The Billboard charts find themselves in their usual post-holiday free fall this week. Taylor Swift remains at the top with Speak Now, although she suffers a 72% drop in scans to 77,000 units sold. This is usually the time when older-skewing albums drop like stones, allowing for albums with a little more youth appeal to shoot up the charts. Five albums are in the Top Ten that weren’t there last week, led by Kanye West, who jumps from 19-5. He’s followed by Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy Soundtrack (27-6), Bruno Mars (20-7), Mumford and Sons (34-8) and Katy Perry (12-9). They replace Jamie Foxx (6-11), Michael Jackson (5-18), Susan Boyle (who plummets 2-31), Jackie Evancho (4-39), and the “Glee” Christmas album, which nosedives from #3 to #108.
The bigger news is that we’ve now wrapped up Week 52 of the year in music, and the end results are a bit sobering. Sales of full albums was down more than 10% over the previous year. You can look at that one way, and say that over 300 million albums were sold in 2010, or you can look at it another way and say that less than 10 years ago, over 700 million albums were sold within a calendar year. Either way, it’s obvious that people are consuming music in other ways; whether they legally download songs only, whether they illegally download music exclusively, or whether they just use streaming services to listen to their music. The game has changed, although there are some people who are wondering if things have reached their lowest point. It’s hard to answer that question, as a generation of people is being brought up with the idea that music doesn’t have any monetary value. It’s gonna be hard to stop that theory from becoming more and more of a reality.
At any rate, when it comes to the year end rankings, Taylor Swift was unable to unseat Lady Antebellum or Eminem from the top of the list. Lady A’s Need You Now scored second place with just under 3.1 million sold, while Eminem’s Recovery held the top position with 3.4 million. Speak Now came in third with just a shade under 3 million sold. They were by far the biggest sellers in a year when only 13 albums scanned over a million copies. It’s certainly the lowest amount of million-sellers in recent memory, and it seems like artists are having a little trouble capturing that mass-appeal market. 48 albums sold over 500,000 copies this year (with two more coming within 10,000 units), and (if we can focus on the good side for a moment), the albums that reached that mark were pretty frickin’ diverse. You can check out the list of the Top 50 albums after the jump.
Diversity aside, two things stick out when you look at the list: a lack of “heritage” artists and a lack of rock music. Only three artists in the year-end Top 10 have been around for a decade or more: Eminem (who first charted in 1999), Usher (who first charted in 1993), and Sade (the granddaddy of them all-they first charted in 1984). Stretch it out to the Top 20 and only one other artist gets added: The Black Eyed Peas. It seems like legendary artists with long careers have trouble selling massive quantities of records. The only artist besides Sade in the Top 50 whose career predates 1990 is the duo of Carole King and James Taylor. Not sure what that suggests. Are fans of older artists not buying records, or are they just not being marketed to correctly?
As far as rock goes, the highest ranking “rock” artist on the entire chart is Jack Johnson at #27. Most of the higher ranked rock albums are either in the adult-alternative subgenre or skew more “indie”. While 20 years ago you would have found a mess of rock bands in the upper reaches of the chart, the only two bands in the Top 50 who would remotely qualify as hard or aggressive rock bands are Linkin Park and Kings of Leon. Again, it raises a question: are rock fans no longer buying records? Or are they just not being marketed to correctly?
Numbers aside, there were a bunch of stories to tell about the year in music. There were comebacks (Eminem, Train, Monica), new artist successes (Mumford & Sons), breakthroughs (The Black Keys), and…well, a ton of surprising flops. Take a look at some of the artists whose most recent efforts didn’t even crack the 300K mark this year: Rod Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Toby Keith and Santana all had albums that failed to meet expectations (in most cases, the public simply-and correctly- realized the albums weren’t very good).
Check out the full list of Top 50 albums after the jump. They are ranked explicitly by sales during the calendar year 2010. All of the albums except the last two sold upwards of 500,000 units.
1) Recovery, Eminem
2) Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
3) Speak Now, Taylor Swift
4) My World 2.0, Justin Bieber
5) The Gift, Susan Boyle
6) The Fame, Lady GaGa
7) Soldier of Love, Sade
8) Thank Me Later, Drake
9) Raymond v. Raymond, Usher
10) Animal, Ke$ha
11) The E.N.D., The Black Eyed Peas
12) The Foundation, Zac Brown Band
13) O Holy Night, Jackie Evancho
14) Teenage Dream, Katy Perry
15) My World, Justin Bieber
16) Glee: The Music-Christmas, Glee Cast
17) Fearless, Taylor Swift
18) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
19) I Dreamed a Dream, Susan Boyle
20) Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj
21) The Fame: Monster (EP), Lady GaGa
22) The Incredible Machine, Sugarland
23) Revolution, Miranda Lambert
24) Crazy Love, Michael Buble
25) Loud, Rihanna
26) Play On, Carrie Underwood
27) To the Sea, Jack Johnson
28) Rebirth, Lil Wayne
29) Now That’s What I Call Music 33, Various Artists
30) The Element of Freedom, Alicia Keys
31) My Kinda Party, Jason Aldean
32) I’m Not a Human Being, Lil Wayne
33) Illuminations, Josh Groban
34) Born Free, Kid Rock
35) Passion, Pain & Pleasure, Trey Songz
36) Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons
37) A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park
38) Hemingway’s Whiskey, Kenny Chesney
39) Glee: The Music Vol. 3, Glee Cast
40) You Get What You Give, Zac Brown Band
41) Battle of the Sexes, Ludacris
42) Live at the Troubadour, Carole King & James Taylor
43) Nothing Like This, Rascal Flatts
44) Still Standing, Monica
45) Teflon Don, Rick Ross
46) Save Me San Francisco, Train
47) Rated R, Rihanna
48) Twilight: Eclipse Soundtrack, Various Artists
49) Come Around Sundown, Kings of Leon
50) The Adventures of Bobby Ray, B.o.B