Week Ending May 26, 2013. Albums: Daft Punk Gets Lucky

Daft Punk’s

fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, enters The Billboard 200 at #1 with first-week sales of 339,000. That’s the second best opening so far this year, trailing only Justin Timberlake’sThe 20/20 Experience, which opened with sales of 968K in March. While Timberlake has been putting up these kind of numbers for 15 years, dating back to his days with *NSYNC, this is a breakthrough for Daft Punk. The duo’s biggest sales week before this week came when its soundtrack to TRON: Legacy sold 71K in its first week in December 2010.

These two albums have something in common besides their blockbuster first weeks. Both albums were made available for free streaming on iTunes for a week prior to being released commercially. The idea behind this strategy is that the buzz and word-of-mouth created during the free streaming period offsets the lost sales. And it seems to be working. Billboard’s Alex Phem reports that more than 30 other artists have participated in Apple’s promotional program since it began in August 2011 with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ I’m With You. Other outlets have gotten in on the action, including YouTube, Spotify and Pandora.

Daft Punk, which consists of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, is one of the few French artists to reach #1 on The Billboard 200. Conductor Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra were #1 for five weeks in March 1968 with Blooming Hits. The album included the #1 instrumental smash “Love Is Blue.”

Random Access Memories is the first dance/electronic album to reach #1 since Madonna’s MDNA debuted at #1 in April 2012.

Random Access Memories sold nearly three times as many copies this week as Daft Punk’s previous studio album, 2005’s Human After All, has sold in its entire run (127K). That album was a dud for the duo. Its first two studio albums both sold better. Homework has sold 674K copies since its release in 1997. Discovery has sold 802K since its release in 2001. Discovery rebounds from #104 to #59 on The Billboard 200 this week. (It peaked at #44 when it was first released.) The album jumps to #1 on Top Catalog Albums, displacing George Jones’ Super Hits.

Two other factors lifted the new album to these heights. Daft Punk’s score for Disney’s TRON: Legacy boosted the duo’s profile and stature. (The album reached #4 in January 2011 and has sold 588K copies.) And the success of the top 10 single “Get Lucky” (featuring Pharrell Williams) has given the act heavy radio exposure for the past month. The glossy pop-disco track sounds like it would have been a smash at Studio 54 in the 1970s.

Random Access Memories sold 221K digital copies and enters Top Digital Albums at #1. TRON: Legacy headed the digital sales chart for three weeks in late 2010 and early 2011.

Random Access Memories also enters The Official U.K. chart at #1. It’s Daft Punk’s first #1 in that country. Discovery reached #2 in 2001. Random Access Memories sold 165K copies in the U.K., which is the biggest one-week tally so far this year. It tops Michael Buble’s To Be Loved, which sold 121K in its first week last month. (Bear in mind, the U.K. has a population of 63 million, which is about one-fifth of the population of the U.S.—314 million.)

Daft Punk is only the fourth ongoing duo to release an album that reached #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. They follow Simon & Garfunkel (who did it twice), Carpenters and Wham! (They’re the fifth if you count a collabo by John Lennon & Yoko Ono.)

Daft Punk won a pair of Grammys for 2008 for Best Dance Recording (“Harder Better Faster Stronger”) and Best Electronic/Dance Album (Alive 2007). They’re likely to be front-runners in the same two categories in January for “Get Lucky” and Random Access Memories, respectively. They’d be only the second act, following Skrillex, to win twice in both categories.

Random Access Memories is also likely to be nominated for Album of the Year. It may give Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience a run for its money in that category. Taylor Swift’s Red is also a strong contender.

Darius Rucker’s

True Believers debuts at #2. It’s Rucker’s third top five album as a solo artist. This matches the number of top five albums he had with Hootie & the Blowfish. Hootie first cracked the top five with Cracked Rear View in March 1995 and returned to the top five with Fairweather Johnson in April 1996 and Musical Chairs in September 1998. Rucker first cracked the top five with Learn To Live in September 2007 and followed suit with Charleston, SC 1966 in October 2010.

This is Rucker’s second album in a row to debut at #2. Charleston, SC 1966 also opened in the runner-up slot.

True Believers

enters Top Country Albums at #1, displacing George Strait’sLove Is Everything. All three of Rucker’s country albums have topped the country chart. Learn To Love spent two weeks on top. Charleston, SC 1966 spent one week on top. Rucker is the most successful African American artist in country music since Charley Pride, who amassed 12 #1 country albums between 1968 and 1980.

This is Rucker’s fourth solo album. His first, Back To Then, peaked at #127 in 2002. That was in the lull between the end of his Hootie run and his emergence as a country star in 2008.

The National’s

sixth studio album, Trouble Will Find Me, debuts at #3. It’s the group’s second album in a row to debut at #3. High Violet achieved the feat in May 2010. The group appeared on The Colbert Report last week.

French Montana’s debut album, Excuse My French, opens at #4. The 28-year old rapper was born in Morocco. The album features both of his Hot 100 hits as a lead artist: “Pop That” (featuring Rick Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne) and “Freaks” (featuring Nicki Minaj). “Pop That” reached #36 in 2012. “Freaks” hit #77 this year.

Music From Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

dips from #4 to #5. It’s the only album that has appeared in the top five in each of the last two weeks. It’s #1 on Top Soundtracks for the third week. Soundtracks to two earlier Luhrmann movies were also smash hits. Romeo + Juliet was the highest-ranking soundtrack on The Billboard 200 for three weeks. Moulin Rouge was the top soundtrack for eight weeks.

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ fourth studio album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, debuts at #6. It’s the band’s first top 10 album. Each of the band’s studio albums has charted higher than the one before it. It’s first album, 30 Seconds To Mars, reached #107 in 2002. Its second, A Beautiful Lie, hit #36 in 2005. Its third, This Is War, which reached #18 in 2009.

“Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton holds at #1 for the fifth week on Hot Digital Songs (212K). That’s the lowest sales tally for a song at #1 on this chart since Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” was #1 with sales of 197K in December. Will “Can’t Hold Us” also hold at #1 for the fourth week on the Hot 100? You’ll find out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.

Here’s the low-down on this week’s top 10 albums.

The Top Five: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories debuts at #1 (339K). It’s the duo’s second top five album…Darius Rucker’s True Believers debuts at #2 (83K). It’s Rucker’s third top five album as a solo artist…The National’s Trouble Will Find Me debuts at #3 (75K). It’s the group’s second top five album…French Montana’s Excuse My French debuts at #4 (56K). It’s the rapper’s first top five album…Music From Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby dips from #4 to #5 in its third week (54K). It has ranked in the top five the entire time.

The Second Five: Thirty Seconds To Mars’ Love Lust Faith + Dreams debuts at #6 (53K). It’s the band’s first top 10 album…Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City drops from #1 to #7 in its second week (48K)…George Strait’s Love Is Everything drops from #2 to #8 in its second week (43K)… Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience drops from #7 to #9 in its 10th week (42K). It has ranked in the top 10 the entire time…Lady Antebellum’s Golden drops from #5 to #10 in its third week (34K). It has ranked in the top 10 the entire time.

Five albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Demi Lovato’s Demi drops from #3 to #14. Now 46 drops from #6 to #11. Michael Buble’s To Be Loved drops from #8 to #12. Pistol Annies’ Annie Up drops from #9 to #22…Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story… drops from #10 to #16.

A Firm Handshake’s

Fix Me Up debuts at #20. The EP contains ZachSobiech’s “Clouds,” which re-enters Hot Digital Songs at #7 based with sales for the week of 156K copies. It’s expected to enter the Hot 100 inside the top 20. A Firm Handshake consists of Zach Sobiech and SammyBrown. Sobiech lost a battle with bone marrow cancer on May 20. He was just 18.

The Fast & Furious 6 soundtrack debuts at #32. This is the highest-charting soundtrack from a Fast & Furious movie since 2 Fast 2 Furious reached #5 in June 2003. That was the second movie in the series. The first, 2001’s The Fast And The Furious, also spawned a top 10 soundtrack. Fast & Furious 6 was #1 at the box-office over the weekend. “We Own It” by 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa is the breakout single from the album. It enters Hot Digital Songs at #19.

The Rolling Stones’

Crossfire Hurricane leaps from #49 to #1 in its second week on Top Music Videos, displacing Eagles’History Of The Eagles. It sold 7K copies. The two-hour music documentary aired on HBO in November. It’s the group’s fourth music video to reach #1. It follows 25 X 5: The Continuing Adventures Of The Rolling Stones (six weeks on top in 1990), The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus (one week on top in 1996) and Ladies And Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (two weeks on top in 2010). The title of the new video is drawn from the opening line of the band’s 1968 classic “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” The song reached #3 in July 1968.

Coming Attractions: Look for Alice in Chains’ The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here to debut at #2 next week, with first-week sales in the 60K range. (Daft Punk will likely remain at #1.) Little Mix’s DNA and John Fogerty’s Wrote A Song For Everyone will battle for #3, each with sales in the 45K range. Likely to open below the top 10: Paul McCartney’s Wings Over America 2 (19K), The-Dream’s IV Play (18K), Kid Ink’s Almost Home EP (11K) and the Kinky Boots original cast album.