Every few years pundits say, "Rock is dead." And like clockwork, an act will come along and throw a wrench into those death proclamations. Plus, in 2011, of the overall music categories, rock had the biggest gain, up 1.9% to 105.7 million units from 103.7 million in 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In mid-2003, the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 had lacked a rock album for nearly eight months. And then for four weeks straight, beginning with the May 31 tally, a quartet of rock bands bowed at No. 1: Marilyn Manson, Staind, Led Zeppelin and Metallica.
Fast-forward to 2012, and a new rock reality. Last year, only six rock albums topped the Billboard 200-each for only one week. The year started off with a bang/whimper, as four rock acts debuted at No. 1 with worrisome sales figures. Cake's "Showroom of Compassion" yielded the band its first chart-topper (Feb. 5), but with only 44,000 sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The Decemberists improved on that the following week with "The King Is Dead" (94,000), but then Amos Lee brought it back down to harsh reality when "Mission Bell" started atop the list the next week with 40,000.
Later in 2011, both Foo Fighters and Evanescence nabbed No. 1 albums with "Wasting Light" (April 30, 235,000) and Evanescence (Oct. 29, 127,000), respectively. Coldplay's No. 1 "Mylo Xyloto" came soon after, giving the group its third No. 1 on Nov. 12 (447,000).
But the rock success story of the year is Mumford & Sons, whose "Sigh No More" has sold 2 million copies since its release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and ranked as the sixth-biggest-selling set of 2011. It was the only rock album among SoundScan's year-end list of the top 10 best-selling albums. That's an improvement over 2010, when the highest-ranked rock album on the year-end tally was Jack Johnson's "To the Sea," which finished at No. 27 with 723,000 sold. And, proving that No. 1 isn't everything, "Sigh No More" never hit the top of the Billboard 200: It stalled at No. 2 for two weeks in February.
Following "Sigh No More" on SoundScan's year-end tally are "Mylo Xyloto" at No. 13 with 1 million sold, and "Wasting Light" at No. 31 with 663,000.
On the singles side, 2011 was brightened by alternative rock trio Foster the People and its breakthrough debut, "Pumped Up Kicks." The tune sold more than 3.5 million downloads last year and was the second-highest-ranked rock track among SoundScan's top-selling digital songs of the year (No. 6). Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" was the biggest of them all, rock or otherwise, with 5.8 million sold.
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