Week Ending June 23, 2013. Albums: Yeezus!
This week may mark the first time that the title of the #1 album also approximates what the artist blurts out when he is told his first-week sales number. Kanye West’s Yeezus enters The Billboard 200 at #1, with first-week sales of 327K. It’s West’s first studio album to sell fewer than 400K copies in its first week. The tally is down significantly from West’s last solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which sold 496K in its first week in November 2010 (at the start of the holiday shopping season).
West’s album sold just 30K more copies than J. Cole’s sophomore album, Born Sinner, which debuts at #2 this week with first-week sales of 297K. This is West’s narrowest margin of victory to date. It’s the first time he has debuted at #1 with less than a 120K sales lead over #2.
West’s tally is just 9K ahead of what Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience sold in its second week in March (after selling 968K in its first week). West’s total is 17K behind what Taylor Swift’s Red sold in its second week in November 2012 (after blowing through 1,208,000 copies in its first week).
The initial first-week sales projection for Yeezus was 500K, but it was scaled back to about 370K the day after the album went on sale. By Friday, it was scaled back again to about 335K. It came in a little below that.
West’s characteristic bravado helped set up expectations for the album that would be hard to meet. “Man, I'm the Number One living and breathing rock star,” he said in a recent profile with W. (He was explaining how he came to write “I Am A God,” a track on the new album.)
He compared himself to Axl Rose, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. That comparison is apt. West has rock-star attitude to burn. Note that he didn’t say “I’m the Number One living and breathing record seller.” He’s a big seller, but he’s no Swift or Timberlake, to say nothing of Adele.
In the W interview, West seems aware of the benefits and costs of his ego. “On one end, I try to scale it back,” he said. “Because I don't want to close any of the doors needed to create the best product possible. But my ego is my drug. My drug is, ‘I'm better than all you other mother*******. Kiss my ***!’”