Taylor Swift's fans have given her the perfect birthday present: They sent her album Red back to #1 on The Billboard 200. (Swift turns 23 on Thursday.) The album has sold 2,383,000 copies in just seven weeks. That's more than any other album has sold in such a short time span since Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream sold 3,196,000 copies in its first seven weeks in 2009 and early 2010.
Red has sold at least 137K copies in each of its first seven weeks. You might not think that would be that would be so hard, but these days it is. Rihanna's Unapologetic and Alicia Keys' Girl On Fire have each had just one week with sales above 100K. Ke$ha's Warrior debuts this week with sales of just 86K. And those are three of the hottest female artists in the business.
How is Swift able to defy the trends? It's easy to give credit to her vast country crossover constituency, but no other country artists sell like this.
Swift has sold 20,487,000 albums, which is more than any other artist who has come on the scene in the past 10 years. Her closest rivals are 50 Cent (16,535,000) and Michael Buble (16,137,000).
Nielsen SoundScan's running list of the artists who have sold the most albums since 1991 includes 10 artists who first hit The Billboard 200 since December 2002. Swift, 50 Cent and Buble are followed by Carrie Underwood (13,797,000, Beyonce (as a solo artist, 13,038,000), Adele (12,628,000), Kelly Clarkson (11,969,000), Kanye West (11,780,000), Evanescence (11,052,000) and Maroon 5 (10,469,000).
This is Red's fourth week at #1 on The Billboard 200. The album is #1 on Top Country Albums for the seventh week.
Wiz Khalifa's O.N.I.F.C. debuts at #2. It's the rapper's second album in a row to debut at #2, following Rolling Papers in April 2011. The title of the new album is an acronym for Only N**** In First Class, or, for fans who prefer a tamer alternative, One Night In First Class. This echoes Chris Brown's 2011 album F.A.M.E., which stood for Forgiving All My Enemies, or for fans with tender sensibilities, Fans Are My Everything. You can always tell when a title is made up after the fact to be the "clean version." It just kind of sits there.
O.N.I.F.C. sold 87K digital copies, which puts it at #1 on Top Digital Albums.
Rod Stewart's Merry Christmas, Baby holds at #3 for the second straight week. It's the highest-ranking of 79 holiday albums on this week's Billboard 200. Will it ever make #1? Probably not. Taylor Swift may well hold the top spot through the end of the year.
One Direction's Take Me Home holds at #4 for the second week. The boy band didn't receive any Grammy nominations, and even went home empty-handed from the American Music Awards, but it keeps selling records. Take Me Home this week cracks the top 10 in year-to-date sales. It's #9. The quintet's earlier album Up All Night is #3 for the year-to-date. One Direction is the only act with two albums in the top 10 for the year-to-date. There are still three more chart weeks left in the year, but if this holds, One Direction will become the first act to have two albums in Nielsen SoundScan's year-end top 10 since 2008, when Taylor Swift was #3 with Fearless and #6 with Taylor Swift.
In addition, Up All Night—The Live Tour logs its 25th week at #1 on Top Music Videos. It's the first music video to log 25 weeks at #1 since Pink Floyd's Pulse, which spent a total of 25 weeks at #1 from June 1995 to October 2006. (Both are British.)
Michael Buble's Christmas jumps from #7 to #5. This marks the third time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that a Christmas album that was first released in a previous holiday season has ranked among the top five weekly best-sellers in a subsequent holiday season. Kenny G's Miracles—The Holiday Album was the third best-selling album for two weeks in 1995. Josh Groban's Noel was the fourth best-selling album for two weeks in 2008. (Catalog albums didn't appear on The Billboard 200 until December 2009. But Nielsen SoundScan compiled a "Comprehensive Albums" chart that combined current and catalog albums, just as The Billboard 200 now does, so we can compare then and now.)
Ke$ha's Warrior debuts at #6. In January 2010, when Ke$ha was riding her breakthrough smash "TiK ToK," her debut album Animal sold 152K copies in its first week. This week, after a long string of hits, her second full-length album Warrior sold 86K copies in its first week. This seems backwards. It would make more sense if Animal had sold 86K copies (Ke$ha was, after all, an unknown quantity beyond that one song) and Warrior had sold 152K, after she'd proven herself again and again.
So what's the answer here? The stronger first-week sales for Animal reflect the massive popularity of "TiK ToK" (which topped the Hot 100 for nine weeks). Her current hit, "Die Young," appears to have peaked at #2. It's a solid hit, but not a phenomenal hit like "TiK ToK" was.
Florida Georgia Line's debut studio album Here's To The Good Times opens at #10. "Cruise" is a top 20 hit on the Hot 100 and has been locked at #2 for five weeks on Hot Country Songs behind Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Will it move up to #1 this week? Stay tuned.
Shameless Plug: We'll post my annual look at the year's top-selling albums today. There's great news in there for Adele, Taylor Swift, One Direction and also a few people who may surprise you. There are still three chart weeks left in 2012. I'll update all the tallies in the report on Thursday Jan. 3, when Nielsen SoundScan posts the final weekly chart of 2012.
Bruno Mars' "Locked Out Of Heaven" jumps to #1 on Hot Digital Songs. It's his fifth #1 on that chart. It also jumps to #1 on the Hot 100. It's his fourth #1 on that chart. I'll have more to say about that when we post Chart Watch Songs later today.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
The Top Five: Taylor Swift's Red returns to #1 in its seventh week (167K). This is its fourth week on top; its seventh week in the top five...Wiz Khalifa's O.N.I.F.C. debuts at #2 (141K). This is his second top five album, following Rolling Papers (#2 in 2011)…Rod Stewart's Merry Christmas, Baby holds at #3 for the second week in its sixth week (127K). This is its sixth week in the top 10…One Direction's Take Me Home holds at #4 for the second week in its fourth week (107K). This is its fourth week in the top 10…Michael Buble's Christmas rebounds from #7 to #5 in its 17th week on the chart (106K). This is its 11th week in the top 10.
The Second Five: Ke$ha's Warrior debuts at #6 (86K). This is her second top 10 album, following Animal (#1 in 2010)…Alicia Keys' Girl On Fire drops from #1 to #7 (77K)… Blake Shelton's Cheers, It's Christmas jumps from #9 to #8 in its ninth week (68K). This is its second week in the top 10….Phillip Phillips' The World From The Side Of The Moon drops from #5 to #9 in its third week (65K)… Florida Georgia Line's Here's To The Good Times debuts at #10 (63K). It's the group's first top 10 album.
Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Rihanna's Unapologetic drops from #6 to #12. Lady Antebellum's On This Winter's Night drops from #8 to #11. Kid Rock's Rebel Soul drops from #10 to #17.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 drops from #30 to #41 in its fourth week. It's #1 on Top Soundtracks for the fourth week. The movie was #3 at the box-office after three weekends on top.
Skyfall returned to #1 in its fifth weekend at the box-office. The Skyfall soundtrack, which does not include Adele's hit title song, sold about 1K copies this week, too few to make The Billboard 200. The score by Thomas Newman has sold just 13K copies to date. (The nerve of fans wanting the hit!)
The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 1959 album Time Out Featuring "Take Five" returns to The Billboard 200 at #123 one week after Brubeck's death (which occurred one day shy of his 92nd birthday). The album, boosted by the top 30 instrumental hit "Take Five," reached #2 in November 1961.
Pearl Jam's 1993 album Vs. tops the 6 million mark in sales this week. It's the 100th album to reach sales of 6 million copies since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991. It's the band's second best-selling album. Ten has sold 9,983,000 copies since its release in late 1991.
Coming Attractions: Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox is expected to be next week's top new entry, with first-week sales in the 140K range. Also due: The Game's Jesus Piece (75K), Green Day's Tre! (55K),The Music Of Nashville (40K), Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Vol. 3 (35K), Big Boi's Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors (25K), Jenni Rivera's La Misma Gran Senora (25K) and Lifehouse's Almeria (15K). The 13-song Rivera compilation was announced in October.