Week Ending March 24, 2013. Albums: Timberlake Sets Male Pop Record
Justin Timberlake’s third solo album, The 20/20 Experience, enters The Billboard 200 at #1 with first-week sales of 968K. That’s the biggest one-week sales tally since Taylor Swift’s Red sold 1,208,000 copies in its first week in October. It’s the biggest one-week tally by a male artist since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III opened with sales of 1,006,000 in September 2008. It’s the biggest one-week tally in the first quarter of the year (when sales are generally slower) since 50 Cent’s The Massacre opened with sales of 1,141,000 in March 2005.
The 20/20 Experience also set a new record for the biggest one-week sales tally for an album by a male pop artist since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard. This stat excludes R&B (Usher), country (Garth Brooks) and rap (Eminem, 50 Cent and Lil Wayne). Who held the previous record? Try and guess. Details below.
First-week sales projections for Timberlake’s album were revised upward several times, from the initial forecast of 500K on March 11. About the only disappointment for Timberlake is that 20/20 just missed becoming the 19th album to sell 1 million copies in a week since 1991. No album has ever come so close to the magic 1M mark without quite reaching it.
Each of Timberlake’s three solo albums has sold more copies in its first week than the one that preceded it. Justified sold 439K copies in its first week in November 2002. FutureSex/LoveSounds sold 684K copies in its first week in September 2006.
Timberlake took a huge risk going 6-1/2 years between studio albums. That’s a lifetime in pop music. Swift, Lady Gaga, Adele and Justin Bieber are just a few of the artists who have debuted since Timberlake released his last album. You could say that Timberlake’s faith in his fans to remain loyal while he was off doing other things was Justified.
After just one week, The 20/20 Experience is already the best-selling album so far in 2013. The runner-up is Mumford & Sons’ Babel, which has sold 658K copies in this calendar year. Babel won a Grammy for Album of the Year in February. The 20/20 Experience is likely to be nominated for that award next February. Timberlake’s first two solo albums were both finalists for the award.
Timberlake has now had as many #1 albums on his own as he did with *NSYNC. That boy band topped the chart with 2000’s No Strings Attached and 2001’s Celebrity. It’s easy now to take Timberlake’s emergence from that group for granted, but it was a remarkable feat. Very few members of boy bands have gone on to successful careers as solo artists.
The 20/20 Experience is the 23rd album since 1991 to sell 900K or more copies in one week. Timberlake has three of them (counting the two aforementioned *NSYNC albums). No other artist has topped 900K in weekly sales with three albums. (Trailing with two albums at or above 900K are, in addition to *NSYNC, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and Lil Wayne).