Comparing Five R&B Artist’s First Week Sales in 2013 to Their Previous Effort

John Legend-20130621-53

R&B just ain’t what it used to be commercially, period.  2013 has not been a great year to be a ‘soulful’ singer not because of the quality of releases, but because the genre suffers with its sales relevance.  Yeah, the motto that ‘sales aren’t everything’ still carries weight as there are times when art for art’s sake is notable. However, when it comes to major labels backing an artist who stands little chance to sell,  money plays a key role.  Below, here are a couple of examples of how R&B stack up between artists previous solo album and the album they released in 2013.

John Legend

Year Album title Albums Chart Peak Copies Sold 1st Week 
2008 Evolver* 4 133,000
2013 Love in the Future 4 68,000

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_*Legend also released an album in between Evolver with The Roots (Wake Up!), which sold 63,000 good for a no. 8 bow on the Albums chart.

John Legend managed to keep himself in the top five after a five-year gap between solo efforts, but his numbers dwindled during the hiatus.  How telling are the numbers? Well 68,000 copies certainly wouldn’t be considered to have a very high ceiling.  In other words, reaching gold certification (500,000 copies) seems a stretch for the platinum/gold-selling artist.  Dig deeper in Legend’s past, and even 2008 effort Evolver underachieved.


Year Album title Albums Chart Peak Copies Sold 1st Week 
2010 Back To Me 2 117,000
2013 Side Effects of You 2 91,000

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Fantasia has a very similar situation to John Legend.  Her previous album, Back To Me, sold six figures, good for a no. 2 bow.  2013 effort Side Effects of You didn’t experience quite the drop in sales that Legend’s Evolver experienced, but did bow with under 100,000 copies sold.  As of yet, Side Effects of You hasn’t been certified by the RIAA.


Year Album title Albums Chart Peak Copies Sold 1st Week 
2010 Another Round 3 112,000
2013 Appreciation Day 6 58,000

 Same shh, different artist? Yep that’s bout the size of it. Jaheim saw a huge sales drop between 2010 effort Another Round and 2013 effort Appreciation Day.  Gold never seemed like a possibility for my boy, who debuted the same week with 10,000 less copies than John Legend.


Year Album title Albums Chart Peak Copies Sold 1st Week 
2010 Basic Instinct 44 37,000
2013 Ciara 2 58,000

51TpXUESJhL._SL500_AA280_Ciara is the only artist in this study to show growth between her previous album and present release.  That said, Ciara was at the lowest point of her career when Basic Instinct debuted.  While the 58,000 copies Ciara sold is an improvement, like Jaheim, the effort looked like it had little chance to go anywhere from the start.


Year Album title Albums Chart Peak Copies Sold 1st Week 
2010 Love King** 4 58,000
2013 IV  Play 16 23,000

 **The-Dream also released an album under Terius Nash called 1977 that was originally a free album following Love King.

41w1xvlWzTL._SL500_AA280_Talk about a come-down (as opposed to a “come-up”), The-Dream has had a horrid career as of late.  His 2010 effort peaked at no. 4 with only 58,000 after his previous effort bowed at no. 2 with 151,000 copies.  Now his 2013 effort, IV Play brings a new level of underachievement to the talented singer/songwriter/producer: a tepid 23,000 copies sold.   Add to those ugly numbers that the album was critically panned (including myself), and The-Dream must do some soul searching in regards to his career as a viable recording artist.

What does this study show? R&B is sinking fast commercially.  I should mention that Robin Thicke and Tamar Braxton were among high points for the genre, moving >100,000 copies.  No need to end pessimistically.

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