Not sure why, but Billboard didn't include the overall music sales numbers in its chart story this week — so we're left to assume albums remain down around 12 or 13 percent and tracks are still down 13 percent. We'll see next week if this data returns.
UP WITH STREAMING! UP WITH TAYLOR! DOWN WITH TRACK EQUIVALENCY!: Billboard's new chart formula kicks in this week, and, surprise, Number One is not some Spotify-fueled unknown but Taylor Swift, whose 1989 jumps from Number Two to Number One. She sold 281,000 albums by traditional standards, but her newfangled "sales" number, incorporating streaming data from Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and others, as well as "track equivalent albums," totals 339,000. I support more streaming data, because that's the future of music consumption, but the track-equivalent thing seems faked and forced — a chart already exists for tracks, and 10 individually purchased songs from an album isn’t the same as an “album sale."
HOLIDAY ALBUM OF THE YEAR?: Every year at this time, Americans have a tradition of turning some mediocre holiday album into a smash. (Why they can't listen to the classics rather than turning to some Mariah Carey retread just because it's new continues to confuse me.) This year's installment is Pentatonix' That's Christmas To Me, which jumps from Number Three to Number Two — and it's mostly album sales, with 217,000, or 227,000 overall under Billboard's new formula. CDs still make better gifts than Spotify subscriptions, apparently.
BEAN-COUNTERS GIVE ARIANA GRANDE A RESURGENT ALBUM: The most obvious chart winner after Billboard's new emphasis on "units" rather than traditional sales is Ariana Grande's My Everything — it sold just 47,000 albums, but added 19,000 track-equivalent albums and 6,000 streaming-equivalent albums, jumping from Number 39 to Number Seven in the past week. But here's where my problem kicks in: Ariana Grande is a fantastic singles artist and a so-so album-seller. There already exists a chart for such a pop star — it's called the Hot 100, and Grande and her singles brethren, such as Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, deserve to rule it forever. They shouldn't get a free pass to the album charts due to an accounting change.