Week Ending July 7, 2013. Albums: J. Cole Tops Kanye
J. Cole’s Born Sinner jumps to #1 on The Billboard 200 after spending two weeks at #2. It’s the first album to move up to #1 (as opposed to debuting at #1) since Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox, which rose to #1 in its 12th week in March. This is J. Cole’s second #1 album out of two releases. Cole World: The Sideline Story debuted at #1 in October 2011.
Born Sinner has sold 439K copies in three weeks. That’s 8K more than Kanye West’s Yeezus, which was released the same week (and which debuted at #1 when Born Sinner bowed at #2). While it’s unusual for an album that debuts at #2 to ultimately outsell the album that debuted ahead of it, it happens occasionally. Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions debuted at #2 last September—12K copies behind Matchbox Twenty’s North. As of this week, Night Visions has sold 1,144,000 copies, nearly four times as many as North (292K).
The biggest reason that Yeezus has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start is that it has yet to produce a bona-fide hit single. The highest-charting hit from Yeezus at this stage is “New Slaves,” which has climbed as high as #56 on the Hot 100.
By contrast, the week that West’s sophomore album, Late Registration, posted first-week sales of 860K, “Gold Digger” (featuring Jamie Foxx) shot from #19 to #1 on the Hot 100. Likewise, the week that West’s third album, Graduation, debuted with sales of 957K, “Stronger” jumped from #2 to #1.
The formula seems so simple: Just make sure you have a song at #1 on the Hot 100 the week you chart with a new album. Of course, coming up with an undeniable, universally appealing smash like “Gold Digger” or “Stronger” isn’t as easy as it looks.
Five of West’s seven studio albums (counting his 2011 collabo with Jay-Z) have yielded at least one top 10 hit on the Hot 100. (Graduation and 808s & Heartbreak each generated two.) West’s last solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was his first not to yield a top 10 “pop” hit (though it produced three top 20 hits: “Monster,” “Runaway” and “All Of The Lights”).
Born Sinner sold 58K copies this week, which constitutes the slimmest tally for an album at #1 so far this year. The last time the week’s #1 album sold so few copies was in July 2012, when Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged, which was also in its third week, returned to #1 with sales of just 48K. But the picture will brighten considerably next week when Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail debuts at #1 with first-week sales in the 495K range.