It’s true. Pink Friday sold 44,000 copies this week to top the Billboard charts. It would’ve set a record for the worst-selling #1 record of all time, except Cake already hit that number in January, and last week Amos Lee ruled the charts by selling a mere 40,000. (Your 2011 one-week sales leaders: Still the motherfucking Decemberists.) So: another awful week for the music industry, but a fantastic week for Nicki Minaj, whose rise to power is even more historical than you think.
Recall that Pink Friday came out in November, and that a record hitting #1 months after the fact like this is extraordinarily rare: Per Billboard, and not counting a delay in the physical-CD release of Lil Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being, the last record to reach the top without debuting at the top was Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company in 2005, off a Grammy bounce. Recall also that Pink Friday came out the same week as Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which at first seemed like a terrible idea (Kanye annihilated Nicki that first week) but has since proved to be something approaching genius (Nicki has annihilated Kanye since).
Let’s also note that most critics were, at the minimum, moderately disappointed by Pink Friday, Nicki’s prodigious actual-rapping talents mostly dumped in favor of watered-down, shakily sung pop overtures — “the r&b crossover as the first album of her career,” in Rich Juzwiak’s memorable phrase. Will the album’s runaway success inspire her to go harder, or even softer, next time? Though regardless, we can now look forward to many more debut pop crossovers to come. Congrats to Nicki, and condolences to anyone in the industry who is not Nicki.