Though the duo may be on a touring hiatus, the Civil Wars are celebrating their first No. 1 album this week. The act’s new self-titled set debuts atop the Billboard 200, selling 116,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
It’s easily the best sales week for the pair (Joy Williams and John Paul White), which previously had a one-week high after the Grammy Awards in 2012, when full-length debut “Barton Hollow” shifted 36,000 copies. Its sales that week were buoyed by the duo’s performance on the awards telecast, which shot the album from No. 41 to its peak of No. 10.
The Civil Wars have been on hiatus since last November, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” While the act isn’t performing shows to promote the new album, Williams has been giving interviews to the press. White, however, has been keeping a low profile and hasn’t spoken to the media.
A sturdy 69% of the Civil Wars’ first-week sales came from digital retailers. Its download sales of 81,000 easily place it at No. 1 on the Digital Albums chart as well.
The Civil Wars find themselves in an interesting position, considering their hiatus status. It means the album arrived to market without any live performances to support the set. Now, that isn’t all that unusual. After all, Daft Punk hasn’t set foot onstage in forever, yet its “Random Access Memories” opened at No. 1 earlier this year, selling 339,000 in its first week.
Also note the No. 2 arrival of David Bowie’s “The Next Day” earlier this year as well. Bowie not only declined to perform, he neither made any media appearances nor gave interviews. (He has, however, made music videos to promote the album; the Civil Wars have done the same.)
Perhaps there’s something to the mystique of the Civil Wars’ absence from the public eye (at least, on the performance stage)? To a certain extent, the duo — like Daft Punk and Bowie — is letting the music speak for itself. And because of that, fans who want to experience the group, and its music, really only have the album to turn to. Like Bowie and Daft Punk, the current Civil Wars experience has been boiled down to the music, and their album. So, in a way, perhaps it’s not that surprising that the duo has notched its best sales week ever.
Now, this couldn’t have been the way the duo could have planned for things to happen. And one has to imagine that had the pair not been on hiatus, the duo would be making the rounds of morning and late-night TV, performing the single and chatting up the album.
Hey Now: The new “Now 47” compilation album arrives at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with just 82,000 copies. That marks the lowest debut week for a regular, numbered “Now” album since the first installment arrived in 1998. That year, the long-running series’ simply titled “Now” arrived on the Nov. 14 chart at No. 21 with 48,000. It eventually climbed into the top 10, peaking at No. 10 on Jan. 23, 1999. It was the last regular “Now” release not to debut in the top 10.
Next Week: Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” is set to crash in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week with a very big bow.
Industry sources forecast the country star’s latest album will sell 500,000 copies by the end of the tracking week on Sunday, Aug. 18. That would mark the largest sales week for Bryan, and the biggest for any male country artist since 2004. (That November, Tim McGraw logged a 766,000 start with “Live Like You Were Dying.”)
If Bryan’s album moves 500,000, it would also be the third-largest sales week of 2013. Only the debuts of Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” (968,000) and Jay Z’s “Magna Carta…Holy Grail” (528,000) captured bigger weeks.
It’s fairly rare nowadays for a country act to log a week as big as Bryan’s potentially large start. Since 2008, only three country albums have sold more than 500,000 in a single week — and all three of them were by Taylor Swift (her last three studio releases).
While Bryan’s album will easily be the biggest of next week’s new entries, watch for a top five arrival from R&B singer K. Michelle (of VH1 reality show “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta”). She’ll likely sell around 65,000 of her debut, “Rebellious Soul.”