As predicted last week, Taylor Swift's "Red" album remains at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for a sixth nonconsecutive week, selling 276,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The set posts a big increase in sales (up 32%), as do most of the chart's titles. That's natural, since the most recent tracking week ended Sunday, Dec. 23, when consumers were busy shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts. T.I.'s latest album arrives in the runner-up slot with 179,000.
It should come as no surprise then that the week marked the busiest for album sales in 2012. There were 12.8 million albums sold last week -- the most in a frame since the week ending Dec. 25, 2011 (15.1 million).
The 2011 Christmas week sales figure is more robust compared with 2012 in part because of how the Christmas sales week in 2011 actually ended on Christmas Day itself. When Christmas Day falls on another day in the week, the shopping impact is distributed across two different chart weeks.
Back on the Billboard 200 this week, T.I.'s "Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head" album arrives at No. 2, giving the hip-hop star his eighth top 10 effort. The new set launches with 179,000 -- an improvement over the 160,000 that welcomed his last effort, 2010's "No Mercy." The latter title debuted at No. 4 upon its December release that year.
It was a close race for the No. 2 slot this week, as fewer than 2,000 copies separate the Nos. 2-4 titles on the chart. Beaten by a tiny margin to the runner-up position is Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox," which falls one rung to No. 3 in its second chart week, selling 178,000 (down 8%). The set was the only title in the top 30 to post any sort of decline, which isn't unusual, since this was the album's second week on sale.
Mars' drop is tiny compared with last week's other new top 20 arrivals. For example, Game's "Jesus Piece" tumbles 6-37 with 35,000 (down 59%), Green Day's "Tre" descends 13-57 with 24,000 (down 60%), the "Nashville" TV soundtrack drops 14-34 with 42,000 (down 26%), and the "Glee, the Music: The Christmas Album Volume 3" set shrinks 20-54 with 25,000 (down 43%).
Back in the top 10, One Direction's "Take Me Home" is steady at No. 4 with 177,000 (up 39%) while Michael Buble's "Christmas" dips 3-5 with 148,000 (up 7%). The latter title crosses the 3 million total sales mark (3.03 million), becoming the second Buble album to reach that milestone. His best seller is "It's Time," released in 2005, with 3.7 million.
Meanwhile, Rod Stewart's "Merry Christmas, Baby" falls 5-6 on the Billboard 200 this week with 113,000 sold (up 4%). Its cumulative sales rise to 823,000, making it Stewart's biggest-selling release since 2005's "Thanks for the Memory . . . The Great American Songbook Vol. IV" (1.2 million). Between "Thanks for the Memory" and "Merry Christmas," Stewart released three proper albums and two major greatest-hits sets.
2012 "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips' debut album, "The World From the Side of the Moon," remains at No. 7 with 98,000 (up 44%). Its total sales stand at 475,000 after five weeks. It's selling faster than any "Idol" finalist's debut since 2008, when David Cook's self-titled effort moved more than 478,000 by its third week.
Mumford & Sons' "Babel" skips up the Billboard 200 this week, rising 11-8 with 93,000 (up 56%) while "12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief" debuts at No. 9 with 82,000. The digital-exclusive "12-12-12" album sold much less than anticipated. Last Wednesday (Dec. 19), label sources had predicted the live charity set could sell between 125,000 to 150,000. By Friday, those in the know had downgraded the "12-12-12" album's sales forecast to 100,000 to 130,000.
Even with about 60,000 pre-orders placed for "12-12-12" via the iTunes Store (so say label sources), there didn't seem to be any sustained interest in the set following the all-star concert on Dec. 12.
Closing out the Billboard 200's top 10 this week is the "Now 44" album, rising 12-10 with 80,000 (up 36%).
Over on the Digital Songs chart, Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" is No. 1 for a third straight week, selling 226,000 downloads (up 2%). Expect that number to grow much larger next week, once the chart feels the impact from music download gift cards given for Christmas. Also aiming for an even bigger number next week is Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," which is No. 2 for another week on the Digital Songs chart. It sold 221,000, up by 33% compared with the previous week.
The Lumineers' "Ho Hey" is steady at No. 3 (149,000; up 14%) while Will.i.am's "Scream & Shout" (featuring Britney Spears) climbs 5-4 (143,000; up 19%). Rihanna's "Diamonds" is pushed backwards 4-5, despite a gain, selling 141,000 (up 17%). Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" continues its ascension, rising 8-6 with 140,000 (up 37%).
Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" (featuring Nicki Minaj) remains at No. 7 (119,000; up 10%), PSY's "Gangnam Style" rises 9-8 (116,000; up 15%), and Phillips' "Home" jumps 11-9 (110,000; up 17%).
Rounding out the top 10 is Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child," which hits the top 10 for the first time. The song, featuring John Martin, climbs 12-10 with 104,000 (up 28%) and marks its seventh straight weekly sales gain. The rise comes as the song continues to make inroads at radio and jumps 14-13 this week on the Pop Songs chart (known as Mainstream Top 40 on Billboard.biz).
Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending Dec. 23) totaled 12.8 million units, up 31% compared with the sum last week (9.7 million) and down 16% compared with the comparable sales week of 2011 (15.1 million). Year-to-date album sales stand at 306.2 million, down 5% compared with the same total at this point last year (322.9 million).
Digital track sales this past week totaled 25.5 million downloads, up 12% compared with last week (22.8 million) and down 33% stacked next to the comparable week of 2011 (38.3 million). Year-to-date track sales are at 1.3 billion, up 5% compared with the same total at this point last year (1.2 billion).
Next week's Billboard 200 competes with the same week in 2011 when: Adele's "21" returned to No. 1 with 144,000 sold (down 64%). The previous week's leader, Buble's "Christmas," tumbled 1-24 with 21,000 (down 96%). That wasn't surprising, as the chart reflected the week ending Jan. 1, 2012, when essentially no one was purchasing holiday music anymore. The week's top debut was Skrillex's "Bangarang" EP, bowing at No. 19 with 24,000.