Folk rock has briefly eclipsed teen pop as Mumford and Sons outsold Justin Bieber on both sides of the Atlantic. Their new album Babel has become the fastest-selling album of 2012, outstripping Bieber's record.
Babel sold 159,000 copies in its first week of release in the UK, ensuring a chart-topping position. In the USA it sold around 600,000 copies, overtaking Bieber’s figures as fastest-selling album of the year. Bieber’s Believe only managed to shift 374,000 albums in its first week.
The public-school folkies have captured the imagination of American music fans, partly through high-profile TV appearances and a gig at the White House, but mainly through their commitment to touring. "We've toured there a lot," Marcus Mumford said. "I think live shows really connect with people, the way you can't on record."
The success of Babel follows the impressive sales of their debut Sigh No More, which went four times platinum. Despite plenty of rumours about a change of direction, Babel sounds very similar to its predecessor. The frontman is still amazed by the sales figures. "We're quite surprised," he said. "It's quite daunting. We're happy with the record which we've made."
With individual downloads and on-demand streaming also featuring in the Billboard chart, the Mumfords have six entries in the top 100 in the USA. The music industry magazine referred to their success as "Mumfordmania" with their chart domination echoing the era of Beatlemania in the mid-60s. It’s the first time that any single act has achieved six top 100 hits in the same week since The Beatles managed it in 1964.