The newest Billboard 200 albums chart holds good news and less-good news for Usher. Good: His Raymond v. Raymond is the No. 1 album in the country! This is his third chart-topper in a row. Go ahead and break out the champagne, Mr. Raymond. Less good: Raymond v. Raymond got there by selling 329,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s a solid opening number, so I wouldn’t call this bad news. But it’s a step down from the 443,000 his last one, Here I Stand, bowed with in 2008, much less the 1.1 million copies his album before that one managed in the ancient year of 2004. Part of that is obviously due to the changing retail market for album-length music. It also suggests, however, that the dip in sales from Confessions to Here I Stand wasn’t a fluke. Usher now seems to be a totally respectable 300,000 to 400,000 range artist, just not the unstoppable megastar he was in ’04.
Usher knocks his protégé Justin Bieber down to No. 2, with another 291,000 copies sold of his My World 2.0 in week two. That’s actually 8,000 more than Bieber’s album sold in its first week. Credit where credit is due: My World 2.0 still has yet to become a runaway smash, but his ability to dodge second-week deflation is impressive. (According to Billboard, this “marks the first time a No. 1-debuting album — issued on a traditional Tuesday release schedule — has posted an increase in its second week since 2002.”) If Bieber can keep this up in the weeks to come, he’ll have something more valuable than a huge debut — a steady long-term seller.
Erykah Badu can now put an exact number on how many album sales a naked video (and a $500 fine) will buy: 110,000, which is how many copies her New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh sold in its first week on shelves, winning her the No. 4 spot. That’s a minor comedown from the 124,000 that New Amerykah Part One sold in 2008, so it’s unclear whether Badu’s “Window Seat” video helped boost her sales at all. All controversy and legal drama aside, however, Return of the Ankh is an excellent album, so Badu deserves every one of the sales she got.