80 is the number that is causing Kanye West’s heart to sink. Why would 80 have such a powerful effect on one of today’s most confident, outspoken rappers? Because Mr. West’s sixth solo album Yeezus dropped an ugly 80% in sales in its second week. It’s one thing that he found himself unseated from the top of the charts by Wale (expected), and another that J. Cole beat him with a stronger second week (unexpected, but not completely shocking per se), but the 65,000 copies he sold after selling 327,000 copies the week prior is the final straw! I expected at least a 60% drop (he would’ve still sold 131,000 copies), maybe even a steeper 70 or 72% drop (98,000 and 92,000 copies respective), but not 80%.
Let me just say, I felt a little bit bad criticizing West last week because of his underwhelming album sales. Even so, from my perspective and studying chart trends over the years like the über nerd that I am, I had a suspicion that West might have a more difficult time selling Yeezus. Sure, Kanye West may be a ‘god’ in hip-hop’s eyes, but just because you are one of the most revered within your circles, doesn’t mean that your album can sell without extra effort, specifically, a hit single.
Just how big is this drop historically? I compare it to the bass drop in electronic music (shout out to Skrillex) – it hits you right in the chest! This drop is like a pummeling hammer that just destroys the nail… or something poetic like that! According to Billboard, West owns the fourth largest drop in history within his second week. That’s definitely the wrong side of history for one of the most respected, ambitious rappers/producer, right? I mean, should we even be having this conversation about Kanye West? Shouldn’t he be selling like a boss…like a ‘god’? Man Kanye, you must be upset you recorded that song now!
Of the four reasons I gave for Kanye West’s underwhelming debut, two stand out in my mind. (1) West half-heartedly promoted Yeezus and (2) the lack of a ‘hit’ single doesn’t give Yeezus any room to expand its scope. West’s tactic of mysteriously releasing an album with a non-commercial/non-conformist sentiment hasn’t had the desired effect. Let’s examine an example. Rihanna is one of today’s better promoted artists, period. Many of her projects don’t necessarily open with the sales you would expect, but because of her ability to continue to churn out hits at radio, her albums tend to build sells consistently rather than being dependent on first week sales. Could Rihanna thrive without a hit? NO. The deal with Yeezus is that while West has released his most ambitious project, his promotional campaign has been incredibly one dimensional and un-Kanye like. Put out and album and it will sell. NOT.
So word on the street is that “Black Skinhead” is the ‘single’. OK… While I personally like it, I don’t believe it will propel Yeezus to better days, specifically better sales. I don’t care what kind of clever or controversial video clip that West attaches… it’s a hard sell, period. Honestly, for all the praise that critics have given Yeezus in penning the ‘second coming’, why hasn’t more been made about the fact that there is no hit single? “Hold My Liquor” is unlike anything else on the radio, for example, but that’s not a pro in this case. Sure, “Blood on the Leaves” is my jam, regardless if West is a bit twisted (“Let’s take it back to the first party / when you tried your first molly / and came out of your body…”), but it’s no “Power”, “Stronger”, “Gold Digger”… catch my drift. Could it be said that consumers have ‘drawn a line in the sand’? Are the fans already over Yeezus? One thing’s for sure, whether Kanye West says he ‘gives no f***s’ or not, he’s gotta be disappointed.
- Chart Analysis: Four Possible Reasons for the Underwhelming Sales of ‘Yeezus’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Chart Moves, July 3, 2013: Wale Tops, Mr. West Drops (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Where Does Yeezus Rank in Kanye West’s Discography? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Kanye West, ‘Yeezus’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Wale Has No. 1 Album In Country, J. Cole Outsells Kanye West (hiphopwired.com)
- Rapper Wale Tops Billboard No.1 as Kanye West Suffers 80% Sales Drop (contactmusic.com)
- Album sales: Wale tops chart, Kanye West sees ‘Yeezus’ fall big (music-mix.ew.com)
- Kanye West to release ‘Black Skinhead’ as first ‘Yeezus’ single (nme.com)
- Kanye West’s Yeezus sales fall by 80% in second week (guardian.co.uk)