Lee DeWyze has set two American Idol records with his first major label album, records that he probably would rather have seen someone else acquire — or at least keep. The new album, “Live It Up,” dropped on Nov. 16, an optimal time for an album to be released. Its first single, “Sweet Serendipity,” was released in October, and the song’s video was released the day before the album hit the stores. With plenty of advance notice and good timing on the release date, what records did DeWyze break or set that he would rather have seen someone else lay claim to?
The Season 9 winner debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week at #19, the lowest charting debut of any of the American Idol winners. In fact, as Brian Mansfield at “Idol Chatter” reported, Lee DeWyze nearly set the mark for lowest debut of winners and runners-up. Only Justin Guarini (Season 1) and Diana DeGarmo (Season 3) had worse debut positions than the former Illinois paint salesman.
According to Billboard and Neilsen Soundscan, DeWyze’s album sold 39,000 copies, the lowest sales for a debut album by either a winner or runner-up of American Idol to date. The closest to his ignoble sales total is DeGarmo’s “Blue Skies,” which sold 47,000 copies its first week out in 2004.
Of course, one could say they saw it coming, especially with the Season 9 finale pulling some of the lowest ratings in the show’s history. Some could call it American Idol fatigue on the part of the viewing and listening public. Others might coldly suggest that the album sales reflect the talent. And there might be a few who would say that those are the breaks when Idol continues to push out cookie-cutter winners, considering that David Cook, Kris Allen, and Lee DeWyze — the last three winners — were all Midwesterners with an adult contemporary, quasi-alternative, pop sound.
The “next big thing” in pop music, the next “American Idol,” seems to have become a CD that has become stuck in replay mode. The next big thing has become the same old thing. Although that is not to say that Cook or Allen sound like DeWyze, because they all have their artistic differences and styles. But it does seem like the American Idol voters in the last few years have found their perfect mold — young, male, good-looking, white, Midwestern, baritone, plays guitar. They’re all John Cougar Mellencamp-lite — without the catchy nickname.
It could be that quality of “same-ness” that is producing the lowering sales. There has been a general decrease in album sales for American Idol winners the past three years. David Cook’s self-titled debut sold 280,000 copies its first week in 2008. Kris Allen sold only 80,000 last year with his eponymous first effort. But if one were to blame the lagging sales on the economy, one would have to look elsewhere. Adam Lambert, the Season 8 runner-up, debuted at #3, selling 198,000 copies of “For Your Entertainment.” Season 7’s David Archuleta’s self-titled first album bowed in at #2 with 183,000 when it debuted.
Does this bode ill for Crystal Bowersox, Season 9 runner-up to Lee DeWyze? It is difficult to say. Lambert’s debut more than doubled Allen’s last year (the albums were released one week apart). Bowersox’s debut is due out in early 2011.
Incidentally, the best debut album position by an American Idol winner? Kelly Clarkson and Ruben Studdard share the honor. Both debuted at #1 with their initial offerings. The best debut sales figures? Ruben Studdard, with 417,000. But if one includes runners-up, Studdard’s co-contestant for Season 2, Clay Aiken, takes the honor, pushing 613,000 copies of “Measure of a Man,” which debuted at the #1 position as well. Aiken is the only runner-up to have a debut album bow in at the top of the Billboard 200.
Brian Mansfield, “Lee DeWyze’s first-week sales lower than any previous ‘Idol’ winner,” USAToday.com
“Ask Billboard: ‘Idol Worship,'” Billboard.com