What would the industry do without Glee?
For the second week in a row, album sales reached their lowest point in the history of the SoundScan era. "Indie" bands, meanwhile, continue to chart unexpectedly high: This week, The Black Keys are number three, Band of Horses is number seven and LCD Soundsystem is number ten.
But these are flashes of support -- last week's number three performance by The National fell to number fifteen this week. Still impressive, but the National will be in no man's land in a hurry. No, the real success stories continue to be the least fun to root for: Justin Bieber, still hanging around in the top five, and Glee, which has its second number one album of 2010. Goody.
We tried to watch one of the new episodes of Glee. Somehow, it's gotten even worse, a bloated vessel for candy-coated covers of oh-duh songs. The new format for songs on the show is karaoke mega-hits ("Don't Stop Believin'" "Jessie's Girl") and the occasional theme show devoted to one mega-hit artist (Madonna, and the next one is Lady Gaga, which you can bet your ass will turn into a soundtrack). So, very daring.
Not sure how the show's ratings are doing, but we can say for sure that they're just crapping out hit albums over there. The show's in its first season and it's released five albums (!) -- four of which are in the Top 50. Come on, people!
Why is it that Glee and LCD Soundsystem are successful at the same time? There are a lot of reasons, but one of them is the fact that big labels no longer control the flow from musician to listener. It's sort of like we went from a mostly-crappy musical congress to a democracy of sorts. It's not perfect because there are still plenty of both musicians and consumers of music who don't know how to use the internet. But that will change at some point.
The Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, which was just re-issued, moved enough copies to claim the number two spot on the album chart. It's a great album, obviously, but uninspiring as an entrant in a contemporary music chart.
The "California Gurls" machine took a hit from last week's number two debut on the Hot 100. The reason we're calling it a machine is that it is so obvious that Capitol is betting the house here. They sent a jewel case copy of the single all the way to our office here in Denver with two songs on it: "California Gurls" featuring Snoop Dogg, and "California Gurls" not featuring Snoop Dogg.
Not that we don't appreciate the attention, but that's a lot of effort, and it's as good an indication as any that the marketing budget for this thing is basically infinite, that they're throwing money in every direction they can think of. So can the labels still control what America listens to?
Too soon to tell -- the dip is a reflection of a slight fall in digital downloads. But the song was also the biggest gainer on the airplay charts, and if it manages to become that song that's always on every time you get in your car (think Black Eyed Peas from last summer), then the digital sales will follow in a big way.
But the successor to Usher's "OMG" on top of the Hot 100 is likely to not be "California Gurls." It's looking a lot like B.o.B.'s "Airplanes," which moves up to the number two spot this week. That would give B.o.B. his second number one out of a possible two singles.
This installment of Poptimystic would be woefully incomplete without mentioning that a Kanye West song leaked today, presumably from his upcoming Good Ass Job. It's called "Power," and it's great. A little time spent on YouTube and you should be able to find a copy the UMG trolls haven't yanked yet.