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2009 in pop music: It's Hannah Montana, Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson

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With an additional 114,000 copies sold this week, Michael Jackson's hits collection "Number Ones" has become 2009's second-best selling album, according to Nielsen SoundScan data released to Billboard. Largely over the last month, "Number Ones" has sold 1.37 million copies. The only artist that stands in Jackson's way, as of this week, is country superstar Taylor Swift, whose 2008 effort "Fearless" has shifted an additional 1.5 million copies in 2009.

With an industry onslaught of Jackson merch and product on the horizon, including everything from a film to virtual tattoos, the prognosis is strong for him to overtake Swift and end up with the year's bestselling album.

In the days after Jackson's death, digital sales of his albums outweighed physical sales. Of the 422,000 albums Jackson sold in the shortened sales week, 241,000 came from the digital sector. Since then, physical has taken the lead, largely, Billboard tells us, due to major labels catching up to consumer demand, and getting CDs back in the marketplace. 

No surprises here. In the wake of the pop icon's death, his sales would expectantly skyrocket, and if there's one thing major labels still excel at, it's flooding the market faster than one can say "more Beatles reissues" with albums from artists who haven't recorded a noteworthy track in more than 20 years. 

But it certainly doesn't mean the physical CD is still a force to be reckoned with.

Of the albums actually released in 2009, the only ones selling close to Jackson's numbers are the soundtrack to "Hannah Montana: The Movie" and Eminem's "Relapse." "Hannah" has sold 1.33 million copies, and "Relapse" stands at 1.31 million. One is a multi-tiered promotional tie-in to a Disney Channel phenomenon, and the other is the return of a veteran artist who knows how to score media headlines.

More interesting than how Jackson has dominated sales for the last five weeks is the fact that most of 2009's big releases -- at least the ones tipped as blockbuster albums -- are puttering along. There's U2's "No Line on the Horizon," which was entering August with fewer than 1 million units sold in five months.

There's Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream," which has fallen out of Billboard's top 200 albums. There's Kelly Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted," which is crawling toward 700,000 copies sold. On the bright side, Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown" and Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." are holding up, having passed the 700,000 mark in less than three months.

Still, that's not exactly reason to be hopeful for the coming holiday season. Big albums from Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna and supposedly Lil Wayne are on the horizon, but there appears to be more desperation in the air than excitement.

Jay-Z is fighting for relevancy by mocking the Auto-Tune trend and Carey's "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" has been turned into a mini-billboard of high-end advertisements. Next week, Surgarland may top the chart with "Live on the Inside." It'd be a nice score for the rising country duo, but it's a retail exclusive at WalMart -- a combo CD/DVD selling for a low price of $12 -- and another slap-in-the-face to the remaining mom-and-pop record stores.

Meanwhile, Warner Music Group today posted a wide third-quarter loss of $37 million, with CD sales dropping 8.3% from a year ago. Overall, sales are down close to 20% from the same period a year ago, according to Billboard. Jackson's post-death CD sales are impressive, sure, from a purely business perspective, but they're not going to reverse a trend, or give the CD a longer leash on life.

--Todd Martens

Photos, from left: Taylor Swift / Getty Images; Michael Jackson / Associated Press; "Hannah Montana: The Move" / Disney

 
Comments () | Archives (6)

im buying a whole bunch of mj number ones this christmas for everyone! i really wanna see him back on the very top. luv him so much!!

"No surprises here. In the wake of the pop icon's death, his sales would expectantly skyrocket, and if there's one thing major labels still excel at, it's flooding the market faster than one can say "more Beatles reissues" with albums from artists who haven't recorded a noteworthy track in more than 20 years."

Really, Mr. Martens? Are you implying that Jackson didn't have a noteworthy track since 89?
Where were you for the Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible albums?

Geesh.

"No surprises here. In the wake of the pop icon's death, his sales would expectantly skyrocket, and if there's one thing major labels still excel at, it's flooding the market faster than one can say "more Beatles reissues" with albums from artists who haven't recorded a noteworthy track in more than 20 years."


Really, Mr. Martens? Are you implying that Jackson is one of those artists? Where were you for the Dangerous, Scream and Invincible albums? Many feel they had some great pieces on them.

What a dis. Geesh.

It's also possible that a brand new generation is discovering a man dissed, spat-upon and forgotten by an over-zealous industry and tabloid media over allegations that never had legs.

It just may be that they are discovering that Michael Jackson had a run that rivals those equally "short-lived" Liverpudlians in creativity and innovation.

I'd challenge any current artist to produce (and I mean "produce" in terms of CREATE) an album as timeless, honest, and musically edible as Invincible.

Come on, get with it, Mr. Martens. Instead of denigrating a greater talent than most, perhaps you should encourage more of the kiddies to listen to Jackson rather than Hannah Montana!

in a magazen i read that hannah and miley demi lovoto and nick jonos dont care about anyone thay are just using us all along.i am telling the truth i used to be a #1 fan but now i say that she is a mean stupied girl doing not lady like poses and now i got all of my 35 friends not to like all of you

i love miley cyrus / Hannah montana i would love to go out with her but that probally won't happen but i am 2 years younger then her so i think your best album is Don't want to be tworn.


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