Two with 102,000 copies sold, but it can’t dislodge the Eternal Monarch of Adult Contemporary, Lionel Richie, whose Tuskegee sold 114,000 copies to hit Number One for a second week. (In the U.K., notably, Mraz lost out to Adele for Number One by a total of 44 copies. Couldn’t Mraz’s parents or manager or somebody have spent the $659.56 on iTunes to make up the difference?) And the undead Train debut at Number Four, selling 76,000 copies of their California 37 album. Interestingly, iTunes favors Mraz and Train, who take the top two slots while Richie languishes at Number Five (after One Direction’s Up All Night and Gotye’s Making Mirrors). Those are some milquetoast charts! Maybe Death Grips will take over next week? One can hope.

LOSER OF THE WEEK: American Idol. We acknowledge that the Biggest Talent Show in the World has never been especially concerned with releasing tunes that make a splash on the Fox broadcast. But the show could learn from its competitor, NBC’s The Voice, which has been savvy about timing single releases since the show began last year. Thanks to judge Adam Levine’s presence on the show, Maroon 5 is Number One on the iTunes’ singles chart with “Payphone,” featuring rapper Wiz Khalifa. The track sold 493,000 downloads in its first week. By comparison, the only thing Idol has to show on the charts this week is LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking.” After the sleaze-pop duo performed it on the show, the song jumped 102 spots to Number 32 on the Ultimate Chart, which measures Internet criteria.

PREDICTING A HIP-HOP SUMMER: Hip-hop is having a weak moment on the charts. Aside from Wiz Khalifa’s appearance on Maroon 5’s chart-topping “Payphone,” the only singles by hip-hop artists in the Top 10 have stalled. Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” (which only contains rapping in the beginning) dropped from Number Six to Number Eight, while Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” (which is more of a dance-party track with choruses by singer Sia) is stuck at Number Seven. But check out the Ultimate Chart, which often predicts Internet phenomena before they actually play out in sales: Kanye West’s “Mercy” is up 14 spots to Number 11, Drake’s “Take Care” jumps 13 spots to Number 16 and Minaj’s glorious “Beez in the Trap” advances a ridiculous 81 spots, to Number 18. (Granted, Drake’s tune isn’t hip-hop per se, but in between Rihanna’s choruses, the sort-of rapper sort-of raps his verses.) Look out for all three of these to keep climbing.

LAST WEEK: Stuck on Lionel Richie


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