This week marks a high point for the "power couple" status of Big Sean and Ariana Grande: The former's new album Dark Sky Paradise topped the Billboard 200, selling nearly 140,000 copies in the process. That gives him his first no. 1 album, which matches him with his girlfriend, who topped albums charts with My Everything last year. Grande may have outsold her beau but that doesn't necessarily mean she "wears the pants" in the relationship (it's tough to imagine her ever wearing pants, based on her typical stage apparel). Music Times looked back over the last few years and found couples who had both released new albums within a year of each other, researched who sold more and which album was ultimately better, in deciding who ran the house that year.
Dark Sky Paradise by Big Sean vs. My Everything by Ariana Grande
SOLD MORE: Grande just barely edged her beau when it came to first week sales...moving nearly 170,000 copies of My Everything during its first week. You have to consider however that those reports came from before Billboard began considering streaming and single downloads into total equivalent sales. She sold 170,000 in pure albums...Sean sold 173,000 altogether. When you take her smash singles such as "Problem," "Break Free" and "Love Me Harder" into consideration, she may have pushed her "equivalent" album totals to huge heights. It's too early to tell how well Sean will perform in the long run but Grande has been a hit abroad as well, breaking the record for most weeks at no. 1 on iTunes in Japan.
BETTER: Big Sean is getting there but he could still use some helpful prodding from his label boss Kanye West. Grande silenced doubters with My Everything, releasing one of the best pop albums of 2014, and definitely the best pop album you'll hear in the Top 40.
Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay Z vs. Beyoncé by Beyoncé
SOLD MORE: Now we're looking at an all-out salespocalypse when you consider the most powerful couple in music. Jay fired the opening shots of 2013, bringing in 528,000 copies in its first week alone and became the first album in two years since Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV to spend two weeks consecutive at no. 1. That's not even counting all the reach from those who received the album for free from a Samsung app promotion (those albums weren't counted toward the final Billboard counts). Bey figured the only way to one-up her husband was to stage the most dramatic album release of all time, breaking the internet when Beyoncé dropped randomly. Twitter went nuts and so did buyers, moving 600,000 copies in the three days, and pushed it to platinum status in around 11 days.
BETTER: Jay Z put up an admirable battle against his wife in the sales department, and in fact released on of 2013's bestselling albums. As for the actual quality of the album? No comparison. Magna Carta Holy Grail was far from Jay's best release and Beyoncé was the pop star's best, and that's not even considering the implications the release had on "surprise" albums drops in the future (since mimicked by U2 and Drake) and its inclusion of music videos for every song.
Bringing Back The Sunshine by Blake Shelton vs. Platinum by Miranda Lambert
SOLD MORE: Somewhat surprisingly...Miranda Lambert. All music genres outside of pop have a tendency to feature more male performers than female performers, and sell accordingly. If you don't count Taylor Swift as true country (and we don't), the ladies just haven't fared as well as the big "bro country" acts. Shelton also had wide exposure on his side thanks to his judging gig on The Voice (and doing pretty well at it, we might add), so it's curious that he managed "only" 101,000 fist-week copies for his 2014 album Bringing Back The Sunshine. Lambert is a big enough name in the country scene but she touched a nerve with more mainstream listeners and sold 180,000 copies of her Platinum. Shelton, unfortunately, has just been on a sales slide: His Based on A True Story... from 2013 debuted with 200,000 copies sold.
BETTER: Once again, ladies rule. No disrespect to Shelton-his release was certainly passable...but Lambert joined Sturgill Simpson atop nearly every list of "Best Country Albums" for 2014. As she demonstrated on The Grammy telecast this year, her personality comes out a tad stronger onstage.
Chelsea Light Moving by Chelsea Light Moving vs. Coming Apart by Body/Head
Okay, so you knew that Music Times couldn't get too far before we started commenting on unhappy relationships as well. The Thurston Moore/Kim Gordon split was devastating (for both Gordon and all Sonic Youth fans), and it largely resulted us hating Moore as a result. One, for ending the greatest relationship in alternative music by way of an affair...two, because Gordon was diagnosed with breast cancer during the proceedings (fourth pushing us to her)...and three because Twilight broke up and we blame Moore for that too. Why was he in a black metal band to begin with? (Note: Twilight did not break up because of Moore).
SOLD MORE: Looking at albums from Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon for sales information is kind of beside the point. Neither cracked the Billboard 200 but at least Chelsea Light Moving made the Billboard Heatseekers chart?
BETTER: No matter what we say, we've pretty much given away our bias toward Gordon at this point. All that said, these are both fine albums. Coming Apart just happens to be a finer album, thanks to its strict adherence to guitar and its Youth-esque drone.
Fearless, Speak Now, and Red by Taylor Swift vs. A Little Bit Longer (by The Jonas Brothers), Battle Studies (by John Mayer), and Take Me Home (by One Direction)
You knew we were going to go here. Swift has dumped/been dumped by a lot of celebrity boyfriends, and many had to battle her on the album front soon after.
SOLD MORE: Joe Jonas, the first guy to go head-to-head with Swift on the Billboard 200 following a breakup, was also the most successful. His group sold more than 525,000 copies of A Little Bit Longer in its first week, while her Fearless was just less than 600,000. John Mayer was next. His Battle Studies sold 286,000 copies...good for 99 percent of musicians...but child's play for Swift, who went platinum in her first week with Speak Now. One Direction tried to defend Harry Styles's honor with Take Me Home, which debuted to 540,000 in sales...a total Swift doubled with Red in its first week. Before the Jonas Bros get too cocky about how close they came, they should consider how the two albums have sold since. They're at a cool 1.6 million with A Little Bit Longer...while Fearless is at 6 million total. No one can realistically expect to compete with Swift for sales. Maybe that's a turn-off for insecure dudes?
BETTER: A Little Bit Longer was the best Jonas Brothers album the band put out...but we might stick our necks out and call Fearless our favorite Swift album as well. Battle Studies is far from John Mayer's best album...making it easy for Swift to win out with Speak Now even with the awkwardly blunt "Dear John" on its tracklist. And, once again, One Direction hadn't quite gotten past their good looks and into making quality music yet, so Swift wins again with Red over Take Me Home.
WINNER: Swift. Dang. Every instance we came up with resulted in the ladies winning out over their husbands/boyfriends/exes...kind of makes your correspondent feel like starting a band with the only purpose being to outsell his wife.