Seeing “Red,” painting the town “Red,” choose your clever metaphor — whatever it is, Taylor Swift went absolutely bananas this week with her fourth album “Red.” The set sold a stunning, life-affirming 1.21 million copies its first week in stores, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the biggest sales figure for any album in a decade.
Let’s let that figure sink in for a minute. That’s bigger than Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” (1.1 million), Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” (1.05 million), Swift’s own “Speak Now” (1.05 million), and even Backstreet Boys‘ “Millennium” (1.14 million). The last album to sell more albums than “Red” in a single week was Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” way back in 2002, which sold 1.322 million copies its first week in stores. (Click here for a gallery of 1-million week sellers.)
So what happened? Swift’s “Red” was backed by a smart, sophisticated marketing campaign that included a stylistic makeover for Swift; check “Red’s” cool album art and hip font style, which makes that of her last album look like Barbie-style kiddie fare. First single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was a pop explosion that left Swift’s country roots behind and wrapped its arms around pop radio and was an unmitigated, across-the-board smash. She followed it with strategically-timed releases of the singles “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “State of Grace,” each of which showcased different sides of her new sound. And the Oct. 22 release date became an event date that never budged, which built anticipation among fans.
Swift also blanketed radio and TV during “Red’s” release week, and smartly announced her upcoming tour during all the hysteria (she’ll be at Ford Field May 4). Anything else? Oh yeah, she also partnered with Papa John’s, which sold 8,000 of those 1.21 million copies of “Red” through a pizza promotion. Gimme one Swifty pie, hold the bacon!
So if you learn nothing else today, just know this: Taylor Swift is a gigantic, gigantic pop star who proves that with the right combination of EVERYTHING — did we mention the fervent fan base she’s been cultivating for years? Cuz you need one of those, too — the machine can still work. Got it? Good. Moving on…
Overshadowed in all the Swift hype is the No. 2 debut from Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, who sold a quite impressive 241,000 copies of his major label debut album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.” Let’s let that figure sink in for a minute as well: That’s better than the 147,000 copies 2 Chainz sold of “Based on a T.R.U. Story” earlier this year, as well as the 131,000 copies Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” sold its first week, to compare it to two recent, similarly hyped debut releases. Lamar’s debut is the best selling effort by a new artist in 2012.
Elsewhere, Jason Aldean falls two spots to No. 3 with “Night Train,” and Mumford & Sons‘ “Babel” drops down to No. 4. “Babel” has sold 991,000 copies to date, and will cross the 1 million sales mark this week.
Also making chart arrivals this week: Tony Bennett with his latest duets set “Viva Duets” (No. 5), guitarist Gary Clark Jr. (No. 6), rockers Stone Sour (No. 7) and country trio Lady Antebellum with its Christmas set (No. 9).
Looking forward to next week, expect new albums from Toby Keith and Meek Mill to get outsold by Taylor Swift. They’ll both be seeing “Red,” too.
Billboard’s Top 10 albums (sales in parentheses, figures according to Nielsen SoundScan)
1. Taylor Swift, Red (1.21 million)
2. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (241,000)
3. Jason Aldean, Night Train (116,000)
4. Mumford & Sons, Babel (53,000)
5. Tony Bennett, Viva Duets (36,000)
6. Gary Clark Jr., Blak & Blu (35,000)
7. Stone Sour, House of Gold & Bones – Part 1 (31,000)
8. Pink, The Truth About Love (25,000)
9. Lady Antebellum, On This Winter’s Night (25,000)
10. Brandy, Two Eleven (22,000)