Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail sold a better-than-expected 528K copies in its first week. Only one album has gotten off to a faster start this year—Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, which sold 968K in its first week in March (boosted immeasurably by “Suit & Tie,” a stylish collabo with Jay-Z).
The first-week tally for Magna Carta is substantially more than Yeezus, by Jay-Z’s pal and sometime collaborator Kanye West, has sold in its first four weeks combined (459K). It’s Jay-Z’s biggest opening tally since Kingdom Come sold 680K in its first week in November 2006. It’s the best sales week for a rap album since Drake’s Take Care sold 631K copies in its first week in November 2011.
Magna Carta becomes Jay-Z’s 13th #1 album on The Billboard 200, which puts Jay-Z second only to the Beatles as the act with the most #1 albums in chart history. The Fab Four has had 19 #1 albums. But the competition is closer than that stat makes it look. Jay-Z is just one #1 album behind the number of chart-topping albums the Beatles had while they were a current recording act (through 1970). (The Beatles’ last five #1 albums were compilations released long after their breakup.)
By remarkable coincidence, Jay-Z was born Dec. 4, 1969, when the Beatles’ 13th #1 album, Abbey Road, was sitting at #1.
Jay-Z has had more #1 albums than any other American artist in chart history; more than any other African-American artist; and more than any other hip-hop artist. Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen are in second place among American artists, with 10 #1 albums each.
Magna Carta is Jay-Z’s fourth album to start with sales of 500K or more. It’s his 10th album (and his fifth studio album in a row) to start with sales north of 400K. You read a lot about declining album sales and how it’s not possible to expect albums to sell like they used to, but Jay-Z defies the trends.
Jay-Z’s total is especially impressive because it doesn’t count the 1 million digital copies that Samsung made available for free to its phone and tablet users who had downloaded a Jay-Z centric app. “Nothing was actually for sale,” Bill Werde, Billboard’s editorial director, wrote in an open letter to the industry explaining the decision.
If there had been no Samsung deal, Jay-Z’s album would probably sold even more copies this week. (Of course, it works both ways: The publicity about the Samsung deal and its chart repercussions helped focus attention on the album, which made it even more of an event album.)
Magna Carta also debuts at #1 on Top Digital Albums. It sold 348K digital copies, which is the second biggest one-week tally for a rap album. Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV sold 362K digital copies in its first week in September 2011. Watch The Throne, Jay-Z’s 2011 collabo with West, slips to third place among rap albums. It sold 321K digital copies in its first week in August 2011.
Nine songs from the album enter Hot Digital Songs chart this week. “Holy Grail,” Jay-Z’s collabo with Justin Timberlake, bows at #3 (196K). It enters the Hot 100 at #8. That’s the second highest debut so far this year (after Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”).
Magna Carta is the fourth rap or hip-hop album to hold the #1 spot in as many weeks. It follows Yeezus, Wale’s The Gifted and J. Cole’s Born Sinner. This is the first time that four rap albums have held the top spot in succession since December 2004. Jay-Z had an album in that run, too—Collision Course, his collabo with Linkin Park. That album was followed in the top spot by Ludacris’ The Red Light District, 2Pac’s Loyal To The Game and Eminem’s Encore.
The sales of the new album brings Jay-Z’s total album sales to 28,976,000, per Nielsen SoundScan. That puts him in third place among rappers, behind Eminem (42,307,000) and 2Pac (29,010,000). So in this coming week, he’ll surpass 2Pac, who was shot to death in September 1996. Rounding out the top five rap album artists since January 1991, per Nielsen SoundScan, are Nelly (21,743,000) and Beastie Boys (20,384,000).
In the U.S., Magna Carta had the biggest first week (and biggest single day) for an album in the history of the Spotify service.
Magna Carta also debuts at #1 on The Official U.K. Albums chart. It’s Jay-Z’s first #1 album in that country. His previous highest-charting album was Watch The Throne, which hit #3. His previous highest-charting album as a solo artist was The Blueprint III, which reached #4 in 2009.
Ciara’s fifth album, Ciara, debuts at #2. This marks a strong recovery from her last album, Basic Instinct, which debuted and peaked at #44 in December 2010. (It got lost in the superstar-laden Christmas traffic. Also, it failed to produce a top 40 hit on the Hot 100.) The new album is Ciara’s fourth album to reach the top three. Her only album to climb higher is Ciara: The Evolution, which reached #1 in December 2006. The first single from the new album, “Body Party,” jumped to #25 on last week’s Hot 100. Another song, “I’m Out” (featuring Nicki Minaj), was the week’s top new entry at #50.
Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s To The Good Times jumps from #5 to #4, which is its highest ranking to date. It holds at #1 on Top Country Albums for the fourth week. It’s the first album by a duo to log four or more weeks at #1 on the country chart since Sugarland’s Love On The Inside, which spent six weeks on top in the summer of 2008. It’s the first debut album to log four or more weeks at #1 on the country chart since Scotty McCreery’s Clear As Day, which spent six weeks on top in 2011.
Skylar Grey’s sophomore album, Don’t Look Down, debuts at #8. Grey was known as Holly Brook in 2006 when her debut album, Like Blood, Like Honey, was released. It failed to chart. Grey was featured on two of the 50 best-selling songs of 2011: Dr. Dre’s “I Need A Doctor” (which also featured Eminem) and Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home.”
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs for the seventh week. It sold 384K copies this week, which means it just missed becoming the first song to reach 400K in weekly sales four times. It remains tied with “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra as the only two songs in digital history to sell 400K copies three times. Will “Blurred Lines” also hold at #1 for the sixth week on the Hot 100? Count on it. But you’ll find out for sure out later today when we post Chart Watch: Songs.
Here’s the low-down on this week’s top 10 albums.
The Top Five: Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail debuts at #1 (528K). It’s his 15th top 10 album…Ciara’s Ciara debuts at #2 (59K). It’s her fourth top 10 album…J. Cole’s Born Sinner drops from #1 to #3 in its fourth week (40K). It has been in the top five the entire time…Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s To The Good Times inches up from #5 to #4 in its 31st week (33K). This is its seventh week in the top 10…Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions dips from #4 to #5 in its 45th week (33K). This is its 14th week in the top 10.
The Second Five: Kanye West’s Yeezus drops from #3 to #6 in its fourth week (29K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Wale’s The Gifted drops from #2 to #7 in its third week (28K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Skylar Grey’s Don’t Look Down debuts at #8 (24K). This is her first top 10 album…Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories drops from #7 to #9 its eighth week (23K). It has been in the top 10 the entire time…Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist drops from #8 to #10 in its 40th week (23K). This is its seventh week in the top 10.
Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Joe’s Double Back: Evolution Of R&B drops from #6 to #21. Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox drops from #9 to #11. Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story… drops from #10 to #14.
Pitch Perfect inches up from #13 to #12 in its 38th week. It’s the highest-ranking soundtrack from a theatrically-released movie for the 20th week. Anna Kendrick’s sleeper hit “Cups (Pitch Perfect’s When I’m Gone)” jumped to #10 on last week’s Hot 100.
Donell Jones’ seventh studio album, Forever, debuts at #20. Jones, 40, first charted in 1996 with My Heart. He climbed to #3 with 2002’s Life Goes On.
Bob Marley & the Wailers’ 1984 compilation Legend drops from #27 to #33 its 276th week on the chart. Legend holds at #1 on Top Catalog Albums. This is its 117th week on top of that chart (in the Nielsen SoundScan era).
Lil Wayne tops the 15 million mark in career album sales this week. The rapper first charted as a solo artist in November 1999 with Tha Block Is Hot. He had previously charted with the collective Hot Boy$. Lil Wayne was just 15 when the Hot Boy$ album charted in August 1999.
Mindless Behavior’s Mindless Behavior: All Around The World debuts at #1 on Top Music Videos. The music documentary was released theatrically on March 15. The doc follows the R&B/hip-hop boy band as it travels across the U.S. on its first headlining tour. Mindless Behavior has had two top 10 albums on The Billboard 200: #1 Girl and All Around The World.
Despicable Me 2 was #1 at the box-office for the second straight weekend.
Coming Attractions: Jay-Z’s album will hold tight at #1 with sales in the 115K range. The rest of the top five may well consist entirely of debuts: Sara Bareilles’ Blessed Unrest (65K), Kidz Bop Kids’ Kidz Bop 24 (60K), Ace Hood’s Trials & Tribulations (28K) and Cody Simpson’s Surfer’s Paradise (28K). Matt Nathanson’s Last Of The Great Pretenders will probably open at #10 (21K). Also due: Sick Puppies’ Connect (15K) and the Teen Beach Movie soundtrack (14K).