As it turns out, a lot of people wanted to go thrift shopping with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The pair’s first hit, “Thrift Shop” (featuring Wanz), was the biggest hit of the first half of 2013. The genial hip-hop smash sold 5,558,000 copies in the first half of the year, which establishes a new digital sales record. It breaks the record set last year by “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra, which sold 5,501,000 copies in the first half.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis has a second song in the mid-year top 10. “Can’t Hold Us” (featuring Ray Dalton) is #6, with sales of 3,129,000 in the first half. This marks the first time than an artist has had two songs in the mid-year top 10 since Katy Perry scored two years ago with “E.T.” (featuring Kanye West) and “Firework.” It marks the first time that a new artist has achieved the feat since B.o.B scored in 2010 with “Airplanes” (featuring Hayley Williams) and “Nothin’ On You” (featuring Bruno Mars).
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were at the forefront of the hottest trend of the first half of the year: the blurring of racial lines between pop and R&B. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are both white, but their sound is rooted in R&B and hip-hop. “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” were #1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for 21 consecutive weeks. Two other hits in the mid-year top 10 are also what used to be called “blue-eyed soul”: “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z and (the appropriately titled) “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell.
Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was the top album of the first six months. The album, Timberlake’s first since 2006, sold 2,037,000 copies in the first half. This marks the first time that a new release has sold 2 million copies in the first half of the year since Adele’s 21 sold 2,517,000 copies in the first half of 2011. The top new album of 2012, Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, sold 912K copies in the first half. (As a holdover, 21 sold 3,668,000 copies in the first half of 2012, a period which included its Grammy sweep.)
Timberlake’s album sold more copies in the first half than its two closest rivals combined. Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox sold 985K copies in the first half. Mumford & Sons’ Babel sold 884K. (Both of these albums sold many more copies in late 2012. See below.)
As a member of *NSYNC, Timberlake had the best-selling album of the first half of 2000, No Strings Attached (though with a much fatter total: 6,593,000). That album went on to be the top-seller of the entire year. Will 20/20 duplicate that feat? Stay tuned.
Seven songs sold 3 million or more copies in the first half of the year, which breaks the old record of six, set last year. In addition to “Thrift Shop,” the songs were “Just Give Me A Reason by Pink featuring Nate Ruess (3,524,000), Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” (3,424,000), “Stay” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko (3,298,000), Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (3,246,000, the top rock song), “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton (3,129,000) and Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” (3,112,000, the top country song).
The seventh place ranking for “Cruise” is the highest for a country crossover hit since 2010, when Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” was the #3 song of the first half. “Cruise” has been boosted by the release of a genre-bending remix featuring Nelly (which is folded into its overall sales total).
Here’s the rest of the top 10 songs for the first half of the year: “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z (2,574,000), Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” (2,455,000) and “Blurred Lines,” the fast-climbing smash by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell (2,406,000).
This marks the third year in a row that a song has set a new first-half digital sales record. “E.T.” by Katy Perry featuring Kanye West set a record in 2011 when it sold 4,120,000 copies in the first half. (It broke a record that was established two years earlier by Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” which sold 3,516,000 copies in the first half.) As noted above, “Somebody That I Used To Know” broke Perry’s record last year, when it sold 5,501,000 copies in the first half.
A total of 114 songs sold 500K or more copies in the first half, which sets a new record. The old record was 109 songs, set in the first half of 2011. A total of 51 songs topped 1 million, up from 47 in the first half of last year, but below the record-setting pace of 52 in 2011. The number of 2 million-sellers dropped from 15 to 13. The peak was 17 in the first half of 2011.
Here are the top 10 albums for the first half of the year. Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (2,037,000), Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox (985K), Mumford & Sons’ Babel (884K), Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story… (703K, the top country album), Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions (692K, the top debut album), P!nk’s The Truth About Love (674K, the top album by a female artist), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist (653K), The Lumineers’ The Lumineers (649K), Taylor Swift’s Red (616K) and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (614K).
Just for fun, here’s what happens to the above list if we count all of each album’s sales, not just the portion that occurred in 2013. Taylor Swift’s Red zooms to the top (3,723,000), followed by Babel (2,347,000), The 20/20 Experience (2,037,000), The Truth About Love (1,618,000), Unorthodox Jukebox (1,466,000), The Lumineers (1,343,000), Night Visions (1,109,000), The Heist (867K), Based On A True Story… (703K) and Random Access Memories (614K).
Pitch Perfect is the top soundtrack of the first half, with sales (in that period) of 541K. Bruno Mars’ 2010 album Doo-Wops & Hooligans is the top catalog album, with sales of 180K.
This is the fourth year in a row that at least one album has sold 2 million copies in the first half. That’s an improvement from the three years that preceded this streak (2007-2009), when no albums cleared 2 million in the first half.
Fifteen albums sold 500K or more copies in the first half. While this tally is anemic, it’s actually up compared to last year, when just 11 albums sold 500K in the first half of the year. (The first-half tally topped 50 every year from 1994 through 2005.)
The best-selling album of the first half of the year has wound up as the #1 or #2 album of the entire year in all but two years since 1994 (the oldest date that this information is retrievable on the Nielsen SoundScan site). The two exceptions were Garth Brooks’ The Hits, which was the best-seller of the first half of 1995, but slipped to #5 for the entire year, and Daughtry’s Daughtry, which was the best-seller of the first half of 2007, but likewise slipped to #5 for the entire year.
Eagles’ History Of The Eagles was the top-selling music video of the first half, edging out Adele’s Live At The Royal Albert Hall. But their sales tallies are puny. Eagles’ DVD has sold 57K copies. Adele’s has sold 51K copies so far this year. (Live At The Royal Albert Hall has sold 1,089,000 copies since its release after Thanksgiving 2011.) These are the only music videos to sell 50K copies in the first half. By way of comparison, five music videos hit that mark in the first half of 2012.