She asked for applause, and she got it -- though perhaps quite a bit less than she’d hoped for.
Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” entered the Billboard 200 on Wednesday at No. 1, the singer’s second chart-topper following “Born This Way” in 2011.
Whereas “Born” sold 1.1 million copies in its first week in sales -- thanks in part to an Amazon promotion that offered the album for 99 cents -- “Artpop” moved merely 258,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That wasn’t terribly more than Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” which dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 on second-week sales of 210,000.
Smaller numbers are, of course, the norm in a record industry that continues to shrink thanks to online distribution (of the authorized and unauthorized varieties).
But “Artpop” didn’t just sell fewer copies than “Born This Way”; it also did less business than its two principal competitors this fall: Katy Perry’s “Prism” (which debuted with 286,000) and Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” (270,000).
One reason may be a partnership with the fast-fashion retailer H&M; that appears to have underperformed: In a detailed Billboard post, Keith Caulfield writes that his sources say fewer than 1,000 physical copies of “Artpop” sold at H&M; stores.
Mixed reviews of the album may also have kept record-buyers away, though Pop & Hiss is wary of overstating critics’ influence compared with the power of Lady Gaga’s carpet-bombing promotional schedule.
Indeed, the singer was hard to avoid last week, from the so-called ArtRave event she live-streamed from Brooklyn to a much-discussed appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in which she bumped ‘n’ grinded with R. Kelly on their killer duet “Do What U Want.”
As pegged to “Artpop” as it was, though, much of Lady Gaga’s activity seemed to emphasize her non-musical talents: her comedic ability, for instance, or her long-established flair for redoing her hair.
Maybe Lady Gaga is moving into the will.i.am phase of her career, where her presence is constructed less around making and selling records -- the Black Eyed Peas frontman’s "#willpower” this year fared miserably -- than it is around her general determination to entertain us.
Then again, her song “Gypsy” might be the best arena-rock tune anyone’s put out this year. (Watch her do it on “SNL” below.) Should her label release that track as “Artpop’s” next single -- and steer well clear of the ghastly “Manicure” and “Jewels N’ Drugs” -- Lady Gaga might once again have a hit on her jazz hands.