WINNER OF THE WEEK: Taylor Swift. Duh. Red is not only the best-selling album of this week, it’s the best-selling album of any week since 2002, when Eminem’s The Eminem Show made its debut with 1.322 million in sales. Red actually beat expectations, selling 1.208 million copies, without any sales tricks such as Lady Gaga’s 99-cent Amazon deal or Madonna’s bundling of albums and concert tickets. My theory is that today’s record industry contains exactly two stars who can sell millions of albums at a time – Taylor Swift and Adele. Which may be the ultimate legacy of the crippling MP3 revolution – that the world can have only a couple of Britney-circa-2000 stars at a time. My alternate theory is that for all the whining about the Internet, maybe there just haven’t been that many great, culture-dominating, giant-pop-star records over the past decade.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Everybody else in the Top 10 who had the misfortune of coming out during Taylor Week. Kendrick Lamar’s brilliantly profane Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the rapper’s first major-label album after a robust indie career, has to settle for Number Two with a respectable 241,000 sales. Also growing up on the pop charts is bluesman Gary Clark Jr., whose Blak & Blu sells 35,000 and hits Number Six, his first bona fide major-label studio album after an excellent EP last year. I bet pop stars who waited to release albums until the holiday season will wind up bummed out, destined perhaps beyond the end of this year to settle for Number Two to Swift’s undead Red.
A GOLDEN AGE OF INDIES?: Remember the good old days, in the Fifties and Sixties, when mom-and-pop record labels such as Sun, Motown, Stax and Chess regularly put out the best music despite competition with megacorporations such as Columbia and RCA? Could we be in another age like that? The chart statistics would certainly suggest it – the American Association of Independent Music reports the last five Number One albums have been Mumford and Sons’ Babel (on tiny Glassnote Records, for three weeks this month), Jason Aldean’s Night Train (on Broken Bow) and Swift’s Red (on Big Machine, although that’s a bit misleading since it has a distribution deal with giant Universal). A2IM calls this a “thrilling moment” and “just the beginning,” which may be true, given major-label defections from Madonna to the Eagles in recent years – and don’t forget that Adele’s 21, the biggest album of the last few years, arrived on indie XL (through Sony).
LAST WEEK: Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ Set to Blow Up