The music you bought this week: Yes, more Lady Gaga, but Foster the People became a below-the-radar success story
Music sales may no longer be the surefire barometer of success they once were, yet the Nielsen SoundScan charts today represent perhaps an even broader snapshot of artists resonating with fans. Though it could be argued that the charts are no longer the providence of the mainstream, below is a snapshot of some of the music that has inspired the populace to part with cash.
Lady Gaga's "The Fame" has shown tremendous staying power; after 136 weeks, the album is still in the upper echelon of the chart. It's at No. 31 this week, having sold more than 4.2 million copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Born This Way," meanwhile, made quite the first-week impact, selling more than 1.1 million copies, but its long-term life is still a major unknown, as reviews have been as mixed as the reaction to early singles.
In its second week, the album still manages to lead the pop charts, but does so with 174,000 copies sold. That gives it a two-week total of just under 1.3 million. As noted last week, the majority of first-week sales came via Internet downloads, as Amazon.com had priced the album at 99 cents in an effort to boost usage for its Cloud Player online locker service.
"Born This Way" keeps Adele from returning to the pole position, as the soul singer's "21" sold 120,000 copies this week and to date has sold more than 2 million copies. The artist was forced to cancel her local shows this week due to laryngitis and has not yet rescheduled.
The latest from Death Cab for Cutie, "Codes and Keys," lands at No. 3, having sold 102,000 copies in its first week. The act played the other night at the El Rey, and "Codes and Keys" sold slightly less than the 144,000 copies moved by the 2008 album "Narrow Stairs" in its first week, according to the Billboard archives.
Also new to the top 5 is Eddie Vedder's solo collection "Ukulele Songs," which debuts at No. 4 with 71,000 copies, and My Morning Jacket's "Circuital," which bows at No. 5 with 55,000 copies. This marks the best-ever sales week for My Morning Jacket, according to Billboard.
Beyond the big names, however, is a rather sudden local success story. Dancey pop-rock act Foster the People is at No. 25 this week with debut album "Torches." The set had a stellar first week, landing at No. 8, and has sold more than 48,000 copies in two weeks. The band's "Pumped Up Kicks" was a slow-building hit, and the group has two sold-out gigs at the El Rey in early July.
In terms of media attention, however, Foster the People has been flying under the radar. Tyler the Creator, for instance, viewed by many as the creative center of hip-hop collective Odd Future, has generated countless essays and stories, and his solo debut, "Goblin," has sold 70,000 copies in four weeks and sits at No. 89.
Elsewhere, the power of Amazon's heavy discounting was again on display. Indie rock instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky rocket back into the top 100 this week after their latest, "Take Care, Take Care, Take Care" was priced last week at $2.99 by the online retailer. The album, released in April, had fallen out of the top 200, but its 6,000 copies sold was good enough to put it at No. 68 this week. Thus far, it's sold just under 40,000 copies.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Lady Gaga performs in Boston in 2009. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times