Last Tuesday night, Kanye West stood on a Bowery Ballroom stage and did the numbers: “To do an album right after the year that I had, and after all the ‘Your career is over!’ and ‘Die, nigger, die!’ and ‘You’ll never make music again!’ And to come back and to do 100,000 the first day, digital alone, to do, to be slated to do 600,000 in the first week–and I don’t talk about the numbers, but what that number says is that people want me to keep making music, and for me to not give up.” As it happened, he was off by about a hundred thousand records. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sold 496,000 copies its first week out, topping 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak (450K) but well short of the 957,000 copies Graduation did during its first week in 2007 (let alone the one million plus Taylor Swift did when her own new record came out a couple months back). It’s West’s fourth straight #1 album. Oh, and by the way–Nicki Minaj didn’t do so badly herself.
Though we were skeptical about the chances of Nicki’s Pink Friday, especially on a week where consumer dollars would almost certainly be aimed squarely at Mr. West, she sold a ton of records, too–375,000 (OK, 375,190), which is better than pretty much every female MC ever, short of Lauryn Hill. (We wouldn’t want to be Lil Kim today.) Put these two together and the lesson is that critics–who, like us, largely said that Kanye’s record was a masterpiece and Minaj’s record was, in the words of my colleague Rich Juzwiak, “pink garbage”–don’t matter, at all. As if we needed a reminder.
One other intriguing sub-plot here: Amazon kept their $3.99 price point for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in place all week, while, as Billboard points out, iTunes didn’t put the record on its front page until Saturday, five days after it had come out. If you think those two retail giants aren’t at a quiet war right now–with artists increasingly facing some scary choices as to which team to join–you’re not paying attention. Still, all’s well that ends in a record that is probably already all the way to gold by now, right?
Kanye West, Nicki Minaj Score Big Debuts on Billboard 200 [Billboard]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 1, 2010