'The 20/20 Experience' holds at No. 1 for a second week, with a moderate 67% decline

The Easter Bunny hipped and hopped all over the Billboard 200 chart this week, leaving behind baskets full of sales gains.

While Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" fell by a not-too-shabby 67.2% in its second week (down to 318,000 from its 968,000 start, according to Nielsen SoundScan), nearly every title in the top 50 this week posts a gain thanks in part to the Easter holiday (March 31). The only decliners in the top 50 are recent releases: Timberlake's "20/20," Luke Bryan's "Spring Break...Here to Party" (4-12, down 3%), Kacey Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park" (2-31, down 60%), Bon Jovi's "What About Now" (7-34, down 44%), David Bowie's "The Next Day" (11-45, down 45%) and Jimi Hendrix's "People, Hell and Angels" (20-48, down 30%). It's natural to see these new arrivals decline, even in a busy shopping week, as it's difficult for any album to post a gain in its second or third (or fourth) week on the chart.

Timberlake's decline is soft when compared with all of the No. 1-debuting albums of the past 12 months. Of the 33 earlier No. 1 bows stretching back to Madonna's "MDNA" (April 14, 2012), 21 had a greater second-week percentage decline than Timberlake. The biggest sophomore-frame fall belonged to "MDNA," which fell by 87% in its second week (from 359,000 to 48,000), after its debut week was pushed so high thanks to exceptional album/concert ticket bundle sales. "MDNA" really can't be compared with the rest of the No. 1 debuts, which generally fell between 67% and 73% in week two.

As Timberlake's album started much higher, it had farther to fall. In the past year, of the three earlier albums that debuted with a half-million or more, all dropped harder than JT in their second week. One Direction's "Take Me Home" slipped 67.4%, Taylor Swift's "Red" fell 71.5% and Mumford & Sons' "Babel" dropped 71.8%.

 

Easter Comparison: Total album sales for Easter week were 6.5 million--up 2% compared with the Easter frame a year ago: 6.4 million (the holiday fell a week later a year ago: April 8, 2012). Interestingly, the top 200 titles this week sold a combined 2.7 million--making up 41% of all album sales this week. It's sort of stunning to think that those 200 albums comprised nearly one-half of all albums sold last week. Last Easter, the top 200 moved 2.4 million, or 37% of total album sales that week.

Album sales this past week were the second-largest of any week this year, following the week ending Feb. 17 (6.8 million). That week contained Valentine's Day and impact from the Grammy Awards (Feb. 10).

The Billboard 200's top 10 this week is flush with new arrivals--six in total, led by Lil Wayne's "I Am Not a Human Being II." The rapper's latest sold 217,000, which isn't too bad, considering its title doesn't contain the word "Carter." Since 2008, Wayne has released five studio albums: "Tha Carter III" (2008, 1 million debut), experimental rock set "Rebirth" (2010, 176,000), "I Am Not a Human Being" (2010, 110,000 from a digital-only bow), "Tha Carter IV" (2011, 964,000) and "I Am Not a Human Being II."

Before "I Am Not a Human Being II" arrived, some industry forecasters projected it would sell closer to 400,000 copies. Considering his non-"Carter" track record--as noted above--the 400,000 figure seemed like an aspirational number instead of one grounded in Wayne reality. (One wonders: Had Wayne titled "I Am Not a Human Being II" something else, would it have sold better?)

Last Easter, there were only four debuts in the top 10, though there was a new No. 1 from Wayne labelmate Nicki Minaj. Her "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" started atop the list with 253,000. Though we're not sure how many youngsters' Easter baskets contained Minaj's album--despite her colorful appeal.

In terms of song download sales, the Easter frame this year housed 28.3 million, compared with 29.1 million a year ago (down 2.8%). On the brighter side, this past week's song haul is the second-biggest of the year following the busy post-Christmas season. Only the week ending Feb. 17 was larger (29.4 million).

 

Next Week: Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience" should hold for a third week at No. 1 while the top debut will come from the Band Perry's "Pioneer." The latter could sell around 110,000, according to industry sources. If "20/20" holds for a third week at No. 1, it will be the first set to spend its first three weeks at the top since Taylor Swift's "Red" did so between Nov. 10 and Nov. 24, 2012.