I don’t know if this is a new record or anything, but I read somewhere recently that the top 20 albums on Billboard’s Top 200 albums charts sold less than 750,000 copies combined last week. Which seems amazing when you think that albums like 50 Cent’s The Massacre or, for my fellow senior citizens, Pearl Jam’s Vs. were able to sell more copies in a week by themselves.
And the number one album on the charts last week, Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways, only sold something like 83,000 copies, which is in fact a new record. No number one album on Billboard’s Top 200 has sold less copies since Billboard began using figures from Soundscan way back in 1991.
Interestingly enough though, the recording industry as a whole isn’t doing nearly as bad as you’d think. It was announced not too long ago that once you count in digital downloads and what have you, overall music sales are actually up 24% over 2005. Which is ironic since they’re always complaining that the Internet is driving them out of business.
Of course the rub is that a lot of this newfound growth is coming from music that isn’t worth a shit. The number one album so far this year is some shit called the High School Musical soundtrack. Um, what high school musical? And the rest of the top ten so far this year reads like a sampling of all of the worst trends in music this decade.
Other than whatever the fuck High School Musical is, there’s also gay-ass Nashville country by a group called Rascal Flatts, an album by American Idol runner-up Carrie Underwood, one of those various artists collections, and albums by James Blunt, Mary J. Blige, and the Dixie Chicks. Country music, in particular, is huge this year.
The lone so-called rock album in the top 10 is by Nickelback, who have a single out that somehow manages to sound even more like their first big hit “How You Remind Me” than any of their other attempts to rewrite that song. The only rap album in the top ten is TI’s King, one of the better examples of arguably the worst style of rap out right now.
Meanwhile, the biggest chart news this week in the world of hip-hop is the first week sales for Kanye West’s ghostwriter Rhymefest. His debut album Blue Collar only sold something like 15,000 copies (actually a bit less than that) its first week out. Yikes! Granted, no one was expecting it to do well, but hip-hop labels have to be concerned with numbers like this.
It could be the case that hip-hop is falling out of favor, or that urban kids aren’t copping as many albums from digital music stores like iTunes, but this can’t possibly bode well for other hip-hop artists with similarly limited commercial prospects like Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, and the Clipse, especially the ones who have had to deal with having their albums leaked a while before the release date.