Week Ending April 8, 2012. Albums: MDNA Takes A TMBL
Madonna's MDNA tumbles from #1 to #8 in its second week on The Billboard 200. Sales plummeted by 87%, from 359K to just 48K. That's the largest second-week decline for an album that debuted at #1 since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. It surpasses two albums from last year: Lady Gaga's Born This Way (which dove by 84% in June) and Mac Miller's Blue Slide Park (which dropped off by 83% in November).
Sales of Michael Buble's Christmas plummeted by 96% the week after Christmas, but it was in its 10th week at that point. And the drop was inevitable. Once Christmas is over, it's over. Gaga's first week was inflated by an infamous 99-cent promotion. And Miller isn't exactly an icon and an international superstar.
So what's the story with Madonna?
Madonna's opening-week sales tally included about 185K copies that were bundled with the purchase of tickets to her upcoming tour. It's impossible to know how many of those fans would have bought the album if it hadn't been bundled with the concert ticket. Some would have, to be sure. But others wanted to see the show and didn't much care about the new album. It's the same story with many other veteran artists, from the Rolling Stones to Barry Manilow.
Since there's a complication with the opening week number, let's put it aside and instead compare the second-week tallies on Madonna's eight studio albums of the Nielsen SoundScan era. The second week tally for MDNA (48K) is by far Madonna's lowest since 1991. Her previous worst was 1994's Bedtime Stories, which sold 86K copies in its second week. Here are the second-week tallies on Madonna's last eight studio albums, shown from best to worst: 1998's Ray Of Light (224K), 2000's Music (212K), 2005's Confessions On A Dance Floor (210K), 1992's Erotica (100K), 2008's Hard Candy (94K), 2003's American Life (91K), 1994's Bedtime Stories (86K) and 2012's MDNA (48K).
This is the third time in less than a year that a chart achievement has come under scrutiny in the industry and in the music press. As noted, Lady Gaga's Born This Way sold 1,108,000 copies in its first week in May 2011, boosted by an AmazonMP3 promotion at what then seemed to be the rock-bottom price of 99 cents. (The next week, with the sale over, sales tumbled by 84% to 174K.) Last month, several albums surged when they were offered for just 25 cents at Google Play and AmazonMP3. Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits made the most dramatic jump, to #3. (It plummeted to #152 the very next week, as sales fell from 85K to just 3K). I think if I were an artist I'd nix the gimmicky promotions. They work in the short term and cause the artists embarrassment in the long term.
Part of the problem is that Madonna's "Give Me All Your Lovin'" has been only a medium-sized hit. It spent just one week in the top 10. By contrast, "4 Minutes," the first single from Madonna's last studio album, Hard Candy, logged 11 weeks in the top 10. Madonna could really use a hit song all her own. Her last two top 10 hits were collabos with artists who were hotter at the time than she was: Justin Timberlake on "4 Minutes" and Nicki Minaj on "Give Me All Your Luvin'" (which also features M.I.A.) Madonna's last top 10 hit (or top 40 hit, for that matter) that wasn't a collabo was 2005's "Hung Up." That's not an eternity, but it's a long time.