Taylor Swift’s Red just sold a staggering 1.21 million copies in its first week, the biggest debut in more than a decade. And while we’ve come to expect those sorts of numbers from Swift (her last album, Speak Now also broke the million mark in its first week) perhaps the bigger question is this:
Is there anyone who can beat Swift’s sales, or has she set the benchmark against which all others will be measured?
It’ll be tough. For starters, there’s the fact that the million-seller club is a pretty exclusive one — as Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s associate director of charts and retail, points out, only 18 albums have moved 1 million in a week since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991 — and the last artist to join it was Lady Gaga, whose Born This Way debuted with sales of 1.1 million copies last year (though, as you’re probably aware, that number was buoyed by a 99-cent fire sale through Amazon.com).
So when will anyone be able to challenge Red’s numbers? With new albums from previous million-movers Gaga, Lil Wayne and Eminem still a ways off, it probably won’t happen until next year … and while Rihanna returns in just a few weeks with Unapologetic, she’s never even come close to accomplishing the feat, and neither have Beyoncé or Katy Perry, for that matter.
Simply put, it may be a while until we see sales like this again.
“Anything is possible,” Caulfield wrote in an email to MTV News. “However … only incredibly extraordinary circumstances will yield another million-selling week.”
Caulfield expounded on that last point, noting that, while an artist like Lil Wayne previously sold 1 million copies in a week (of his 2008 album Tha Carter III) and came close with Tha Carter IV, it seems that fans may have cooled on his more recent efforts.
“I Am Not a Human Being did 110,000 [copies] first week as a digital exclusive,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t think his upcoming I Am Not a Human Being II will post those kinds of numbers.”
And he added that artists like Gaga or Beyoncé might only get to 1 million if they have some help … like another deep-discount sale or, say, a Super Bowl Halftime performance .
“Beyoncé’s last album, 4, started with 310,000, so suggesting that her next set might move a million in a week is a bit far-fetched,” Caulfield wrote. “But, we don’t know how the album will be rolled out. Perhaps it will drop the same day as when she plays the Super Bowl next year? Perhaps she’ll have an amazing concert ticket/ album promotion that will juice sales. We just don’t know yet.”
In fact, there may be just one artist capable of surpassing Swift’s sales: Eminem. He’s moved 1 million in a week twice before, and Caulfield thinks he may be able to do it again with his upcoming album, tentatively due next year. Though he’s going to need to outpace the sales of his last album, Recovery, to even come close.
“Recovery did 741,000 in its first week. But, it was also a huge selling album in the long-term, selling 4.3 million to date and spending 122 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart,” Caulfield wrote. “Comparatively, his album before that, 2009’s Relapse, has moved 2.3 million. So, Recovery has really set up his next album and built up the anticipation. He certainly has a shot.”
Who do you think could top 1.21 million sales? Leave your comment below!