Have one on Joanna Newsom. Or not.

For all the praise Joanna Newsom gets, she can't sell any albums

With the entire critical world gushing over Joanna Newsom‘s new triple disc Have One On Me and the always-fevered praise by her loyal followers, it was almost a bit shocking to see the album stumble out the gate the way it did.

The album, Newsom’s first since her equally-championed Ys in 2006, debuted on the Billboard 200 at 75 in its first week of release. It came in at number 80 in Canada – the lowest debut that week in the top 100. Matthew Barber, who received a sliver of the positive press Newsom commands, came in two spots ahead.

According to the LA Times, who seemed quite disheartened to report these figures since their own writer basically called it a masterpiece, Have One On Me moved a dismal 7,000 copies in the United States.

Seven thousand copies? Vampire Weekend, just to compare with another major indie release, did 125,000 in their first week with the same awareness level, and far more critical detractors.

We’re talking about an artist the New York Times sent Jody Rosen all the way to Newsom’s home in Northern California to write a lavish 5,000-word puff piece in which Newsom is compared to Bob Dylan and extolled for her modernistic literary lyrical genius. Again, seven thousand copies?

Does anyone remember about a month ago when the editor-in-chief at Pitchfork, Scott Plagenhoef, came out swinging on a message board about how people underestimate his website’s influence in the industry? Well they gave this record and Newsom’s last one near-perfect ratings, so draw your own conclusions there.

It makes you wonder if these sub par sales figures are less a failure on the part of Newsom or an indictment on the waning influence of music criticism.

There’s obviously a major disconnect going on here between those in the media championing her and the interest of the general public, which has collectively shrugged so far on this triple album of esoteric songs by an elfin-looking lass with a weird penchant for singing from the side of her mouth.

Perhaps you caught her performance over the weekend on the Jimmy Fallon show. She has beautiful and unique voice, but I must admit I’m amongst the shrugging classes on this one. Maybe I’m not smart enough to understand Newsom’s brilliant lyrical innovation, twisted phrases and eccentric anachronistic nuances. Can’t say I’ve ever been a big pedal harp lover either.

Meanwhile, Sade, a much less artistically complicated singer who represents simple concepts of romantic experience, though ignored by the tastemaking websites and tepidly received by old establishment media critics, is selling records hand over fist.[rssbreak]

Joanna Newsom plays the Phoenix Concert Theatre this Saturday. Early show – starts at 6 pm.

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