Is Carrie Underwood Fading?  

Carrie Underwood, Storyteller © Sony Music Nashville

On October 23, 2015, Pop/Country superstar Carrie Underwood released her fifth studio album, Storyteller. Storyteller represented Underwood’s first new album of originals in three years, following no. 1 bowing Blown Away (2012). It would seem that the return of Carrie Underwood would usher in yet another no. 1 album, marking her fourth to debut atop the Billboard 200. Unfortunately for an older Underwood, some young “whipper snappers” would kill her vibe.

5 Seconds of Summer also released their album – sophomore effort Sounds Good Feels Good the same day as Underwood. 5SOS were big in 2014, coming off of the She Looks So Perfect EP debuting in the runner-up spot, while full-length debut 5 Seconds Of Summer hit no. 1 with ease, selling 259,000 copies. Yes friends, that 259K was before the who streams/track formula that Billboard uses now to formulate the Billboard 200. Even though 5SOS were big, it would seem that an established, beloved country vet just might be able to hold her own with 5SOS.

Ultimately, Carrie Underwood fell short of the glory of the top spot. 5SOS would not be able to put up the same numbers that their debut album did, but the 192,000 units (179,000 sales) was enough to hold off Underwood (177,000 units, 164,000 sales). Looking at the units side by side, 5SOS bested Underwood by 15,000 units. In regards to sales, 5SOS also bested Underwood by 15,000 copies. That’s close, but still heavy in favor of the boys.

So here’s the question. Is Carrie Underwood fading? Country fans will be ready to throw stones just at the mere mention of the possibility, but are these numbers and Underwood’s inability to win the top spot revelatory? Let examine the amount of sales that each Carrie Underwood album has started off with week one.

Some Hearts, Underwood’s highly anticipated debut following her American Idol victory, missed the top spot. Why? Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor bested her by 35,000 copies; Some Hearts sold a solid 315,000 copies. Underwood would easily win the album longevity battle as Some Hearts when on to be certified platinum seven times.

Underwood would also achieve three more number one albums. Carnival Ride (2007) easily topped the charts, selling a remarkable 527,000 copies. Third album Play On (2009) couldn’t match those numbers, but also topped with 318,000 copies. Finally, Blown Away reigned the penthouse with 267,000 copies.

So back to Storyteller…yep, the numbers have definitely dipped. Between Blown Away (267,000 copies) and Storyteller (164,000 copies), Underwood sold 103,000 copies less. While that’s not the biggest dip of Underwood’s career (she lost 209,000 copies between Carnival Ride and Play On), it definitely shows she’s not at her peak anymore. Honestly the 164,000 copies sold is pretty awesome for 2015 – there are artist who would kill to sell that well – but there’s really nothing else to call it but a downgrade for Underwood. Keep in mind that fading doesn’t mean that Underwood isn’t still tremendously popular, but like everybody else, even her albums can’t come closer to half-million mark at this point.

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