Justin Bieber’s new Journals album received mixed to positive reviews but has performed poorly in album charts in several countries, including Britain where it failed to break into the Top 40 of the UK Official Albums Chart.
The singer’s new set was released exclusively to iTunes December 23. The album includes all 10 songs rolled out from his 10-week “Music Mondays” series — in which one song was released at midnight every Monday — along with five previously unreleased tracks, many of which were collaborations.
Although Journals shot to No. 1 on iTunes US (and multiple charts) following its release and was the third biggest selling album on iTunes in the week ending December 29, it had slipped to No. 12 by January 2.
Bieber’s album debuted at No. 46 in the UK charts and has fallen further to No. 94. It reached No. 35 in Australia, No. 38 in Italy, No. 64 in Ireland, and No. 174 in France. It entered the Top Ten in Norway and Denmark, where it peaked at No. 2.
Notably, on December 29, Billboard reported Bieber’s collection was “selling well” on iTunes [retail $13.99] and could see sales of over 100,000.
The publication also noted iTunes isn’t reporting sales for the album to Nielsen SoundScan so it won’t appear on Billboard’s charts.
In comparison, Bieber’s Believe album soared to No. 1 in album charts around the world when it was released back in June 2012.
Journals was a digital-only release made available as a package until January 2. After that, singles could (and can) only be bought per track.
NME reports the low chart positions are likely down to many fans already having all 10 or most “Music Mondays” songs by the time the album was released. Tom Leo, founder of YouKnowIGotSoul.com told The Boombox:
“I don’t think it was really promoted besides him tweeting it out on Twitter,” Leo explains. “So unless you follow him, or visit the various pop/R&B blogs that picked it up, you wouldn’t know it was out.”
In an October interview with Billboard, manager Scooter Braun made a point of separating “Music Mondays” from the singer’s catalog.
“Justin had this complete body of work that was very different from the stuff he had done in the past, very R&B-driven, personal songs, not necessarily songs that he was thinking of as radio records. That’s why he called them ‘journals,’” Braun said, adding: “They’re very, very personal to what he’s been feeling over the last six months, going through a tough time.”
Despite this, as past and present requests posted from Bieber’s Twitter feed asking fans to buy Journals and singles show, it would be naive to think sales aren’t a priority. All artists want their work to be heard, and to sell.
On a creative note, many reviewers – notably Ernest Baker, the Toronto Star, Spin, and the Los Angeles Times – praised the singer’s musical maturation and willingness to reveal lyrical vulnerability on the album.
Sam Lansky, Senior Edior at Idolator, said of Justin’s new set, “This was a way for Justin to kind of show a different part of himself than you hear on the albums, or what you see in the press.”
Billboard editor Joe Levy added, “It’s a little more grown up for Justin, it’s a more adult R&B sound. Talking about his version of what Kanye said on 808s & Heartbreak. He is not feeling happy, he is not feeling ‘Pop Justin.’”
Despite minimal to no radio airplay and an official video released for just one Journals song, all 10 “Music Mondays” singles charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for at least one week. “Heartbreaker” peaked highest at at No. 13, “All That Matters” reached No. 24, while “Hold Tight” got to No. 29.
Balancing commercial concerns and a desire to put out the music he wants are likely to be uppermost on Bieber’s mind this year when he starts to seriously put his next studio album together.
Alongside Journals’ low chartings, the Believe film’s poor domestic box office ($6,021,522 after 12 days) raises questions such as why the majority of Bieber’s fans don’t appear to be supporting his album and movie.
While Believe was only available in limited locations and many fans may not have wanted to buy Journals as a package because they already had most of the “Music Mondays” singles, box office turnout and album chartings are still low. Given that many Bieber fans are tweens and their purchasing choices are governed by parents, the lack of festive buy-through may reflect “mom and dad’s” reaction to the 19-year-old’s incident-filled 2013 amid a competitive Christmas market for films and music; rather than widespread fan apathy.
And maybe not.