Niall Byrne: Gaga's got a POP problem
Lady Gaga's new album ARTPOP sold 258,000 copies in the US in its first week and hit number one as expected. But by comparison to her 2011 album Born This Way, which had 1.1 million sales in its first seven days, that number represents a 75pc drop in first-week sales.
Initial Born This Way figures include 440,000 sales taken from a 99 cent album sale on Amazon MP3, which if you subtract from the overall figure deflates Born This Way's sales to 668,000.
That's more than double the 258,000 US ARTPOP sales, which are in line with recent 2013 albums from fellow female chart-toppers; Katy Perry's Prism (286,000) and Miley Cyrus' Bangerz (270,000) but, significantly lower than those from male pop stars.
Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP 2 debuted with 792,000 sales last month while Drake's Nothing Was The Same had 658,000 copies in its first week. Both Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience albums debuted with 968,000 and 350,000 respectively this year. That male/female problem is a worrying but separate issue in itself.
The numbers do suggest Gaga isn't as popular as she once was. The ARTPOP figures reflect the drop in interest in Gaga as seen on Google Trends, the company's tool that charts search term volume. By the sales and search interest, she's normalised to the same level as other female pop stars.
For Gaga to maintain that Born This Way level, she needs big hits and ARTPOP seems lacking in that department. It can't have helped that Gaga has parted ways with her long-time manager Troy Carter and went on a promo tour that included SNL and The Graham Norton Show that saw her perform several tracks as if she was trying to make one of them stick as "a hit".
Her duet with R Kelly, Do What U Want, may be the track that does the business but her label Interscope have spent a purported $25-30 million on promo for the album. Of course, an artist's impact is ultimately more than one-week sales but the numbers so far suggest Gaga has fallen from celestial pop star to an earthly weird one.
Her next phase is her big test -- relevance and longevity.