Forget hip hop: Who knew that folk rock could take it this far? (Sorry Jay-Z).
According to Billboard, London lads Mumford & Sons—they of acoustic guitars and fiddles, suit vests and deeply touching balladry—have achieved the biggest debut album of the year with their second release, Babel. It rocketed to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart with more than 600,000 copies sold in its first week. That's almost double the first week sales of Justin Bieber's Believe. It's 170,00 some more than that of Watch the Throne. Justin, Kanye, Jay-Z—you have met your match.
What the... When did Mumford & Sons get THIS big? How did this happen? I mean, we knew the quartet would be big, but this is big-big, no? They're beating the pop stars at their own game, and they're making it seem effortless, like an accident. Perhaps that's the charm: Mumford & Sons are first musicians, guys with acoustic guitars and lyrics about swelling hearts. They don't feel like products, unlike, say, Bieber and all his transparent marketing and press blitzes. It feels organic, holistic; their music, perceived personalities and presentation are inviting and unforced.
Folk rock is the new pop, apparently (for now), and its rise has been slow but steady. Artists like Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, Edward Sharpe all towed the line between indie and pop, stepping across it, albeit briefly, with Twilight cameos, critically acclaimed No. 4 albums like Helplessness Blues and cross-over hits like "Home," respectively. Last year, Bon Iver nabbed a few Grammys and hit the No. 2 spot on the charts with Bon Iver, Bon Iver, selling 104,000 copies in its debut week. But now Mumford & Sons have a bonafide folk hit. The record labels are paying attention, probably already assigning a new A&R rep to the "folk" division. Meanwhile, Glassnote Records, Mumfords label home, is certainly celebrating; they just earned their first No. 1.
Mumford & Sons' Babel earned more records that just Biggest Debut of 2012, too. It's also the second largest sales week for an independently distributed album, ever. EVER. It's also the second largest digital sales week for an album; Babel sold 420,000 downloads, landing behind only Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which moved 662,000 downloads in its first week.
So there you have it: Folk rock has arrived. Expect to see more young troubadours on America Idol, X Factor and the like. Expect to hear Babel tracks in elevators and grocery stores and airports.
Now go get yourself an acoustic guitar and get rich.