After topping the Billboard 200 chart a month ago with his fifth studio album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," which sold 496,000 copies its first week, according to Nielsen Soundscan, Kanye West has nothing short of disappeared selling 67,000 this past week.
Following his "Today" show meltdown a few weeks ago, the rapper/producer made the decision to cancel all further interviews to promote the album. One of his only public appearances since then was a performance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade where he was roundly booed. And now, after posting up to eight tweets a day on Twitter this past summer, Kanye West hasn't made as much as a peep on a social networking site since Dec. 18.
As a result, four weeks after his album was released, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was the only non-second-week release in the top 20 to show a sales decline this week. All but 43 of the albums on the Billboard 200 chart saw an increase in sales thanks to consumers stocking up on Christmas gifts. And in the top 50 only seven sets posted a decline, including West's.
Of the seven, four are Christmas albums, which usually drop in sales around this time; two are albums in their second week on the chart, so it's natural to see a sophomore frame decrease; and one is, you guessed it, Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," which moved down to No. 23.
Considering the album topped nearly every "Album of the Year" list, including Billboard's, the recent numbers beg the question, what caused the sudden decline? Is it the lack of physical promotion and Twittering? Did the "Today" show debacle hurt his sales? Or was it the fact that Kanye himself released almost half of the songs off the album as leaks before the actual release that caused the disinterest?
"I don't think it has much to do with him leaking half the album before it hit stores," says Carl Chery, Executive Music Editor for BET Digital. "If that was the case, I think his first week numbers would have been lower. The Matt Lauer and 'Taylor didn't defend me' rant didn't help. Up to that point it was, 'we love Kanye. Welcome back!' But shortly after that rant, he got booed at the Macys parade."
Ebro Darden, PD for New York radio station Hot 97, says that while "most albums naturally decline after the first week...we all can assume" this is occurring on such a huge scale for "Beautiful" because West isn't doing much promotions lately. The leaking of the music leading up to the album's release, Darden says, "is another good assumption" as to why his album sales are flagging.
"It seems people invest their time in art based on their affinity to the person creating it, so maybe there was some overwhelming distaste for Kanye's persona that resulted in people not investing in his art," Darden says.
"He just disappeared," BET's Chery says. "He hasn't tweeted [anything significant] in almost a month. If you look at other artists who are doing well now, they're still in promo mode. They're still making appearances on 'Lopez Tonight' or Jimmy Fallon. Kanye's nowhere to be found."
But why did West opt not to continue promoting an album that was off to such a strong start? Chery says West wants his music to sell for itself, not because his fans care for him or not on a personal level.
"I think Kanye is following through on not wanting to use his celebrity to fuel his music. He wants you to buy his music because it's great, period," he says. "He's tired of having to do interviews that may or may not become controversial to help sell it, because even when he approached his promo with a positive attitude, the Matt Lauer interview happened."
To be fair, album sales tend to drop after the first week. According to West's chart history, he usually sees a huge second week drop. "College Dropout" went from 441,000 first week to 196,000 the second; "Late Registration" sold 860,000 first week and 283,000 second week; "Graduation" moved 957,000 followed by 226,000; and "808s & Heartbreaks" sold 450,000 before dropping to 142,000.
At this point, is there anything West can do to help his album sales increase, or at the very least, stop from dropping? Darden says he needs to start "doing shows and promo."
Chery agrees. "The little snippet of that 'Monster' video doesn't count," he jokes, in reference to a video clip of the "Monster" video that leaked a couple of days back. "Even with the 'Monster' snippet, there's no date. It only says, 'coming soon,.' "With a date you build anticipation. Now it's just like, 'you'll see it when it's ready.'"
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield and Rauly Ramirez