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On the Charts: Lady Gaga and Prince Look to Boost a Slow Year

Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift and Jessie battle for Hot 100 supremacy

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform in Montreal, Canada.

Patrick Beaudry/Getty

Remember that time 32 years ago when the record industry was in a slump and Michael Jackson released Thriller to save everybody? Labels better hope Taylor Swift‘s 1989 is like that. Album sales are down 14 percent (still) and track sales are down 13 percent (still), and while streaming revenues are growing, they’re not enough to keep those CEO bonuses afloat in the post-CD era. 

CAN XMAS ALBUMS BE FAR BEHIND?: Big-time star power finally arrives for the holiday shopping season – Lady Gaga and Kenny Chesney last week, Prince and Lady Antebellum this week, Taylor Swift at the end of this month. Then again, Lady Gaga isn’t really Lady Gaga at the moment. Her duets project Cheek to Cheek, co-starring 88-year-old and still impossibly suave crooner Tony Bennett, is a delightful little album – but it isn’t a mega-hit. It makes its chart debut at Number One with 131,000 copies, a respectful number in these days of sunsetting CD sales, and enough to overcome Chesney’s The Big Revival (Number Two, 130,000) and Barbra Streisand‘s second-week Partners (which drops 35 percent, to Number Three, with 127,000 copies).

WILL SWEDEN DISPLACE AMERICA ON THE SINGLES CHART?: Fall singles have more or less solidified into a top-of-the-charts blob of Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass” jumps from Number Two to Number One, selling 253,000), Taylor Swift (“Shake It Off” drops from Number One to Number Two, with 224,000) and Ariana GrandeJessie J and Nicki Minaj (their “Bang Bang” sticks at Number Three, with 125,000). One possible challenger to their Top Three hegemony is Swedish singer Tove Lo, whose clubbing, bisexual-smooching, sad-alcoholic-comedown “Habits (Stay High)” video has drawn more than 23 million YouTube views since it came out last March — and jumped 14 slots, to Number Six, on BigChampagne’s Ultimate Chart. Sales-wise, the song is up 1 percent, with 109,000 copies, enough for a boost from Number Five to Number Four.

POSSIBLE HOLIDAY SLEEPER?: Kendrick Lamar‘s single “i” barely touched the Top 10 on Billboard‘s Digital Songs chart, selling 76,000 copies. But the song has streamed 1.6 million times on Spotify, and his as-yet-untitled album, a follow-up to his 2012 debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city, is due sometime this year. I have no statistical evidence that Lamar’s album will perform better than any other fall album by a somewhat well-known hip-hop star, but I sure like this new single, with its reproduction of the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady,” so that must count for something.

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