WINNER OF THE WEEK: Bruno Mars. How do you get to Number One? In the old days, long before SoundScan, record labels used to pressure key record stores into over-reporting their sales figures. These days, the process is even more simple and transparent: Just sell the album super-cheap. Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox (like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist and others) was the recipient of an Amazon MP3 $1.99 sale on February 26th, and its sales jumped 96 percent, launching the album to Number One for the first time. Some 64,000 of those sales were downloads, Billboard reports, which is significantly higher than the album’s average weekly download rate of roughly 18,000. Such extreme-sale chart-boosting is obviously far easier when it takes just 50,000 to 100,000 copies to reach Number One than in the old days of multi-platinum everything.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: When history records the rise and fall of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” it will pinpoint the beginning as sometime in early February 2013, the jumping of the shark with the Miami Heat video and the abrupt end with this violent Minnesota Timberwolves parody. As Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” jumps from Number Three to Number Two on the Digital Songs chart, “Harlem Shake” drops 23 percent in sales (228,000), from Number Two to Number Three. The latest Ultimate Chart, which measures Internet criteria, has it at Number One, but that’s mostly due to last week’s sales increase as the hype continued – it will almost certainly decrease this week.
JESUS HITS LIKE THE ATOM BOMB: Sales are so slow, and new releases so un-blockbuster-y, that any weird thing can sneak into the Top 10 this time of year. Weird Thing One is Atoms for Peace’s Amok, the atmospheric electro-rock band starring Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea, which sold 50,000 copies and hit Number Two (and would have been Number One if it weren’t for Bruno’s Amazon shenanigans). Weird Thing Two is Hillsong United, an arm of the Australian Hillsong Church, the first to expand from 20,000 worshipers at Sunday services in Sydney to Number Five on the charts. The youth ministry, which goes for a soaring, electronic feel (not so different from Atoms for Peace, actually) instead of traditional gospel or Kirk Franklin-style nu-gospel, hit 34,000 copies and landed in the Top 10. Soon the charts will snap back to Adele-Taylor-Gaga, but I’m enjoying this experimental phase.