In terms of reviews, Ryan Adams’ Prisoner stands as his best-received album in quite some time, picking up glowing notices far and wide (even from the likes of cynical old me). But all that acclaim has not translated into a U.S. chart breakthrough, at least not yet.
In the March 11 Billboard 200 album-sales chart, Prisoner debuts at No. 8 with 45,000 copies sold, which puts him right behind veteran R&B man Charlie Wilson and ahead of Alison Krauss. A top-10 debut is a good showing, but this is still short of the No. 4 debut and peak of 2014’s Ryan Adams, which also sold 45,000 copies in its first week in September 2014; as well as his Taylor Swift 1989 tribute, which opened with 56,000 copies out of the gate in September 2015 to debut/peak at No. 7.
Of course, when it comes to sales figures and chart positions, the long game of where you finish is ultimately a lot more important than where you start. Ryan Adams debuted high but quickly dropped off the charts, eventually selling 134,000 copies in its first year of release. 1989 followed a similar pattern and hit 115,000 in sales.
We’ll see where Prisoner stands a year from now.
UPDATE (3/7/2017): So far, Ryan’s debut-high-and-fall-fast pattern is holding true to form. Week two finds Prisoner plummeting all the way down to No. 54 on the March 18 Billboard 200.
UPDATE #2 (3/14/2017): Falling even faster — down to No. 132 in week three, the March 25 chart.
UPDATE #3 (3/21/2017): Well, that was quick! After just three weeks on the Billboard 200, Prisoner falls all the way off and is nowhere to be found on the April 1 chart.