9 Albums That Flopped in 2014 (Or Did They?)

Numbers don't lie -- but that doesn't mean they can't be misleading. With the end of 2014 upon us, we're looking back at nine albums that fall into the flop category (even when you consider that overall album sales are down).

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Or do they? While these records -- from newcomers like Karmin to veterans like Mariah Carey -- certainly underperformed, we're taking a hard look at the numbers, and the big picture, and asking if low numbers necessarily spell doom for the artists in question.

Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

First-Week Sales: 58,000

Previous Album's First Week: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, 168,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 117,000

Why It Looks Bad: Not only was Carey's new record her lowest-charting non-holiday album of the SoundScan era, but its year-to-date total is less than what Memoirs sold its first week out. Furthermore, Elusive Chanteuse basically sold half of its YTD total in its first week, which strongly suggests the only people interested in a new Mariah album are the die-hard fans. And at 58,000 units, it seems the number of die-hards is dwindling.

Counterpoint: Mariah fans are as plentiful as ever -- it's just that many of them have little-to-no interest in a new Mariah Carey full-length. Did the album flop? Compared to previous highs, sure. Does it matter for her career overall? Possibly not.

Jennifer Lopez, A.K.A.

First-Week Sales: 33,000

Previous Album's First Week: Love?, 83,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 71,000

Why It Looks Bad: While past J.Lo albums have debuted at lower chart positions, the first-week tally for A.K.A. is still embarrassing. And unlike Mariah's record, which some felt Carey didn't promote heavily enough, Lopez got plenty of publicity prior to her flop's drop.

Counterpoint: Sales aside, J.Lo's "Booty" remix featuring Iggy Azalea has attracted plenty of attention thanks to its music video and their AMA performance. And with a memoir on the shelves and a spot at the American Idol judges' table, Lopez isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Robin Thicke, Paula

First-Week Sales: 25,000

Previous Album's First Week: Blurred Lines, 177,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 48,000

Why It Looks Bad: Despite a lengthy career preceding "Blurred Lines," Thicke's last album was seen as a commercial breakthrough. The dismal sales for Paula -- an album-length plea to his estranged wife -- make it seem like Thicke entering the A-list was a short-lived fluke.

Counterpoint: Thicke has weathered peaks and valleys since his 2003 debut, scoring several hits prior to "Blurred Lines." Even if he never has another massive No. 1, it's not unthinkable that he'll place more singles in the top 40 in the future.

Karmin, Pulses

First-Week Sales: 10,000

Previous Album's First Week: N/A

Year-to-Date Sales: 27,000

Why It Looks Bad: Any artist making the jump from viral sensation to career musician has a lot to prove. That goes double for an artist making the move from covers to originals. And as a couple best known for cute covers of Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown on YouTube, Karmin definitely had a lot to prove with their debut, Pulses. And they didn't.

Counterpoint: One good thing about an album that flops this hard? It's almost like it never happened. They could easily re-evaluate their musical approach and marketing strategy and try again.

Cher Lloyd, Sorry I'm Late

First-Week Sales: 17,000

Previous Album's First Week: Sticks + Stones, 31,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 41,000

Why It Looks Bad: When her debut album hit the U.S., it just barely made the top 10 on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 9. This album peaked at No. 12, despite much better critical notices. It sold just 54 percent of her first record's debut week, and continues to underperform, having moved 41,000 copies so far this year, indicating American interest in her career just isn't there.

Counterpoint: At 21 years old, Lloyd has plenty of time to reimagine her U.S. domination. She could be one hit, or one featured appearance, away from more secure celebrity status.

50 Cent, Animal Ambition

First-Week Sales: 47,000

Previous Album's First Week: Before I Self Destruct, 160,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 124,000

Why It Looks Bad: Despite plenty of publicity, 50 sold less than a third of the first-week sales for his previous studio effort.

Counterpoint: Of all the records included on this list, 50's has the highest year-to-date sales total. (For comparison: Mariah moved more copies in her first week, but in the long run, Animal Ambition is selling better than Elusive Chanteuse.) It's worth noting that Animal Ambition is 50's first studio album on his own label since parting ways with Shady/Interscope, so it's entirely possibly the G-Unit honcho is making more money off fewer sales this time around.

Phillip Phillips, Behind the Light

First-Week Sales: 42,000

Previous Album's First Week: The World From the Wrong Side of the Moon, 169,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 123,000

Why It Looks Bad: The American Idol champ's debut was buoyed by a hit single, "Home," something his second has yet to produce. And more than a regular artist, people expect a sophomore slump from an Idol champ -- so his low first-week tally wasn't a good look.

Counterpoint: Like 50's album, the year-to-date total sales for Behind the Light aren't terrible. In fact, with the holidays approaching, sales for Phillips' second are higher than they've been in weeks, suggesting there's life in the album yet.

Lea Michele, Louder

First-Week Sales: 60,000

Previous Album's First Week: N/A

Year-to-Date Sales: 102,000

Why It Looks Bad: Despite plenty of promotion, Michele's pop debut didn't come close to placing her in the same breath as pop stars like Miley Cyrus or Demi Lovato.

Counterpoint: 60,000 first-week sales is nothing for a TV-turned-pop star to be ashamed of, especially on her first outing. Even if the album failed to make a pop star of Lea Michele, it signifies there's plenty of interest in her career -- just maybe not with her singing these kinds of songs.

Jennifer Hudson, JHUD

First-Week Sales: 24,000

Previous Album's First Week: I Remember Me, 165,000

Year-to-Date Sales: 61,000

Why It Looks Bad: Hudson's previous two albums peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. This peaked at No. 10, selling just 24k in its first week (compared to 165k in 2011). That's a bigger drop than can be attributed to an overall decrease in album sales, and not something an artist wants to see on their third album.

Counterpoint: Sales for JHUD just jumped for the week ending Nov. 30, so it's possible holiday sales will give this album the boost it needs. Furthermore, the Academy Award-winning actress is as much of a brand as an artist these days, so it's possible her future career will be defined less by record sales and more by endorsement deals.