Usher Is #1, But It’s Still Justin Bieber Who Is Saving the Record Industry


Usher’s Raymond Vs. Raymond took the top spot on the albums chart this week, selling 329,000 copies in the wake of its March 30 release. But once again, this week’s chart-related headlines belong to the impeccably blow-dried Canadian singer Justin Bieber. The Usher protégé and native Ontarian followed up his No. 1 debut with a fall to No. 2, but chart position here doesn’t tell the whole story; his sales actually ticked up week-to-week, beating his first week bow at 283,000 with a second week encore of 291,000 units sold between March 29 and April 4. (The Bieb is also slated to fall back into the top spot on the next chart, with Tuesday’s one-day sales indicating that his week-to-week decline will be less steep than his mentor’s.)

In the decimated record industry of 2010, even the slightest glimmers of hope are worth holding on to, and higher-ups at labels and retail outlets must be wondering if Bieber could, somewhere underneath all that hair, possess the power to lure this nation’s youth back into the fold of paying for their music. Overall, record sales were up 13% from last week (6.84 million units total), and a clutch of albums by artists who are teen-focussed enough to appear alongside Bieber on Radio Disney’s latest compilation Radio Disney Jams 12, which debuted this week at No. 26 (22,000 sales), benefited in particular:

Taylor Swift, Fearless: No. 16, up 51% (32,000)

Selena Gomez & The Scene, Kiss & Tell: No. 20, up 95% (25,000)

Miley Cyrus, Time Of Our Lives: No. 38, up 69% (14,000)

Owl City, Ocean Eyes: No. 46, up 20% (12,000)

Daughtry, Leave This Town: No. 66, up 21% (9,200)

Original soundtrack, Hannah Montana: The Movie: No. 102, up 46% (6,300)

Nick Jonas & The Administration, Who I Am: No. 133, up 57% (4,400)

The soundtrack to the Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song, which features Cyrus’ bombastic “When I Look At You,” saw a gain of 95% (No. 100, 6,500 copies sold). And kiddie covers of pop hits performed well too, with the unkillable soundtrack to Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel up 119% (No. 14, 33,000 sold) and the latest installment of the Kidz Bop series (featuring the bopping kidz mugging their way through “Paparazzi”) enjoying a a 71% incrase (No. 17, 18,000 sales).

Bieber’s physical sales are leading the charge, which may help explain at least some of the success being spread around. (Impulse purchases are a lot easier when you don’t have to type the associated artists’ names into a search box, after all.) In sharp contrast to the album’s overall numbers, digital sales of Bieber’s 2.0 plummeted this week; they were down 59% (18,000) from the album’s first week of availability at iTunes and Amazon. (Sales of Bieber’s debut EP My World trended similarly; overall sales were up 26% to 63,000, but digital tallies dropped 52%, to 4,000.) So not only did his week-to-week sales improve, but his album actually brought more people to record stores and music departments than it did in its first, publicity-soaked week.

Billboard chalks Bieber’s second-week success up to Easter-basket filling, which isn’t as widespread a phenomenon as end-of-the-year gift-giving but which does happen in some households. (For the record, this reporter received a copy of Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction for Easter during her middle-school years. Happy holiest day on the Catholic calendar!) And perhaps the uptick in physical sales gives credence to the Billboard theory that Easter baskets were stuffed with Bieber’s Autotuned charm; after all, nestling an iTunes gift card among the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs just doesn’t have the same visual impact as the teen idol’s intense gaze.

Oh, and the last single-artist album to follow up a No. 1 debut with a second-week sales increase? The Beatles’ 1, which accomplished this feat during Thanksgiving of 2000. Cue the anguished cries at the possibility of comparing Lennon & McCartney with Bieber. (Purists can at least find some comfort in the fact that the Beatles-to-Bieber sales ratio is approximately 2:1.)

Elsewhere in the top 10, Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh bowed at No. 4 with 110,000 sales — a pretty good return on the $500 investment she’s going to pay to the Dallas fuzz. And Badu’s Brooklyn-based inspirations Matt & Kim saw a bit of a boost as well; while sales of their latest album Grand remained under the thousand-copy threshold, they did tick up 23% week-to-week. If this story stays in the news cycle long enough, get ready for the best loft party ever.