WINNER OF THE WEEK: The Grammy Awards. Although the CBS telecast’s ratings dropped compared to last year (due, understandably, to not having an emotional last-minute Whitney Houston tribute), the numbers were nonetheless respectable. They were even more dramatic on the pop charts – Mumford and Sons’ Babel was the big sales winner, rising 242 percent with 185,000 sold, an increase from Number Four to Number One. Not surprisingly, Number Two is the 2013 Grammy Nominees collection, which had a 136 percent sales boost and rose from Number 11 to Number Two, with 88,000 copies. Other Grammy-performer beneficiaries: Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox (86,000, up 112 percent, from Number Eight to Number Three); Taylor Swift’s Red (72,000, up 106 percent, from Number 12 to Number Four); Fun.’s Some Nights (66,000, up 118 percent, from Number 14 to Number Seven); and Rihanna‘s single “Stay” (306,000 digital songs, up 358 percent, from Number 25 to Number Two). Which album will stay on the charts, long-term, after this week’s Grammy boost? My money’s on Mumford, Mars and Swift – they have other potential singles, and they’re about to do high-profile tours.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Everybody not related to the Grammys. Just about every album on last week’s charts dropped precipitously – Josh Groban’s All That Echoes (see below), Tim McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom, the Now 45 compilation and Andrea Bocelli’s Passione. Because of this, rather than cracking on Groban’s album for its 50 percent decline, I’ll let someone from his camp defend him from my declaration last week that he’s a “pop star old people like.” The source says Groban mounted a vigorous online campaign, including a pre-release, full-album iTunes stream – and the album sold 30,000 digital copies out of its 145,000 last week. This person adds: “No one should dismiss selling 145,000 records and debuting at the top of the chart as simply being due to old-school ways and old-school record-buyers and so it is time to move on.” Fair point, and I admit the “old people” line was over the top. But I’d still argue that artists (usually younger) who want to stay on the album charts these days for a long period of time need a succession of hit singles. Those who emphasize full albums (usually older) – whether it’s Groban, Madonna, Kid Rock or McGraw, who dropped out of the Top 10 after hitting Number Two last week – are doomed to fleeting success on the album charts.
TURNS OUT TO BE HARD TO DO THE HARLEM SHAKE AND TYPE AT THE SAME TIME: The smart money for Psy-of-the-year is on Brooklyn’s Baauer, whose “Harlem Shake” actually came out around the time of “Gangnam Style” last summer but didn’t take off until it became a spontaneous viral dance craze earlier this month, thanks to spastic group-dance “cover” versions from sources as disparate as Filthy Frank and Jimmy Fallon. It sold 262,000 digital songs this week, making for a ridiculous increase of 1,359 percent after last week’s 18,000. Its original (non-video) YouTube has more than 12.6 million views, and other versions have multiple millions as well; the song is at Number Three this week on both Billboard‘s digital-songs chart and iTunes’ top songs, although it came on so quickly that it has yet to crack BigChampagne’s latest Ultimate Chart, which usually predicts Internet-type phenomena like this one.
Last week: Josh Groban, Tim McGraw Debut One-Two