WINNER OF THE WEEK: J. Cole. The 25-year-old North Carolina rapper, who memorably guest-starred on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 two years ago, sold 218,000 copies of his debut Cole World: The Sideline Story this week, hitting Number One and beating out the reunion of Blink-182 (Neighborhoods, Number Two, 151,000 copies). Cole’s success is a minor enigma – he received little radio support and his singles and videos, particularly last year’s “Who Dat,” haven’t made a great deal of noise. Even retailers are confused. “I’m really, absolutely not sure,” says Carl Mello, director of music and movie purchasing for the Massachusetts music chain Newbury Comics, adding that he unfortunately bought about a third as many Cole World copies as consumers demanded. This could be a mixtape story, given the underground success of Friday Night Lights last year, or it could just be pure word-of-mouth due to Cole’s Jay-Z connection, upcoming concert tour and opening slot for Rihanna this past summer. (And about that Jay-Z connection – Jigga’s cameo on “Mr. Nice Watch” is, in our mind, the album’s highlight.)
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Lady Antebellum. Two weeks ago, the country trio owned the charts, hitting Number One and hinting it might follow up the multiple-Grammy smash Need You Now with, essentially, part two. But Own the Night, like many high-charting albums this year, quickly dropped like a stone. It lost 40 percent of its sales this week, racking up just 75,000 sold, and a new single has yet to appear. Lady is far from done – their “Saturday Night Live” performance last weekend of new songs “We Owned the Night” and “Just a Kiss” hasn’t totally kicked in for this week’s charts, and the trio begins their U.S. tour at the end of this month. But what the band could really use is a single and a video that has a chance to go viral. That’s pretty much our advice to everybody these days. Don’t settle for just radio and TV, even if you’re big enough to perform on NBC and CBS.
WHEN DOES A SINGLES ARTIST BECOME AN ALBUM ARTIST?: All year, we’ve operated under the assumption that LMFAO’s Sorry for Party Rocking album was purely a singles phenomenon – “Party Rock Anthem” dominated the singles charts for much of this year, while the album has barely gone anywhere. But suddenly the new single “Sexy and I Know It” sells 151,000 copies, jumping to Number Five on Billboard’s digital-singles chart and, as of late last week, jumping 15 spots on BigChampagne’s Ultimate Chart, also to Number Five. (That indicates it’s doing pretty well online, given Facebook likes and YouTube views and such, although the BigChampagne data show LMFAO remains a sales and radio phenomenon.) The new track is Number Nine on iTunes this week, too. So will LMFAO “cross over” into selling records? We doubt it. But maybe if the duo scores enough gigantic singles it’ll just be more cost-effective for consumers to buy them in one package – just in time for Christmas.