2013 is a week old, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to look back and find out how good 2012 was for the music industry.
And we swear–this will be the last Best Music of 2012 entry we post! Hurray!
Truth is, 2012 was a mixed bag. Album sales trended downward once again, after the bright spot that was 2011. Of course, there was no juggernaut album last year to match Adele’s monster 21. Interestingly, the album that made 2011 such a year to remember wound up being the #1 seller of 2012 as well. Despite a late charge from Taylor Swift’s Red, 21 handily scored the year’s biggest album sales with nearly 4.5 million copies sliding across counters (real and virtual) in the U.S. It’s the first album to score #1 honors for two years running since a little album called Thriller scored first place honors in 1983 and 1984. Amazingly, Adele did it without following much of the trends that pop stars seem compelled to follow. She didn’t-couldn’t-tour behind the album, wasn’t bothered to be a tabloid fixture, didn’t whore herself out to radio shows, didn’t take her clothes off on magazine covers, and wasn’t a drug-addled mess. Kudos to her.
Only nine albums besides 21 managed to cross the million sold barrier this year, and it’s certainly worth mentioning that 5 of them come from the country genre. As much as Taylor Swift’s music has become more and more pop-based, she’s still considered country, and she led the pack in her genre with 3.1 million copies sold of Red (in barely two months.) Joining her in the platinum club were Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean and moonlighter/comeback king Lionel Richie, whose Tuskegee album (featuring remakes of his hits with today’s hottest C&W artists) sold a shade under 1.1 million copies, becoming Richie’s biggest selling album in over two decades. His last Platinum selling album was the greatest hits collection Back To Front, back in 1992.
The teen-pop renaissance picked up steam in 2012 courtesy of OneDirection. The UK-based boy band scored two of the year’s top ten albums with Up All Night and Take Me Home selling a combined 3 million copies and counting. Those aren’t N’Sync and Backstreet Boys numbers, but then again, this ain’t 1999 anymore. Add in 1.3 million copies sold of Justin Bieber’s Believe, and you can rest assured that teenage girls spent a solid amount of money on music this past year. That didn’t translate over to OneDirection’s teen pop rivals The Wanted, though. That outfit’s debut EP couldn’t even crack the 200K barrier, despite their “Glad You Came” single selling over 3.2 million copies digitally.
Genres that didn’t have the best year? Rock, R&B and rap. The only million-seller to come from any of the three genres was Mumford & Sons’ Babel, a late year release that managed to snap up an impressive 1.5 million in sales. The year’s biggest rap release? Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which moved a ho-hum 785,000 copies. Even more embarrassingly, the year’s biggest-selling R&B album? Whitney Houston’s decade-old Greatest Hits. In the aftermath of the diva’s sudden passing, the 2000 double-disc set sold 886,000 copies. It was the only R&B album to sell over 450,000 copies in 2012–assuming you count Rihanna as a pop artist and not an R&B singer. The Barbadian vocalist did sell over half a million copies of two different albums (2011’s Talk That Talk and last year’s Unapologetic,) but she herself would likely tell you that she isn’t an R&B artist.
This brings us to the year’s sales disappointments. Highly anticipated albums by Madonna, John Mayer, Usher and Dave Matthews Band sold moderately well (at least Mayer’s nagging vocal problems provided him with an excuse) without being out-and-out flops. We can’t necessarily say the same for the following artists-all of whom released albums in 2012 that sold less than 300,000 copies: Tim McGraw, Green Day (three of ‘em,) The Killers, B.o.B. (suffering the sophomore slump of the year,) The Shins, The Fray, and R. Kelly. Heavily hyped comeback albums from No Doubt and Matchbox Twenty both started off strong and then sank like a stone-topping off around the quarter-million mark.
Will 2013 bring good news? It’s way too early to tell. After all, the release schedule is pretty much a blank page at this point. However, no one predicted 21 was gonna be the juggernaut it was, right? Lightning can strike twice. I guess time will tell…
In the meantime, here’s a list of every album that sold over 500,000 copies in 2012.
Adele | 21
Taylor Swift | Red
One Direction | Up All Night
Mumford & Sons | Babel
One Direction | Take Me Home
Justin Bieber | Believe
Carrie Underwood | Blown Away
Luke Bryan | Tailgates & Tanlines
Lionel Richie | Tuskegee
Jason Aldean | Night Train
Maroon 5 | Overexposed
P!nk | The Truth About Love
Fun. | Some Nights
Whitney Houston | The Greatest Hits
Rod Stewart | Merry Christmas Baby
Nicki Minaj | Pink Friday : Roman Reloaded
Eric Church | Chief
Various Artists | Now That’s What I Call Music 41
Zac Brown Band | Uncaged
Adele | 19
Gotye | Making Mirrors
Drake | Take Care
Lumineers | Lumineers
The Black Keys | El Camino
Mumford & Sons | Sigh No More
Katy Perry | Teenage Dream
Michael Buble | Christmas
Little Big Town | Tornado
Jason Aldean | My Kinda Party
Kenny Chesney | Welcome To The Fishbowl
Lady Antebellum | Own the Night
Kendrick Lamar | Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
Of Monsters & Men | My Head is an Animal
Linkin Park | Living Things
Kelly Clarkson | Stronger
Rihanna | Unapologetic
Rihanna | Talk That Talk
Phillip Phillips | The World From the Side of the Moon
John Mayer | Born & Raised
Madonna | MDNA
Various Artists | Now That’s What I Call Music 43
Various Artists | Now That’s What I Call Music 44
Coldplay | Mylo Xyloto
*Dave Matthews Band’s Away From The World and Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox will both likely cross the 500K mark next week.