Ample number of times, I have preached about the dismal sales for R&B music specifically. Kem‘s latest album, Promise To Love confirmed this, recently debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200 with a modest 52,000 copies. Such numbers have become the new normal of R&B. But, there is also a larger issue than R&B itself that encompasses all genres. Sure, there are other genres who are landing bigger sales and a general larger presence, but that doesn’t mean they are rolling in album sales as they once did. It leads to the question, does anyone believe in the album anymore?
Here are some examples of why I pose the question that graces the title of this post. Ariana Grande has established herself as a force to be reckoned with in pop music as of late. Sure, she’s still quite young and new to the game, but she’s also had big hits this summer. She just missed #1 with ubiquitous single “Problem,” thanks in part to being trapped behind fellow collaborator Iggy Azalea‘s even bigger single, “Fancy.”
Additionally, Grande has had two other hits on her hand: “Break Free” featuring electronic standout Zedd and superstar collaboration “Bang Bang” with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. With such accolades on her record just this year, it’s not surprising that Grande had a second #1 album locked up. That said, the expectation is fairly robust numbers, and minimally, stronger numbers than those that graced Yours Truly. Indeed, a second #1 album came to fruition, but the 169,000 copies while solid, seems a bit underwhelming given Grande’s lofty achievements.
Another example looms on the horizon this week as Maroon 5 release their fifth studio album V, another lock for #1. The effort is projected as the soulful pop band’s second #1 album and first since 2007. Despite the popularity of the band and the performance of single “Maps” (not to mention the hits that Overexposed racked up), the prognostications only predict sales of around 150,000 copies range, not far off from Grande’s numbers. The band’s previous effort sold stronger, moving 222,000 copies. Their previous #1 set from 2007 sold 429,000 copies.
Apparently people just aren’t buying albums like they once did. These tempered expectations are the new normal not solely in R&B (even if it’s more pronounced), but across the board.