Looks like Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV may have cracked a million in first week sales, although it depends on which source is to be trusted. HitsDailyDouble has the count at 1,000,690 while the AP’s reporting the official Soundscan numbers to be 964,000. Either way, Wayne and YMCMB sold a sh*t-ton of records, but what does it mean? And how did it happen in an industry that’s reportedly having a harder time than ever to convince people to pay cash for albums?
It means Lil Wayne’s the new prom king.
I’m not a tremendous believer in the illusion of first week sales. Still, Wayne’s accomplishment isn’t some petty sales number. While the industry has been beset by sales slumps in recent years, Wayne’s retail rush rolls on with all cylinders firing. 2008’s Tha Carter III sold a million first week and both of Weezy’s 2010 releases – Rebirth and the I Am Not A Human Being EP – performed moderately well for what they were, a prison release and experimental rock album.
Now, Louisianimal comes through and does the unthinkable again with a full-length rap album. Lady Gaga hails as the only other artist in 2011 to sell more in one week but her sales deserve a huge asterisk since Amazon bit the bullet and sold 400K digital copies at a reduced rate. Also, Weezy reportedly broke the iTunes first-week album sales record in four days, a mark most recently set a few weeks ago by Kanye & Jay, né The Throne, shelled out 400K copies of WTT.
Take a quick glance at a few of Wayne’s pop culture contemporaries’ first week numbers to we see that Weezy literally does reign supreme at retail and does so by a landslide. On the female side, Katy Perry sold approximately 190K copies of her 2010 album, Teenage Dream and Beyonce’s 4 sold around 300K this past June. Fellow rapper Eminem’s Recovery dropped in June 2010 and raked in 740K copies, which is close but still falls short. Wayne’s on a commercial plateau only occupied by himself and the equally enigmatic Gaga.
The biggest question remains how did YMCMB’s leading man pull this off?
In an interview on Sway‘s Shade45 radio show, Birdman quickly shot down the notion he purchased copies to pad the numbers. Singing the same tune, YM president Mack Maine said their camp wasn’t even concerned with first week sales, but rather the long haul.
“[Wayne] actually told us if he don’t do those same numbers again as C3 don’t be mad,” Mack admitted.
“I said this before,” he shared. “I told Nicki—she was kinda nervous about her first-week sales—I said, ‘First week sales don’t matter.’ I’d rather my final sales matter. I know albums from Juvenile 400 Degreez to Beiber’s first album sold 20, or 30,000 the first-week and went onto sell 2 million one album then 6 million on another album. I saw Gaga did the 99 cent thing [and] then [her] second-week it did like 175,000. Congratulation as it relates to her. With Wayne, I don’t want him to sell a million the first-week, [and] then drop to 100,000 the next week then 50,00 the following week. I’d rather sell ten times platinum total.” [XXL]
As we were watching his sales soar late last week, I asked one my smarter friends for his informed take on TC4’s sales.
“At the end of the day, Wayne is the biggest rap artist in the game. Weezy appeals to women, children, and heads who still think he’ll say some genius shit! IF he touches a million first week, it looks like it’ll happen without any stunts and actually be a legit number. “How To Love” is over 100M in audience and #1 at both Urban and XOVER formats, Top 10 @ Top 40. “She Will” is growing rapidly at radio. And now this song “Mirrors” with Bruno Mars is taking off at iTunes as well.”
Selling additional copies outside of week one may be hard once the first batch of buyers tell others how vapid the album is. TC4 isn’t Wayne’s best work and most people seem to agree. When myself and others did the roundtable review for Complex’s “What’s The Consensus,” only one entry ranked it over 3.5 out a possible 5. The 4.5 was given by Karen Civil, who was completely upfront about her “favoritism” and, subsequently, the album was given a 3 out of 5 in a later review on her site. Smart money says the cash Baby saved on not buying copies will have to be used to pay for a few favorable reviews.
Still, if no one’s praising the album, how the hell did Dwayne clock the sales figures he amassed?
Wayne’s the prom king.
That’s the only explanation I have until the 900K+ people step forward and explain why they copped the album. Maybe they believe in his work due to his previous efforts. Dwayne has been recording since he was an adolescent and gained a legit fanbase over the course of his career. His Carter series sells well because people are familiar with the brand and still hope to hear the syrup-sipping, weed-blowing madman who propelled himself to greatness from the Sqad up mixtapes leading into the first Carter. The past incarnation of Wayne isn’t here now but people still show up to whenever Weezy F. throws a party because he’s held a few pretty intense bashes throughout his career.
The truth is Wayne’s the rap Tim Tebow. Loved by many, hated by an equal opposite. Rudimentary mechanics which are often criticized but still managing to produce results. A much lauded work ethic matched with the ability to garner crazy sales results. Dwayne Carter’s neither “the greatest rapper alive” nor a lyrical legend at this point. He’s just insanely popular for the right now as he has been for a while. And I can’t imagine the outfits he and his date, Lady Gaga, are going to wear to the prom.
I’m just wondering which one will don the jeggings.