Pearl Jam and Paul McCartney both landed nicely on the charts in their first weeks, but neither one could reverse the dismal overall trend of dwindling album sales (down six percent) and single sales (down four percent). The big question of this holiday shopping season is whether blockbuster pop acts like Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry can make any difference.
STREAM THE ALBUM, BUY THE CONCERT TICKET: Remember the halcyon days of Ten and Vitalogy selling gazillions of copies to alternative rockers everywhere? Remember the even more halcyon days when anything with McCartney’s name on it was guaranteed to move a couple million? That was then. Now, PJ’s Lightning Bolt hit Number One with 166,000 copies sold; that’s actually on the high end for a rock album these days, but it’s still considerably less than, say, Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz (which was itself seen as underperforming compared to some expectations – more on that in a bit). McCartney’s New, meanwhile, is at Number Three with 67,000 copies sold. At least that’s more than Drake’s month-old Nothing Was the Same (58,000, a drop of 30 percent) and the Avett Brothers’ new Magpie and the Dandelion (almost 58,000).
THANKS, BRENT MUSBURGER: Eminem is two for three in successful chart singles so far this year – “Berzerk” made its debut at Number Two, selling a respectable 362,000 copies a few months ago, and the new “Rap God” leapfrogged Lorde’s “Royals” to hit Number One this week with 270,000 download sales. His only whiff was “Survival,” which began at Number Seven, sold just 112,000 copies, and has since disappeared. “Rap God,” despite its controversy over homophobic lyrics, shakes up what has been a fairly consistent Digital Singles chart for the past few weeks. “Royals” will probably stick around for a while – it sold 256,000 copies, a drop of 13 percent. But Katy Perry’s longer “Roar” run may be slowing down; it drops from Number Two to Number Three, selling 189,000 copies, a decrease of four percent.
OUT WITH A BANG: Whatever else you might say about Miley Cyrus, she went for it. I can imagine a meeting between her and her managers in which the former Hannah Montana star suggested she wanted to grow up in such a way that she wouldn’t wind up in the child-star dustbin next to Shaun Cassidy, Nick Carter and Hilary Duff. She could have made a Carole King album, baring her soul in a high-minded singer-songwriter way, but Kelly Clarkson tried that a while back without much commercial success. So Cyrus went for over-the-top pop shock and awe, in a way that many of us will never forget. Did it work? She sold millions of singles, did a nice job of hosting Saturday Night Live and dominated the zeitgeist most of this fall. But Bangerz, the album, dropped 73 percent in its second week, selling just 72,000 copies. That would suggest that we’re looking at an album without much chart longevity. Perhaps Miley is going for the Katy Perry-Rihanna formula: singles and tour big enough to forget how the album did.
Last week: Miley Cyrus’ ‘Bangerz’ Finally Kicks In