In round one of Eminem Vs. Miley Cyrus, to the rapper go the spoils
Did anyone actually expect a different outcome? But boy, what a margin!
According to HITS Daily Double, based on first-day sales estimates from retailers around the U.S., Eminem’s seventh studio album, Recovery, is bound for a first-week sales total between 590,000 and 615,000, naturally good enough for a No. 1 debut. Not only would that easily make it the biggest debut of 2010 so far, but it could also outpace the 608K debut-week total that Eminem’s last album, Relapse, sold in May of 2009.
Meanwhile, Miley’s Cyrus’s sexy new image looks set to result in a first-week sum in the 115K-t0-125K neighborhood for Can’t Be Tamed, which would bring it in at No. 3, behind Drake’s Thank Me Later, the new and current No. 1. That would be some 250K less than Cyrus’s last album, 2008’s Breakout, moved in week one, and still less than the 163,000 it sold in week two. This puts it on par, both in terms of first week sales and drop off from its predecessor, with Christina Aguilera’s Bionic. And if Bionic’s weak opening-week sum had many — yours truly included — declaring it a flop, what does that make Can’t Be Tamed’s opening-day performance? Tame, at best.
Of course, miracles happen, and Can’t Be Tamed can rebound, but over the years, the music business has become more like Hollywood, where for major new releases, it’s all about opening weekend. Good word of mouth is necessary to make a hit out of a slow starter, and the reviews for Can’t Be Tamed have been mostly unimpressive. A great second single will be paramount to its longevity and by extension, commercial success.
The morals of this story:
1) If the clock ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Cyrus may have gotten a lot of press mileage out of her new look and sound, but apparently, her core fan base of young girls just aren’t feeling it — or maybe it’s their parents who aren’t. (A friend of mine with two tween daughters recently told me that he’d be very uncomfortable taking his girls to see a Miley Cyrus show now.) There’s nothing inherently bad about wanting to change your image, but for a developing artist of Cyrus’s age, it can be disastrous if it’s done too soon and too quickly. She would have been wiser to stick with what has worked in the past for now and let the image evolve more slowly over time.
As for Eminem, he has managed the rare feat of longevity in rap by staying true to the artist he was in the very beginning. Yes, he’s no longer platinum blond, and he recently came out in support of gay marriage, but he has remained more or less the rapper we first met more than a decade ago — funny, confrontational and cranky. From the beginning, he never followed trends, so now he doesn’t have to keep up with them.
2) Never underestimate the power of a hit single. “Can’t Be Tamed,” Cyrus’s venture into the audio territory of Britney Spears and onto the visual turf of Shakira’s “She Wolf,” debuted nicely at No. 8 a month ago, but it wasn’t so uncontrollable commercially and has dropped as low as No. 24. In comparison, “Not Afraid,” the first Recovery single, debuted at No. 1 and, as of last week’s issue, remained in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 after six weeks. A new Recovery track, “Love the Way You Lie,” — a fantastic and commercially shrewd duet with a still-ticking-and-kicking-butt Rihanna that dovetails nicely with her darker recent work – is now No. 1 on iTunes, according to HITS, boding well for its Hot 100 future.
3) The music industry isn’t dead yet. Yes, sales are limp and one-time superstars are struggling (poor Sarah McLachlan; wonder if Sheryl Crow is worried about the fate of her upcoming disc), but acts like Eminem, Drake, Sade and Lady Antebellum have proven in 2010 that if you build a strong enough core of fans, and deliver what they want, some of them will still pay money for it.